THE BRIDGE

The Bridge

The Bridge

The Bridge accepts guest contributions from individuals with special insights into technology or the startup space.

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Telenoid: “Colorless” is beautiful as interface between Real and Cyber Worlds

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This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology. On July 1, Telenoid Planning was established in Kyoto with support from Nippon Venture Capital (NVCC) of Tokyo. During a press conference held on July 13 in Tokyo to unveil the project in full, the market prospects for the service being launched utilizing a small robot were explored. At the center of this endeavor is a legless automaton called Telenoid developed by Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, Osaka University professor and an Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) Fellow simultaneously heading his namesake research laboratories there specializing in “life-support” robotics. NVCC President Shuichi Okuhara, who also heads up the 4.7-billion-yen Keihanna ATR Fund backing the project, outlined the relations between NVCC and ATR, which is located also in Kyoto in an area known as “Keihanna” but holds many intellectual property rights (IPRs) in the fields of robotics, information science and telecommunications that may be monetized. ATR, represented in the new company by a Dr. Toshikazu Sakano acting as the auditor, will next year celebrate its 30th anniversary. The Telenoid is the first in a series of IPRs from ATR to be used…

This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.


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Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro (right) introduces Telenoid and Telenoid Planning.

On July 1, Telenoid Planning was established in Kyoto with support from Nippon Venture Capital (NVCC) of Tokyo. During a press conference held on July 13 in Tokyo to unveil the project in full, the market prospects for the service being launched utilizing a small robot were explored. At the center of this endeavor is a legless automaton called Telenoid developed by Dr. Hiroshi Ishiguro, Osaka University professor and an Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) Fellow simultaneously heading his namesake research laboratories there specializing in “life-support” robotics.

NVCC President Shuichi Okuhara, who also heads up the 4.7-billion-yen Keihanna ATR Fund backing the project, outlined the relations between NVCC and ATR, which is located also in Kyoto in an area known as “Keihanna” but holds many intellectual property rights (IPRs) in the fields of robotics, information science and telecommunications that may be monetized. ATR, represented in the new company by a Dr. Toshikazu Sakano acting as the auditor, will next year celebrate its 30th anniversary. The Telenoid is the first in a series of IPRs from ATR to be used in product development with the Fund’s backing through June of 2024.

President Akio Kamiyama, of Shibuya-based Cocolomi offering “conversational eldercare” and alert service, will concurrently serve as president of Telenoid Planning – in fact, the tiny tot-like product is in the main a remotely-controlled terminal which requires an operator “on the other side” to hold conversations with the users; thus the network of operators availed by Cocolomi will be offered as a service bundled with Telenoid. The markets targeted will be the elderly in particular those suffering from senility not to mention other people who may have mental problems. The price is yet to be set at this time.

telenoid-demonstration

Telenoid emanates from the Geminoid project under which Dr. Ishiguro made a “robot copy” of himself as part of his Humanoid Robotics Interface aimed at use in public information dissemination, language inculcation and eldercare in terms of both physical as well as mental assistance. Unfortunately the Geminoid had some issues upon reception such as having too much “character modality” or appearing like a “moving corpse.” It was therefore decided that in order to lower the stress entailed, the robot would be “stripped of features” and made “colorless” as it were. Testing at multiple daycare sites in Japan and Denmark proved that acceptance of the “voice-only” figure with minimal head and limb movement was much better.

Telenoid, although at first glance seems a bit pallid, is laden with sensors so it can check the condition of the user, in addition to having a “constant gaze that looks to one earnestly” which soon helps endear itself with the user, lending itself to being a neutral bridge between the cyber and real worlds. It seems that many users are able to project the image onto the bland “colorless” face in line with the soothing voice accompanying the robot and end up adding a positive image onto the little doll. The company certainly hopes the service will be a hit, and looks to produce “new friends for humanity” in the not-too-distant future.

