Made in Japan – Volume 17

Made in Japan – Volume 17

This week:
A Capacitor-Powered Fast-Charge Mini Car, Strawberry Skin Oshibana, LED Dome Light Hack, Robot Face Rapid Sequence Camera, Coming Soon? – Arduino Mini XBee Shield or Skinny-like 3.3v Arduino + XBee, Kumiko Latticework, Evolta Robot Climbs Grand Canyon Cliff, iPong, a Kappa Ring.

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Capacitor-Powered Fast-Charge Mini Car
Researchers at the Tokyo University School of Engineering have tested their one-man capacitor powered vehicle, which charges in just 30 seconds and can then run for 20 minutes, with a maximum speed of 50 km/h (31 mph). Technology like this might be perfect for people with short commutes who need to charge quickly. Even if you ran out of juice along the way, you could sneak an extension cord into the local coffee shop, charge up, and be on your way before anybody even noticed.

Strawberry Skin Oshibana
Although traditional Japanese oshibana makes use of flowers, leaves, and other objects from nature, artist Hana Megumi uses actual strawberry skins to make these vivid pieces of art. The strawberries are cut in half, and the middle of the fruit is removed to leave just the skin, which is then applied to the oshibana. [via Make: Japan, Takami Funada]

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LED Dome Light Hack
Jonesin’ for a brighter dome light in the Impressa, PenPen used an array of hi-flux LEDs to replace the stock dome light bulb, resulting in a brighter, “more fluorescent-looking” light. Circuit diagram and layout available at the link.

Robot Face Rapid Sequence Camera
This cute robot-shaped camera takes three pictures in rapid sequence to regular old film. With two eyes and one mouth, each opening has it own lens, and the mouth gives a wider panoramic shot that mysteriously dips into the the tops of the “eye” pictures, making it perfect for anyone who’s fed up with the tyranny of square. The viewfinder? Just the plastic square that flips up on the top. This robot is stylishly low-tech, and the price is simple too: It can be purchased in Japan for about $25. [Via Make: Japan]

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Coming Soon? Arduino Mini XBee Shield or Skinny-like 3.3v Arduino + XBee
The good folks over at are toying with the idea of making an XBee shield for the popular new Arduino Mini. In terms of thickness, this shield it is described as being slightly thinner than a box of Frisk (Japanese mints, a common case for DIY electronics in Japan, like an Altoids tin, but quite a bit smaller). There is still some question as how power should be supplied to the board, but several ideas are being considered, such as battery options like the Sanyo Mobile Booster Series, or a DC/DC module to convert one regular battery to 5v and the 3.3v required for XBee. Based on the amount of space taken up just by the connectors, they wonder if perhaps it might just forget about the shield and make an integrated Arduino + XBee device, something that runs on 3.3v like the tiny new Arduino-compatible Skinny, therefore eliminating the need for the regulator for the XBee. They are looking for input on this, so send comments if you have any suggestions. Regardless of what they end up doing, these ideas hint at the exciting potential for small, affordable, and wireless Arduino applications in the future.

Kumiko Latticework
PingMag brings us another great profile of the meticulous people who make up the world of skilled crafts in Japan.

Kumiko latticework is a traditional architectural fixture used in sliding shoji screens, standalone room dividers called shoin-shoji, and transom windows called ranma. The use of good kumiko is a sign of taste, refinement, and luxury. Thousands of precisely cut, tiny pieces of wood are assembled to create intricate screens. Kumiko originated about 350 years ago, in the Kanuma region of Tochigi prefecture. Shinji Yoshiwara is a kumiko craftsman of the old order, whose tales are filled with the breathtaking rollercoaster atmosphere of Japan’s postwar economic miracle.

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Evolta Robot Climbs Grand Canyon Cliff
When it comes to day-to-day electronics, I like my rechargeable AA’s just fine, but it’s hard to deny that scaling the Grand Canyon on two AA batteries is pretty impressive.

On May 24, a 17-centimeter tall, 130-gram Panasonic Evolta battery mascot robot scaled a 500-meter cliff at the Grand Canyon in a publicity stunt to showcase the endurance of the Evolta AA alkaline battery, which the Guinness Book of World Records recently recognized as the longest-lasting of its kind. Powered by a pair of Evoltas, the robot hoisted itself up a 530-meter length of rope suspended next to the cliff, reaching the top after a grueling 6 hours and 45 minutes.

When a new device comes out, it’s just a matter of time before somebody makes a version of Pong for it, but iPong for the iPod Touch takes advantage of the interface as well as the connectivity of this device. The sound effects in this video are endearingly provided not by the device, but by the voices of the players. That being said, your may might vary in terms of how this might sound at home.

Ryo Shimizu, CEO of Ubiquitous Entertainment Inc., also known as an active blogger (shi3z) introduced his buddy reseacher Mr. Kondo’s toy application for iPod Touch (iPhone has not been sold in Japan… yet), iPong. Not much explanation provided, but multiple iPod Touch seem to be connected without wire and serve a virtual Pong game. Mr. Shimizu wrote that Mr. Kondo made it around an hour.

Kappa Ring
At the recent Design Festa, the organizers spotted this ring, made to look like the mythical (or at best cyptozoological) kappa, a prevalent creature in Japanese folklore. A kappa is a water imp (or sprite, depending on who you ask) that is often described as being a cross between a frog and a monkey. These creatures have plate-like depressions on the tops of their heads that hold water, and if the water is depleted, these critters lose their power. Because the kappa’s favorite food is said to be cucumber, the name “kappa” is also where they get the name for kappa-maki, those delicious cucumber rolls at the sushi shop.

2 thoughts on “Made in Japan – Volume 17

  1. nick says:

    thanks for posting these! I love seeing all the new things and inspiration that the Japanese come up with.

    Keep em coming.

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