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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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A robot that cheats

Think you’re good at rock-paper-scissors? You won’t beat this robot. That’s because it’s cheating: It’s still quite impressive though. Equipped with a high-speed video camera, it takes just one millisecond to recognise its opponent’s hand gesture without the need for special gloves or other such aids. This video was produced by the Ishikawa Oku Laboratory at Tokyo University. YouTube has plenty of other videos of robots playing rock-paper-scissors, or janken (じゃんけん), as the game is known in Japan.

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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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