Friday, September 29, 2006
DoCoMo develops 3D image system for mobiles
Today DoCoMo announced a prototype 3D image generation system which could eventually find its way into mobile phones of the future.
The image is displayed using a lenticular lens (had to look that one up on Wikipedia!) and the system uses the phone’s camera or an alternative method to determine the viewer’s viewing angle and alters the image accordingly in real time. So, for example, if you move to the right, you can see the right hand side of the image and if you look at it from above, the display will show a top-down view. Of course, due to the nature of the system, it can only be viewed by one person at a time.
The applications for this system will likely be mobile games and mobile shopping sites. DoCoMo is working on commercializing the system and will be displaying the technology next week at Ceatec Japan.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Ringtone alarm clock announced
I have written about muPass – a system uses mobile phones to send ringtones to ordinary household items – before in this article. Yesterday Sammy announced a new product compatible with the muPass system – and this one seems more useful to me than a baby mobile or a singing cooker!
The M-Stock is an alarm clock and muPass allows you to change the alarm sound by sending it ringtones from your phone via infrared. According to the company’s press release, there are now over 4000 ringtones available that are compatible with muPass.
The main drawback with the product is its price – at an RRP of 7,350 – 8,925 yen ($63 - $76), it’s not cheap for a fairly basic alarm clock. Are consumers really prepared to pay such a premium for the novelty?
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Sega use image recognition promotional tool for TGS
At this year’s Tokyo game show, Sega distributed a free promotional applet using image recognition software to promote its mobile games characters.
Using their phone’s camera, Sega fans take a self-portrait picture and send it via the applet to an image recognition server. The server analyses the pictured face and decides which Sega character the individual resembles the most from a list of household names such as Sonic the Hedgehog and err… actually I don’t recognise any of the others in the supplied picture and I wonder what type of person would be matched to the yellow rabbit-like creature on the bottom right.
Nevertheless, the applet is an interesting way to extend the Sega brand with games fans and a fun promotional tool for the TGS.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Pictures from the Tokyo Game Show
Those involved in the mobile games industry might be interested in these articles on the Tokyo Game Show.
The articles are in Japanese, but there are lots of pictures - including a version of Bomberman for up to 24 players over at KDDI!
New mobile skin check service for female consumers
The service contains a mix of horoscopes, weather and news and also provides a range of ‘brain training’ casual games which are hugely popular with Japanese consumers at the moment.
The service’s most interesting feature is its skin check function. Using their cameraphone, female consumers take a photo of themselves and submit it to the site. The service will then return a ranking of the quality of the skin based on pores, texture, tightness, dirtiness and hydration and give a predicted age of the consumer.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
SonyEri's new 'glow phone'
I was checking out this article posted by Japanese mobile news site +D Mobile last week about the new W43S handset by Sony Ericsson which has just gone on sale on the au network in Japan.
The handset’s main feature is an LED panel which can be customised using various fascias which alter the way the light reflects, producing different effects. The lighting isn’t purely for decoration, however, as lights correspond to missed calls, new emails, new texts and new alerts. The example below shows that the owner has two missed calls and one new email.
Aside from the fancy lights, the handset has some of the coolest UI design I’ve seen on a phone recently with a ‘cartoon strip’ menu option and a pinboard wallpaper which displays random pictures from the cameraphone’s album.
Images (c) +D Mobile
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
au announce new travel service
Today Japanese operator au announced the launch of a new travel reservation service – au Travel, and once again, the operator has come up with a well thought out site which works in harmony together with some of its other mobile services.
Au teamed up with the Japan National Tourist Organisation to provide the service which currently has a database of 7,000 hotels and resorts and plans to increase that to 10,000 by the end of the year. The site looks designed with plenty of pictures and various options for searching. Naturally, consumers can browse and make reservations using the service but au have also tied the service into its loyalty point scheme and satnav services for extra value.
1% of every reservation made using au Travel is returned to the consumer as au Points – reward points which you can either redeem as direct discounts to your phone bill or use to buy various products. Using au’s satnav services, consumers’ handsets can direct a driver or pedestrian to the hotel they have just made a reservation for. The service will launch on the 5th October.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
FP codes - better than QR codes?
QR codes are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in Japan, with consumers using them to access more information on everything from trees in parks to nutritional information for their MacDonalds hamburgers. However, there are already companies working on developing the next contender to the QR code crown.
DoCoMo have been working on an ‘audio QR code’ which enables mobiles to capture data embedded in music and jingles. I have already posted about the ‘blacklight QR code’ developed by IBM. Today, Fujitsu announced the FP code or Fine Picture code, a technology which embeds codes into pictures in a way that’s difficult for the human eye to spot.
Fujitsu are naturally tight-lipped about how they do this – all they reveal is that the system was inspired by the fact that the sensitivity of human vision alters according to size and colour. Sounds complicated. The big draw of the system is, like blacklight QR codes, the codes don’t compromise the design of printed material. In the future will all printed pictures contain embedded codes?
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Vodafone takes a different approach to mobile music in Japan
The fulltrack mobile music scene is really hotting up in Japan at the moment. The first service to launch was au’s iTunes-esque Lismo in April this year, with the operator providing a range of music player optimised handsets for use with the service. DoCoMo responded by launching its own fulltrack music services with handsets to match. Japan’s third operator, Vodafone KK, has been keeping quiet about it’s mobile music masterplans until today.
Well… sort of. Today’s announcement is not an exiting new fulltrack music service, nor a shiny new music phone. Vodafone is taking a different approach to the mobile music battle by bundling its 705SH handset with a 2gb iPod nano. The bundle will cost ¥10000 (≈£50) more than the standalone handset, but the catch is that subscribers must commit to a 2 year contract be eligible for the deal. It seems that this new offer is more of an attempt to lure consumers into 2-year Vodafone contracts before the introduction of MNP rather than a serious entry into the mobile music market.
Monday, September 11, 2006
DoCoMo develop marketing system based on consumer behaviour prediction
Today NTT DoCoMo announced that they have developed a system which uses RFID to predict consumer behaviour while they are visiting shopping malls, showrooms and amusement parks and use this prediction to offer them targeted marketing messages.
As the consumer visits various shops and locations, their mobile sends RFID tags to a server. The server than runs software to predict what the consumer is doing and sends them information relevant to their situation.
In an example provided by DoCoMo, a consumer who is searching for a pair of shoes visits shoe shops A, B and C. The server guesses that this is what the consumer is doing on the basis of the RFID tags it receives from shops A, B and C and then sends the consumer special offers from shop D which they have yet to visit. The service even offers coupons for restaurants and coffee shops to consumers when it deems they must be getting tired from visiting shoe shops A, B, C and D!
DoCoMo plans to test the system in a single shopping mall in Yokohama between the 13th and 26th September, but have no firm future roll-out plans at present.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Vodafone announces wind-up of 2G service from 2008
Today Vodafone KK announced that they will stop taking new subscribers to their 2G service at the end of the 2007 financial year (which, in Japan is March 2008 – by which time, of course the company will have long been rebranded as SoftBank Mobile). After March 2008, Vodafone (SoftBank) will no longer offer 2G PDC contracts to new consumers.
As far as I know, Vodafone is the first Japanese carrier to announce plans to go 3G only. Interestingly, they are also lagging far behind DoCoMo and au in terms of 2G/3G subscriber ratio. 26% of Vodafone’s customers are on 3G, compared to 53% for DoCoMo and 97% for au.
One of the strategies Vodafone are using now to boost 3G subscribers is limiting their mobile number portability service (due to launch later this year) to 3G contracts. It will be interesting to see how SoftBank will push its 3G services in the future.