Made in Japan – Volume 20

Made in Japan – Volume 20

This week:

Cological Contraption Set, AeroSpider – Wall Walking RC Car, Meta-Ultraman: Ultraman Made Out of Smaller Ultramen, OLLO DIY Robot Kit, Clothespin Triceratops, Keromin, an Electronic Instrument that Looks Like a Frog, Zero Emission House, Microcontroller Boards ‘R’ Us: MicroFan, Fake Watches by Mint House, LED Grow Lights, and PingMag’s RFID Aesthetics.


First off, here are a few sweet items recently spotted at the Tokyo Toy Show:

Aspiring Rube Goldbergs take note: As their website says, Cological is a building set/game that combines the constructability of blocks, the insight of puzzles, and the excitement of dominoes. Instead of just falling down, these balls jump from one place to another. Certainly not a huge surprise coming from the country that brought us Pitagora Switch, but a welcome surprise nonetheless! [via]

AeroSpider – Wall Walking RC Car
Takara Tomy’s latest contribution to the world of amazing toys at the Tokyo Toy Show, this car runs on the walls. The car is described as being incredibly light, allowing it to zip around on walls by sucking to the walls (it can also stick to the ceiling too). It’s just a matter of time before we see people hacking this technology to make wall-walking gizmos of various types, and I honestly can’t wait to see what the hacking world does with these things.

Meta-Ultraman: Ultraman Made Out of Smaller Ultramen
An Ultraman sculpture, made out of several thousand smaller Ultraman figures, spray-painted to perfection. Even his fingers are made of little Ultraman toys. 2008 has been such a fruitful year for all things meta. [via]

OLLO DIY Robot Kit
Also spotted at the Tokyo Toy Show 2008 is the OLLO Robot Kit from the Korean toy company ROBOTIS. These kits are designed to be colorful, affordable, and easily used by anyone. They’re are so cute, I want to build a house in their pixelated forest and run for mayor. [via]

Clothespin Triceraptops
One of the many cool items photographed at the Tokyo Toy Show by Robot Dreams, when I first looked at this, I thought it was made out of the type of clothespins that are common to Japan, but this is in fact not clothespins, but is made out of a clothespin-inspired building toy that employs positionable clips to lock the pieces into the desired angle. Clippy toys like this always make me want to make complicated earrings and then clip them to my earlobes. Is that just me?
Also from the Tokyo Toy Show, although everyone might not love the new Indiana Jones movie, I think we can all agree that elaborate LEGO landscapes are pretty cool.
[Via Robot Dreams]

Keromin, another amazing discovery from TokyoMango:

Keromin, an Electronic Instrument that Looks Like a FrogThis is Keromin. He’s a cute stuffed frog, but he’s also an electronic instrument. His name is “kero”–the sound a frog makes in Japanese–plus theramin–the world’s first electronic instrument–put together. Keromin “sings” when you put your hand inside of him like an ordinary hand puppet and open his mouth. He can do lots of different voices–12, in fact, ranging from human voices to frog-like croaks to violins and pipe organs. An engineer in Saitama Prefecture invented it as a way to teach kids about music in a simple, endearing way.

With kids learning about music this way, we can rest assured that Japan will surely produce a worthy successor Merzbow, should he leave us anytime soon. Enjoy a video of this critter singing “Amazing Grace.”

Zero Emission House
Giving Al Gore’s pad a run for its money:

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has released a few details about the “Zero Emission House,” a state-of-the-art green home under construction at the site of the upcoming Hokkaido Toyako G8 Summit, where environmental issues will be high on the agenda.

Incorporating the latest in sustainable building technology, the 280-square-meter (3,000 sq ft) Japanese-style home is designed to have a small carbon footprint. A 14.5-kilowatt solar array and a small 1-kilowatt wind generator provide power to the home, which is equipped with next-generation energy-saving appliances, thermal insulation glass, vacuum insulated panels and a green roof. The interior is illuminated by a system of light ducts and OLED lamps.

Honda’s Asimo humanoid robot — whose exact carbon footprint size is unknown — will be on hand to serve tea to guests, who are welcome to test-drive the electric vehicles in the driveway and soak their feet in the fuel cell-powered foot bath.

Construction of the 200 million yen ($2 million) home is scheduled for completion at the end of June, at which time it will be unveiled to the foreign press. After the summit, plans are to transport the house to another location, where it will be opened to the general public.

Microcontroller Boards ‘R’ Us: MicroFan
Japan’s MicroFan continues to give us more and more variations on the delicious microcontroller board kit format. They currently sell 19 different kinds of AVR-based project boards and 27 different kinds of PIC boards! Here we have a kit with an AVR-endowed (AT90USB162) microcontroller board with a USB interface (although you don’t have to use the USB, you can use your own programmer), called the AVR-MOD-AT162. This microcontroller comes with the DFU bootloader preloaded, and with ATmel’s Flip tool you can write programs to it without any external hardware, making it a nice development environment for only minimal investment. [via]

OLeX mint house.jpg
The Mint House: Amazing Fake Watches
Another awesomely crafty creation from Mint House, here’s a bracelet made to look like a watch, but made out of beads. You know the old saying: Even a fake bead watch is right twice a day.

Telesurgerical Robo-Origami
If they can do this to a piece of paper, imagine what they can do to your heart surgery.

Origami with the da Vinci Surgical System (Robot Origami) from the Department of Telesurgery and Geomedicine, Kanazawa University, Japan. Norihiko Ishikawa, MD, PhD. The da Vinci Surgical System (Intuitive Surgical, Inc., NASDAQ – ISRG) is a sophisticated robotic platform designed to enable complex surgery using a minimally invasive approach. Intuitive Surgical’s mission is to bring the benefits of minimally invasive surgery to the broadest possible range of patients.

LED Grow Lights
Scientists in Japan are experimenting with LEDs as grow lights for various plants, determining which colors are best, how much exposure, etc. Kawaden Labs’ LED Planter provides a solderless way to put in a bunch of LEDs and participate in this research yourself. Location has not been shown to play a particularly important role in the outcome of this growing, so put ’em wherever you want to, for closet farming, attic farming, and whatever else you might come up with. I know some dudes who live down the street from me who might have some ideas on how to use these. [Via MAKE: Japan]

RFID Aesthetics
Inspired by the Tokyo’s recent RFID Expo, the consistently interesting PingMag has done a piece on the aesthetics of RFID tags throughout history. I’ve always been fascinated by their mazes of squiggly TRON Lightbike-style traces, and someone has finally done a nice roundup of the prettier ones:

RFID — or radio-frequency identification… we’ve heard of that before. Now, while strolling the booths at the RFID Expo that just took place at Tokyo’s Big Sight, we began wondering what RFID is used for best: as a button on a chef’s uniform to let him open the kitchen door; as an infant’s bracelet for a motion detector; embedded in boxes to trace its contents on their way across the globe or inside price tags in department stores to calculate the sales. Ah, well, if you just keep standing in front of the chip displays, you start to make out figures and characters of their shapes, wondering who came up with these fascinating structures… Instead of delving into new technology, this time PingMag takes a closer look at the appearance of RFID transponders.

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