An axis for artistic and creative-types of the Asian persuasian… Redefining Otaku Culture.

Japanese startup has created a hologram assistant to control all your devices

Established in 2014, Japanese startup vinclu Inc. is still quite young, but they’re certainly ambitious — the company just released a concept video for their hologram assistant, Gatebox, interacting with a young businessman.

Azuma Hikari, the character in the Gatebox, will talk to users, waking them up in the morning and greeting them when they come home at night. Gatebox is also designed to connect to Internet of Things (IoT) devices in your house, so you can control everything from you high-tech bath to your TV just by talking to Azuma. She can also connect to the Internet and let you know stuff like how the weather is.

The hologram device will also apparently have sensors so it can better communicate with you — and it looks like vinclu is setting up some server-side technology to handle artificial intelligence as well. Fortunately, even if Gatebox or Azuma become fully sentient and decide to murder you in your sleep, the worst they could do cause your bathtub to overflow.

Nevertheless, Gatebox probably won’t be something you buy to better control your IoT devices — Amazon’s Echo can already do that well enough, for example. The selling point for Gatebox looks to be the hologram display and the character that lives within it, which, we have to admit, could add a fun dynamic to what is basically a really nifty remote control. Of course, unlike a remote control, Azuma will actually have a personality of sorts.

You can’t buy Gatebox yet, but it looks like the company is planning to offer them via crowdfunding preorders later this year.

Why are the Los Angeles Dodgers wearing the caps from Nagoya’s professional baseball team?

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

Is the storied L.A. franchise ripping off the uniform of the Japanese club, or is this just a case of “What goes around comes around?”

Unlike a lot of other teams in professional baseball, the Dodgers don’t really tweak their uniforms very often. When they relocated to the West coast from Brooklyn in 1958, they adopted their iconic interlocking LA logo. They’ve kept it for every game since, barring about a half-dozen games in 2011 and 2012 in which they donned caps with the Brooklyn B to honor their roots and legendary former Dodger Jackie Robinson.

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As one of the most enduring logos in professional sports, just seeing it instills a sort of pride in Los Angeles sports fans. Come spring training, though, the Dodgers will be rocking a new design in selected games which replaces the initials of their home turf with a D.

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It’s not a bad look, and rendering the D in the classic font in which “Dodgers” is written on the team’s jerseys makes it instantly understandable what the letter stands for. The shift is also sort of appropriate for spring training games, which are played in Arizona of Florida (with the corresponding state highway signs on the side of the hat). Some local spectators catching an exhibition game might even be more enticed to buy a cap and support the team since the new design won’t have the side effect of making them look like they’re ready to start singing “I Love L.A.”

Since the start of spring training is still a few months away, you can’t buy a blue and white D cap yet. Well, at least not in America. In Japan, on the other hand, they’ve been available for almost 30 years.

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That’s the cap worn by the Chunichi Dragons, who play their home games in Nagoya, from 1987 to 1996. But before you go calling foul on the Dodgers for lifting the Dragons’ logo, here’s the jersey the Dragons wore during that same span of time.

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Hmm…where have I seen something like that before?

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The Dragon’s uniforms from the late 1980s to mid-‘90s were just the Dodgers’ with the text changed, but the exact same font, spacing, and number placement. The above Fernando Valenzuela jersey is from 1983, and the Dodgers had been using this design for several years prior to that.

This isn’t the only instance of a Japanese team heavily borrowing elements of its uniform from an American club. Unless you notice the subtle difference in hue, it’s extremely easy to mistake the Hiroshima Carp’s hats for the Cincinnati Reds’. For many years, Tokyo’s Yomiuri Giants copied the uniforms, colors, and even name of Major League Baseball’s San Francisco Giants.

In the Dragons’ defense, they’ve gotten a little more original in the uniform department in recent years, and have even switched to caps with an interlocking CD logo. Taking that into consideration, there’s really nothing wrong with the Dodgers rocking the D caps during spring training. The Dragons aren’t using them, and really, the Dodgers are just taking them back.

Life Hack: Using an electric kettle as an instant noodle-maker

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

Cooking udon, or any other kind of fresh pasta, just got a whole lot easier.

Excluding the pot of leftover curry and can of Ebisu sitting in my fridge, I think my T-fal electric kettle might be the most wonderful thing in my kitchen. All I have to do is fill it from the tap, flip the switch, and in seconds I’ve got a pot of boiling water with which to make tea, coffee, or hot chocolate.

It also comes in handy if I’m craving noodles, since the spout makes it easy to pour into cup ramen. But it turns out an electric kettle can be useful even for making noodles of the non-instant variety, as shown by Japanese Twitter user @aya_royal_1025.

@aya_royal_1025 hails from Kagawa, which is so famous for udon noodles that it’s jokingly called “Udon Prefecture.” As a staple food of the region, Kagawa’s residents of course spend a lot of time every year cooking udon, which would ordinarily entail boiling a pot of water, tossing in the noodles, then stirring them as they cook.

At some point, though, @aya_royal_1025 came up with a quicker way of getting things done: just toss the uncooked noodles into the kettle along with the necessary amount of water and flash cook them with the press of a button.

