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Taking technology too far

There were two stories about Japanese technology in the news yesterday. One was about a remote control toilet. Yes, really. The Lixil Satis has a Bluetooth interface that can be accessed by installing an Android app on your smartphone. This allows you to control all sorts of functions, including opening/closing the lid, flushing the toilet, and operating the “wash/dry” system that seems to be a standard feature on Japanese toilets these days. But yesterday a security advisory for this contraption was published online. It turns out that its designers had cut corners by making it unnecessary to enter a four-digit PIN when pairing an Android device with the toilet. (More precisely, they hard-coded the PIN to ‘0000’.) This means that anyone with an Android smartphone can control your toilet remotely, simply by downloading the free app. Oops. The other story was that of Kirobo (キロボ), the talking robot that was dispatched to the International Space Station, supposedly to act as a companion to astronaut Koichi Wakata (若田 光一) who will be joining the ISS in November. I expect Kirobo will [More…]

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Air hockey robot

Researchers led by Professor Akio Namiki at Chiba University’s Namiki Lab have developed an air-hockey robot that can hold its own against human players. Although it’s not the first robot to play this game, it has the ability to change its strategy based on the playing style of its opponent. (Previously)

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Son et lumière

Here’s a cool idea from NEC Lighting — a ceiling light with a built-in Bluetooth speaker that can be operated via an Android app. They’re not on sale yet, but should be available later this year (in Japan, at least).

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Cat’s ears

The latest invention from Japan is a headset that monitors the wearer’s brain activity and moves a pair of furry cat’s ears to reflect what the wearer is thinking. The product is called necomimi, which translates directly as “cat’s ears” (猫耳; ねこみみ). Its developers hope to have it on sale by the end of this year. Their website has all the latest news. I have to admit I thought this was all a hoax when I first heard about it, but a recent news article on the BBC website has another video that shows the product being tried out by ordinary members of the public.

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Header image: The three wise monkeys (三匹の猿) at Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō (日光東照宮), said to be the origin of the saying “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”. Photo: Frank Gualtieri.

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