A phone with flu alert capabilities?

Would you buy a phone that could alert you to swine flu outbreaks over your smartphone?

The experiment brought to light by the Japan Times in early June 2009 is a new initative thought up by the Japanese Government in conjunction with a phone carrier, possibly Softbank this coming fall.

Apparently the plan was thought
Above: ¨I got what?¨
up before the current pandemic of swine flu.

The plan is to choose a school with approximatley 1000 students and give them iphones, to track the students whereabouts and store the info on a central server

A handful of students will be hypothetically ¨infected¨ with a virus. Then the phones track the whereabouts of all

students and see how an advisory GPS system can track down infected people, see who they have come in contact with and prevent further infections using this information.

Curenlty there are 2,033 Japanese infected with the swine flu, an infection that swelled from 3 cases from a Japanese teacher and her students from a trip to North America in May, to 1000 infections in June 2009.

With technology being able to help us in our daily lives, why not rely on mobile phones to track and detect the contamination of virus´s- even help advise those infected with a text to see the doctor?

On the other hand, privacy would be sacrificed as the system relies on having your GPS location at all times to see whose path you may have crossed.

How will the infectee be warned and treated? It opens the door to discrimination if some suspect you have been infected even before having been tested.

The pitch isn´t purely for the benefit of the community either, as Softbank has seen the market saturated with smartphones, so the benefit of having a device that can warn you of potential virus´s is a possible money spinner for Softbank.

Would you opt in to a phone with that service? Is there potential for use in the future in other densely populated countries?


Warm, Cool Biz technology

If you´ve ever lived in Japan, you´ll now it gets very, extremely soggy and wet during the summer months. So much so that you can´t walk anywhere without sweating like a pig when you finally do get to your destination.

If I´m grossing you out already, it is for a reason-

You´ve probably heard of Cool Biz, the campaign encouraged by the government to cut back on airconditioning and the effect this has on climate change. The policy allows for workers to wear just a short sleeved shirt and no tie rather than the whole ridiculous formal long sleeved shirt/tie/coat shebang that is usually ok for winter.

Here´s an ice suit (Japanese pdf), more like an ice pack really that let´s you store it in a coat pocket near your arm pits made by Haruyama. Not sure whether i´d wear it but then again it´s not meant for me.

But what to do in winter? Start a Warm Biz campaign of course! Same eco saving idea, and companies get to spruik their new improved thermal underware ranges.

This one uses special ceramic particles that heat up the body. To quote ¨It emits far-infrared rays that warm up the body from inside.¨Toasty.

Via Crunchgear


Origami leads the way in technology

Origami Godzilla by Seiji Nishikawa

Who knew Origami, that ancient Japanese art of folding pieces of paper has its finger on the pulse when it comes to science, technology, gadget design and all things generally innovative?

Origami has helped out when scientists were still scratching their heads about how to pack large equipment such as (PDF)space lenses, and here , space sails for a satellite and even in the medical field with (PDF) stents.

But for people into gadgets on terra firma, the concept cellphones of Electronic Ink were a hit for their beautiful, sleek futuristic designs that incorporated a fold out origami screen that expanded on scarce phone real estate.
Left:The popular origami concept phone with expanding screen

Here´s one that wasn´t quite so universally adored, the SD910 from South Korea Telecom.
Criticised for its brain teaser style way of unfolding, critics were wondering how the heck to put it back together again. That, and also the folding parts would get stuck and generally did badly at surviving in people´s bags.

From there the trail grows cold when looking for a more recent origami cellphone model..

But there are newer (if somewhat boxier) technologies that have come out in cellphones since.
Maybe it´s not origami per se, but it is about packing things in and out to make the best use of space.

Like this example, the Readius mobile phone, from Polymyr Vision that has an e-paper display that folds in and out of the mobile handset.

The phone was set for 2008 release and could ¨display electronic books and play MP3 files. In addition, it supports W-CDMA and HSDPA, enabling both phone call and data communication. Mounted with a Li-ion secondary battery of approximately 1,100mAh, it operates for about 30 hours per charge¨

Would you get one?
Do you know of any other more recent origami type cellphones, and do they have a future?

Origami phone by Electronic Ink via Gadget Review


In Mondayitis new distractions this week-

How much do you need to know the evolution of the Nintendo console? You don´t really but it´s a fun way to spend your time pretending to work.
From the first boxy console with the black cross and 2 red buttons in the 70´s and 80´s, to the present day Wii remote controller where all you have to do is move your arms or point and shoot at the screen, it´s a short and sweet article down memory lane. If you´re not old enough to remember any of the consoles, what are you doing crawling outside your crib?

