The Japanese have always been at the cutting edge of technological discoveries, and they haven’t failed to impress. Try visiting one of their ramen shops in Minami-Alps, Yamanashi and you will yet again be impressed; this time, with the juxtaposition of great food and robots.
What do they have in common? Well, this ramen house has its own robot chef, which takes care of the assembly of the noodle bowl. While the human chef still makes and cooks the noodles, the task of putting everything together to create the perfect bowl of hot steaming noodle soup is left to the robot.
Customers merely have to input their orders on a computer, and the robot takes care of everything. If you think that this might affect the flavor of the soup somehow, then you are right – but only in the best possible way! The robot can customize the flavors depending on the preferences of the customer. It can measure the different spices and flavorings – up to 40 million different permutations! From the amount of salt, soy sauce, and down to the richness of the soup, you can be sure to have a perfect bowl to match your tastes!
The shop owner, Yoshihara Uchida, is quite proud of his achievement. He worked on this robot for quite a while, meeting a lot of hurdles along the way. Finally, after five years of working on the robot, Uchida was able to launch his creation in December of 2008. He dreams of mass producing this robot and making a name for himself.
Posted July 13th, 2011 by Maki+ | Comments (3)
This is the stuff that science fiction is made of. Just think of a command, and an electronic gadget will execute it for. Need to open the garage door? Just think it. How about moving an object? Think it.
This is what the people over at Honda are working on. Japan Today has a story on it:
Honda Motor Co has developed a way to read patterns of electric currents on a person’s scalp as well as changes in cerebral blood flow when a person thinks about four simple movements – moving the right hand, moving the left hand, running and eating.
Honda succeeded in analyzing such thought patterns, and then relaying them as wireless commands for Asimo, its human-shaped robot.
In a video shown Tuesday at Tokyo headquarters, a person wearing a helmet sat still but thought about moving his right hand; the thought that was picked up by cords attached to his head inside the helmet. After several seconds, Asimo, programmed to respond to brain signals, lifted its right arm.
I am sure that you still remember Asimo, the human robot that we have been seeing a lot. There are some issues with the technology, however. For one, thought patterns are different for each person. As such, the electrical signals emanating from one person’s scalp may differ. This would mean calibrating the device for each single user.
Still, this is a very good start to what we used to think would be only seen in movies and books, don’t you think?
Posted June 14th, 2011 by Maki+ | Comments (3)
The Japanese have always been at the forefront of utilizing technology to make life easier and more interesting at the same time. NTT’s new project is no different: they have launched a service which will help the Japanese people in their quest to live a healthier lifestyle – not that they need to be healthier! Correct me if I am wrong, but in general, the Japanese do not have weight issues. (How can you get fat on Japanese food?)
Last month, the world renowned telecommunications company announced the Health Enhancement Assist Service, which they are working on together with NTT Resonant Inc. (NTT Resonant) and foo.log Inc. (foo.log). Basically, the service will make use of mobile phones (and their cameras) and data center services. The former will take photos of the food that a person will ingest and send the data to servers in the cloud.
What will happen is that the photo of the food will be analyzed using high-tech software, which is developed by the University of Tokyo. The data will be compared to the guidelines that have been set by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forests and Fisheries. Factors such as quantity, caloric content, and nutritional value will be determined based on the image. More so, the service will allow the user to determine the amount of exercise he or she gets via walking. The system will then return recommendations based on the data analyzed.
The service is not available commercially yet, and testing is scheduled for early next year. I think this is brilliant – you can take photos whenever you eat out and kill two birds in one stone: watch what you eat and update your food blog as well!
Photo via Whale Balanced
Posted December 14th, 2010 by Maki+ | Comment (1)
Many s first time Western visitor to the rural areas of Japan has been surprised about the toilet facilities, where there usually is no “conventional” toilet bowl. Japan – like some other Asian countries – does not really traditionally make use of the toilet seat as Western countries do. Instead, they have fixtures which are akin to holes in the ground.
All this has changed in the recent decades, however. And indeed, the Japanese has outdone many other Western countries when it comes to advanced toilets. Only in Japan can you find hotels which advertise a certain kind of toilet in an effort to attract more people.
