Robot marathon underway in Japan

The world’s first full-length marathon for two-legged robots kicked off in Japan on Thursday, with the toy-sized humanoids were due to run 42.195 kilometres (26 miles) over four days.

The machines began the non-stop race on a 100-metre (109-yard) indoor track in the western city of Osaka after doing knee bends or raising their hands to greet spectators.

The bipedal robots — the tallest of which measures 44 centimetres (17.6 inches) — must complete 423 laps to reach their goal.

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JAXA to team up with fishing net maker to collect space junk

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and Nitto Seimo Co aim to tackle the increasingly hazardous problem of debris damaging space shuttles and satellites.

The new system involves launching a satellite attached to a thin metal net spanning several kilometers into space, before the net is detached and begins to capture space waste while orbiting earth.

During its rubbish collecting journey, the net will become charged with electricity and eventually be drawn back towards earth by magnetic fields – before both the net and its contents will burn upon entering the atmosphere.

Inspired by a basic fishing net concept, the super-strong space nets have been the subject of extensive research by Nitto Seimo for the past six years and consist of three layered metal threads, each measuring 1mm diameter and intertwined with fibres as thin as human hair.

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Japan Planning To Use Robots To Mine The Ocean Floor for everything from methane hydrate to gold

According to a recent media report, Japan plans to use deep-sea mining robots to exploit rare precious metals on the ocean floor around the island nation within a decade.

Yomiuri Shimbun said without naming sources that Japan-Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp (JOGMEC) plans to deploy the remote-controlled robots at depths of up to 6,600 feet.

The daily reported that experts believe that as some minerals become scarcer around the world, exploiting hard-to-reach underwater deposits and pumping them up to mother ships will become feasible.

Japan and its Asian high-tech rivals are trying to secure rare earths and other minerals needed for products from fuel-efficient hybrid cars and batteries to cellphones and LCD TVs.

According to the report, the project will focus on seabed volcanoes near the Izu and Ogasawara island chain, south of Tokyo, and the southwestern Okinawa islands.

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ComiPo! Manga-Making Program English Version to be Released in 2011

The Tokyo-based software company Web Technology Com Corporation announced on Wednesday that it is developing an English-language version of ComiPo!, a program that allows users to create their own manga with pre-created 3D characters and settings. According to the company, even “people who can’t draw” can create manga with this software, similar to the way that people who cannot necessarily sing can create vocal songs with the Vocaloid software tools. Web Technology Com plans to release the English version next spring. The Japanese version of the software was released on Wednesday in packaged and downloadable forms.

Manga creator Keiichi Tanaka (Minori no Seishun, Doctor Chichibuyama) is currently the company’s General Manager & Solution Sales Division, while Even A Monkey Can Draw Manga’s Kentaro Takekuma consulted on the software’s development.

Character designer Kumi Horii (Seitokai no Ichizon, Zone of the Enders) created the built-in character models. These models, along with the backgrounds, are available in 3D, allowing the users to shift the angles of either when designing their manga’s panels. Users can also customize Horii’s designs with different hairstyles, hair color, eyes, expressions, clothing, and other features.

via ComiPo! Manga-Making Program English Version Will be Release in 2011.

Apple selling pirated Japanese novels?

Publishers in Japan demanded Tuesday that Apple stop selling pirated digital copies of novels by Japanese authors, including Haruki Murakamis "1Q84", in its online book store."We have no choice but to deem it illegal that Apple Inc. distributes materials which clearly violate copyright," a consortium of Japanese book publishers said in a statement sent to Apples Japanese subsidiary.It said that Apples App Store had distributed pirated digital editions of works by famous Japanese authors including Murakami and Keigo Higashino."Some of the works have been deleted in response to requests from authors and publishers but a majority of them continue to be illegally distributed," the statement said.The consortium includes the Japan Book Publishers Association, the Japan Magazine Publishers Association, the Electronic Book Publishers Association of Japan, and the Digital Comic Association.It called on Apple to set up a section to handle requests for deletion of pirated copies and to fight digital piracy.