Remember learning the periodic table? Boring hey? Students in the land of the rising sun won´t have that problem when it comes to memorizing the elements if they have this book, ¨Elemental Girls¨, that uses cute manga female drawing to help teach students about the elements.

The info included is the melting point the boiling point and for example a character dresses in her element so to speak and maybe with a speach bubble.

For example Hydrogen is a fairy, ¨light as air¨, and Gold is resplendant in well, her element with the title ¨dazzling through the ages¨.

International Tokyo Toy Show is coming up real soon, and just for your enter ¨toy¨ ment..(the sad thing is that I stole that off the tokyo toy fair website) here´s one of the toys in store from Bandai if you happen to be in town July 18th and 19th at Tokyo Big Sight.

The Samurai Gattai Shinken-Oh!

This little guy´s made up of 5 smaller robots in Emblem mode to Animal mode, and fits snugly inbetween your index and thumb when you tease your nephew with it.

Why didn´t I get toys like this when I was a kid??
Probably cos it costs around $80 US


The weekly roundup

Moday we looked at the Wii as sketch artist for a crim who trashed a car in Tokyo and also the genius of Magibon, a 23 year old woman who became an internet sensation by doing nothing in front of a camera in Japan.

On Tuesday we looked at brought on the discussion that despite Japan´s great domestic green and recycling trend, the same doesn´t apply for its consumer electronics who rated last on the green scale according to Greenpeace.

Also we looked at porn always a pioneer in advances in technology.

Thursday was all about scientist eyeing the possibility of mining the Moon for its recently discovered uranium.

Friday was all cutesy but expensive with the samurai robot due to be unveiled at the next Tokyo Toy Show 2009.

Have a great weekend!


Moon uranium

You know that Japanese probe ¨Kaguya¨ that crashed into the moon last week and left behind an HD movie of its landing? Well its swan song was the discovery of uranium under all that moondust.

Plans for lunar nuclear power plants have now been dusted off and given another once over
by official astrogeeks involved with the Kaguya space probe. They´re mulling over the possibility of permanent human settlements on our natural satellite, harvesting the uranium once it runs out on Earth.

There are also talks of plans to ferry the metal in special sealed containers to mimimize radioation on the astronauts ferrying them from Moon to Earth, according to Softpedia.

The astrogeeks are patting each others backs over the potential of mining the precious element on the Moon. Did they forget something? This is uranium, which isused on earth for fuel, electricity and, oh yeah, nuclear weapons not to mention the dangers of entering the earth´s atmosphere with an unstable radioactive nuclear element that is known for its ability to spontaneously fission.

Lunar mapping expeditions are now underway despite my feeble protests.

Via Softpedia


Solar Panel mobile phones

So I know Gizmodo unearthed the newest solar powered mobile phone by Samsung just last month (June 09) seling for a cheapo $59..

but when I saw this solar panelled phone by talented Japanese threesome Mile for iida cellphones , I literally swooned (and I´m not an easy swooner).

So beautiful, so simple and so green...
The company behind this concept model works on the buddhist idea of universal soup, where everything liquifies and merges with everything else in perfect harmony.

Unfortunately ¨commericalisation is yet to be determined¨ according to their website. (T.T)

Sniff..it´s ok, I´ll wipe away my tears even though I could already see myself tripping out, high on my own happiness in a lush field of grass, making daisy chains and laying back on the grass, just like the solar panel phone (which to my knowledge has no other name) which doubles as display and recharge its batteries with the wholesome rays of the sun.

This lil beauty also teases us with camera, email, camera, music player and Internet features.



Manga Keyboard Art

Manga painted keyboard..anyone?

They´re by Tony sensei and Carnelia sensei manga artists. More info here

I can´t pretend I can elaborate on this.


Porn always a step ahead technologically

A few years back in 2002, John Arlidge from The (UK) Observer wrote about how the consumer electronic companies had the porn industry to thank for them being the first in embrace new ways of making, selling and distributing media into the privacy of users homes.

From the death of Betamax and the triumph of handycam video, the switch to VHS then DVDs in the 80´s and 90´s to the pay-per-view, digital tv popular in the last few years, technology has come a long way baby - thanks to good ol´porn.

The shift has been driven by audiences who don´t want to go out in public, say, to a dodgy movie theatre, but insead want to view porn in the privacy of their home, or on their cellphone with fast access to technology wherever and whenever they want it.

Now that there are faster smartphones available , a boom in downloading porn as short videos to Japanese cellphones for relatively cheapo prices has happened. Some say, because of the unlimited access to the net included in the cellphone plans. But that´s to be expected since Japan is ¨home to the world’s first third-generation wireless network¨, said Bloomberg Press on Monday (6th July 2009).

