Made in Japan – Volume 6

Made in Japan – Volume 6

This week: Chanko’s wire VW’s, Korg on the Nintendo DS, a pricey but nicey wooden keyboard, one stamp for many faces, a cyborg-esque finger piano begging to be circuit-bent, the Pixel Factory electricity-free movie player, Japanese manhole cover art, a psychedelic gas mask kaleidoscope, cushions made from subway car seat material, a rainbow in your hand, and Shootball, the ubiquitous computing sport of the future.


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Chanko’s Wire Creations
Chanko seems to show a fondness for sculpting VW automobiles out of wire. For example, the VW Bug pictured above took 50 hours to complete, and was commissioned three years prior for the equivalent of $100. He seems to enjoy torturing himself by publicly calculating what his hourly wage for these projects comes out to be, but he still seems to continue to make these creations. Does this sound familiar? I’m certain he’s not the only one.

Korg DS-10

The handheld music world has been abuzz this week over the scheduled July release of the Korg DS-10 Synthesizer for the Nintendo DS. Brought to us by AQ Interactive, this program includes the following features:

– World’s first music tool software created for the Nintendo DS
– Two patchable dual-oscillator analog synth simulators:
– Four-part drum machine that uses sounds created with the analog synth simulator
– Six-track (analog synth x 2, drum machine x 4) /16-step sequencer
– Delay, chorus, and flanger sound effects available from the mixing board
– Three note-entry modes: touch-control screen, keyboard screen, matrix screen
– Real-time sound control mode via touch-control screen
– Exchange sounds and songs and play multiple units simultaneously through a wireless communications link

Although this product is supposed to only be sold in Japan, I’m sure that enterprising music geeks around the globe will have their ways of getting copies of this one. Also, you may have noticed that this program claims to be the “world’s first music tool software created for the Nintendo DS” although I’m sure that interactive media artist Toshio Iwai, the creator of Electroplankton for the Nintendo DS would disagree. Regardless of its place in the DS music history time line, this “game” will undoubtedly get a lot of use among handheld music folks all over, simply because sequencing with a stylus on a touchscreen is a great way of getting notes on the grid without pulling your hair out (although the title of “ultimate musical interface” is being given a run for its money by Toshio Iwai’s Monome-esque Tenori-On device, as well as the Monome itself). Via Gizmodo Japan.

Wooden Keyboard from Yamaguchi Kougei
To go along with the wooden mouse we showed last week, here’s a nice wooden keyboard. The price is (drumroll please)… $500! But, c’mon, it’s art. Despite the shocker price tag (after all, it is carefully made BY A PERSON) this keyboard just looks like it would be a joy to type on. I imagine each keystroke sending waves of good forest karma up my arm, instead of the usual Carpal tunnel that seems to come up. This keyboard is available in maple and black walnut.

A4 Craft’s Face Stamp
Finally, one stamp to express the entire wide scope of human emotions. The A4 Craft company brings us the Faces Stamp, allowing users to decorate papers with everything from anger to joy, all with just one stamp. The number of different faces it makes is limited only by your squeezing creativity. Only 525 yen (~$5)!
Via Trends in Japan.

Finger Piano from Shougaku Ichinensei
This bionic glove that you see here is actually a finger piano that came bundled in the magazine Shougaku Ichinensei (translation: First Grader Magazine). Each finger sensor sounds the Do Re Mi Fa So notes respectively, and there are three more buttons on the wrist to complete the octave with La, Si, and Do. Never before has there been a product that said “circuit bend me!” like this does. Being a first-grader in Japan must be so cool. You can see a better movie of the Finger Piano here at the Shougaku Ichinensei site, and also check out the other toys that come bundled with their magazine, such as the incredibly psychedelic Doraemon Mirror Tunnel Watch (could toys like this be the real reason why Japan has given us bands like Acid Mother’s Temple?). When I asked Made in Japan interviewee Masayuki Akamatsu if he had any suggestions for good stuff to introduce in future Made in Japan columns, he pointed me to the Shougaku Ichinensei site, and now I understand why: In addition to the amazing toys that come with it, the cover of this magazine looks like an explosion of fun.
Via Gizmodo Japan.

Kenichi Okada’s Pixel Factory
Here’s one of my favorite pieces by media artist Kenichi Okada called the Pixel Factory. The box contains fiber-optic lines that read strips of paper to create animations on a 7×7 screen.