Japan’s Digital Garage invests in Utah-based FinTech startup MX Technologies

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This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology. On Friday, Tokyo-based Digital Garage invested in MX Technologies (MX), a provider of Digital Money Management and omnichannel banking solutions for their online banking, mobile banking and financial institution partners. The investment was completed through the Japanese firm’s investment/incubation subsidiary DG Incubation (DGI). MX is a five-time winner of the Best of Show award at Finovate, one of the largest U.S. conferences for financial technology (FinTech) startups. Since June of 2010, MX has grown to become a major entity in the U.S. recently, with over 500 financial institution clients now. MX offers a host of omnichannel banking solutions for banks and other financial institutions, giving its partners the power to provide their account holders with a software that works across virtually any device or OS including smartphones, tablets and desktops. These tools can be configured in virtually any way to match each bank’s unique offerings, achieving an intuitive user interface for account holders. MX’s solution set also provides banks with powerful analytics tools, allowing them to view and manage their data like never before. Banks can use it to target…

This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.


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On Friday, Tokyo-based Digital Garage invested in MX Technologies (MX), a provider of Digital Money Management and omnichannel banking solutions for their online banking, mobile banking and financial institution partners. The investment was completed through the Japanese firm’s investment/incubation subsidiary DG Incubation (DGI). MX is a five-time winner of the Best of Show award at Finovate, one of the largest U.S. conferences for financial technology (FinTech) startups. Since June of 2010, MX has grown to become a major entity in the U.S. recently, with over 500 financial institution clients now.

MX offers a host of omnichannel banking solutions for banks and other financial institutions, giving its partners the power to provide their account holders with a software that works across virtually any device or OS including smartphones, tablets and desktops. These tools can be configured in virtually any way to match each bank’s unique offerings, achieving an intuitive user interface for account holders. MX’s solution set also provides banks with powerful analytics tools, allowing them to view and manage their data like never before. Banks can use it to target appropriate offers and ads to users through the MX-powered interface.

DGI has seen value-added services that MX provides to its customers, and expects the company to continue growing in the U.S. FinTech market. Additionally, DGI believes that the Japan market is ripe for bank-facing B2B and omnichannel banking solutions, leading to the investment in MX. The Digital Garage group is currently working with MX to map out ways to help the company grow in the Japan market, including working with domestic financial institutions, while supporting other expansion activities.

Through this investment and collaborative partnership, MX and DGI aim to expand the company’s services, to provide end users with powerful tools.

MX was established in March, 2010 and is headquartered in Utah. It helps financial institutions provide their account holders with cross-platform, versatile Digital Money Management and omnichannel banking tools.

The MX platform comprises the following 5 technologies: Helios, WideNet, Nexus, Insight and Target:

  • Helios, WideNet, Nexus: Core Services
    These three key technologies power the tool at the core of the MX experience. These products enable their partners to offer an immersive DMM experience across virtually all devices and operating systems, enabling handling of transaction information from virtually every source. For end users, these tools provide unparalleled functionality and allow for all account information to be viewed as well as manipulated across all devices.
  • Insight, Target: Data Analysis and Advertising Solutions
    These services make it possible for banks to quickly and easily understand everything about their clients, to provide appropriate solutions faster and more comprehensively. Additionally, this enhanced level of insight allows banks to target only the most appropriate customers with the right advertisements in addition to offering them over various channels, including the core MX interface.

Phenox 2: Tokyo-born, Linux-powered programmable drone now debuts on Kickstarter

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This guest post was authored by Tokyo-based freelance writer / web designer Kazuyuki Abe. He loves hardware gadgets and an omelet with a filling of ketchup‐seasoned fried rice. See the original story in Japanese. Phenox is a drone development project from Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, University of Tokyo. The team recently developed a new version called Phenox 2 and launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. Phenox is a self-driving drone which can recognize its surroundings. The original edition successfully fundraised $23,000 on Kickstarter, selling 30 models to backers in 2014. The crowdfunding campaign this time is for mass-producing Phenox 2, now  upgraded markedly from the original in terms of design and function. Two cameras and a range sensor are equipped with the new model, which allows the drone to self-drive based on detecting the current position from captured images through the cameras. It also has a microphone which enables users to let the drone take off by calling its name. Facial recognition is also available with the onboard cameras. Compared to the previous model, Phenox 2 has more sophisticated designs and is downsized, weighing only 65 grams. A Wi-Fi module onboard enables to broadcast a real-time aerial video to internet. Since Phenox 2 is Linux-powered, developers…