¨While profiting from the traffic, Tokyo-based mobile carriers DoCoMo and KDDI Corp. say they’ve been forced to impose limits on the heaviest users as the $74 billion network feels the strain.¨ Users have complained of slow access to the web and even complete freezes in services around midnight when everybody tends to log on.

Not that capacity issues haven´t been predicted, ¨it’s an issue that’s been waiting to happen.¨ according to Windsor Holden, principal analyst at Juniper Research Ltd. “It wouldn’t surprise me that it happens in Japan first because they’ve had 3G for so much longer.”

Hirotaka Ishimori, head honcho of the online division of Soft on Demand, a popular Japanese porn company says he sees mobile phone downloads as a huge market since he´s been rolling in it for a while now, what with the monthly 15 million yen sales figures he´s racking up. “Fixed-rate data plans, faster Internet access and sophisticated handsets are contributing to that growth.” he says.

“Whenever there is a new distribution method for adult content, adult content will go that medium,” said Holden. “It’s gone that way since cavemen drew adult pictures in the cave.”

Nice one.

For more details see the whole article @ Bloomberg Press

The porn industry as envelope pusher was also echoed by P.W Singer in his book launch we discussed a few blogposts ago.

Japanese electronics in the red

Despite the generally great reputation Japanese people have for recycling, this years results for best green company by Greenpeace shows the same attitude does not extend to the country´s manufacturers of technology.

As the figure shows, Nintendo is trailing well behind all other consumer electronics companies and yet another Japanese telecommunications and electronics company Fujitsu, which has come in second last.

But on the up side, Toshiba is coming in at a tie for 5th position with Motorola.

Sony Ericsson, the Japanese/Swedish joint venture is also coming up trumps with the second position after Nokia.
.but does that still count as a Japanese victory if HQ is in London and research and deveopment is in a smattering of places around the world?

In Tokyo the council wards inform people of exactly how to prep and separate garbage for the 3 nights of the week they pick it up. Why are Japanese tech Co.´s slacking off like this if the infrastructure for domestic recycling in Tokyo is extremely well organized and should be a source of inspiration for other countries to adopt?

I even got severely reprimanded by my ex neighbour for not separating my garbage properly or taking off the lids or paper around my plastic bottles- even had my garbage inspected later that night by the same neighbour. Wouldn´t it be great if my ex neighbour could do that to Nintendo´s products?

Real-time control of wheelchairs with brain waves

Look ma no hands!

Sorry couldn´t resist that.
June 29th and wheelchairs can now be operated by the user´s brainwaves at 125 miliseconds, moments faster than what was currently available and a 95% accuracy rate. You´d want that, if you want to apply this in the future for handicapped people or the old and frail.
The chair can operate with simple directions in the forward, left and right directions.

This technology comes not long after a wheelchair was developed late last year in 2008 by the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, that operates by movements of the tongue via a magnet tracker. Video here.

The brainwave operated wheelchair was a joint project by Toyota , the Genesis Research Centre and the BSI-Tokyota Collaboration Centre.
More here.

Portable Plantarium

Sega Japan came up with a handy planetarium toy you can tuck under your arm and plonk down anywhere you like. Looks cute, it´s educational and can help you seduce whoever you want by magnifying the purty stars above..I love this idea for my birthday (hint hint Whitts).


Mondayitis...Wii as new criminal sketch artist

Monday has reared its ugly head around again, so let´s cut to the chase with some useless distractions:

Police Departments take note, instead of paying an ol´fashioned pad and pencil artist to sketch out your wanted criminal, why not just use the Wii´s Mii feature to create an avatar based on his/ her features?

That´s what Police did in Kanagawa prefecture early in Feb this year, in connection with a trashed car wanted poster.

Maybe not as hi tech as the Motion Portrait avatars we blogged about last week, but still..could work.

In other bits and pieces, you´d think that to get 83,485 Subscribers on Youtube, you´d have to put on a whole song and dance number.
Not so for 23 year old youtube sensation Magibon who just sits in front of her camera, bats her pretty eyelashes and says....nothing.
Maybe it´s because of this (and her tiny face, huge eyes and big boobs) that she´s so popular in Japan?

Magibon who spoke to Pingmag says that people say they are moved by her videos,
Because it’s a like a blank slate, it can be whatever you want it to be. There are a lot of other videos on YouTube — some of the most watched ones — that have a lot of arguing and negativity, and then you have my videos, with just silence, maybe just a smile, or a wave. To some people, that’s really meaningful for them, to just make everything stop for a minute, and have someone just smile at them.¨

She is actually from Pensilvania but one day picked up a camera and decided to record herself being her, and speaking Japanese because she always like Japan.

I´m confused about this girl, is she just a lucky moron? Or is she actually smarter than you and me? She´s certainly richer now thanks to her videos, and tapped into something bigger than her: a pretty blank slate all the more real because of her mundanity. Maybe she is a video artist, making her living using easily accessible and distributed technology for mass consumption. Either way she´s still going strong even after 2 years so she must be doing something right..


