People often associate Japan with advanced technology that has been shaping the world. From gadgets and appliances found at home to infrastructures and robots, just to name a few, Japanese companies continue to create and develop sophisticated and high-technological innovations in the hope that these creations would be of great assistance to humans in their daily lives. Good thing that there are two exhibitions in Tokyo where we can appreciate and learn more about these inventions without spending a single yen.
ASIMO stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility. It was created by the engineers of Honda Motor Co., Ltd. (本田技研工業株式会社), one of the leading car manufacturers in the world. This humanoid robot was introduced in 2000 and has been tagged as “The World’s Most Advanced Humanoid Robot.” According to its official website, ASIMO was created with the purpose of duplicating the complexities of human motion and helping the people in their mobility. And as the study and development for ASIMO continue, a number of demonstrations are also being held in different parts of the world to encourage and inspire students to be engaged in learning science.
Everyone is invited to meet ASIMO and be amazed at what it can do at Honda Welcome Plaza. Located in Aoyama, Tokyo, the demonstration show on ASIMO features its history and the beginnings of Honda’s robot technology, its physical attributes and characteristics, and the future it holds with other Honda Robotics. ASIMO also demonstrates its capabilities wherein it can walk, run at 9 kilometers per hour, jump, and hop on one leg. It can even talk, sing, and do the sign language. You can also have your picture taken with ASIMO at the end of its performance. The whole show usually runs for about 30 minutes.
Aside from ASIMO, there is also a demonstration of another Honda Robotics called UNI-CUB, which is a personal mobility device designed in harmony with the rider’s movement. A person just sits on this self-balancing device and by controlling and shifting his body weight, UNI-CUB can move in all directions without the use of hands and any pedals. This technology would be beneficial especially to those people who have disabilities in walking.
Honda Welcome Plaza also showcases the latest car and motorcycle models. Moreover, the showroom has a Plaza Cafe that serves various drinks and a Plaza Shop that sells souvenir items to commemorate your visit to the place.
Operating hours of the showroom is from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm. The demonstration is shown two to three times a day. You can check here (Japanese only) for the schedule of Honda Robotics’ performances. You can also make a call to confirm the schedule.
Honda Welcome Plaza is located on the 1st floor of the Honda Aoyama Building with its address at 2-1-1 Minami Aoyama (南青山), Minato-ku (港区), Tokyo (東京都). The building is just next to Exit 5 of the Aoyama-itchome Station (青山一丁目駅), which can be reached via the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line (東京メトロ銀座線), Tokyo Metro Hanzomon Line (東京メトロ半蔵門線), and the Toei Oedo Line (都営大江戸線).
The Association for Technological Excellence Promoting Innovative Advances (先端技術館), or better known as TEPIA, is a research facility that showcases the latest in innovative technology that is related to the pressing issues of the society. Using interactive methods, explanation and demonstration for each exhibit are easy to understand and follow.
The TEPIA standing exhibition hall is located on the 1st floor where a large number of varied hands-on exhibits are displayed. There is an English audio guidebook that you can rent. English speaking attendants are also available to assist you, especially if you need further explanations on each display.
A number of companies’ inventions are on display in the exhibit hall. One of these technological advancements is the Segment Sensor by OMRON Corporation (オムロン株式会社). This sensor detects the visitor’s gender and estimated age based on the images captured by the camera.
The Playroom by Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (ソニー株式会社) is a playspace wherein users can interact with digital robots. Using real-world images captured by the camera and computer graphic images, these robots react to the actions of the players.
Fujitsu Laboratories Ltd. (富士通株式会社) has developed a Real-Time Pulse Monitor Using Facial Imaging. This technology automatically measures the pulse rate from the facial images captured by the camera. With this technology, a person can simply monitor his pulse rate by just looking at his smartphone, tablet, or computer.
One of my personal favorites is the Manga Generator (瞬刊少年マルマル) by Shirai Lab (白井研究室) in the Kanagawa Institute of Technology (神奈川工科大学). With the use of this technology, a person can become part of a Japanese comic, or popularly known as manga. This device uses captured movements of a person from a linked camera. The balloons and texts adjust automatically to where it should be placed, which allows the person to move in all directions. The finished product can be printed and you will be able to see yourself as a manga character.
The facility also has a Technology Lab where the basic technology of various robots is introduced, and a Theater and Video Library where you can watch videos related to the displayed items in the exhibit hall. All of these are located on the 2nd floor of the building.
TEPIA’s address is 2-8-44 Kita-Aoyama (北青山), Minato-ku, Tokyo. It is a 4-minute walk from Exit 3 of Gaiemmae Station (外苑前駅) on the Tokyo Metro Ginza Line. It can also be accessed by a 14-minute walk from JR Sendagaya Station (千駄ヶ谷駅) or Shinanomachi Station (信濃町駅) on the JR East Line, an 11-minute walk from Kokuritsu-Kyogijo Station (国立競技場駅) and a 9-minute walk from Aoyama-itchome Station both on the Toei Oedo Line.
TEPIA is open from 10:00 am until 6:00 pm on weekdays and from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm on weekends and holidays. Please note that it is closed on Mondays (except when Monday falls on a holiday, it will be closed the next day). The estimated time duration for the tour is about 1 to 2 hours.
These two exhibitions provide both knowledge and entertainment at no charge. I, for one, found these exhibits fun and educational and I believe that these will be truly enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Honda Welcome Plaza and TEPIA are both located in Minato-ku, Tokyo, so why not include them in your itinerary the next time you visit and be fascinated at what Japan’s technology can do for our society?