ABC News published a very interesting feature article on this topic and I found out that there are so many choices when it comes to commodes! The author even likened buying a commode to buying a car – the options are virtually limitless. Imagine this, you can choose based on features such as self-opening and closing toilet seats, strength of the water flow, accompanying music, lights, warmth of the seat, and so on. It does not end there, however. Consumers also have other options such as built-in deodorizers and fake sounds to cover the sound of doing your business in the bathroom. In keeping with the Japanese tradition of not harming the environment, commode makers also ensure that their products are environment friendly. In fact, one of the biggest things going for their products is the fact that one would not need toilet paper any more.
So how much does a commode set one back? Anywhere from $750 to $5000. Whew!
Posted November 23rd, 2010 by Maki+ | Comment (1)
Nuclear energy has long been controversial, and even in today’s modern societies, not everyone is convinced of the safety of nuclear energy. Take Japan, for example, perhaps the most progressive country in terms of technology today. They have been working on a nuclear reactor for a long time, and it was even suspended for 14 years.
The nuclear reactor is considered a fast-breeder. Dubbed the Monju Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor, it has once again come under the spotlight. The news is that the nuclear reactor has reached the status of criticality. That is, the nuclear chain reaction is now self-sustaining. This was the first of many tests that the nuclear reactor has to undergo before it can become fully operational. The target date is 2013.
The Monju Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor has more than technical issues to face. When it was shut down, it was for a serious reason: a fire occurred in 1995, which was covered up – or at least a cover up was attempted. Naturally, when the news came out, it sparked an outrage among the people of Japan. From the looks of it, though, the nuclear reactor just might be back in the game.
Fast-breeder reactors are supposed to be more advantageous than regular light-water reactors. The former uses uranium and plutonium; more so, it produces more plutonium than it consumes. The danger, as many governments see it, is the amount of plutonium produced – plutonium that may be used to make weapons. Japan, however, is placing utmost importance on this technology and aims to produce fast-breeders commercially by 2050.
Posted May 9th, 2010 by Maki+ | Comment (0)
The environment-conscious Japanese are about to receive another treat: electric sports cars. Recently, I wrote something about electric cars hitting the market in the very near future. Now, it’s more than these Japanese electric cars that is getting me (and a lot of other people) excited.
Tesla Motors Inc. has announced its plans to launch one of their electric sports cars in Japan! Tesla is an American car maker that specializes in electric vehicles. According to their official statement, they are launching the Roadster early next month. That’s pretty soon, especially since we’re almost at the end of April!
This is a big move by the American car maker, as Japan is well known to protect its domestic industries, and Mitsubishi and July are also releasing their own electric vehicles this year. While it means stiff competition for the car makers, it means more choices for the Japanese people.
The Roadster is a high-end sports car – a two-seater right-hand drive. Its rate of acceleration is 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in 3.7 seconds. For an electric vehicle, that is not bad. Not bad at all!
The only drawback to Tesla’s Roadster is that the price will be about double the selling price in the United States. It’s currently selling for USD 101,500 (9.4 million yen) in the United States, and it will go for about 18 million yen when released in Japan. That is quite a considerable sum, ensuring that the Roadster will probably not be a common sight on the roads.
Posted April 23rd, 2010 by Maki+ | Comments (3)
It’s not really a surprise, is it? After all, the Japanese people are known to be very conscious when it comes to the environment. With electric cars poised to be one of the major solutions to the carbon emission problem, it is quite logical that they will make it big in the Japanese market. We also have to consider the fact that electric cars involve a lot of advance technology, and this nation is also well known for that.
Last week, the first mass-market electric car was launched in Japan. The brainchild of big brand Mitsubishi, the car is called i-MiEV. It is shaped like a bubble (yeah, like something from the future), and it costs 2.8 million yen. That’s roughly $30,000. This price is not the original selling price, though. In fact, the price will only go down to that amount (from 4 million yen or $43,000) after you take into consideration government incentives.
