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From an electronic unicycle to light-saber chopsticks, you've got to see these ... uh ... innovations.
Konkatsu Bra: Support for Marriage Hunters
As Japan's marriage rate falls, one bra maker is doing its best to bolster the institution of matrimony. Triumph's [[xref: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVntgC8AzAg&NR=1|Konkatsu Bra]] features a marriage-countdown digital clock and an engagement ring holder. Insert a ring in the holder and the countdown clock stops; the wedding march starts to play. Built to help "husband-hunting" women, this supportive undergarment comes with a pen for signing a pre-nup. Ah, romance.
Photo credit: [[xref: http://pinktentacle.com/2009/05/marriage-hunting-bra/|www.pinktentacle.com]]
Crazy Japanese Tech Gizmos
The Japanese have proven their techie prowess over the decades. Where would we be without the [[xref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transistor_radio#Japanese_history_in_the_market|transistor radio]], the [[xref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camcorder|camcorder]], or the [[xref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walkman|Sony Walkman]]? But sometimes they jump the technological shark with whimsical and weird gear, some of which is downright loopy. Here are our favorite examples of oddball tech that could be made only in Japan.
Sensai Watch: Modern Yet Mystifying
The [[xref: http://www.tokyoflash.com/en/watches/kisai/sensai_alloy/|Kisai Sensai Alloy]] is more than a wristwatch. It's an artistic statement, a brushed and sandblasted tribute to the future. It's damned hard to use, too. With its sleek aluminum shell and multicolored LEDs, The US$162.65 Sensai is a triumph of technological cool over dull, pragmatic concepts like ease of use. How does it work? Red lights represent hours; green are 5-minute intervals; and yellow are, um, single minutes. Bring your calculator.
Photo credit: [[xref:http://www.lesnumeriques.com|www.lesnumeriques.com]]
HRP-4C: Catwalk Robot
Looking startlingly (and creepily) human, the [[xref: http://www.aist.go.jp/aist_e/latest_research/2009/20090513/20090513.html|HRP-4C robot]]--or “cybernetic human,” if you prefer—may have a future in show business. With weight, height, and body movements similar to those of young Japanese females, the HPR-4C could someday replace human models in fashion shows and exhibitions. Hopefully it can pout, look bored, and offer stunning insights such as: “Modeling is hard work!”
Photo credit: [[xref: http://www.plasticpals.com/?p=16084|www.plasticpals.com]]
Tuttuki Bako: Poke That Box
Bored with Angry Birds? Tuttuki Bako, or "[[xref: http://www.gizmine.com/gzar/poking+box/pokbox.shtml|Poking Box]]," may bring hours of digital entertainment. Insert your finger inside the diminutive US$50 box, and its virtual clone appears onscreen. Your choice of screen characters responds to finger movement; tease one by flicking its nose or performing some other obnoxious act. Lucky for you, they won't bite.
Photo Credit: [[xref: http://www.engadget.com/2008/11/20/tuttuki-bako-poking-box-lets-you-torment-low-res-creatures/|www.engadget.com]]
USB Humping Dog: Down, Boy
This amorous canine brings new meaning to the term "mounting a drive." Plug your frisky Fido into an available (and hopefully willing) USB port, and let [[xref: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rI-pct3zy18|nature take its course]]. Humping Dog, comes in various breeds. It isn't a USB drive, however, and it doesn't store any data. Other ports are safe from this passionate pup.
Photo credit: [[xref: http://www.thinkgeek.com/computing/input/9c89/|www.thinkgeek.com]]
Honda U3-X: Not-So-Easy Rider
The [[xref: http://world.honda.com/U3-X/|U3-X]] is Honda's answer to the Segway. An electronic unicycle that weighs nearly 22 pounds and moves up to 3.7 miles per hour, it allows its riders to lean in the direction they'd like to travel. Still a prototype, the U3-X made its U.S. debut at the [[xref: http://world.honda.com/news/2010/c100406U3-X-Prototype-New-York/index.html|2010 SAE World Congress]] in April. It's unclear whether Honda's high-tech unicycle will gain mainstream acceptance, or whether it'll end up an oddball novelty like the Segway.
Photo credit: [[xref: http://www.fareastgizmos.com/robotic/honda_u3x_worlds_first_personal_mobility_device_that_enables_movement_in_all_directions.php|www.fareastgizmos.com]] [[xref: http://www.dannychoo.com/post/en/25113/Honda+U3-X.html|www.dannychoo.com]]
Star Wars: Light-Saber Chopsticks
No one will say, "Use the fork, Luke," when you're holding a pair of these [[xref: http://www.gizmine.com/gzkt/star+wars+light+saber+chopsticks/saberchopsticks.shtml|light-saber chopsticks]]. Available in green, blue, purple, and red, these geek-friendly eating utensils are priced US$22 to $24. They can't do to a plate of [[xref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonkatsu|tonkatsu]] what Darth Vader did to Luke Skywalker's hand, but that's probably a good thing.
