Category Archives: Technology

Panasonic lights up Tokyo with Firefly festival

On the final day of Golden Week, the cluster of national holidays in Japan each spring that sends families all over the country into a spring break like frenzy, a new type of festival was launched.

Tokyo Hotaru 2012 - 09

The Tokyo Hotaru (firefly) Festival, sponsored by Tokyo Municipal Govt. and other businesses and government entities literally lit up the Sumidagawa river near Asakusa by floating 100,000 small LED lanterns downstream.  The festival, with a heavy Eco-friendly theme highlighted the lanterns, provided by Panasonic, each containing a small solar cell and a rechargeable battery.  The result was a summer festival for a new generation, replacing large fireworks display with a high tech version of an ancient tradition.

Tokyo Hotaru 2012 - 01

This was an excellent opportunity for Panasonic, having recently purchased state of the art eco-tech through their Sanyo acquisition, to highlight their line of LED lightbulbs.  Each of the 100,000 glowing balls dumped into the river contained a high power LED bulb and an Evolta rechargeable battery.  I was very impressed with the overall design of the lanterns, each waterproof ball containing it’s own solar panel recharging system.  Two metal leads on the bottom of each ball creates a circuit, that when floating in water is connected turning on the light.  Simple, elegant and a stunning effect when floating en mass in the water.

Tokyo Hotaru 2012 - 07

(a shot of  my recently obtained Sphero robot pondering joining its friends)

Another winner for this festival is Tokyo Skytree, the new digital broadcast tower that at 634 meters is the second tallest structure in the world.  Officially opening in just a few weeks, the tower is illuminated with thousands of high intensity LED light bulbs (also by, you guessed it, Panasonic), but as part of the festival, the tower was fully illuminated.  The cherry on the cake was the Supermoon rising right behind the tower just as the festival hit full swing.

Tokyo Hotaru 2012 - 20

Last year many festival were cancelled after the 3/11 quake and the full shutdown of all nuclear reactors in Japan has put huge pressure this summer on power conservation efforts, so this festival couldn’t have come at a better time.  A combination of large scale festive, public event, a strong eco-friendly message, and a celebration of the technical ability of the country that was well received at challenging time.  I look forward to more events like this in the future and hope this marks a new tradition.

Tokyo Hotaru Event Webpage

Panasonic Hotaru info page

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Livestreaming Report: Belgian Beer Weekend

Three days and 26 hours in the can. I’m writing this on the train to my last day live streaming the Belgian Beer Weekend Tokyo event at Roppongi Hills Arena. Just 8 hours left!

Had a very fun trial run this week with my gypsy Internet TV studio. I think I’m liking the name “Studio@stevenagata” for this monster of mismatched parts from my closet, computers and electrical tape. So far no major hiccups, but a few minor technical glitches I’ll have to work on.

The biggest problem so far has been errors on the Roland VR-5 mixer causing some of the saved streams to corrupt on closing. I lost a few bits I had meant to save including a music act that I thought went pretty well. Since we are not archiving online the video, I’m afraid, is lost forever. Will have to run some endurance tests to try and nail down the problem. Otherwise I might look into on off board video recorder like an Atmos Ninja.

It’s been fun to see so many friends stop by the event. Hoping a few more might make it by today. Keeping the stream up can be pretty draining so I wasn’t able to chat much, but hope that today will be a bit lighter as I starting together the hang of things.

The event itself has been super cool. Great bands, good food, 62 types of beer and a crowd expected to top 20,000 for the four days. Early metrics showing we’ll beat that number decisively with online viewers. Super thanks to Akoni KK, Rob Van Nylen and Dean Fujii for bringing me on board for this event. Hope to do more like it in the future (I hear talk of a possible fashion show! (^_^) ). Also big props to ace Cameraman and super geek Joseph Tame for putting in 4x hours over the agreed work and covering all the concerts like a pro.

Definitely stop by if you have time today. It’s really a great atmosphere. Or tune in on the livestream at http://bit.ly/bbw2011. More detailed reports on my studio later *I hope*

Studio Steve

Ok, first of all I need to come up with a better name than that.

Some work recently has given me the chance to play around with higher level AV gear and in typical fashion I kinda got a bit carried away. A couple of years ago, comrade Danny Choo convinced me to give live streaming a shot, Ustream had just published their iPhone app and I had great fun running around Akihabara streaming micro tours.

I’ll be honest. Personally I watch very little on Ustream, and I NEVER watch my own stuff. The jarring motion when I move the iPhone around makes me carsick in about three seconds. But I do see a strong value there if things are done well, and simply put, I love the gadgets.

In the world of content, the combination of real time and video is the tip of the sword, and combining valuable content, modern technology, and logistical planning can create a new level of communication never before seen. Yeah, it’s basically cable access tv spliced onto the Internet, but think about it. Cable access tv spliced to the Internet. The potential to waste time in vain pursuits shared equally with the power to topple governments.

But I digress. What I am really talking about is the opportunity for Steve to play with gear. And Steve likey the toys.

Read the rest of this entry

Invention: Here’s my new wireless camera custom tripod (beta ver)

Just put the finishing touches on my new wireless camera platform. It’s still a bit rough and I know there’s a revision on the way, but it came out surprisingly well for a first draft.

The head is a .3 MP CCD camera attached to a 1.2 ghz wireless transmitter. The antenna for the transmitter makes up the right arm and I threw in an LED lamp for a left arm for balance. Loose cables and a monster 6,800 maH LiOn battery fill the backpack.

Range is a bit of a problem. I think it will reliably transmit about 10 meters with Line of sight, maybe further, but indoors through walls that’s about the limit. I need to work on an improved antenna for the receiver to improve that range.

It’s basically just a webcam on a tripod (an old Gorillapod I had lying around) but I wanted to do something fun with it. It’s pretty fun to put it on a table somewhere and have people say “hi”. I guess future versions can add things like a pivot head and facial recognition, as well as a mobile base to turn it into a full robot, but overall not a bad project with some random parts I had lying around and about $10 in pieces for the body.

What do you think? What does the next draft need?

New workdesk, or is it playdesk?

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New Desktop

Oooo So many toys!

Made some updates to my desk so I thought I would throw down a quick post.

First of all, I found this great flexible arm for iPads at the Rare Mono shop in Akihabara.  I’m not entirely sold on the positioning right now.  it’s a bit high and I don’t have quite the range of motion I would like, but it does work pretty well.  It’s particularly nice when using it to stream media (like old Firefly episodes) while I am typing away.  As an added bonus I can slave the screen and use it for a second monitor.  It’s also a pretty good setup for using the iPad with facetime and Skype for videoconferencing.  Would be perfect for Google+ hangouts, but no support on iOS yet.

Also added a lamp, mainly to help or videoconferencing.  Unfortunately monitor light alone makes me look even more zombielike than usual so the added light should help keep The Walking Dead references to a minimum.

The desk is getting pretty crowded with all the gear loaded up on it.  I’m sure I get more than my recommended daily allowance of EM radiation from all of this.  But what would I do without my toys?

Anyone care to try to identify the rest of the gear in the shot?