Posts from the ‘Technology’ Category

Compact Lifestyle of Cityfolk

The living conditions in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka were very compact! As I mentioned before, walkways were often so compact that pedestrians or bikers would just venture onto the street to move more quickly and efficiently. But compact lifestyle in the city goes beyond just that. Vehicles were generally tiny, even if they were vans or trucks! At one point when our group was looking for a place to eat, we happened upon a fire truck, and it was the cutest fire truck I had ever seen!

Many of the stores and restaurants were compact as well. Japanese cities utilized multiples levels of a building to house many businesses. Signs on the wall would indicate what business was on which level of the building. Some stores would be very tiny in depth, but operate on multiple levels. I loved how the tiny stair cases would make me dizzy!

Parking structures amazed me. They worked like car elevators, lifting the car into a designated stop and storing it. Later, when you came to pick up your car, it would be brought back down via the same machinery, backed out onto a rotating platform, and then rotated to face the road!

Even the residential houses were compact!

But if you REALLY want to see compact, check out this video!


JR Railway

Our last company visit was to JR, a railway station company.

It is actually the most successful railway station in Japan, with an average revenue of 25 billion USD per year. The company has many new concepts they are developing, many of which fascinate me.

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The new Shinkansen railway train in development now is called the Hayabusa, and it will be the fastest train in Japan, traveling at 320 km/hr (200 mph)! Also, the company is working to develop new ecological trains and devices including a diesel hybrid railcar, a battery rechargeable railcar, a power-generating floor (walking on it creates and stores power), and tissue made out of old rail pass tickets! Unfortunately, suicide can be a problem in metro stations, as an average of one person per day attempts suicide by jumping in front of a moving train. JR has plans to reduce this occurrence using LED lights, mirrors, special cameras, and barriers. In addition, if such an unfortunate event is to happen, JR plans to inform waiting riders of the train’s location, arrival time, and any mishaps using improved digital monitors at several places in each station. Right now, digital screens display this information with words and numbers only, but new screens will provide easy to understand images primarily for the purpose of displaying the location of the train and allowing people of all languages to understand. One of the most interesting new developments JR showed to us is their printable route kiosk, which allows the user to type in their starting and ending location, resulting in the kiosk displaying several different routes. The quickest, cheapest, least transfers, and earliest routes are all highlighted. Once the user selects a route, they can print it out for personal use. In fact, the demo machine allowed me to do so, and I happened to use it for my trip to the airport!

FutureScope/Lucent Pictures

Another exciting company visit our group went on was to FutureScope and Lucent Pictures.

FutureScope is a mobile service content provider for DreamWorks, with over one million users. The company’s main function is to offer mobile games and wallpapers to subscribers. The company has some very interesting services, including a novel service, in which users submit creative writing in hopes that it will be used to create a novel or inspire a story of some sort. In many cases, novels have been made, and even a select few of those have been made into movies! Another service of FutureScope is their facial recognition software. This is a service the company already offers, but their newest upgrade of it can recognize up to 20 people in one mobile photograph! Lucent Pictures is a company that started out as a 2D animation company, but has slowly moved toward 3D animation over the years. Lucent Pictures can add 3D to almost any media. They currently are turning both live action and animated 2D films into 3D films, flat comics into 3D comics, and plan to even one day make 3D displays on mobile phones! Because of the 3D appeal of movies such as Avatar, Lucent Pictures has become a very successful business. Our group was able to preview many of the 3D projects they were working on.

Eric Musser looking snazzy wearing the 3D glasses.

Fuji-Q Highland

One of my favorite experiences in Japan was when I was able to visit Fuji-Q Highland amusement park near Mt. Fuji! Radin and I took this trip on one of our free days. There were several great roller coasters at the amusement park, including two that were in The Guinness Book of World Records at one point! My absolute favorite was Eejanaika, which is one of two roller coasters in the world that is a “4th dimension roller coaster” because the seats are able to spin completely around both forward and backward while the ride is operating.

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I have to say it was one of the most exciting roller coasters I’ve even been on in my life! A unique thing about this amusement park versus amusement parks I have visited in America is that it had haunted houses year-round, including one where you lay down in a coffin, and even an attraction in which you’re asked to go through an obstacle course as if you’re a character from a video game! Although we were unable to visit these attractions due to time constraints, they were very interesting concepts. Also, another thing I found different from American amusement parks was the loading and unloading speed of the rides. I’m used to a fast and efficient staff that gets the line moving as fast as possible, yet at Fuji-Q Highland, the employees seemed to take their time, and I even had to wait for the exit gates to open in some cases! This is not necessarily bad, since safety should be an primary concern, but I did not like to wait in line as long as I did!

Keio University

Building at Keio University.

Of the two university visits, the first one we made was to Keio University. This university is located in Tokyo and is one of the oldest universities in the area. Like many large universities in America, Keio University has multiple campuses as well.

Students at Keio University.

During our visit to the university, our group was able to meet and interact with students. Their level of fluency in the English language varied greatly, but the students with the best knowledge of the language often translated for their fellow students, to aid the communication barrier. One of the students gave a presentation on Twitter and its rise in popularity in recent years. It was here I learned that some students have Twitter, making it only slightly more popular in Japan than America, and almost zero students had a Facebook! Apparently MIXI is the Japanese version of Facebook, which is why students see no need to obtain a Facebook. I also found it very interesting that the prime minister of Japan had a Twitter, which had actually raised some controversy in Japan. Dr. C administered a survey for the students to fill out, and to do so, he used the QR codes I mentioned in my last post! Unfortunately, there was an error with the links in the QR codes, and he wasn’t able to use them as planned. But I still found it fascinating that he could rely on every student to have a cell phone capable of doing this!

Japanese Cell Phones

Keio University student showing Dr. C her cell phone.

Cell phones in Japan are unique in the sense that they are all mostly uniform. Most of the cell phones used are long, rectangular flip phones. Even though several different companies makes cell phones, they all take the same general shape, with small variations here and there, so to make each one unique. iPhones are the only type of cell phone I’ve noticed to be popular that does not fit this format, most likely because the iPhone is an international phone. In Japan, residents use their phones for SMS, e-mail, games, video, and web more than residents in the U.S. One popular example of this would be Japanese use of QR codes.

QR Code (in the speech bubble) advertising a ride at Fiji-Q Highland.

Just about everywhere we went in Japan, there were QR codes. People with Japanese cell phones can access websites via the camera in their phone, using the Quick Response codes. Also, Japanese use mobile games more often than Americans, make it a great market for simple mobile games.


Another one of our company visits was to DNP, which is primarily a publishing company. The company has 38,657 employees with 16 billion USD in annual sales, to give an idea of their size. The three major fields the company focuses on is information communication, lifestyle industrial supplies, and electronics.

Our study abroad group had the opportunity to view and interact with many of the technologies this company was developing or had developed. One of my personal favorites was the AR technology. This technology allowed virtual images and animation to display on a screen when an AR marker was placed in front of a camera. The camera would display the space in front of it on the screen, as any camera would, only the virtual digital image would appear right where the AR marker was. In our demonstration, the practical example given was a magazine advertising a car. Upon opening the magazine, there would be an AR marker that showed the entire car. The next page would show detailed features of the car, such as the dashboard, the seating, or the wheels, and have very cool animated transitions between each. The next page would show the car driving around on a road, and the person viewing the magazine could change the scenery of the area the car was driving in by adding AR cards into the sight of the camera. The final page would show the car in different colors. The viewer could change the colors based on what AR markers they covered and uncovered. The entire display fascinated me, and I hope to see this technology implement itself in Japan, as well as America, in the near future.