Photo credit: [[xref: http://www.thegreenhead.com/2009/12/star-wars-lightsaber-chopsticks.php|www.thegreenhead.com]]
RIC Android: From Smartphone to Robot
A bipedal robot that looks like the Android mascot? Well, why not? RIC Android, which made its public debut at the [[xref: http://www.google.com/events/developerday/2010/gallery.html#tokyo|Google Developer Day 2010]] in Tokyo is powered by Android, naturally. The brainchild of Japanese tech firms [[xref: http://www.rt-net.jp/?p=358|RT Corporation]] and [[xref: http://www.brilliantservice.co.jp/|Brilliant Service]], RIC isn't the most graceful robot around, as this [[xref: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jclyrynrsMk&NR=1|video]] demonstrates.
Picture credit: [[xref: http://www.geeky-gadgets.com/2010/09/|www.geeky-gadgets.com]]
Fridgeezoo: Cold Critters with a Message
This cast of cute (if whiny) characters will bring a smile to your face every time you open the refrigerator door. The [[xref: http://www.gizmine.com/hgz1/fridgeezoo+refridgerator+companions/fridgeezoo.shtml|Fridgeezoo]] companions resemble miniature milk cartons with animal faces. When you open the fridge, they'll greet you (in Japanese) with a gentle reminder to close the door quickly to save energy and keep things cold for them. The polar bear, penguin, walrus, and seal Fridgeezoos cost US$50 each.
Picture credit: [[xref: http://www.strapya-world.com/categories/2331_5581.html|www.strapya-world.com]]
HAL: Iron Man Suit
The Japanese have managed to turn Tony Stark's fictional body suit into reality, albeit without flight capabilities or weapons of mass destruction. The Cyberdyne [[xref: http://www.cyberdyne.jp/english/robotsuithal/move.html|HAL]] exoskeleton can multiply the wearer's body strength by a factor of 2 to 10, the [[xref: http://www.cyberdyne.jp/english/faq/index.html|company claims]]. Available only in Japan, HAL is currently used by people with disabilities caused by stroke, spinal injuries, or weak muscles. It's recommended for indoor use only, so discard any superhero fantasies you might have.
Photo credit: [[xref: http://www.dailytech.com/Cyberdyne+Corp+Makes+HAL+Iron+Man+Suit/article13288.htm|www.dailytech.com]]
USB Eyelash Curler: Geek Beauty
The meeting with the Big Boss is in five minutes...and your eyelashes are a disgrace! Fear not: The Thanko USB Heater Eyelash Curler will give your lashes the swirl they need in seconds. Priced at ¥2,980 (US $35.57), the Eyelash Curler runs on USB power or three AAA batteries. Thanko sells a [[xref: http://www.geekstuff4u.com/thanko-usb-electric-razor.html|USB Electric Razor]] for ¥3,500 (US $41.78), too. What, no USB ear-wax cleaner?
Photo credit: [[xref: http://inventorspot.com/articles/usb_eyelash_curler_brings_beauty_geek_34627|www.inventorspot.com]]
World-Record Camera: 158 Eyes
No, it's not some Godzilla-like mutant rising from the sea. This experimental camera built by the [[xref: http://eng.nitech.ac.jp/|Nagoya Institute of Technology]] has 158 lenses and was designed to capture 3D images of flames from multiple angles. Associate professor Yojiro Ishino designed the high-tech device, which has the most lenses in the world, according to Guinness World Records.
Photo credit: [[xref: http://www.neatorama.com/2009/12/14/a-camera-with-158-lenses/|www.neatorama.com]]
Toshiba’s Helmet: Bubble-Head Buffoonery
For an immersive gaming experience, nothing makes you look dorkier than wearing a colossal helmet on your head. This 6-pound [[xref: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPrHKicA5oA&feature=player_embedded#%21|bubble contraption]] provides a 360-degree view for watching TV or playing games. It also resembles a giant television set (from the cathode-ray-tube era), which should never be mistaken for proper headgear.
Photo credit: [[xref: http://kotaku.com/213133/toshiba-shocker-that-crazy-game-helmet-is-for-reals|www.tokatu.com]]
FaceBank: Money-Grubbing Robot
There's something vaguely unsettling about a robotic piggy bank with a humanoid face that gobbles up coins. Then again, [[xref: http://www.gizmine.com/gzar/facebank/gizfacebank.shtml|FaceBank]] could provide hours of money-feeding fun for thrifty types who enjoy that sort of thing. When you wave coins before FaceBank's motion-sensing eyes, the piggy bank's mouth opens wide to receive the loot. Priced from US$30 to $80, FaceBank comes in various colors and faces.
Picture credit: [[xref: http://www.alibaba.com/product-free/11779327/face_bank/showimage.html|www.alibaba.com]]
Mimi Switch: Tongue Control
Who needs a touchscreen when a wink, asmile, or a protruding tongue could control an MP3 player or a major home appliance? Researchers at Japan's Osaka University are developing a hands-free remote called the "Mimi Switch," which uses facial expressions to operate electronic devices, according to a March 2009 [[xref: http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gKbD-bOToPGIiUo1w5_cHw1M5c2g|AFP report]]. Actually, this idea doesn't sound crazy at all...provided you don't sneeze accidentally.
Picture Credit: [[xref: http://www.engadget.com/2009/03/08/mimi-switch-remote-control-relies-on-facial-expression-not-phal/|www.engadget.com]]
Like this slideshow? You might also be interested in: [[xref:http://www.pcworld.com/article/213684/30_most_anticipated_tech_products_of_2011.html|30 Most Anticipated Tech Products of 2011]]