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It's like being in a science fiction movie. Experience next generation Japanese machines!

Although a 21st century where we all use smartphones and are connected through SNS is great, mankind used to have bigger, grander dreams for the future. We’ll bring back those dreams and introduce you to spots where you can experience next generation Japanese machines that will bring back the excitement of those dreams. (Top photo: Pioneer Plaza Ginza)

Your route appears right beyond the windshield
Pioneer Carrozzeria Cyber Navi

One product that garnered attention this year as being a product that screamed “this is the future!” is the Pioneer Carrozzeria Cyber Navi AVIC-VH99HUD/AVIC-ZH99HUD. It incorporates an HUD (Heads-Up Display) which makes it appear like your route is floating right in front of the windshield.

The route display appears to be 3 meters in front and is overlaid on the actual scenery (it appears to stretch out more into the distance in real life than it appears in this photo)

We’ve come to the Pioneer Plaza Ginza showroom, located on Ginza Maronie Street, to experience this revolutionary car navigation system. As we sit down at the demo machine... wow, it actually does look like the glowing blue route indicator is floating right in front of you 3 meters away!

You don’t actually drive the demo machine. The car navigation information is displayed to match pre-recorded city scenes.

Although the information is projected onto a clear plastic screen near the sun visor, to the human eye, it appears to be much more in front. It’s the same principle as when your own reflection in a car window at night appears to be behind the surface of the glass.

Although new and innovative, it also strangely felt that I had experienced this before. The images of the information overlapping over the actual scenery reminded me of “Mission: Impossible” and the Dragon Ball animes. Yasuo Nei, from the Marketing Department at Pioneer, says, “I hear reactions of 'that world that was depicted in the movies has finally become a reality’ more than 'this is totally unexpected’.”

Overhead view maps can also be displayed. Although not in the demo, the system switches between the most appropriate display mode when stopped and on the highway as well.

There is also a regular monitor that displays more detailed information. Note the AR Scouter Mode that overlays routes on actual images taken from the on-board camera.

Although we were distracted by the interface, once we started focusing on the route for a while, we started to realize the true nature of the HUD. Unlike dash mounted car navigation screens, your eyes do not have to constantly keep refocusing, and you can check information quick and easily. It probably won’t be long until this style of car navigation becomes the standard.

Pioneer Plaza Ginza

2-5-11 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo B1, 1F, 2F De Beers Ginza Building TEL: 03-5579-9381 Hours: 11:00 - 19:00 Closed: Mon. (the following day if Monday is a holiday)

A single person machine that seems like an extension of your body
Toyota i-REAL

When it comes to next generation machines, we want to also focus on vehicles as well. Let us introduce the Toyota Personal Mobility i-REAL. It is a single person electric car that can be operated by anyone. A prototype is currently being displayed with hopes for commercialization in the near future.

You can test drive the machine at the “MEGA WEB” car theme park in Odaiba. First we watched a demonstration given by the staff.

In “Drive mode”, the vehicle can reach speeds of up to 30km/h. The body tilts dramatically since the left and right front wheels move up and down independent of each other.

The first thing that appealed to us was the “transforming” of the vehicle body. The i-REAL has a slow, highly maneuverable “Walking mode” and a faster “Drive mode.” The distance between the front and rear wheels as well as the clearance of the vehicle differs in both modes. The transition between the two modes is smooth and futuristic. The speed of the vehicle during the demo was faster than we expected and we say the vehicle tilt dramatically on curves. Our nervousness increases as we get ready for our test drive.

The clearance of the vehicle is higher in walking mode so that your perspective is similar to that when walking. Wasn’t there an anime with battle robots like this?

This is drive mode. The transforming while moving that the staff demonstrated was so cool it was unreal.

After a brief explanation, it’s time for the test drive we’ve been waiting for. Although we were worried that we wouldn’t be able to get on and drive it properly, the operations were very intuitive. Acceleration and deceleration were both very smooth, and curves, which we were worried about most, were comfortable and without problem. “The i-REAL tilts just as a person or bicycle would when turning, and because it does it for you, you can curve and turn corners regardless of individual physical abilities,” says the attendant who let us ride the i-REAL.

Operations are performed using the right and left levers. The i-REAL also has safety features such as a sensor decelerating the vehicle to 1km/h when it detects a person or obstacle

It is very quiet, because of this it plays a melody as a safety precaution while moving. Messages and signs can also be displayed using the rear LEDs

Now we get it. The i-REAL isn’t like being transported in a vehicle, it feels more like moving in a powered suit that is an extension of your own body. This is an allure that doesn’t exist for cars or bikes. Test drives of the i-REAL are held three to four times in the afternoon every day, and depending on the day and time, there are also explanations given in English, Chinese and Korean. Lotteries may be held if there are a lot of people wanting to test drive the i-REAL, so weekdays might be the best opportunity.

MEGA WEB Toyota City Showcase

1-3-12 Harumi, Koto-ku, Tokyo TEL: 03-3599-0808 Hours: 11:00 - 21:00 Open unless otherwise noted

A robot in your home!

Cleaning robots are next generation machines that we are most familiar with and are a recent hit item. Out of these, the Sharp COCOROBO RX-V100 has been gathering attention as an innovative “vacuum cleaner that talks.”

As you would expect from a home appliance manufacturer, this machine has a powerful vacuum system, making it a high performance vacuum cleaner. Its movements are smart too, with its ultrasonic sensor that takes its hints from dolphins

We visited the vacuum cleaner corner at Bicqlo BIC Camera Shinjuku East Exit Store, a new Tokyo landmark, which is a collaboration between BIC Camera and Uniqlo. We went up to the COCOROBO and said to it, “clean.” It responded by dancing, spinning left and right, and then started cleaning with an “all right, let’s go.” You can also enjoy simple conversations besides giving it commands, like saying “I’m home,” to which it will respond “welcome home.” What’s more, in addition to the standard Japanese dialect, it also can respond to the Osaka dialect, English and Chinese as well. Seina Kozaki, in charge of the BIC Camera sales floor says, “there are also a lot of customers from overseas who are surprised at the fact that this piece of home electronics speaks.”

The cleaning robot corner features a wide floored area to demo the machines. This goes to show the popularity of these robots.
*The prices shown in this photo are current as of October 2012

Featuring a “COCORO Engine” artificial intelligence, it responds with a combination of speech, lights and dance depending on amount of charge and current status. It’s a robot with “emotion.”

COCOROBO features a camera next to the microphone

As you watch the robot, when it avoids going over a spot in the house with a height difference, it says “whoops!” and “ouch!” when it bumps into an obstacle. It’s both diligent and cute, and according to Yoshihisa Ogura, a spokesperson for Sharp, “owners contact us saying that 'my little one is in a bad mood’ almost like it were their pet.”

You can use the dedicated smartphone application to check what’s going on inside your house while you’re out

Furthermore, you can control the COCOROBO using a smartphone while looking that images taken using the on-board cameras. You can even do awesome things like convey messages to family members and check the inside of your house while you’re out.

The COCOROBO not only provides convenience but also comfort. This is a next generation machine that will truly make you feel like you’ve welcomed a robot into your home.

Bicqlo BIC Camera Shinjuku East Exit Store

3-29-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo TEL: 03-3226-1111 Hours: 10:00 - 22:00 Open year round