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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 21st century toilet

The 21st century toilet.

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.


In space … you don’t actually need legs.

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 be staying in his box until then, as he only speaks Japanese.

According to Kirobo’s developers, this exercise is part of a study to see how machines can lend emotional support to people isolated over long periods. I suspect it’s more of a marketing manoeuvre. After all, Wakata won’t be alone on the ISS. And I’m sure they have Skype up there.

Cute little toy, though. I expect Kirobo will be appearing in the shops any day now.

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Header image: Dusk falls over the harbour at Takamatsu (高松市), as seen from the top floor of the 30-storey Symbol Tower. Photo: Frank Gualtieri.

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