Pixel Factory is a box, which converts pixel data printed on the paper strip into pixel animation.

49 optical fibers are connected between top to front of the box. These fibres convert 49×1 into 7×7 pixels animation. It works by projecting light onto the head of the box. The pixel data on the sheet is generated through computer processing. The user can create his/her original pixel sheet by typing text, drawing animations and importing video images.

Check out a Quicktime movie of the Pixel Factory at work here.

Shootball = Sports + Ubiquitous Computing
Those futuristic sports from movies like Running Man are finally here! A group calling themselves Abebe Bikila Boys have taken a Keio University class project and created a new sport called Shootball. Shootball is a combination of ubiquitous computing and sports, utilizing electronics to allow the players to manipulate interact with the environment that they play in. The video above outlines the gameplay as follows (my translation):

Shootball takes place on a field with four screens. The red and green sections of the four screens are goals. The other two sections are “change” screens and “switch” screens. On the ceiling there are cameras that follow the ball. The ball contains a wireless transmitter and a movement sensor. When you hit the ball on the screen, the part that you hit changes its projection. The game is played on a seven square meter field with two teams of two players. The A team goes for the red goal, and the B team goes for the blue goal. When you hit the goal area with the ball, the block that you hit crumbles. The goal of the game is to eliminate as many of the blocks from the goal screen as possible. The team to knock out all their blocks or to have the most blocks knocked out at the end of the game wins. You can try to guard your own goal, but when your opponent hits the “change” screen, the goal position rotates. If you hit the “shift” screen with the left arrow, the screens all switch to the left one position. Using the change and shift functions to throw off your opponent is the most interesting aspect of ShootBall. By dribbling the ball you can build up the ball’s energy. When the ball hits a goal wall with built-up energy, more bricks are broken out. Our ultimate goal is to get ShootBall in the Olympics!

So… who would like to join me in being a founding member of the U.S. Shootball team? Get in on the ground floor of this one, I predict it will be way more popular than Whirlyball.

Manhole Cover Art
Japan is home to some very decorative manhole covers. Here’s a collection of some of the best of these colorful slabs of metal culled from all across Japan.

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Cushions Made of Surplus Subway Seat Cloth
When the Sendai City Transit Bureau decided to renovate their subway cars and change the color of their seats, they were left with a surplus of orange cloth they had on hand for repairing damaged seats. The Transit Bureau teamed up with a workshop for the handicapped in Sendai to produce cushions that are sold at the Sendai train station:

The Sendai City Transportation Bureau and a workshop for the handicapped in Sendai have jointly produced the orange, smooth-textured cushions out of material used for repairing seats on Sendai municipal subway trains.

The cloths became available after the city recently renovated the subway cars and changed the colors of the seat cloths.

Members of a local handicapped center hand stitched the cushions. The material was apparently difficult to sew due to its toughness.

The cushions are sold at 2,000 yen each at Sendai Station along the Nanboku subway line. There are only 150 cushions available.

Moerugomi’s Nightmarish Incense-Emitting Gas Mask Kaleidoscope
Forget what you know about kaleidoscopes. This is not the happy kind of kaleidoscope you would allow young children to get a hold of. Look into the eyes of this trance-inducing gas mask to transform the very nature of your perception! The left eye uses a three-mirror kaleidoscope, and the right eye uses a circle-mirror based kaleidoscope, causing the user to lose directional balance, “guiding the user to a different world.” To further heighten the trance-like state, incense is emitted from the nose of the gas mask. Check out the movie of it in action here (smell not included). There are quite a few other projects in a similar vein going on over at Moerugomi, so be sure and poke around at their main page as well.
Via Make: Japan.

Late 19th/Early 20th Century Japanese Toy Design Watercolors
In case you missed it on Boing Boing, the Bibliodyssey blog recently posted pictures from Japan’s Ningyo-Do Bunko Database of toy designs form the late19th/early 20th century. With everything from cute to creepy, these watercolors of wooden toys are sure to inspire. Link to the Ningyo-Do archive.

Rainbow in Your Hand
Japanese artist Masashi Kawamura‘s book is beautifully simple: flip the pages, a rainbow appears in your hand. In addition to making magical books, he also directs videos, and you simply must check out the wonderful hand shadow-based video he did for Sour Hangetsu. He’s also responsible for a Pitogora device on PitagoraSwitch! A brilliant career indeed!

Whelp, that’s it for this week. Thanks for reading! Questions, comments, righteous links? Email me.

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