This guest post was authored by Tokyo-based freelance writer / web designer Kazuyuki Abe. He loves hardware gadgets and an omelet with a filling of ketchup‐seasoned fried rice. See the original story in Japanese.

Phenox is a drone development project from Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, University of Tokyo. The team recently developed a new version called Phenox 2 and launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter.

Phenox is a self-driving drone which can recognize its surroundings. The original edition successfully fundraised $23,000 on Kickstarter, selling 30 models to backers in 2014. The crowdfunding campaign this time is for mass-producing Phenox 2, now  upgraded markedly from the original in terms of design and function.

phenox2-009

Two cameras and a range sensor are equipped with the new model, which allows the drone to self-drive based on detecting the current position from captured images through the cameras. It also has a microphone which enables users to let the drone take off by calling its name. Facial recognition is also available with the onboard cameras.

phenox-008

Compared to the previous model, Phenox 2 has more sophisticated designs and is downsized, weighing only 65 grams. A Wi-Fi module onboard enables to broadcast a real-time aerial video to internet. Since Phenox 2 is Linux-powered, developers can code their program on it so that the drone can also work as an aerial platform for your apps.

An assembled model of Phenox 2 is available by pledging more than $840 on this Kickstarter campaign. If you intend to embed Phenox 2 with your robotics environment, a Phenox 2 mainboard comprising of Wi-Fi module, operating system, camera board, and communication board is available by pledging more than $520. Shipping is expected to start from this October.

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From the left: Kensho Miyoshi, Ryo Konomura (Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, University of Tokyo)

Translated by Masaru Ikeda
Edited by “Tex” Pomeroy

Osaka University promoting photonics startup activities

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Tokyo-based “Tex” Pomeroy and Kyoto-based Taijiro Takeda contributed to this story. See the original story in Japanese. Osaka University Photonics Center, which conducts advanced R&D on advanced photonics including laser and nano-optics, held it’s seventh “Photonics Day” on 2nd February at the university’s Suita Campus. This project commenced as a startup/product development project in 2011. Beginning with 4 projects selected in the initial year, followed in 2012 by 3 projects and in 2013 by 2 projects, a total of 9 projects out of 44 applications are being carried out under approval; to date all projects have had some input from the university, whether at faculty or student level. Of the many project results for this year’s Photonics Day, one of the most noteworthy was “the eco-light bulb adopting a thermal radiation spectrum”. This new type of incandescent light bulb, by opening 100nm-order holes on the filament surface, enables control of hear emission. By cutting down the infrared emission level, the temperature is kept down while realizing a light-emission ratio of nearly 90% which is better than that offered by the light-emitting diode (LED converts 50% of the electric power it uses to light, while the conventional incandescent light bulb offers…

Tokyo-based “Tex” Pomeroy and Kyoto-based Taijiro Takeda contributed to this story.


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Osaka University Photonics Center Executive Director Satoshi Kawata speaks at a press briefing.
(Photo by Taijiro Takeda)

See the original story in Japanese.

Osaka University Photonics Center, which conducts advanced R&D on advanced photonics including laser and nano-optics, held it’s seventh “Photonics Day” on 2nd February at the university’s Suita Campus. This project commenced as a startup/product development project in 2011. Beginning with 4 projects selected in the initial year, followed in 2012 by 3 projects and in 2013 by 2 projects, a total of 9 projects out of 44 applications are being carried out under approval; to date all projects have had some input from the university, whether at faculty or student level.

