Photos: Tokyo DC Expo focuses on 3D

With a mix of research from universities and companies in Japan, the 2009 Digital Content Expo in Tokyo features eye-popping 3D technologies and whimsical gizmos ranging from robots to umbrellas.

Tim Hornyak
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DoCoMo 3D phone display

NTT DoCoMo's research labs are showing off this prototype compact 3D cell phone display. A bee is featured on the screen here, though it's hard to make out. The 2.57-inch XGA display has a 30-degree horizontal viewing angle and does not require 3D glasses. It was developed in collaboration with Epson, with contents from Rokkon.An NTT DoCoMo official said it will take several more years to turn this prototype into a product.
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Column Gear

This cybernetic soccer ball from students the Okada lab at Toyohashi University of Technology near Nagoya is called Column Gear. With a several servomotors inside, it responds to wireless remote control signals from multiple users by partially opening its panels and then staggering about. It was designed as an interactive experiment.
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IKABO is giant squid robot from Future University-Hakodate. Weighing about 440 pounds and controlled by an air servo system, IKABO's arms, eyes and head can be moved with Wii controllers. It also makes a lot of hissing sounds. Oddly enough, this 7-foot squid bot has been used to promote the northern Japanese city of Hakodate in an offbeat tourism campaign involving alien monsters.
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Pioneer Floating Vision FV-01

Pioneer's 3D Floating Vision system connects to a PC with USB and features user-generated imagery that appears to "float" above its 5.7-inch display--3D glasses are not needed.

Infrared sensors on the sides of the screen, which can be set up either vertically or horizontally, will detect user hand movement and trigger a response in the image, such as an animated girl giggling. The system sells for about $540 in Japan.

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This novelty from Osaka University's Human Interface Engineering Lab is a simple umbrella rigged with a coil, magnet and a wired PC connection to simulate different kinds of precipitation through a feedback mechanism.

Users can experience the "feel" of light rain or a downpour on the umbrella by grasping the handle. Also in the simulation program are the feel of falling ping-pong balls, spaghetti, and plastic worms.

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Sony 360-degree Auto-stereoscopic Display

Sony's amazing prototype 360-degree 3D display shows hologram-like 3D images that can be viewed from any angle without 3D glasses, and they still seem to have depth.

Despite a resolution of only 96 x 128 pixels, the photographs and CG images shown, such as a woman's head and the Earth, appear detailed. See a video from IDG here.

Sony has no immediate plans to commercialize the prototype.

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Pen de Touch

This novel display device from the University of Tokyo and Keio University allows users to "feel" virtual objects by touching them with a pen-like pointing device. Here, exhibition attendees are feeling virtual mountain ranges on a map of Japan.
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Haptic Ring

This interactive display system from researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology and the University of Electro-Communications allows users to "feel" virtual characters through a haptic finger interface. The virtual characters can respond by "touching" users too. The research was presented at SIGGRAPH 2009 in New Orleans.
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No technology show in Japan would be complete without a humanoid robot to give 'em the old razzle-dazzle. Introduced earlier this year, the HRP-4C fembot model from Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology took the stage and performed a monologue in which she described future uses of humanoid machines.

One of 4C's scenarios involved a customer at a hostess club in Japan falling for his lovely hostess and then discovering that she's an android. The ironic tale drew some laughs from the crowd.

4C didn't walk around the stage--probably because it wasn't specially prepared to be completely flat. She was confined to a stand but still wowed visitors at the Digital Content Expo over the weekend.

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