Tag Archives: Japan

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Inside Japan’s Robot Hotel (Video)

The world’s first hotel staffed almost entirely by robots is opening its doors full-time to guests this month, but CBS News correspondent Seth Doane has already been able to spend a night in the futuristic facility near the city of Nagasaki.

Doane reports that the opening of a small, low-cost hotel doesn’t usually warrant international attention — even with gimmicks like drones, or the boss arriving via robotic platform.

But the “Henn’na Hotel,” which translates to “strange hotel” in Japanese, lives up to its name.

“Please ask me your request, but don’t ask me a difficult question because I am a robot,” says the dinosaur behind the check-in desk.

The English-speaking dinosaur robot is designed to appeal to kids. Also at reception, an almost creepy humanoid, programmed to speak Japanese, and of course, to bow in respect.

There’s a robotic bag-check, even a robot concierge.

Hideo Sawada is the man in charge. Doane asked him if robots, which rely on a set of multiple choice responses to any question asked, could really replace staff like the hotel concierge, who has actually tasted food.

“Isn’t hospitality about connecting with people,” Doane asked Sawada. “Isn’t that an important part of the hotel business?”

 

“For five-star hotels that are selling high-end service, human staff are essential,” Sawada replied. “But for three or four star hotels, you need comfortable lodging, and a basic level of communication at a reasonable price.”

Sawada says having robots fill jobs can help reduce labor costs by about 70 percent. At the Henn’na, rooms start at only about $80 per night — a pretty good deal in one of the most expensive countries in the world for travellers.

The hotel boss admitted that the robotic staff “don’t come cheap,” but said that compared to an annual payroll for human personnel, “they are quite cost-effective… and as (technology) improves I think they will become quite price-competitive.”

In technology-crazed Japan, robots are becoming part of everyday life; from commercials, to appearances on TV as modern-day samurai. They’re in stores greeting customers, and titillating tourists at Tokyo’s famed “robot restaurant.”

Hotels were merely the next logical progression.

There were some software hiccups as Doane checked in with the dinosaur-bot, but eventually he was off, to test the robot porter. He admitted he could probably have carried his bag himself, but given the option, “why not try another robot?”

He punched his room number into a keypad on the machine, and it showed him to his room, albeit, slowly.

Staring at his door, Doane was faced with another automation; facial recognition, in theory, replaces room keys at the Henn’na.

After a few tries, he made it into his room — no key necessary – to Rfind another robot waiting for him.

Unfortunately, that robot only spoke Japanese, and Doane’s local lingo wasn’t quite up to muster, so he had to rely on a provided “cheat sheet” to help with the wording. It couldn’t do much for his pronunciation, but soon, Doane and robot were in synchronicity, and the electric room attendant turned off the lights so he could go to sleep.

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panasonic-invisible-tv-1024x549

Panasonic just unveiled a new invisible television

Since the arrival of flat-screen TVs, there’s not been a whole lot to get excited about in the world of televisions – how many ways can you improve on a big slab of glass, after all? Well, how about by making it almost invisible when you’re not using it?

Image result for panasonic INVISIBLE TELEVISIONThat’s the thinking behind a new prototype from Panasonic that’s just been shown off at the CEATEC electronics expo in Japan this week. When switched on, it’s just like a normal TV. When switched off, it’s as transparent as glass, meaning you can see the wall or shelving behind.

Panasonic describes it as the “future of display screens” – although as you might expect, the company’s staying tight-lipped about the technology behind its transparent TV, just in case its competitors have something similar in mind.Image result for panasonic INVISIBLE TELEVISION

Image result for panasonic INVISIBLE TELEVISION

According to Mat Smith at Engadget, the screen is made from a fine mesh embedded in a glass panel.

Image result for panasonic INVISIBLE TELEVISION

You can slide the panel around too, at least in Panasonic’s demo clip, where the TV performs double duty glass pane of a cabinet:

Because it can be moved around, you can easily get at shelves behind it, or adjust the height of the display depending on who’s watching.

Importantly, the screen uses the latest OLED (organic light-emitting diode) technology, where each pixel lights itself (rather than being lit from behind).

Image result for panasonic INVISIBLE TELEVISION

Traditionally, OLED panels put a thin layer of plastic between two electrodes on top of a glass slab. Because of this, when the electric signal disappears, the slab can look virtually transparent.

OLED technology requires very little power too, which is why panels like this can be so thin. Eventually, tech firms are hoping to develop flexible OLED screensthat you can bend or even roll away.

And this isn’t just for your favourite crime drama or soap opera either – Panasonic’s marketing spiel envisions people using the display to control smart home devices, play music, or maybe even set the mood with a series of themed images.

Panasonic originally showed off the technology at CES in Las Vegas earlier in the year, but the company’s engineers say the latest version of their invisible television looks even more transparent when switched off, and brighter when switched on.

Unfortunately, despite the progress they’re making, it looks like it won’t be ready to buy for another three years or so, according to company representatives.

But that might actually be a good thing – it’ll give us some time to save up for it.

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