Yes it´s Friday, that time of week where we look back on the week and do a round up of the stories that got us blogging:

Monday saw the onset of sever Mondayitis but we tried to cure that with a slew of robot stories like one about a Robo-monk that was made from used parts such as a washing machine motor and a cassette tape recorder.


NEC promised 3D monitors in the future with a teaser press release..


A new map of Earth was unleashed by NASA and the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. This map can measure land temperature and climatic changes so we can see just how fast climate change is happening...

Oh and ´we talked about technology that can reproduce an image from somebodies thought brainwaves!


Brought up the topic of copyright and how one of the founders of Creative Commons is pushing for copyright law to get with the times dammit (not his exact words).

Friday we had a little look at a freaky 3d profile application that can create breathing, smiling, blinking and generally creepy looking avatars, even of your own image…

Have a great weekend!


creepy avatars

Fancy road testing a new moustache style virtually before you start to grow it in the real world?
Me neither, but a company called Motion Portrait who took a spin at the International Optics Fair this year has developed software that allows you to upload your photo and try various moustache styles floating by on balloons.

Not that new, I admit, but the technology behind it is, since the picture turns into a moving image that smiles, blinks and generally creeps you out while it patiently waits for you to make a move.

Motion Portrait has already been picked up for use in various companies including Unilever, Sony (Walkman), a PSP game for Namco Bandai Games and can be used as slightly creepy avatars in social networks, game avatars, on mobile phones. You can even superimpose your face on another picture or movie.

They even offer a middleware if you´re a gaming company and fancy using it, here.

The site is in Japanese but it´s monkey easy to figure out what´s going on.
Click on a moustachoed balloon, then just drag the sliders for a better fit.
Give it a try here

Also one for the ladies for hair do´s here called Virtual Preview (Japanese)
Press the large red button on the right hand side.
On the next screen, choose a female, male or upload your own picture.
On the following screen, click a hairdo you like on the top left.
Bingo, a new Virtual Preview of your next hairdo.


Copyright laws need to get with the times

One of the guys behind Creative Commons visited Tokyo in May and stated that copyright laws need to get with the times if they want to stay relevant says The Japan Times.

Creative Commons, who Lawrence Lessig helped develop, started a system that allowed creators more choice and control over how their creations were used. Lessig says that there needs to be more room for creative expression and experimentation if copyright laws want to keep up with the 21st century.

The developer and author was in Japan doing double duty as part of the art lecture series for the Mori Art museum and plugging his latest book ¨Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy.

Lessig also said that while audiences, for example fans of anime, re-edit videos then reload them on Youtube for an alternative view that often offers some sociological or cultural insight, the law is against the media´s evolution from one way traffic to 2 way communication.

¨... you can't go 10 minutes without triggering the application of copyright law,¨ he said.

"The legal establishment is in denial about this, saying, 'Well, you just have to make sure the law's running efficiently,' even though it's regulating wildly beyond what anybody ever expected it would regulate. I think the key is to get people to recognize the radical change and then avoid what to many kids seems the logical consequence of this, which is to scrap copyright law."



new map of Earth from NASA and Japan

New map, the ASTER Global Digital Elevation Model (GDEM) announced yesterday that NASA and the Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) shook on.
The map details land temperatures and the changing landscape to better predict changes in the terrain and to ¨understand the consequences for life on Earth¨

(and also maybe check in on North Korea maybe)


If I had just one superpower, as stupid and small scale as it sounds, I would want to be able to take photos just by blinking my eyes. (the other powers would include to be able to cure cancer and create world peace etc..)

I´d like to think I´d be a famous oddball photographer by now, but those dreams were shattered when someone, I like to call him ¨No way Jose¨, asked how I´d share said photos in my brain with other people. I don´t know Jose, ask a hypethetical question, get a hypothetical answer!

Ha! Science has finally caught up my friend..

Back in May this year, scientists figured out a way to reproduce an image that a person looks at by monitoring the person´s brainwaves!

The research group of Yukiyasu Kamitani, head of the Department of Neuroinformatics at the Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International, were the pioneers of this technology.

The images and letters seen by a subject (top row) and their reproductions as determined from brain activity (below).¨When people look at something,...neurons in the visual cortex reproduce the visual information in the shape of the image within the brain.¨say the researchers.

It works by monitoring the oxygen and blood levels in the brain after neurons are activated in the visual cortex.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) this data can reconstruct the image the person has seen.

The only drawback is that it´s kinda blurry with more complex images and hard to figure out unless you know what the image was before hand.

Dang.Foiled again..But for how long?


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