Solar islands

Kyocera is running, since last April, the largest floating solar power plant in the world in Kagoshima. It has 11,250 solar modules and it generates above 3,000 MWh per year in total. The installation is ready to withstand winds of more than 200km/h and also earthquakes and tsunamis. It seems having solar panels on the sea it is more efficient because the water acts as a natural cooler. Also, it helps the ecosystem (There is more algae below the power plant and fish are thriving).

It is a good business and Kyocera has started to build another solar island in Chiba that will be two times the size of the one in Kagoshima. It will have an installed capacity of 14W.

It doesn’t look very “natural” but I prefer a world filled with solar islands instead of oil platforms.

kagoshima

kagoshima1

kagoshima2

More info at Kyocera news.

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Tangible holograms

Researchers from Tokyo University just presented to the public their technology to create tangible holograms using lasers. Until now we were able to create holograms using similar techniques but they would burn the users skin if touched.

Reducing the laser pulse from femtoseconds to nanoseconds has been the key to achieve these first mini plasma tangible holograms that could constitute the base for a new generation of human-computer interaction devices.


holograma2 holograma3 holograma4

holograma holograma5

Via Yoursnew

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Hebocon – The Crappy Robots Competition

I was not aware of the existence of Hebocon, but then just today I found the video shown below. Hebocon is a robot competition in which the important thing is not to have the most sophisticated robot as in the Robocup, what matters is the originality and above all the crappiness of the robots. In fact “Hebo” ヘボ, within the name of the competition “Hebocon”, means “Crappy”.

The rules are so simple that even kids younger than 10 years old participate.

hebocon

hebocon

hebocon

hebocon

hebocon

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Hoverboard By Lexus

Lexus (Toyota) has just launched this teaser video to show an hoverboard similar to those that appeared on Back to the Future. It looks like magic but it’s just the meissner effect in action. The surface looks like concrete but it isn’t.

Toyota is promising to explain how it works in the official website of the project.

lexushoverboard

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Pepper – Softbank's Robot That Can Read Your Emotions

Last Tuesday I had the chance to meet Pepper, the robot designed and built by Softbank that is planned to be released to the market next year for 200,000 yen (around 1,400 EUR or 2,000 USD). There are two prototypes at the Softbank shop in Harajuku and you can interact with them. I tried to have a conversation with one of them but I couldn’t get anything more than “Good morning”, “I don’t understand you, could you repeat what you just said?” and “See you next time. Thanks for visiting our shop!”. He detected that it was a week day (I should be working instead of visiting the Softbank shop) and he asked me “Don’t you have to work today? I see that you are taking a day off”.

Pepper - Softbank's robot

Pepper - Softbank's robot

Pepper - Softbank's robot

Pepper - Softbank's robot

Pepper - Softbank's robot

Pepper - Softbank's robot

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The Newest Version of Asimo

Honda engineers have been working for more than 30 years trying to create a humanoid robot: Asimo. For the last few years the appearance of Asimo has barely changed, however every year that goes by he has smoother moves, he is more agile and is faster when walking, running or even dancing. The newest version of Asimo was shown to the world for the first time last week in New York. In the video you can see how he is able to kick a ball, serve a drink or even shake hands.

Newest Version of Asimo

Newest Version of Asimo

Source: Japan Today

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First 8K Live Video Broadcast

NHK, the main Japanese TV network, and also a big corporation with research departments, was recently able to successfully broadcast 8K video on the air. To simply understand what it means to broadcast video in 8K, we can think of it as transimitting video with a quality “equivalent” to that of a 33.1 megapixel camera. The feat has been possible by using orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) imitating the techniques used by laptops to receive Wifi signals via 802.11.

As of now, it has only been a transmission test at a 27 km (17 miles) distance but NHK is already planning to broadcast the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 8K.

Nhk 8K technology

Nhk 8K technology

Nhk 8K broadcast of Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Source: Impress

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Powered Jacket MK3

Sawaga Electronics has developed an exoskeleton based on the manga Powered Jacket. At the moment they are going to make only 5 units and they will sell them for around 100,000 euros/130,000 dollars each.

Powered Jacket MK3

The promotional video with a bit of ironic/surreal Japanese humor is great.

Powered Jacket MK3

Powered Jacket MK3

Source: Freshnessmag

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Kuratas

This weekend took place the Maker Faire Tokyo, a fair where one of the biggest attractions has been the Kuratas, a kind of mecha-like robots developed by Suidobashi Heavy Industry. Only one of the prototypes was shown on the fair which could be used by visitors. On their website you can even buy one (a little bit over 1 millon euros/dollars).

Kuratas

Kuratas

This video explains the concept behind the Kuratas development:

And this other video explains how to use it: drive, shoot, move arms etc. It can be controlled from the inside or remotely using a smartphone.

I can picture somebody using a Kurata to film a science fiction movie without the need to use special effects 😉

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Floating Wind Turbines

As Japan announced that it will become a nuclear free country by 2030, the Japanese government has started to approve a series of measures to start developing alternative energy sources. Here in Japan solar energy is not viable as there’s almost no space and most days throughout the year it is cloudy.

Wind energy is the alternative that seems the most feasible for the country but the lack of space makes it difficult to build the amount of wind mills necessary to produce enough energy. Apart from the typhoons that come once in a while, Japan is not a very windy country. There are very few places that have continuous winds above 6~8m/s.

In the following map you can see the areas that have more potential to develop wind energy sources; almost all of them are in the sea!

Wind turbine

The solution that Japan is going to adopt is to build floating wind energy farms. The first experimental wind turbine has been built in Norway but Japan and United States are the first countries that are going to build fully operational wind farms. The United States floating wind energy farm will be located in the Maine gulf and the Japanese 1GW farm in the Goto islands (to the south from Nagasaki). The Japanese plan is to have the wind power farm completed and operational by 2020.

This is one of the standard models proposed in Japan; it should be designed to withstand the destructive power of typhoons:

Wind turbine

And these are other proposed prototypes that are being built right now by Gicon, Hywind, Blue H Technologies and WindFloat:

Wind turbine

Wind turbine

Wind turbine

Wind turbine

Sources: Nautica Wind Power, IEEE.org, Telgraph,

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