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HAL- Japan’s robotic outfit to help disabled

Japan’s Cyberdyne may share its name with the company responsible for nuclear destruction and the killer robots of the "Terminator" movie series, but the similarities end there.

And if the idea of a robot suit helping those with disabilities walk sounds like the stuff of science fiction, think again: the real-life Cyberdyne is in the business of revolutionising lives.

The firm produces an exoskeleton robot device called the Hybrid Assistive Limb, or HAL, which in another sci-fi related coincidence shares its name with the devious computer in Stanley Kubrick’s "2001: A Space Odyssey".

It gives power to its wearer by anticipating and supporting the user’s body movements using sensors monitoring electric signals sent from the brain to the muscles. Current options are for a single leg device or both legs.

HAL has many potential applications, from assisting caregivers lift people to helping construction workers or even firefighters.

In one case, three weeks of training with HAL enabled a man who had suffered brain injuries to stand on his own feet after nine years in a wheelchair, said Cyberdyne CEO Yoshiyuki Sankai, professor at the University of Tsukuba.

The group is now gearing up for mass-production and started leasing the battery-powered suit to welfare facilities last year.

"Developing robots without utilising them in society would just be an extension of a hobby," Sankai, 52, said. "What I develop should be part of society and benefit people."

A Japanese adventurer with disabilities is planning to leave his wheelchair behind and walk up a medieval French World Heritage site next year with the lower-limb HAL.

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BlueStacks Software Runs Android Apps on Windows

BlueStacks Systems Inc announced software that runs applications software developed for the Android operating system on Windows operating systems Dec 1, 2010.

The software, "BlueStacks for Windows," was demonstrated for the first time in the world in the booth of Tokyo Electron Device Ltd, which will sell the software in Japan, at Embedded Technology 2010, an exhibition on the development of embedded software that is taking place from Dec 1 to 3, 2010, in Yokohama City, Japan.

Tokyo Electron Device will start selling the software to PC makers in Japan in the first quarter of 2011.

BlueStacks for Windows can run existing Android applications on Windows (Windows 7, Embedded Standard 7, Vista and XP). The software is based on the "VirtualBox" open-source virtualization software, and BlueStacks Systems realized a virtual Android device (ver 2.2) on Windows. It also made changes to Android.

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Japan developing cheap satellites for emerging markets

Japan is developing a low-cost surveillance satellite to aid disaster relief and other purposes as it looks to expand its reach into emerging markets, government and corporate officials said Friday.

Japan’s trade ministry is collaborating with NEC Corp. and other companies to develop by 2012 a small satellite costing a fifth of current prices for conventional monitoring satellites, trade ministry official Shuichi Kato said.

NEC will contribute technology it developed for the Hayabusa asteroid probe programme, whose success in being the first to collect asteroid particles during a seven-year odyssey has captured the imagination of Japan’s public.

Kato said the satellite would be ready for launch in 2012 and sales would be aimed at emerging countries such as Egypt, Brazil, Indonesia and Thailand as well as Dubai and Kazakhstan.

The government is also talking to Vietnam about providing the satellite as part of official development aid, he said.

The ministry estimates that the satellite system would cost about 10 billion yen (120 million dollars), about one fifth of existing satellite systems developed by European and American groups, he said.

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Panasonic to get into the smartphone race

Panasonic Corp said on Tuesday it will begin sales of its own smartphones in Japan early next year and overseas in 2012, in a late but ambitious attempt to grab share of the booming market.

Based on Google Inc’s Android operating system, the new phones will compete against Apple Inc’s iPhone, which dominates the Japanese smartphone market, as well as with Samsung Electronics’ Galaxy S.

The Japanese consumer electronics giant admitted it was late joining the smartphone party, but said it hoped to differentiate its handsets by emphasizing network capabilities with other Panasonic products.

"We misjudged the speed at which smartphones would be taken up in the Japanese market," Osamu Waki, head of the company’s mobile communications unit told a news conference. "With the rapid shift to Android, we want to catch up quickly."

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