Of the many project results for this year’s Photonics Day, one of the most noteworthy was “the eco-light bulb adopting a thermal radiation spectrum”. This new type of incandescent light bulb, by opening 100nm-order holes on the filament surface, enables control of hear emission. By cutting down the infrared emission level, the temperature is kept down while realizing a light-emission ratio of nearly 90% which is better than that offered by the light-emitting diode (LED converts 50% of the electric power it uses to light, while the conventional incandescent light bulb offers a conversion ratio of only 10%).

eco-light-bulb
The eco-light bulb adopting a thermal radiation spectrum (Photo by Taijiro Takeda)

White LED lighting has limitations as to wavelengths and thus seem “cold” to the human eye, while incandescent bulbs can realize full wavelengths – some restaurants still retain the old lighting system in the foods section due to this. However, large manufacturers like Panasonic and Hitachi are now dropping production of the old light bulbs so the product can gain this niche market when it becomes available widely.

Other topics such as multilateral collaboration and fund procurement were also discussed at the event. Photonics Center Executive Director Satoshi Kawata noted that he hopes to realize as is Schumpeter’s idea that “innovation is not technological revolution but the building of a new paradigm” and urged participants to actually produce results with their own hands.

Regarding other items unveiled by the Photonics Center, the website links are as below:

Music Securities offers one-day-only advisory service at Organic Expo/Biofach Japan

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This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology. On 21st November, the “harbinger” crowdfunding service Music Securities offered visitors to Organic Expo/Biofach Japan 2014 an early-bird seminar about utilizing “micro-investment funds” followed by the rest of the day offering free advice at a service corner in the Nippon Mono Ichi section within the show. The answers provided by Director in charge of Securitization, Yoshitaka Inoo, in a businesslike, clear-cut manner were much appreciated by those interested in the status of fund-gathering in Japan. The company, which was launched as a fund specializing to support musicians (though now apparently not much involved in this sector according to the corporate director), targets companies that have started up and is readying for full-scale business activities. It has recently been involved in funding breweries for example. One of the firms supported by Music Securities, covering consumer research, had a booth and so the “crowd-funder” (they said the company actually predates the adoption of this concept in Japan) decided to locate a desk next to it in order to offer “music to the ear” of those cash-poor businesses participating in the fast-growing organics field get-together. Case studies of funds being used by breweries…

This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.


musicsecurities_featuredimage

On 21st November, the “harbinger” crowdfunding service Music Securities offered visitors to Organic Expo/Biofach Japan 2014 an early-bird seminar about utilizing “micro-investment funds” followed by the rest of the day offering free advice at a service corner in the Nippon Mono Ichi section within the show. The answers provided by Director in charge of Securitization, Yoshitaka Inoo, in a businesslike, clear-cut manner were much appreciated by those interested in the status of fund-gathering in Japan.

The company, which was launched as a fund specializing to support musicians (though now apparently not much involved in this sector according to the corporate director), targets companies that have started up and is readying for full-scale business activities. It has recently been involved in funding breweries for example.

One of the firms supported by Music Securities, covering consumer research, had a booth and so the “crowd-funder” (they said the company actually predates the adoption of this concept in Japan) decided to locate a desk next to it in order to offer “music to the ear” of those cash-poor businesses participating in the fast-growing organics field get-together.

Case studies of funds being used by breweries and other food/beverage outfits were presented while looking at both the “merits” as well as “costs entailed” of accessing small-scale funds to drive a business operation. Music Securities notes that it aims to have the operations it supports gather “more fans” the way musicians cultivate fans.

Biofach is a Nuremberg-based show catering to businesses involved in “organic” products; the Japan edition of the German confab has been held since 2001. This year’s venue was – as has been recently – the waterfront Tokyo Big Sight, alongside Organic Expo, for a three-day event starting from 20th November. In adjacent halls the Tokyo International Industry Exhibition and the HiNT show, focused on SMEs in Japan, were being held from 19th of November.

