technology

Futuristic but grimy Nagasaki Station toilet proves Japan is really just “Blade Runner”

Futuristic but grimy Nagasaki Station toilet proves Japan is really just “Blade Runner”

A Nagaski area public toilet is proving that the future that Blade Runner envisioned is now, and it’s in Japan.

The public toilet in question is apparently about a 10-minute walk from the station proper, at an unassuming location near a pedestrian underpass. To even gain access to the toilet requires you to figure out a complex series of buttons and probably pass a retinal scan to ensure you aren’t a Replicant.

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Disney develops technology to speak to someone by touching their ear

Disney develops technology to speak to someone by touching their ear

Disney Research recently announced the development of Ishin-Den-Shin. As the name – which means “unspoken communication” in Japanese – implies, it’s a microphone that can capture your spoken words and let you pass it on to other people by simply touching them on the ear.

If this is the first time you’ve ever heard of Ishin-Den-Shin, that may sound a bit weird, but once we break down how it works you’ll see why the device’s creators received an honorable mention at the Prix Ars Electronica 2013.

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Former Nintendo head and video gaming legend Hiroshi Yamauchi passes away

Former Nintendo head and video gaming legend Hiroshi Yamauchi passes away

Hiroshi Yamauchi, the former head of video game giant Nintendo who helmed the company during its period of skyrocketing growth in the 1980s and 90s, has passed away at the age of 85. The entertainment visionary succumbed to pneumonia on September 19.

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The amazing disaster relief equipment of Japan’s Self Defense Force

The amazing disaster relief equipment of Japan’s Self Defense Force

Although Japan hasn’t had a full-fledged military since the end of World War II, the nation does maintain a strong self-defense force. Part of the organization’s duties is providing relief to disaster victims, whether that means meals for the hungry or simply a place for refugees to bathe. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) recently gave the public a peek at some of the clever gear it uses to accomplish this mission. And it is awesome.

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First ever taxis installed with lost property detectors to go into operation this year

First ever taxis installed with lost property detectors to go into operation this year

How many times have you come home in a taxi after a great night out, only to later realise that you’ve left your phone, bag or wallet in there when you jumped out? When you’re running low on fumes, or perhaps a leaking a few of your own after a heavy drinking session, checking for forgotten items is usually the last thing on your mind, but it can really put a dampener on an evening when we realise we’re missing something valuable.

Thankfully, help is at hand! Japan’s Kokusai Motors announced on September 9 that it is currently researching and developing a lost property detector system for use inside taxis as part of a joint venture with IDEA CROSS INC. The system is scheduled to enter trial stages this month and is expected to go into widespread use sometime this year.

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Japanese condom manufacturer hoping to keep Olympians happy, safe between events (and sheets)

Japanese condom manufacturer hoping to keep Olympians happy, safe between events (and sheets)

Among the many storylines to keep an eye on in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are advancements in the equipment the competitors will be using. As science and technology march on, Olympic athletes have access to sleeker, lighter, thinner gear, allowing them to reach levels of performance above and beyond those of their predecessors.

We’ve seen this happen on the track and in the pool, but it’ll also be happening in the bedrooms of the Olympic Village, likely with the help of Olympic condoms from Japanese manufacturer Sagami Rubber.

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Dream gaming cabinet puts 119 consoles, 75 controllers at your fingertips

Dream gaming cabinet puts 119 consoles, 75 controllers at your fingertips

In the topsy-turvy world we live in, where console manufacturers are reluctant even to let people bring their last-gen games to their newest hardware, a lot of gamers may be feeling fatigued, longing for the good old days when a pixelated blue hedgehog fighting a fat scientist with a weird fetish for forest creatures was the definition of a triple-A title.

One gamer, at least, was so fed up with the current gen console wars, he decided to ball up basically the entire history of gaming consoles into one sexy rig with 75 distinct controllers jutting out from it as if the cosmic protagonist of Katamari Damacy had rolled it through a vintage game store.

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Gundam-themed Toyota doesn’t come with beam saber, is awesome anyway

Gundam-themed Toyota doesn’t come with beam saber, is awesome anyway

Sometimes, despite the director’s best efforts otherwise, the villain of a movie or TV series ends up stealing the show. Luke Skywalker became the archetypical example of a pure-hearted but bland hero, while dark side practitioner Darth Vader went on to become a true cultural icon.