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Despite the unorthodox cooking method, @aya_royal_1025 says the resulting noodles aren’t soggy or mushy, an also promises that they taste just as good as udon made in the traditional manner.

There are a couple of things to be aware of. For starters, @aya_royal_1025 doesn’t mention one way or another whether using the kettle for a purpose it clearly wasn’t originally designed for has any effect on its longevity. Also, since you’re now using the kettle to cook instead of just boil water, you’ll want to wash the apparatus out when you’re done, so that no udon residue sticks to its inside (just like you would after making noodles in a regular pot). Finally, a normal-sized kettle is only going to have room to make a single-person-sized portion.

But if you’re in the mood for some actual udon (or any other kind of noodle) even though you’re strapped for time, this sounds like an amazingly convenient way to speed things up in the kitchen.

Maia and Alex Shibutani win first U.S. Ice Dancing title

Angry Asian Man:

On Saturday at the 2016 U.S. Figure Skating Championships in St. Paul, Minnesota, siblings Maia and Alex Shibutani won their first U.S. ice dance title, besting defending champs Madison Chock and Evan Bates.

Performing their free skate to Coldplay’s “Fix You,” the five-time medalists finally broke through and nabbed gold with a final score of 190.14. Chock and Bates finished second with 186.93.

The Shibutanis — affectionately known as the “Shib Sibs” — were U.S. silver medalists in 2011 and 2012, then took bronze in 2013 and 2014, then finished again with the silver last year. And now they’re gold medalists.

Here’s video of their rousing, gold-winning performance:

Hello Kitty skull ring and skull necklace

 

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RocketNews 24 (byPreston Phro):

You think you’re metal? Well, we bet you’re not half as metal as these silver Hello Kitty skull accessories!

Of course, you don’t have to be a metalhead, goth, or punk to enjoy a Hello Kitty skull ring or necklace, but we bet it helps! Regardless of what your preferred music is, these accessories help you bring the perfect blend of cute and badass wherever you go.

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Produced by JAM HOME MADE, the rings cost 31,320 yen (about US$264) and come in five different sizes. With a rhodium-plated surface, the skull are equipped with Kitty-chan’s distinguishing features — namely a red ribbon and a cute yellow nose. They also have dark black eye holes, perfect for staring into when someone else is hogging the abyss.

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If the ring is a bit too pricey for you, you can always opt for a necklace instead, which costs 17,280 yen (about $145). Though the pendant is smaller than the ring, it still offers the same ribbon and nose and comes with a 45-centimeter (17.7-inch) chain.

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Prices listed above include tax and shipping is free — if you live in Japan. For those of you outside Japan, you’ll have to use a reshipping service, since Jam Home Made doesn’t accept international orders. If you’d prefer to make your purchase in person, you could try going to one of Jam Home Made’s locations in Osaka or Tokyo when the accessories officially go on sale January 30.

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“Panda Taxi Company” supports local Fukuoka zoo with half the revenue from its cute new vehicle

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RocketNews 24 (by Oona McGee):

Riding a panda has never been more charitable.

The adorably named Blue Zoo Company, which runs the even more adorably named “Panda Taxi Company” in Fukuoka Prefecture, is celebrating 10 years of operations with a specially wrapped taxi which will be on the roads from 5 February this year.

Called the “Zoo Support Panda Jet Taxi” model, the special service aims to provide assistance to the city’s zoo, both by ferrying passengers to the site and by donating half of the car’s entire revenue to help the zoological organisation.

▼ The car features the caped, red bow tie-wearing company mascot on the roof, bonnet and doors of the car. His red cape even flows over the back of the vehicle.

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The unusual charity concept stemmed from the company’s desire to celebrate their tenth anniversary by giving back to the community in some way. With their taxi service named after an animal, supporting the zoo seemed like a natural choice.

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The taxi company is well-known for providing one of the best-priced services in the country, with the starting fare costing 300 yen (US$2.53), which is more than half the price a starting fare in Tokyo. Passengers don’t have to be going to the zoo to use the service so if you see the special taxi while you’re in Fukuoka City, be sure to flag it down!

NYC to welcome ‘Year Of The Monkey’ with Lunar New Year Festival

Fireworks over the Hudson River for the Chinese Lunar New Year on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015. (Credit: CBS2)

CBS New York/AP:

 New York City will be celebrating the Lunar New Year with a five-day festival early next month.

The Year of the Monkey Celebration” runs from Feb. 6 through Feb. 10.

The festival, presented by the China Central Academy of Fine Arts, is hosting a myriad of events, including the “The Fantastic Art China” exhibition at the Javits Center, where traditional and contemporary Chinese artworks will be showcased.

Environmental conservation efforts for monkeys in China also will be highlighted.

A Hudson River fireworks display set to the music of Oscar and Grammy Award winner Tan Dun is scheduled for Feb. 6.

The Empire State Building is also planning a light display for Feb. 6 and Feb. 8. And the New York Philharmonic’s 5th Annual Chinese New Year Concert will be held at Lincoln Center on Feb. 9.

Last June, Mayor Bill de Blasio made the Lunar New Year an official public school holiday. An estimated 15 percent of New York City school children celebrate the Lunar New Year.