Apparently Music Securities is currently scrutinizing small farmers and other food producers (as highlighted by the company newsletter “Securite Report“) in advance of increasing interest in “Sixth Industry Market” which ties in the farming/fishing/forestry industry with logistics/ICT. Since the next Organic Show/Biofach Japan is being held in February of 2016, there will be plenty of time to see what results will be yielded from its foray into this arena.

securite_screenshot
Securite shows a list of crowdfunding projects now available at Music Securities.

Translations startups targeting non-tech Japanese SMEs

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This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology. Translations startups like Shibuya-headquartered Gengo and anydooR, the Conyac crowdsourced translations operator, took part in Tokyo Business Summit 2014 held late last week at the waterfront Big Sight convention facilities. This year’s event had more tech-related firms showcasing their wares than ever before, including those related to use of the space environment. This was the first time for Gengo to set up a booth at the event, which in the past brought together non- and low-tech Japanese small and medium-sized Enterprises for the most part. Gengo’s marketing manager Nozomi Umenai said, Gengo is expanding to mass market, as exemplified by Tokyo Business Summit participants. We wanted to showcase how easy and affordable it is to use Gengo API. Many of the participants are currently looking to expand overseas business dealings, both outbound as well as inbound (especially those related to the free trade agreement with Australia, as exemplified by meat products, and Trans-Pacific Partnership), so the venue provided a ready pool of Japanese SMEs for contact by translations outfits. Conyac — whose operation is based in Kanda, Tokyo known for…

This is a guest post authored by “Tex” Pomeroy. He is a Tokyo-based writer specializing in ICT and high technology.


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Image credit: Tokyo Business Summit

Translations startups like Shibuya-headquartered Gengo and anydooR, the Conyac crowdsourced translations operator, took part in Tokyo Business Summit 2014 held late last week at the waterfront Big Sight convention facilities. This year’s event had more tech-related firms showcasing their wares than ever before, including those related to use of the space environment.

This was the first time for Gengo to set up a booth at the event, which in the past brought together non- and low-tech Japanese small and medium-sized Enterprises for the most part. Gengo’s marketing manager Nozomi Umenai said,

Gengo is expanding to mass market, as exemplified by Tokyo Business Summit participants. We wanted to showcase how easy and affordable it is to use Gengo API.

Many of the participants are currently looking to expand overseas business dealings, both outbound as well as inbound (especially those related to the free trade agreement with Australia, as exemplified by meat products, and Trans-Pacific Partnership), so the venue provided a ready pool of Japanese SMEs for contact by translations outfits.

Conyac — whose operation is based in Kanda, Tokyo known for its many low-tech SMEs — also had a booth out at the event, which was held for the 28th time since 1988.

The Conyac booth staff also noted,

We just released a website translation management tool called ‘Conyac Front‘ last month. At the summit, we’re looking for the testers for the Conyac Front(β).

Other firms of interest this year were those focused on Business Continuity Planning (BCP) and other emergency-related businesses.

Further info on Tokyo Business Summit is available at http://www.business-summit.jp/tbs/

Cognition-as-a-Service will be big in 2014

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Dudu Noy is the CMO at Ginger Software. Ginger’s Grammar Checker and Sentence Rephraser are available as desktop software, browser add-ons and Android mobile keyboard. Readers of our Japanese site may recall that we featured the company’s Japan launch back in April. I predict that 2014 will be remembered as the year that CaaS, or “Cognition-as-a-Service” platforms came of age. Cognition is historically a complex biological trait including skills such as decision making, problem solving, learning, reasoning, working memory and not least language, skills that today the computer sciences are chipping away at from various angles. With each major evolutionary step in computing we have seen over the last 30 years, from mainframes to PCs, the internet, cloud and SaaS, and now ubiquitous smart mobile, the new realm has not so much replaced but augmented what was there before. In the same way the promise of CaaS is to allow apps and services to function more intelligently and intuitively, allowing you to converse with them, ask questions, give commands and complete tasks more efficiently and conveniently. Apple’s Siri is one of the most famous cognition-based services in general use today. And now Google’s recent innovations to its search product for…

Dudu Noy is the CMO at Ginger Software. Ginger’s Grammar Checker and Sentence Rephraser are available as desktop software, browser add-ons and Android mobile keyboard. Readers of our Japanese site may recall that we featured the company’s Japan launch back in April.