This brings me to another point – the importance of government action in encouraging people to become more environmentally-aware. Who would want to purchase a car that is so much more expensive and maybe not as well-performing as the “good old fuel” cars? With such incentives in place, however, the playing field is somehow leveled.
Mitsubishi is not the only Japanese automaker that is offering an electric car. Nissan has its Leaf, which it is already taking orders for. This car is much cheaper at around $25,000. Needless to say, other car makers are already rolling out plans to join the fray.
Posted April 4th, 2010 by Maki+ | Comments (2)
I have long been a fan of video games and gaming consoles, and I strongly believe in the potential of these as tools to promote learning. While there are a LOT of people who will disagree with this idea, one of the most influential and most creative minds in the world of video games has made it his mission to incorporate Nintendo handheld consoles into the classroom.
Shigeru Miyamoto, the man behind Mario (the most recognizable video game to date – arguably, perhaps) says that he is devoting himself to this massive project. CBS reports:
Speaking through a translator, Miyamoto said that Nintendo’s DS console was already being used in Japanese museums, galleries, and aquariums, and that his company was beginning to roll out the Nintendo DS system “in junior high and elementary schools in Japan starting in the new school year.”
He framed the project as part of his company’s effort to broaden the audience for gaming consoles.
I think that it is but fitting that Japan, once again, take the lead in this kind of revolution. After all, they have always been at the head of the pack when it comes to new video games and gaming hardware. Why shouldn’t they be the first one to inject the use of video games in education? We cannot deny that technology has become so much more attractive to the young people of this day. With more modern tools, the whole learning experience can become much more effective. I look forward to the day that other countries will adopt this way of thinking.
Posted March 21st, 2010 by Maki+ | Comment (1)
Mobile phone and wireless Internet enthusiasts will surely clap their hands with glee when they hear about this new technology. Dubbed LTE, the technology is an improvement of the 3G, which is currently the standard in many parts of the world. Naturally, Japan is the leader in this new technology – what else can we expect?
Last week, the government certified the first ever LTE modem and the honor of having this modem certified belongs to electronics giant LG Electronics. This is a huge step towards the establishment of an LTE network in Japan, and we can only hope that the technology will spread to the rest of the world.
What’s so good about LTE anyway? Think about data transmission that reaches 100Mbps (wirelessly) – at the very least! You can just imagine how fast wireless transfer of data will be if LTE becomes the standard. No more frustrating moments while you’re on the road, I bet.
NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s biggest telecommunications company will be using the LTE modem to run tests later on this year. If the tests prove to be a success, then commercial clients just might be able to use LTE technology before the end of year 2010. That means that the general public will not have access to the technology till 2011 at the earliest. Still, things are looking pretty good as the news is that NTT DoCoMo is working with other partners with regard to handsets and other devices that can be used on the platform. Exciting, don’t you think?
Posted February 6th, 2010 by Maki+ | Comment (1)
Apple made the world stop on January 27 when Steve Jobs announced the newest gadget in its already long line of toys: the iPad. This tablet computer is being touted as the next gadget that will change the way we perceive things. Much like when the iPhone was launched, the unveiling of the iPad has got the whole world a-buzzing.
Japanâ€™s Fujitsu, however, is quick to speak up. Apparently, they have been using the term iPad to call a gadget that they launched as early as 2002. If this is true, then Apple might have to deal with a trademark issue in the coming months.
The official word is that the Fujitsu subsidiary in the United States launched their own iPad in 2002. The Fujitsu iPad is a small handheld gadget that is targeted at stores. Its purpose is to keep track of inventory, to scan barcodes, and other similar activities that store clerks may have to do. Inside the Fujitsu iPad, there is an Intel processor. It runs on Microsoft (big difference!). The gadgetâ€™s screen is 3.5 inches and has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity.
The positive thing â€“ at least for Apple â€“ is that the trademark application has not yet been approved. However, Fujitsu applied for the patent in 2003, definitely giving it an edge. The company has not made any announcement as to what their next move will be though. The official word is that they are â€œsorting out the facts.â€ As for Apple, they are no strangers to this sort of thing.
Posted January 31st, 2010 by Maki+ | Comment (1)