If you thought the Kinect was just for things like controlling flying quadrocopters and getting in touch with your inner Han Solo, get ready to stick your tongue out. That’s right, scientists in Japan have created a Kinect game for your tongue. You wiggle it around to shoot at circles.
You’re not running out of your house to buy the game right this second? Well, you probably weren’t the target audience anyway. Japanese researchers created the game to help in diagnosis and treatment of oral motor disorders. People who have trouble speaking or swallowing could play the game to train their tongues. For the rest of us, how about a game that teaches French kissing?
Good news dental students: soon you will no longer have to approach your first victim patient with shaky, unsure hands. Researchers at Showa University in Japan have unveiled a new dental dummy, a realistic robot for dental students to practice on before taking the drill to real, human mouths.
Just pour and peel! Also slices and dices.
Put away that Swiffer—when you’ve got a real mess to clean up, turn to this blue goo.
Japanese officials looking to clean up radioactive contamination are applying a product called DeconGel to the problem. The usual method is distressingly Stone Age: soap and water applied by human beings. As you can imagine, there are a number of problems with this, like what to do with all that radioactive water, which has a tendency to leak all over the place, and what to do about radiation exposure of said human beings.
Forget about RoboCup, where teams of robots kick soccer balls around indoor fields. The first ever robot marathon finished up over the weekend, and one knee-high humanoid took home the prize with just one second to spare.
This video shows the winner’s final stretch:
Five robots competed in Robo Mara Full, the world’s first marathon for our plastic and metallic friends. The race, funded by the city government of Osaka, began on Friday; 54 hours, 57 minutes, and 50 seconds later, Robovie-PC finally completed its 422th lap, thereby hitting the 26.2-mile mark and sealing the victory. With an average speed of 0.48 miles per hour, these machines are no speed demons.
It will start with Robonaut 2, the humanoid maintenance bot that NASA is sending to the International Space Station next week. And now Japan’s space agency (JAXA) has announced plans to send its own bot to the ISS. JAXA’s humanoid robot will not only talk and Twitter, but it will also act as a space nurse, monitoring the health of the astronauts.
The researchers behind the project say the bot would have a number of attributes that would make it a valuable crew member. For example, they say, it would never have to sleep–so it could keep watch when the flesh and blood astronauts are in dreamland.
And then there are its conversational skills, which would make it a lively companion for those lonley spacefarers. “We are thinking in terms of a very human-like robot that would have facial expressions and be able to converse with the astronauts,” JAXA’s Satoshi Sano told the AP.
A paper that explores the unlikely coupling of warm wine and the electric properties of iron is currently making its rounds on the media circuit—leading us to conclude that people get excited about science when there is alcohol involved.
“Drunk scientists pour wine on superconductors and make incredibly discovery,” declares the (slightly inaccurate) headline on io9. “’Tis the season to be pickling your liver in alcohol,” announces the (slightly irrelevant) opening line of a CNET article.
The researchers’ experiment—led by Keita Deguchi of the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan—involved first submersing an iron alloy in various hot alcoholic beverages, and then finding the temperature at which the treated alloy starts to display superconducting properties. A superconductor is a material that has no electrical resistivity, allowing electrons to flow through it with essentially zero friction.
The paper abstract, which was published on arXiv, gives an overview of the experiment’s findings and method (although there’s no mention of beverage consumption that might have inspired these scientific antics):
“We found that hot commercial alcohol drinks are much effective to induce superconductivity in FeTe0.8S0.2 compared to water, ethanol and water-ethanol mixture…. Any elements in alcohol drinks, other than water and ethanol, would play an important role to induce superconductivity.”
For you men, peeing has become complicated these days: You have to deal with everything from tests judging your ability to pick a urinal to pictures of women laughing at you. It’s about time someone put the fun back in pee time, and SEGA thinks they have just the thing: urinal gaming. As Pocket Lint describes:
This wacky video (filmed in Japan, where else?) shows off the pee-based game in which the speed and accuracy of your urine stream is judged and converted to a cartoon-like mini-game display on the LCD.
Games to play with you pee include a graffiti cleaning task, a Marilyn Monroe-esque trick that blows wind up a lady’s skirt, and a game that asks you to shoot milk from your character’s nose. You control the game by hitting the sensor in the urinal, which rates you on how long and hard you can pee. The aim of the game is to help dudes stay on target, Popular Science explains:
If you can’t go standing up, perhaps Toirettsu isn’t for you (sorry ladies, but your hands-free method allows you to play Angry Birds on the can anyhow). Toirettsu targets restaurant and retail environments, ostensibly in hopes that by giving users goal-oriented mini-games to focus on, their men’s room floors might stay a bit cleaner as gents have somewhere to aim. And, of course, it gives establishments (and Sega) somewhere to place an ad.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Gaming at work positively correlated with multitasking
Discoblog: The Good Old Days, When Psychologists Used to Hang Out in Toilet Stalls
Discoblog: Brazilians Urged to Pee in the Shower to Conserve Water
Discoblog: Step 1: Pee on Stick. Step 2: Ask Your Phone if You Have an STD
Bad Astronomy: In space, no one can hear you pee
DISCOVER: Video Games That Make the World Better
When an aquarium in Japan planned their holiday displays for Christmas, they decided to harness the natural talents of one resident: the electric eel. The lights on one small Christmas tree are powered by the eel’s natural electricity, which is picked up by two aluminum panels in the tank that act as electrodes.
The eel-powered Christmas tree has been a fixture at the aquarium for the past few years, but Reuters reports that this year the aquarium broadened its alternative energy experiment by adding a dancing Santa powered by stomping human feet.
As we admire the tree, let’s also take a moment to appreciate Kazuhiko Minawa, the inventor of this marvel and a spokesman for the Enoshima Aquarium. He says in the 2008 video below: “If we could gather all the electric eels from all around the world, we would be able to light up an unimaginably large Christmas tree.” Oh Mr. Minawa, we can imagine it.
The Loom: When Love Shocks
Not Exactly Rocket Science: Two fish families evolved electric powers by tweaking the same gene
Science Not Fiction: How to Conduct the World’s First Electric Fish Orchestra
Science Not Fiction: Electric Fish “Plug in” and Turn Their Zapping Into Music
Image: Wikimedia Commons
The warbling robot, with the Star Wars-esque designation HRP-4C, stands at about five feet, two inches (1.58 meters) tall. It has the appearance of a young Japanese girl, although one admittedly wearing a RoboCop suit minus the helmet.