Ginger CMO Dudu Noy

I predict that 2014 will be remembered as the year that CaaS, or “Cognition-as-a-Service” platforms came of age. Cognition is historically a complex biological trait including skills such as decision making, problem solving, learning, reasoning, working memory and not least language, skills that today the computer sciences are chipping away at from various angles.

With each major evolutionary step in computing we have seen over the last 30 years, from mainframes to PCs, the internet, cloud and SaaS, and now ubiquitous smart mobile, the new realm has not so much replaced but augmented what was there before.

In the same way the promise of CaaS is to allow apps and services to function more intelligently and intuitively, allowing you to converse with them, ask questions, give commands and complete tasks more efficiently and conveniently.

Apple’s Siri is one of the most famous cognition-based services in general use today. And now Google’s recent innovations to its search product for mobile, incorporating more contextual conversation for queries, pits it against Siri in the cognition-augmented search arena. In both cases, the technology itself is in the cloud, even though the device is in the user’s hand. Their main functions only work when there is an internet connection [1].

The reason is that the two necessary tricks to make sense of a user’s speech input – speech recognition and natural language processing (NLP) – require cloud-based servers performing intensive processing of proprietary algorithms that is beyond the capabilities of handheld technology.

When it comes to NLP it is the sheer diversity of languages that makes it such a challenge. Old school NLP solutions were based on rigid rules that map inputs to a big list of known inputs. But the list can never be long enough, and the hard rules can never cover all the edge cases. So the experience of talking to a supposedly “smart assistant” always left the user frustrated.

You need more powerful, agile technologies that can figure out that in a sentence such as: “Yuko wants to eat an apple.

Yuko is something that can have wants, and can eat things, and that apples are things that can be eaten. The technology needs to be able to do this for the vast majority of sentences the app is likely to encounter. This is incredibly hard, but here at Ginger and a few other places, we are doing it.

It is not just Apple and Google who are eyeing this space. IBM is now also a player with Watson, recently announcing that the same supercomputer-strength software that conquered the quiz show “Jeopardy!”, will be available to app developers through an API and software toolkit. This will allow cognitive apps that leverage cognition to be hosted in the cloud on Watson. This would obviously be a great thing for IBM’s cloud hosting service as well.

This “platform model” in tech business is nothing new of course. In recent years IBM did this with its Websphere application server technology, which went from an internal project to a software community of thousands of developers. Salesforce.com did this with its Force cloud-app development platform, as did Amazon with Amazon Web Services.

But what is different with CaaS platforms is that cognitive powers will be baked in to the operating system, and all the apps that are developed on that platform. That will bring intelligence to a mass public in a wide variety of as yet unimagined contexts.

At Ginger we have not opened up our technology as a platform via an API yet, but we are providing the benefits of its cognitive powers to a mass user base globally. Our technology uses statistical algorithms in conjunction with natural language processing, referencing a vast database of trillions of English sentences that have been scoured from the web. This allows us to work out what the users of our applications are trying to communicate, be it in Microsoft Office apps, Gmail, Facebook or wherever, and correct their mistakes and suggest improvements to their expressions.

One thing is for sure – this is a really interesting space to work, and it will be fun to see where computer based cognition will go in 2014.


