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— Health and Wellbeing

Panasonic's robotic bed/wheelchair first to earn global safety certification

There's a lot of talk about Japan's rapidly aging society, and how it is expected to literally place a heavy burden on the island nation's caregivers. Among the many projected problems is a smaller pool of health care workers amidst a growing tide of elderly who require around-the-clock care. With that kind of workload, nurses are more likely to injure themselves or their patients when lifting them into and out of bed. Various solutions are in the works, such as a giant lifting robot that looks like a teddy bear, but few are as practical as Panasonic's Resyone robotic bed. It recently became the first to be certified ISO13482 compliant, the new global safety standard for service robots. Read More
— Computers

Fujitsu gives speech synthesis a realism boost

Speech synthesis has come a long way from the days when computers sounded like a Dalek with a cleft palate, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement. Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. in Kawasaki, Japan are working to move computers away from sounding monotone or perpetually distracted by developing a new speech synthesis system that can quickly produce high quality voices that can be tailored to suit individual environments and circumstances. Read More
— Architecture

How small is too small? Japanese home is just 3 meters wide

When designing a small home for a family, it's only possible to downsize so much. One might fairly guess that a house with a total width of 3 meters (10 ft) would be pushing things too far, but Imai House, by architectural firm Katsutoshi Sasaki and Associates, offers a good argument to the contrary. The home is also an example of how apparently too-small inner-city plots can be put to good use. Read More
— Space

GPM weather observatory successfully launched

The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory was launched last Thursday aboard a Japanese H-IIA rocket that blasted off from Tanegashima Space Center on Tanegashima Island in southern Japan. Weighing in at 4-ton, the GPM is the largest spacecraft ever built at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and will help provide a more detailed picture of the Earth's precipitation to assist climate scientists and help improve forecasting of extreme weather events. Read More
— Space

GPM satellite to usher in a new era of weather observation

NASA is set to launch a new satellite designed to take detailed, near real-time measurements of rain and snowfall on a global scale whilst mapping the interior of storm systems. The Core Observatory of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) has been in development since 2005 and is a collaboration project between NASA and the Japanese Space Agency (JAXA). The satellite is due to be launched on the Japanese manufactured H-IIA delivery vehicle from the Tanegashima Space Centre, Tanegashima Island, Japan, on February 27. Read More
— Automotive

Famed Japanese designer presents three new cars ... and a tractor

While you might not know who Ken Kiyoyuki Okuyama is, you've no doubt seen his creations. The Japanese auto designer has worked with Pininfarina and General Motors, overseeing the design of cars such as the Ferrari Enzo and P4/5, the Honda NSX, and the C5 Corvette. He was also employed at Porsche, where he helped design the 996 and Boxster. At this year's Tokyo Motor Show, he's showing four vehicles that he created as part of his own Ken Okuyama Design brand. Three of them are intended for the road and/or track, while the other is made for the field. Read More
— Robotics

The evolution of NSK’s guide robot for the visually-impaired

There is no better example of the rapid rate of product development than NSK's move into the area of robotics. At IREX 2011, NSK showed a prototype robot designed to safely guide the visually-impaired, with a footprint of 520 x 660 mm (20 x 26 in) and weight of 40 kg (88 lb). This week, just two years later, NSK showed two versions its Lighbot guide robot that represent a 75 percent weight reduction and an 83 percent footprint reduction. The ingenious right-or-left-hand-drive interface has been both replaced and improved, and all other aspects of the latest bots are equal to or better than the original. Read More