Technology Review: Augmented Reality and QR Codes

•June 14, 2010 • Leave a Comment

During our trip to Japan we saw a multitude of amazing and innovative technologies. I had heard of some of them prior to visiting the companies, but others were completely new to me. There were things that looked like they came right out of a science fiction movie, such as a holographic image of a girl in different outfits. The companies we visited were obviously on the cutting edge of this technology, which made me feel as though we were essentially taking a glimpse into our own, not too distant future. It did not take long for me to become giddy and excited for each new exhibit as we were led through our tours. My favorite of the new technologies we saw during these visits was augmented reality.

Augmented reality is the combination of reality and computer generated images. This can include anything from digital signs showing which way to go in an application like street view from Google or the insertion of three-dimensional figures on a magazine. We were shown the latter example and it was amazing. I had never before seen a computer-generated animation placed into a real environment so seamlessly in real time. The best part was that one could move the plane on which the animation was running around, and the models would follow right along with it without any troubles. This was possible by the placement of QR codes on the plane.

QR means quick response, which was obvious after seeing how easily it allowed for movement in the augmented reality example. QR codes were invented in Japan and are visible throughout the country. During our entire trip we would find these codes on everything. This included food packaging, tables at fast-food restaurants, and even on gigantic billboards. In America it is hard to contemplate why anyone would want to put these little codes all over it, but for the Japanese it makes perfect sense. With their highly advance cell phones, they are able to take pictures of the codes that gives them access to many different sorts of rewards.

One of the most ingenious ways of using QR codes for augmented reality, which was shown to us during our trip, was at the JR East R&D center. They had a system where they could bring down light QR coded sheets and place them in the subway, in order to see how a gate would fit in the terminal. This is awesome because it allows them to save money by seeing what types of gates will work and which ones won’t before having to hull all of the heavy supplies and equipment it takes to build them.

I personally enjoy the possibilities of augmented reality for entertainment purposes, which could involve anything from games to movies, but I believe that the economic and informational possibilities for this technology are endless. With the implication of this brilliant and inexpensive technology in to everyday life, the world and how we view it will be completely changed forever and for the better.

Waseda v. Keio

•June 1, 2010 • 4 Comments

On the last day of my Japan visit, I went to a game with a couple of students from Waseda University to watch one of the final games of baseball for the championship between the Tokyo six. The game just happened to have included the two universities that our group visited while here in Tokyo, Keio and Waseda. The situation was that the series had been going on for a while and this could have potentially been the final game if Waseda was to lose, and Keio would have been the champions. We obviously had to cheer for Waseda because not only were we in the Waseda section, but also they were the underdogs at this point. At one point I asked my friend from Waseda why they didn’t boo when Keio came onto the field, he told me that this game was supposed to be very respectful, and also on a more personal level, his brother went to Keio. As legitimate as this reason was, I still feel as though it is ok to boo the opposing team, since it’s all in good fun. Waseda ended up winning which gave the end of the trip the boost of awesomeness it needed.

Excuse me

•June 1, 2010 • 5 Comments

Out of fear that I will spell the phrase completely wrong I will just say that it was very interesting to see how people use the Japanese phrase for “excuse me” to get what they need at restaurants. After the Waseda v. Keio game, we were taken to a small restaurant, which gave guests the opportunity to make their own Tokyo Yaki. Our friend Reon turned out to be a great Yaki chef and cooked all of our food to perfection. The most interesting part of the experience was how he would get the server’s attention. He would simply yell, “excuse me!” in Japanese. When I first heard him yell I thought he was mad or something, but it turned out to be just how things are done in Japan. In the United States if someone starts yelling like that to get the server, they are bound to get a bit of spit or something else undesirable in their food.


•June 1, 2010 • 2 Comments

While in Japan, I felt as though I rarely got my money’s worth when purchasing food. The one time that completely blew my mind though was Shabu-shabu. The food was great and it was an all you could eat for twenty dollars. I was able to take as much as I wanted without worrying whether or not I was going to take away from someone else’s share with my overwhelming hunger, since there was essentially a never ending supply of meat to cook. One of the more interesting aspects of this style of eating was that if you did not want to wait for the waiter to come around, in order to get your food, one could simply walk over to a counter filled with plates of meat and take whatever they wanted. I have had Shabu-shabu in the United States, and their version was essentially a big soup bowl where the selection of meats and veggies are very limited, along with the portions.


