Panasonic Center In Tokyo: From Concept To Deployment

Gallery: Panasonic Center Tokyo (2017)

While attending CEATEC 2017 in Tokyo, I stopped by the Panasonic Center (Tokyo) where the company has 15k square meters (~162k square feet) of demo space and offices. I had been there some years ago and wanted to check the latest demos and concepts that Panasonic is working on. There is a lot going on there, but five items have caught my attention, here they are:

Power Assist Suit

The power Assist Suit is an exoskeleton that amplifies the body’s movement and makes a person stronger. The concept isn’t new, but it has been only applied to the real world very sparsely because the technology is still a work in progress and the power requirements often require a tethered power source.

The Panasonic Power Assist Suit does not try to turn users into “Iron Man” and has much more modest goals, such as avoiding lower-back strains and injuries. Panasonic is already conducting live tests in warehouses where workers routinely move relatively heavy boxes. It has also partnered with the Japanese Para Powerlifting federation where the staff lifts heavy weights often to adjust the participant’s load.

According to Panasonic, the Suit does not impede movements such as walking, but the motors kick in if a strenuous effort is detected. The suit runs on batteries, which Panasonic manufactures too. First unveiled in 2016, the Power Assist Suit is still being refined by Panasonic’s engineers.


Panasonic’s LinkRay is a rare mass-scale application of data transfer via LED lights. The principle is quite simple: LED lights can be made to modulate their brightness in a way that humans cannot see, but that phone cameras can easily detect. That way, small quantities of binary data can be transmitted to an application.

Panasonic is deploying this technology in Japan for various signage systems. With the companion app, merely pointing the phone in the direction of the signage will download the content to the phone, and link to additional data. This can be used for trains or bus schedules, and the data can be translated immediately into many languages (5 for now). The Haneda Airport in Tokyo has one of those right now.

The same technology can be used for coupons, vouchers and has many other use cases. LinkRay works a bit like a barcode but overcomes many common barcode issues. For example, you don’t need to get close to the signage, so it works very well in a crowded environment.

Robotic Electric Wheelchair “WHILL NEXT”

Robotic chairs are a thing in Japan. We’ve seen models from Honda and others, but the Whill Next from Panasonic is deployed in Haneda Airport as an experiment. With the help of an app, you can call a chair, which will then transport you where you need to go.

It doesn’t go very fast, so it may be useful for senior citizens or for someone who can’t find a specific place. However, Panasonic has built this for everyone. Several Whill Next can form a convoy, and the Panasonic engineers told me that the track each other visually using lasers or infra-red. In any case, the app seems to work only in Japanese for now, but it sure looks like we’re one step closer to Wall-E.

Smart kitchen concept

Panasonic’s vision of the kitchen now includes a voice assistant that will guide you step by step as you cook. Unlike today’s such assistants that come in a “box” such as the Google Home or Amazon Echo, the Panasonic concept one is wholly integrated into the kitchen (and other spaces) thanks to built-in speakers and microphones. There is also a visual avatar of the assistant which is projected from the ceiling (the smiley face in the photo above).

Obviously, this is not going to be a standard kitchen feature anytime soon, but it’s interesting to see how these concepts can be designed and built to see how they would work in a real-life situation. That said, the Panasonic demo area might only show a real-life for the 0.5%, but we had a good time testing it.

Beard Simulator with the Future Mirror

I had spotted the Future Mirror at CES last year, and this is an evolving concept that Panasonic has been working on. This time, our media group tried the “beard simulator” which adds beard or mustache in your reflection (my friend Steve Greenberg is trying it, while I take a photo on the right). It works by tracking your face shape and movements in 3D then adding a facial hair layer (also in 3D) on top it. It is possible to select a different style, and it works well to give you a rough idea of what you would look like with a different style.

Panasonic Center In Tokyo: From Concept To Deployment , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.


Casio Mofrel 2.5D Printer Emulates Leather Texture and Color

Casio, typically known for its watches or cameras has come up with a new printer and printing technology named Mofrel which outputs 2.5 dimensions (2.5D) color prints that can mimic all kinds of surfaces from leather, to tatami mats to bricks. Now, the technology is already helping industrial designers prototype concepts faster, but in the future, it could very well be used to directly manufacture specific products.

I have held several types of printed textures, and it is true that they are entirely convincing. The leather and the tatami mat were particularly excellent and impressive. The relief and visual perception are near-perfect. When you touch the material, it finally seems a bit plastic (because it is!). You can compare this as touching fake food because your fingers expect a different feel. The more plastic the material is supposed to be, and the more real this seems. The leather felt stunningly genuine, with stitches and all.

Kimono cloth prototyping. This is actually a Mofrel plastic sheet.

The printer is even capable of emulating Kimono cloth to preview what the final product will look like, before actually producing an expensive real one. Finally, we have been shown prints in Braille for the blind, but with the possibility of having “drawings” in 2.5D which would be simply impossible with normal Braille printing.

The film is being removed from the plastic sheet after the emboss is done

The technology works as follows: first, all the relief data is printed on a thin, transparent film. The black portions represent the high relief, and the clear areas will stay flat. This film will then be put on top of a plastic sheet (~1mm thick), and electric current will heat the film’s dark areas, making the plastic underneath expand. It comes out cool to the touch, and the film can be removed. And voila, you have your 2.5D “bump” printout. I didn’t get when the color was added because the explanation was in Japanese, but the coloring doesn’t seem to be a big issue.