Similarly, you’ll be hard pressed to find any viewers of long-running anime mecha franchise Gundam who name its original hero, Amuro, as their favorite character. His nemesis Char, on the other hand, has legions of fans, even though his last on-screen appearance was way back in the 1988 motion picture Char’s Counterattack. Despite his occasional attempts to drop space colonies onto Planet Earth, fans are drawn to the stylish Char, who has always had cool robots and a cool mask. Now, he’s got a cool car, too.

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Cook rice inside your car with the new Takeru-kun

Cook rice inside your car with the new Takeru-kun

In the never-ending debate about which country makes the best cars, it’s common to derogatorily refer to a Japanese automobile as a “rice rocket,” “rice burner,” or “rice runner.” Really anything with rice.

But with a new product from Saitama-based company JPN, you can own that insult, and turn it into a positive.

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Conference survey gives us a peek at the lives and backgrounds of Japan’s game developers

Conference survey gives us a peek at the lives and backgrounds of Japan’s game developers

Right now at the Pacifico Yokohama Convention Center, Japan’s largest video game developer conference, the CEDEC (Computer Entertainment Developer’s Conference) is in full swing. In order to gain a clear understanding of the type of people who make the industry what it is, the event’s organizers also conducted a survey that covers just about everything from marital status to time spent tied to a desk each day. The results give us a sneaky peek at the demographics and professional lives of the people who bring us the games we love, so we couldn’t help but share.

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Real-life Nausiccä’s Möwe glider makes first powered flight

Real-life Nausiccä’s Möwe glider makes first powered flight

A decade after the OpenSky project began, Kazuhiko Hachiya and his team of engineers and artists can finally give themselves a well deserved pat on the back. Their dream of creating a working version of the glider seen in Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (named Möwe) has come to fruition.

On 31 July, Hachiya uploaded the video titled “OpenSky3.0 trailer,” which shows the jet engine equipped M-02J taxi and take to the sky by its own power.

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Japanese company develops new lithium-ion battery that promises amazing capacities

Japanese company develops new lithium-ion battery that promises amazing capacities

I’m sure I’m not alone in loving my smartphone but always wishing the battery would last a little longer. For many of us, not knowing whether our mobile phone’s battery will make it through the day can be a real problem. While mobile technology has improved in leaps and bounds in recent years, improvements in the batteries that power them have been rather more sluggish.

Thankfully, all this could be about to change. Japan’s Shin-Etsu Chemical Co. Ltd recently announced that it has developed a new material for use in lithium-ion batteries that boasts capacities roughly 10 times the current standard, and is about to shake up the entire industry.

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Capcom PlayStation 4 graphics technology more lifelike than a rich otaku’s robot girlfriend

Capcom PlayStation 4 graphics technology more lifelike than a rich otaku’s robot girlfriend

We already know Sony’s PlayStation 4 is going to be great. We’ve already reserved a space for it under our TV and earmarked a couple of our old consoles for sale in order to pay for it. But this new footage from Capcom’s PS4 game engine has us eying our firstborns, wondering if it’s really worth hanging onto them when we could sacrifice them to Dark Lord Taro Aso to have him spirit us a brand new PS4 ahead of launch.

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City of Yokohama offering 14 days of free Wi-Fi to overseas tourists

City of Yokohama offering 14 days of free Wi-Fi to overseas tourists

Yokohama, being Japan’s second-largest city, has a little something for everyone. Its romantic harbor is lined with parks and backed by a breathtaking skyline. History buffs can see numerous centuries-old structures inside Sankeien Garden. The Ramen Museum and Chinatown are great foodie destinations, and the Noge and Kannai districts are filled with enough cocktail bars and brewpubs give your liver a serious workout.

Unfortunately, many overseas travelers are unaware of all Yokohama has to offer, and skip right by the city on their way between Tokyo and Kyoto. In an effort to help get the word out on Yokohama’s numerous attractions, the city has teamed up with telecommunications giant NTT to provide free Internet access to foreign tourists.

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53-year-old man who found it difficult to keep up with modern day technogy commits suicide

53-year-old man who found it difficult to keep up with modern day technogy commits suicide

According to reports from Taiwanese media, a 53-year-old man who lived in the city of Changua committed suicide in his pick-up truck earlier this week after pulling over to the side of the road.