•June 1, 2010 • 4 Comments

There was very little that disappointed me on this trip, and our visit to Harajuku just happened to be one of those incidents. I was expecting there to be many people all dressed up in there own special and funky way. Instead we saw a bunch of distraught and soaked normally dressed individuals. It was the most packed place in Tokyo for essentially the most boring scene I could have thought of. Without the occasional anime looking teen, I saw very little else that would ever inspire e to venture back to that district in Tokyo. I have to admit that I was never truly excited to see the crazy outfits that Harajuku is famous for, but it would have been quite the experience and even better as a story for my family and friends back home in the United States. If I am ever back in Tokyo and find myself bored on a rain-free Sunday, I may have to venture back to that little section of town to try my luck once more, and see the fantastic outfits of the Harajuku youth.

Sushi Conveyer Belt

•May 28, 2010 • 4 Comments

My favorite food of all time is sushi, and coming to Japan I knew there would be more sushi than I could have ever imagined. One of the most interesting ways of receiving the sushi here has been by conveyer belts. The sushi chefs make a variety of sushi and place them on different colored plated, defining how expensive the food on said plate is. It gives people a chance to just walk in and grab what ever they are feeling like at the time. I feel that is also gives people a chance to see their potential meals, making the crave for those types of dishes. As cool as this process is, all of the restaurants also give patrons the chance to order whatever kinds of sushi they want. One of the things I did not think about until I saw an example of a prevention method was how easily germs could be spread by this technology. Only one restaurant had a plastic cover over the food on each plate., which seems odd because I feel the norm in Japan would be to protect against the spread of sickness at almost any cost.

Japanese Baseball

•May 28, 2010 • 3 Comments

I have always absolutely hated watching baseball. It is the most boring and pointless sport of all time. The players all seem to be overweight old dudes who barely do anything athletic throughout the entire game, except for when they hustle their giggly bodies to the bases. Every game that I have ever attended consisted of lots of sitting, eating, and listening to the drunken hillbillies around me get into fights over little arguments. Japanese baseball is a whole other story though. During the entire game the crowd is chanting and cheering for their team and favorite players. They have specific songs and phrases they use for different incidents that occur, and players up to bat. The fans make the game exciting and worthwhile, and although they are just as drunk, if not more so, than the American fans, they are far more respectful. It is obvious that they are there to support their team and its players, rather than just finding a way to waste time and get drunk.

Tea Ceremony

•May 28, 2010 • 1 Comment

One of the most interesting experiences I had, involving traditional Japanese culture, was a tea ceremony. It showed how even when presenting guest something as insignificant, at least from a westerner’s perspective, as a drink of green tea, the Japanese use great amounts of patience and respect. I thought it was very interesting how after thanking for the tea and bowing, the drinker was expected to twist the bowl of tea, in order to show the intricate designs. In western culture I feel that one is supposed to notice how exquisite the dishes are, but not to mention it. It is some sort of quiet display of how wealthy they may be. Another thing that shocked me was that the tea came in a powder form. We have seen this at restaurants, but I thought this was just a cheap quick way of making the tea. In fact it is just ground tealeaves that apparently is the traditional way of making this beverage.


•May 27, 2010 • 3 Comments

Throughout my life, when I thought of sumo wrestling, I thought of big fat men in diaper like outfits. It seemed to me that it would be impossible for anyone to take the sport seriously. After going to a sumo tournament though, I realized I was dead wrong. The origins of sumo are intertwined with the history of the Japanese people themselves.  In America we have sports, which some people’s entire lives revolve around. The connection to sumo for the Japanese is very different than a simple love of the game.  Just by waiting outside of the arena we were able to experience how people will wait on the sides of the sidewalk leading up to the door so they can cheer for their favorite wrestlers. These large men are essentially entire sports teams who all have their own fan bases. I can now see how these men are not a joke in any sense and in fact rest the history of the Japanese people on their shoulders.

Dealing with the Rain

•May 27, 2010 • 5 Comments

The Japanese seem to think of everything when it comes to dealing with everyday issues. One of the things that I personally do not believe would be a real problem is rain and how people tend to drag water into stores and restaurants with their soaked umbrellas. At the entrance of every store there is either a bunch of umbrella bags waiting to be used, a place to put umbrellas, or a fancy automatic umbrella bagging station. This method of trying to prevent the floors of these establishments from becoming wet greatly differs from how the United States deals with problems like this. In America people are expected to bring wet umbrellas where ever without any chance of leaving them outside or bagging them up. Instead we like to just put wet floor signs anywhere that water has collected enough to start raising the chances of people slipping. This is just another example of how the Japanese differ from Americans by trying not to negatively effect anyone around them.