At the moment, the Mofrel printer costs ~$40,000 and are aimed at design professionals. Casio told me that some car makers are already using it to prototype their next-generation cars. In time, Casio hopes that high volume production will shrink the price to the point where manufacturing and consumers can use this technology at scale. For example, it’s possible to print plastic floor tiles, if the cost is low enough.

Casio Mofrel 2.5D Printer Emulates Leather Texture and Color , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.


This Robotic Cat Pillow Wags Its Tail When You Stroke it

Unfortunately some apartments have rules in which you cannot keep a pet. This means that if you’re someone who grew up with a pet or still own a pet in your current house, you might have some issues with moving in. However at CEATEC 2017, Japanese company Yukai Engineering recently unveiled a hi-tech modern solution for your problem.

Dubbed Qoobo, this is a robotic pillow that has been designed and made to resemble the body of a cat without its legs and head. It just comes with a furry body and a tail that can wag when you stroke it! It’s been dubbed a therapy robot which could come in handy for those who find comfort in stroking their pets, but aren’t allowed to keep one.

It seems that the Qoobo is pretty realistic in terms of its actions where depending on the intensity of the stroking, the tail will wag just as intensely as well. According to the company’s CEO Shunsuke Aoki, this is based on research conducted on how cats and dogs behave when stroked.

The company has plans to launch Qoobo using a crowdfunding platform later this year where it is expected to be ready in June 2018. It is also expected to cost around $100, which is pretty expensive, but if you think that it might be able to help with anxiety or depression, it could be a cheaper alternative to owning a pet.

This Robotic Cat Pillow Wags Its Tail When You Stroke it , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.


Telesar V Is A Robot That Can Be Controlled In Virtual Reality

[CEATEC 2017] Being able to control robots remotely has always been possible, like we’ve seen with drones, bomb disposal robots, and so on. However recently researchers have actually explored the idea of potentially using virtual reality (VR) to control robots, which is what we saw researchers at MIT CSAIL do not too long ago.

However it seems that they’re not the only ones looking into the potential as at CEATEC 2017 this year, a company by the name of Telexistence took the wraps off the Telesar V robot which is a robot that can be controlled using a VR setup, such as with a VR headset and a pair of controllers. However unlike MIT’s version which offers users virtual controls like virtual knobs/dials, the Telesar V is controlled using the person’s motion.

So when the person moves his or her hand, the robot will move its hand as it. The same can also be done with body movements, and thanks to the headset and cameras built into the robot’s eyes, they will be able to see what the robot sees. This could help improve jobs like in warehouses where you could use a robot to pick up heavy objects.

It might take some time for such technology to become more mainstream and used commercially, but hey if you ever wanted a future where you could power your own mobile Gundam suit virtually, this seems like a step towards that direction.

Telesar V Is A Robot That Can Be Controlled In Virtual Reality , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.


Panasonic’s CaloRieco Will Count Your Food’s Calories

[CEATEC 2017] If you’re trying to go on a diet, whether it is to gain muscle or to lose fat, taking into account the calories you take is essential. There are apps out there that help you keep track, and for the most part most food makers offer up the amount of calories that comes in a serving of whatever you are eating.

However sometimes it isn’t always 100% accurate, plus just because you ate a burger at one restaurant doesn’t mean that a burger at another restaurant is of similar caloric value. However the folks at Panasonic want to take the guesswork out of calorie tracking and have unveiled a system called the CaloRieco at CEATEC 2017.

This is a machine, that you can see in the photo above, in which you can put in your food and it will be able to count how many calories are in it. It uses light reflection technology to determine nutritional values such as carbs, fat, and protein, and in a way it works similar to a mass spectrometer, except not as complicated or as advanced.

That being said, it should be noted that the machine above is only a mockup and that the final product might not necessarily look the same. There is no word on a release date or how much such a device would cost, but the company is hoping that this will be used by diabetics and their families to better manage their food and health.

Panasonic’s CaloRieco Will Count Your Food’s Calories , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.


Honda Unveils 1 KWh Mobile Power Pack

[CEATEC 2017] As our natural resources aren’t exactly unlimited, the world has started to look forwards renewable sources of energy, such as taking advantage of the wind, water, and sun to generate energy. Many tech companies are also working at creating greener and more sustainable products, such as Tesla.

The company had previously unveiled a power pack that homeowners could install in their homes that could serve to power the home as opposed to drawing energy from the grid. As it turns out, Honda has something similar that they are showing off at CEATEC 2017 in Japan this year that comes in the form of a mobile power pack.

As you can see in the photos, Honda’s mobile power pack is indeed mobile as it relatively small and portable. It is a 1 KWh battery pack that can be charged wirelessly when dropped into its charging dock. The idea behind it is that it can be swapped around at charging stations, meaning that if you run out of juice, you can go to a charging station and swap it for a fully charged one.

According to Honda, this battery pack seems to have been designed for electric motorcycles and will require two to power one. Alternatively it can also be used for traveling, like when you go camping and you need the battery pack to power certain things, like lights.

Honda Unveils 1 KWh Mobile Power Pack , original content from Ubergizmo. Read our Copyrights and terms of use.