  1. As an exception, Siri can be used to control some local apps.  ↩

Japanese manga artist crowdfunds digital exhibition overseas

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This is part of our Crowdfunding in Japan series (RSS). Services like KickStarter have become a global phenomenon with the power to let creative individuals take their ideas to new heights. It’s happening here in Japan too, most notably on Campfire, the country’s answer to Kickstarter. Yuta Kayashima has been working as an illustrator while trying to realize his dream of becoming a manga artist. Ever since he was a student, he has been experimenting with the blending of manga and digital technology. His works Manga 2.0 (made with Adobe Flash) and Hack to the Brain were honored by the judicial committee for the Japanese Agency of Cultural Affairs. He has also distributed a special vertically written comic called Saiyu Shojo (A Young Girl’s Westward Trip) on the booklog site Puboo, a service where anyone can make and sell ebooks. From January through March 2013, Mr. Kayashima will participate in a modern art exhibition in Mexico featuring a Ukiyo-e theme. This Ukiyoe x Digital Comic project is a effort that combines traditional Japanese drawings and the latest media technology. He is planning to make an interactive comic, which will allow the audience to perform operations on the exhibit using a…

This is part of our Crowdfunding in Japan series (RSS). Services like KickStarter have become a global phenomenon with the power to let creative individuals take their ideas to new heights. It’s happening here in Japan too, most notably on Campfire, the country’s answer to Kickstarter.


ukiyo-e-digital-comic

Yuta Kayashima has been working as an illustrator while trying to realize his dream of becoming a manga artist. Ever since he was a student, he has been experimenting with the blending of manga and digital technology. His works Manga 2.0 (made with Adobe Flash) and Hack to the Brain were honored by the judicial committee for the Japanese Agency of Cultural Affairs. He has also distributed a special vertically written comic called Saiyu Shojo (A Young Girl’s Westward Trip) on the booklog site Puboo, a service where anyone can make and sell ebooks.

From January through March 2013, Mr. Kayashima will participate in a modern art exhibition in Mexico featuring a Ukiyo-e theme. This Ukiyoe x Digital Comic project is a effort that combines traditional Japanese drawings and the latest media technology. He is planning to make an interactive comic, which will allow the audience to perform operations on the exhibit using a mouse, and the scene will be displayed using a projector. The exhibit is described as follows:

Three beautiful sisters from the Ukiyo-e world travel through a time warp to the modern era. To their misfortune, in the present-day world their looks are no longer considered to be quite so attractive, but that does not curb their desire to be considered beautiful. They discover that many modern day anime characters are considered beautiful. As such, the jealous three sisters search for modern beauty, stealing various parts from other characters and competing against each other to enhance their own images.

It sounds like a pretty fascinating story, and if Kayashima’s past work is any indication (see video below), the exhibit should be equally impressive. For all our Mexican readers (we know there’s at least a few of you), do check out the exhibition if you get a chance.

The project recently appeared as a crowdfunding project on Campfire, and happily it turned out to be a success story, as the target of ¥250,000 (over $2,700) was successfully reached on Nov 3, 2012.

Japanese designer ditches chopsticks for amazing musical fork

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This is part of our “Crowdfunding in Japan” series (RSS). Services like KickStarter have become a global phenomenon with the power to let creative individuals take their ideas to new heights. It’s happening here in Japan too, and the following is a prime example. At CES 2013 Hapilabs turned a lot of heads with their smart fork. That device promotes healthier eating by making sure you don’t eat too much or too fast. But another unique utensil from Cerevo Dash, the EaTheremin, aspires to enrich your dining experience by turning your meals into a musical performance. How does it work? I’m glad you asked. The handle and tip of the fork contain separate electrodes, which create a weak electric current flowing through the food and the body (mouth → handle) when you eat. It plays different sounds depending on the type of food on the fork and the way in which it is eaten (according to changes in electrical resistance). All you have to do is add the battery and it’s ready for use. There are two varieties of EaTheremin. The digital version selects and plays pre-loaded sound effects from the internal memory based on the food’s electrical resistance. For…

EaTheremin

This is part of our “Crowdfunding in Japan” series (RSS). Services like KickStarter have become a global phenomenon with the power to let creative individuals take their ideas to new heights. It’s happening here in Japan too, and the following is a prime example.


