Junichiro Asami gave up a stable job to join a group of Japanese entrepreneurs building businesses based on 3D printing, showing the sort of pioneering spirit Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes can revitalize a calcified economy. Whether these entrepreneurs can lay the foundations for a new era in Japanese products though may depend on whether Abe can tear down barriers in a wider business culture that shuns risk and supports the status quo.
Sony Corp., which popularized portable music players with the Walkman, is seeking a U.S. patent for “SmartWig” hairpieces that could help navigate roads, check blood pressure or flip through slides in a presentation. The wig would communicate wirelessly with another device and include tactile feedback, Sony said in the filing with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Depending on the model, the hairpiece may include a camera, laser pointer or global positioning system sensor, it said.
With the world's elderly population growing rapidly, scientists are suggesting that robots could take on some of the burden of providing care, support and - most surprisingly - companionship. A boy born today in Britain is expected to live on average to the age of 89, a girl to 92. Worldwide 1.5 billion people over the age of 65 are expected to be around in 2050.
Despite a not-so-stellar third quarter for Apple, Japan was a bright spot for the iPhone maker. Apple now commands a record 34% market share in the country once dominated by domestic brands. It's the first time a smartphone brand has surpassed 30% market share in Japan in a decade, and Apple is poised to grab even more. Japan's smartphone market has typically been dominated by domestic companies including Sony and Sharp, and until this past quarter Apple didn't hold much sway in the country.
Companies in Japan and overseas are accelerating their development of “wearable technology”— items such as wristwatches and eyeglasses with data processing capabilities. South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. is expected to soon announce a new watch-type device and Google Inc., of the United States, has generated considerable buzz over its Google Glass product. And with domestic makers including Sony Corp. hurrying to enter the market, competition over the next generation of computing devices is expected to heat up.
Japan’s public television broadcaster, NHK, is working on technology that will allow people to watch TV with their fingers. NHK is developing a system that maps objects shown on the TV screen in 3D space. “Viewers” place their index finger in a device connected to several actuators that provide haptic feedback, allowing surfaces, bumps and corners to be explored through touch. The broadcaster demonstrated the technology as part of an open house at its research lab in Tokyo.
NTT DoCoMo, Japan's largest mobile carrier, will use location data from its 61.5 million subscriber devices to build a platform that monitors traffic conditions across the country. DoCoMo said it will leverage its access to massive amounts of location data to build a cloud platform of traffic information on which services can be built.
A Japanese entrepreneur’s answer to Google Glass, but with a Japanese manga-style twist. Japanese entrepreneur Takahito Iguchi wants people to see the world through other people’s eyes. But as a less ambitious jumping off point, he’ll kick it off with a world that looks like a Japanese manga cartoon. His device, called the Telepathy One, is the closest thing I’ve seen under development yet to Google’s Glass gadget.
TWO years have passed since an earthquake and tsunami destroyed the huge Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant owned by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), on the Japanese north-east coast—and precipitated a phased shutdown of the country’s 54 nuclear plants for stress testing, maintenance and further seismic analysis.
With the last reactor turned off in May 2012, the past summer was when Japan started to live without nuclear power for the first time since 1970. Before the disaster struck, nuclear power accounted for 29% of the country’s electricity supply, with plans for boosting it to 50% by 2030. Such intentions are now out of the question. To compensate for the loss of such a large chunk of electrical capacity, households and businesses across Japan were threatened with black-outs and to make reductions of up to 15% in consumption or face stiff penalties. In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, the electricity was switched off in some parts of the country for up to four hours a day.
Japan's public broadcaster says it could begin transmissions in a format with 16 times the resolution of today's high-definition television in 2016. The format, called Super Hi-Vision, has been under development by Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) for the last few years. Super Hi-Vision images have a resolution of 7,680 pixels by 4,320 pixels. That's four times the resolution of "4K" television that's currently being touted by TV set makers as the next big thing.