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 PAST ISSUES
774: Too hot to trot
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750: Solar sensation
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528: Telly addicts
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526: Future perfect
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524: Digital delights
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522: Chips with everything
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520: Coming soon…
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518: Ides of March
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516: Coming up roses
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514: What you need
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512: A kind of hush
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509/10: Wrapping up 2003
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508: All kinds of everything
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506: Apple picking
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504: Cleaning up
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502: Show and tell
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500: Corn-y for you
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498: Bits and pieces
J Mark Lytle delivers the latest and greatest from Japan's high-tech wonderland.
497: Gadgets ‘r’ us
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494: Talkin' 'bout a revolution
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492: The right stuff
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490: Good to go
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488: Summer breeze
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486: Space odyssey
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484: Air time
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480: Keep your cool
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478: All blogged up
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476: Future Wave
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474: Small wonders
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472: Paws for thought
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468: Photo finish
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466: Keitai kool
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464: Mini mart
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456: Strange days
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450: Future space
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448: Virtual battlefield
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446: Fair game
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444: Clothes encounters
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442: Back lighting
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440: Get the picture
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438: ABU Robocon 2002
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436: Thin is in
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432: Byte size
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430: Lost in translation
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422: An Apple a day
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420: Geek speak
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394: Wire tap
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380: Peripheral vision
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370: Game for a laugh
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368: Knowledge is power
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366: Generation next
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364: MacWorld
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362: Online translation
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360: DIY Star Wars
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358: Network gaming
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357: Bad it online
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350: Talk is cheap
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348: Tsukumo
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344: Tokyo Game Show
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342: WonderBorg
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340: Fun and games
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337: Dream on
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Future space

Tokyo is teeming with high-tech showrooms and technology museums. Stephen Cotterill gets a glimpse at the shape of things to come.

ASIMO will soon be showing visitors around the Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation

Mention Tokyo to most people who have never been here and they'll describe a Bladerunneresque neon-flashing landscape where futuristic high-tech gadgets fill every household and robotic creations make the tea and do the laundry. Well, as you may have noticed, we're not quite there yet. But the metropolis and its environs do have a host of showrooms and techno spaces that may offer a glimpse of things to come.

Probably one of the most famous corporate showrooms of cutting-edge electronics goods is the Sony Building in Ginza. A haven for gizmo freaks, six floors of the building showcase Sony's latest and greatest technological offerings as well as a few prototypes not yet ready for the shelves. The major advantage of this showroom is you can play with everything: try out the latest digital video cameras, test drive Playstation2 software, experience home theater viewing, and even tune in to digital surround sound at the small soundproof auditorium. Saving you the effort of then having to go to Akihabara to spend wads of cash on their products, Sony tied up with electronics retailer Avic and opened a shop in the basement, which stocks most of the products you have just become hooked on.

Sony Building, 5-3-1 Ginza, Chuo-ku. Open: 11am-7pm daily. Tel: 03-3573-2371. Nearest stn: Ginza Station, exit B9. Entrance: Free. www.sonybuilding.jp/sitemap/english.html

 

Emerging museum
Public organizations as well as private companies are in the business of promoting technological developments. The Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, or MeSci, in Odaiba operates under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science and Technology. “The museum came about in line with the Basic Law on Science and Technology enacted in 1995 with the purpose of making Japan a scientifically and technologically creative nation by promoting the advancement of science and technology,” says Junko Suzuki of the MeSci public relations department. The MeSci might also be the only museum where you can be shown round by a robot. Honda's ASIMO is still in training, but when fully programmed the humanoid-bot will be able to give guided tours and explanations. Until then you can see it learning the ropes in the Robot World section.

The museum celebrated its first anniversary in July and focuses on four main areas of development with most of the technology on display still in progress. “The Earth and Environment” section features technology related to conserving energy or protecting the environment. The centerpiece is an enormous Geo-cosmos globe, which appears to float in space and has actual satellite images of the earth or other astral bodies beamed on to it. “The Innovation and the Future” exhibit, as well as being where ASIMO and other robotic creations chill out, also has a “micro-world” showing developments in nanotechnology. The “Information Science and Technology for Society” section has interactive digital technology and web-related displays, while the “Life Science” exhibit includes a rooftop planetarium.

National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation, 2-41-3 Aomi, Koto-ku. Open 10am-5pm. Closed Tuesday. Tel: 03-3570-9188. Nearest stn: Yurikamome line, Fune-no-Kagakukan stn. Entrance: Adults ¥500, under 18 ¥200. www.miraikan.jst.go.jp/en/english

 

Messe Mall
Better known for hosting car shows and ill-advised trance parties, Makuhari Messe in Chiba is also home to a number of hi-tech oddities. The other side of the station from the main exhibition hall is Messe Mall, where the likes of Cannon, IBM, Fujistu and Sharp have all set up shop. Sharp's High Technology Hall is an interactive multimedia museum, which tracks the company's technological developments from past, present and future. The exhibits include robotic creations, as well as showcasing the latest developments in the firm's core business of liquid-crystal displays and high-definition TVs.

In the same area, Canon's Wonder Museum combines advanced photographic technology with computers to provide a digital visual feast, and IBM's Computer Gallery has displays covering 70 years in computer development. NTT's Anet Makuhari is billed as a telecommunications theme park and multimedia experience. The main attraction is the “Network Theater” where images from monitor cameras installed in 13 locations in Japan are projected on a wide screen. Visitors can angle the cameras, zoom in or pan using a simple touch control panel. Completing an afternoon of high-tech revelry is a visit to Fujitsu's Dome Theater, which combines IMAX and 3-D technology to give moviegoers a full-dome screen experience. The regular screenings are educational films showcasing the latest research in molecular technology using spectacular images to get the point across.

For information on Messe Mall check www.m-messe.co.jp Nearest stn: JR Keiyo Line, Kaihin-makuhari stn.

 

Art interactive
NTT InterCommunications Center, or ICC, has taken an arty spin on high-tech. Opened in 1997, ICC was established to encourage the dialogue between technology and the arts with a core theme of communication. The exhibits and exhibitions utilize the newest electronic technologies to create virtual and interactive art works such as digital films, online interviews and performances, and computer generated art, all of which can be experienced at the Shinjuku center. ICC also runs workshops and symposiums where visitors can meet with the artists and pick their creative minds and technical know-how.

Finally, The Machine Industry Memorial Foundation, or TEPIA, in Kita-Aoyama showcases the most innovative technology in the machinery and information industries. Far more interesting than it sounds, TEPIA has an extensive video (digital and otherwise) library with over 3,300 films and a Hyper Media Workshop where visitors can edit and process original videos and photographs to create films and web pages. Exhibitions tend to focus on how advanced technology is applicable to modern living such as the current next Generation Car and IT Home (through Dec 13). The displays offer a glimpse of the future with, in the car zone, mini fuel-cell vehicles and the latest hybrid model, with high-tech household products dual as the plural function robot FII-RII and a telephone operated pet feeder.

ICC, Tokyo Opera City Tower 4F, 3-20-2 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku. Open 10am-6pm. Closed Monday (Tuesday if Monday is a holiday). Toll free tel: 0120-144199. Nearest stn: Keio New line, Hatsudai stn. Entrance: Adults ¥800, under 16 ¥400. www.ntticc.or.jp

TEPIA Plaza, 2-8-44 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku. Open 10am-6pm (5pm Saturday and holidays). Tel 03-5474-6111. Nearest stn: Gaiemmae. Entrance: Free. http://tepia.or.jp

Photo credit: Courtesy of MeSci


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