At CES 2013 Hapilabs turned a lot of heads with their smart fork. That device promotes healthier eating by making sure you don’t eat too much or too fast. But another unique utensil from Cerevo Dash, the EaTheremin, aspires to enrich your dining experience by turning your meals into a musical performance.

How does it work? I’m glad you asked. The handle and tip of the fork contain separate electrodes, which create a weak electric current flowing through the food and the body (mouth → handle) when you eat. It plays different sounds depending on the type of food on the fork and the way in which it is eaten (according to changes in electrical resistance). All you have to do is add the battery and it’s ready for use.

There are two varieties of EaTheremin. The digital version selects and plays pre-loaded sound effects from the internal memory based on the food’s electrical resistance. For the analog version, simple sine waves change subtly based on the food’s electrical resistance and how you eat, thus producing a sound like a theremin for your enjoyment [1].

This is a cool idea for a number of reasons. The fork could prove an effective tool in convincing picky children to eat foods they don’t like or helping hospital patients or elderly folks with cognitive impairments to enjoy meals again.

They raised ¥308,500, but regrettably the project concluded before the designers could reach their reaching the funding target. But we hope that this clever fork can find its way to our dinner tables sometime soon.


  1. The theremin is an electronic musical instrument from Russia, played without making physical contact. You simply move your hand in proximity to the instrument. If you’ve ever listed to Good Vibrations from The Beach Boys, that weird whining instrument is a theremin.  ↩

How a Japanese illustrator crowdfunded a book of wonder

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This is part of our Crowdfunding in Japan series (RSS). Services like KickStarter have become a global phenomenon with the power to let creative individuals take their ideas to new heights. It’s happening here in Japan too, most notably on Campfire, the country’s answer to Kickstarter. Here’s a fun new Campfire project that aspires to create a magical short story. It springs from the mind of illustrator and graphic designer, Hidehito Shinno, and hopes to bring many eccentric characters gather together in a single book. Mr. Shinno thinks freedom is particularly important in producing his works, and this story expresses the fun of an “anything goes” mentality, and a strong departure from reality. He plans to make a full-color soft cover book of 20 to 30 pages. And while such a plan is not so remarkable by itself, we do find it interesting how Shinno has decided to pay for his project. For many illustrators looking to make a new book, funding is often the main obstacle. But now, like other creative spirits in the digital age, an illustrator can make money through a crowdfunding service like Campfire or Kickstarter. And that’s what Shinno has done. On Campfire, he can…

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This is part of our Crowdfunding in Japan series (RSS). Services like KickStarter have become a global phenomenon with the power to let creative individuals take their ideas to new heights. It’s happening here in Japan too, most notably on Campfire, the country’s answer to Kickstarter.


Here’s a fun new Campfire project that aspires to create a magical short story. It springs from the mind of illustrator and graphic designer, Hidehito Shinno, and hopes to bring many eccentric characters gather together in a single book. Mr. Shinno thinks freedom is particularly important in producing his works, and this story expresses the fun of an “anything goes” mentality, and a strong departure from reality.

He plans to make a full-color soft cover book of 20 to 30 pages. And while such a plan is not so remarkable by itself, we do find it interesting how Shinno has decided to pay for his project. For many illustrators looking to make a new book, funding is often the main obstacle. But now, like other creative spirits in the digital age, an illustrator can make money through a crowdfunding service like Campfire or Kickstarter. And that’s what Shinno has done. On Campfire, he can promote his work, and eventually publish a book which can then be used as a part of his portfolio — which could then in turn, kickstart more opportunities.

The progress for this particular project is updated continually via ‘the activity report’, so the patrons can observe and enjoy the process of the story’s creation. Mr. Shinno also provides illustrated icons, badges, stickers, and posters to the project’s supporters.

The target amount that was initially set for the Campfire project was 250,000 yen (almost $2,700), and it has far surpassed that goal by reaching 363,500 yen. Clearly a little ingenuity on the business side of things is a big help to the creative process as well!