How trivial are the technological advances seen in daily life in Japan?

Those who have visited or lived in Japan (either in a virtual form, or in person) may have realized the overwhelming, yet very interesting, amount of immaginative and/or well advanced technological devices that form part of daily life.


To taste the experience, the journey may begin at the popular "100-yen stores" (1-USD stores), where you will find inexpensive gadgets carefully designed for almost any trivial need. After this initial part of the tour, the simplicity and the simultaneous complexity implied in the functioning of the accesories being sold will definetely suggest you that enginners have been part of the creative process.


Personally, I would lead the next part of the journey into the stores of electronics. There, you will see several gadgets who have not yet (in some cases, who may have never), reached other countries. For the untrained eye of a foreigner (definetely not for Japanese), most of those gadgets may seem trivial, unlikely to reach a respectably large amout of customers. However, for the curious engineer, the journey to this universe of electronics will be like going to Disneyland.


As I said, several devices are first launched in Japan with much anticipation with respect to their overseas release. Some examples are/were: cellphones with early-warning alarms for earthquakes (15 seconds warning before the main shock), cellphones that can be used as credit/debit cards, 3D cameras (biult-in stereographic system), steady-shot cameras, cameras with built-in projectors, cameras with built-in GPS, and others. As you see, those simple devices are not simple at all, since are product of several years of immaginative research.


The advances in the systems of cellphones and cameras are nowadays the most popular, commonly to the reach of youngsters and mature office workers. However, the aging of population has attracted the attention of perhaps the most advanced branch of the Japanese Technology: robotics. From robotic exoskeletons, to robotic seals, advanced robotics devices are currently trying to reach domestic life, without much success at this moment, but likely to bloom soon. Among those advances, one of the latest is an advanced system that claims to read emotions from reading brain activity. The name of such device is "nekomimi" or "cat´s ears". Just watch the video I attach (assuming no copyright infringements, since the company has enabled the code for embedding it), and think whether or not the technology embedded is trivial. Enjoy and dream.



The ideas for this post have been extracted from my blog However, the material has been elaborated before beign published.

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Comment by Freddy Soria on June 20, 2011 at 6:29am
Interesting, Paul. The world is wide and ideas are coming up from everywhere. To add another example, back in 2005, I used to spend some minutes watching the world soccer robo-cup (or something lihe that) on the Japanese television, where institutions from several countries used to show the results from their research in robotics. Travelling is just fascinating!
Comment by Paul J. Heney on June 20, 2011 at 5:19am

Fascinating stuff, Freddy. Reminds me of being in Finland in the very early 2000s. Someone was showing us around, and wanted to let us see one of his company's showrooms. It was after hours, so he just dialed up something on his cellphone and held it up to the electronic lock on the outside of the building, and it let us in.


Simple, yes, but it was miles ahead of anything we seemed to be doing in the U.S. with our phones. (Maybe still true!)


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