This week:
MIDIfied finger piano hack, Interaction 2008, an impalement simulation belt, a safety-first robot paper shredder, the Sociable Trash Box, a long-distance drinking device, the Limonect ambient footstep network, Kazuya Kanemaru, a rotary remote control, a robot controlled by a TV remote, a young girl rocking out to Max/MSP/Jitter, edible rice tableware, and a very stylish paper clip holder.

Ichinensei Finger Piano Hacked for MIDI
Well, it was just a matter of time… Remember that wicked-looking Shougaku Ichinensei finger piano from two weeks ago that seemed to be begging to be hacked? Sure enough, it happened. A fellow who goes by the handle Mootoh gave a great presentation of his hack of this finger piano at the most recent 1000Speakers conference (Japanese). He used the Gainer interface to hook up the finger sensors and combined an accelerometer (what looks to be an ADXL330) to add the final La, Si, and Do to the major scale for MIDI output. It’s really great to see this thing hacked so well, but after watching the video where he explains the process of getting the finger piano to give MIDI output, I was admittedly a bit bummed out that the MIDI sound coming out of this cyborg hand contraption was… the default Mac MIDI piano sound. ;-) (photo set at flickr)

Interaction 2008
Last week Engadget Japanese was on the job at the Interaction 2008 (J. only) conference. Here are a few of my favorites of their favorites:

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“Slashed” Impalement Simulation Device
“/ed” is a belt lined with speakers on the inside that is designed to be used in gaming to “realistically simulate the feeling of being impaled.”

When the speakers located on the front and back are vibrated…the user can perceive the haptic movement passing through the abdomen as if he/she is being pierced.

According to the Engadget Japan writer, “One frequently asked question is ‘Does this really feel like you’re being impaled?’ but none of the members of this project have ever been impaled, nor do they plan to do so in the future.” While I doubt that it really feels like you’re being impaled, I don’t think they’d be selling too many of these if it actually did, ya know. Anyway, check out the “/ed” video here.

Roboticized Paper Shredder
Keio University brings us this roboticized consumer paper shredder that warns users to not touch the blades if their hand approaches the danger zone. This safety-minded robot’s eyes indicate worry, and the robot’s hands point to the area in question (although the little nubs don’t quite seem to reach the area they’re pointing to…).

Sociable Trash Box
Another friendly robot from Interaction ’08: From the Toyohashi University School of Engineering we have the Sociable Trash Box, which is a wastebasket equipped with a human face-seeking camera that it uses to wheel itself towards a person, at which point the waste basket politely bows its head and says “Please feel free to dispose of your trash.”

Futarizake – Networked Long Distance Drinking Device
And finally, one more find from Engadget’s coverage of Interaction ’08: Futarizake = “two person alcohol.” Here we have two networked beer dispensers that pump beer (or any other beverage, it would seem) in equal volumes at two remote locations. If you dispense a drink for yourself, the same amount is automatically dispensed for your friend at the remote location. This device seems to be tied to the Japanese tradition of having your drink poured by someone else. These devices are also linked with video chat, allowing you to see your remotely connected friends/business associates getting drunk along with you. Because the camera doesn’t adequately reproduce the reddening of the drunk Asian face, the device is set to automatically redden the users’ faces on the display proportional to the amount of beverage that has been dispensed. More info is available here at Homei (in Japanese). Long-distance kanpai!

Limonect
Yet another inventive project from the students of the Okude Lab at Keio University. Limonect is a device that is designed to connect distant family members through ambient detection and display of everyday household actions, in this case footsteps. Two locations are remotely connected with sensor/display mats that light up with foot images when they are stepped on in the opposite location, allowing users a little bit of comfort in knowing that far-away family members are going about their business at home. In looking at their flickr set, it appears as though they started out trying to track the footsteps using the switch system of a hacked computer keyboard, but then realized that they couldn’t get the light to appear underneath the sensor this way, so opted for using Sharp GP2D12 infrared distance sensors on top of plates of glass with LCD monitors below the glass to illuminate the remote footsteps. I mean, hey, if people are taking “ambient Skype” remote naps together, Limonect might actually find common use someday too.


The Strangely Moving Works of Kazuya Kanemaru <-oh, the ambiguity!
Artist Kazuya Kanemaru uses machines to capture the intricacies of the human spirit in a way that few builders can. With works ranging from a robotic scene piece depicting a family argument at the dinner table to a bipolar robot couple who hug and then say farewell while endlessly sliding back and forth on a rail, his pieces mix a strangely deep sense of emotion with technological wonder and reverence. His website is a bit primitive, but it just makes me want to see his work in real life that much more. The internet seems to be painfully void of videos of his work, so please get in touch if you know where we can find any.

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Rotary Remote Control
In a clever mix of innovation and retro, MAKE Flickr pool favorite and maker of the (award-winning) heartbeat midi controller Recotana has also made this rotary TV remote control. If you miss the feeling of twisting that big TV channel knob but you want to remain on the sofa, you might want to look into getting/making one of these.

TV Remote-Controlled Robot Guy
A robot controlled by a regular Sony-type TV remote!

Young Girl Rocks Max/MSP/Jitter Dance in Yokohama
It really warms my heart to see families making insane interactive computer noise/VJ projection on the dance floor. It almost makes me forget about the Crocs cell phone holders that hit the market recently.

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Edible Rice Tableware

Bowls, chopsticks, etc. made from every pirate’s favorite food, hardtack. “Japanese designer Nobuhiko Arikawa of Rice-Design has created edible tableware for Orto Cafe in Japan.”

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Faucet Paper Clip Dispenser
Finally, a paper clip holder that is cute enough for that picky niece on your Christmas list. See more pictures at Gizmodo Japan.

Happy making this week!

Mike