While any suicide is a tragic enough event, what brings this particular incident into the media spotlight today is the note the man allegedly left before taking his own life, which contained the lines: “I’m useless at just about everything these days, whether it be computers or cellular phones … Going on living in this way is scarier than dying. 

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Honda recreates legendary F1 lap with light and sound in awesome video

Honda recreates legendary F1 lap with light and sound in awesome video

Some of our readers may be too young to remember, but in his heyday, Ayrton Senna was the biggest thing in racing. The Brazilian racer took home the F1 driver’s championship in 1988, 1990, and 1991 before his life was cut short when his car collided with a retaining wall at over 230 kilometers (143) miles per hour during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Japanese motorsport fans have a particular fondness for Senna. Aside from having some of his most memorable races at Japan’s Suzuka Circuit, Senna won all three of his championships in cars powered by Honda engines, and was also involved in the production of the company’s flagship NSX sports car.

Using telemetric data Honda has recreated Senna’s record-breaking 1989 lap of Suzuka in light and sound as part of an incredible video posted on the company’s website.

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Feeling parched? How about a nice bottle of fish stock from this vending machine?

Feeling parched? How about a nice bottle of fish stock from this vending machine?

Any well-stocked Japanese kitchen needs a bottle of dashi, a salty cooking stock usually made with dried bonito. Dashi is sometimes combined with soy sauce, and the resulting mixture, called dashi-joyu, is commonly used to prepare soups and season a number of ingredients.

As such a ubiquitous part of Japanese cooking, you can buy dashi-joyu at any supermarket. And if you happen to be at a certain few parking lots in Hiroshima or Okayama Prefectures, now you can get it from a vending machine, too.

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Google Street View captures view from top of Mt. Fuji, negates only reason to climb it

Google Street View captures view from top of Mt. Fuji, negates only reason to climb it

There’s a saying in Japan about Mt. Fuji that goes to the tune of, “You ought to climb it once, but only a fool would climb it twice.”

That’s because, as yours truly learned just last weekend, climbing Mt. Fuji is  a lot like spending up to eight hours repeatedly swinging a mallet into your knees as hard as you can. It’s also – at least this year, after having been declared a World Heritage Site – so crowded you’re guaranteed to be spending the climb with your face in dangerous proximity to someone else’s ass at all times.

Lucky for those that haven’t climbed it yet, Google Street View strapped some poor sucker with 100 pounds of weird Google robot gear, maybe gave him a bottle of water and some peanuts, and told him to walk right on up and take some pictures from the top. “It’ll be cool,” they probably said. “We promise.”

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Tales of lust, betrayal, and murder – all in your Japanese-English dictionary!

Tales of lust, betrayal, and murder – all in your Japanese-English dictionary!

Vocabulary is trickier than it seems. At first glance “baby” and “infant” seem pretty interchangeable. But if your girlfriend catches you in bed with another woman, explaining “Infant, you’ve got it all wrong. I only slept with her because I was lonely for you. You’re the only one for me, infant,” is just going to confuse her. Of course, using the more appropriate “baby,” even doing your best Barry White impersonation won’t change how this story ends, but at least your girlfriend will be able to understand your half-baked excuse before she dumps you.

When it comes to learning new words in a language other than your first, understanding the context is especially important. But as we’ve just seen, establishing a clear, unmistakable background story often necessitates a certain amount of dramatic flair. Japanese studiers of English have been taking to Twitter to share their favorite shocking example sentences from their electronic dictionaries.

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Domino’s Pizza Japan offers dinner and a show with new toppings and a Hatsune Miku mini-concert

Domino’s Pizza Japan offers dinner and a show with new toppings and a Hatsune Miku mini-concert

With the majority of its pizzas costing over 2,000 yen (US$20), even in medium size, Domino’s Pizza is positioned a bit more upmarket in Japan than its native U.S. Sure, the convenience of home delivery is worth paying a slight premium for, but with prices stretching beyond what you’d pay in a reasonable Italian restaurant in Tokyo with full table service, Domino’s Japan has to offer something more than just a slab of cheese and sauce.

The pizza giant recently convinced us to open our wallets, though, with a three-pronged attack that’s two parts delicious pork and one part high-tech entertainment.

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