Yukai Engineering pushes the limits of Japanese hardware creativity


This week we had a chance to visit the office of Yukai Engineering, a really fun robotics and hardware development company based here in Tokyo. The group was involved in producing the hardware for the very clever TeamLab Hanger which we featured back in March. They also created the prototype of the world-famous Nekomimi (cat ears) project which you’ve surely seen around the web.

But one of the company’s core projects these days is its Konashi computing kit, which allows artists, designers, and engineers to create smartphone gadgets very quickly and easily.

The local community has responded well to Konashi too, with some really fun ideas emerging from recent workshops. This past summer they held one at Engadget Japan, where 40 people broke into five teams, with each team creating a prototype in just two days.

CEO Shunsuke Aoki introduced us to an amazingly fun smart toothbrush for kids that was made with Konashi, which counts down your how many brushes (or brush strokes?) you’ve done an during a brushing, displaying the number on a smartphone as an animated character moves (see pictures over on Engadget Japan). The team that made it will turn it into a Kickstarter project, and hopefully we can see that soon. Aoki even seems pleasantly amused with how people are using Konashi, noting “It’s surprising that people can make something like this in just one week.”


Another fun application of Konashi was a system that will let you know when your hanging laundry has dried (pictured right). The system uses a sensor pinned to the drying clothes.

But in true Japanese style, the hanger is housed in an aluminum case that gives it a very cute look. It’s perhaps an extraneous addition, but a really fun one nonetheless.

The most interesting project that the team is working on (at least for me, as a new father) is their concept parent/baby camera called Paby. That device integrates a camera into baby crib hanging mobile, and a working parent can check in on that camera feed from anywhere using their smartphones. They can even communicate with their baby vocally, speaking into their smartphone which the baby can hear through a speaker on the mobile. The project is a joint effort with Hakuhodo, but they are looking for manufacturing partners to develop it further.

You can learn more about it in their promo video below.