Japan’s Television on Mobile Phones

Life in Japan generally produces many opportunities when there is downtime. Riding on trains an hour plus each way and sitting in traffic in a taxi create a situation where one wonders if there could be some way to spend the time productively. So it is with little surprise Japan has not only excelled at producing ingenious little televisions, but the technology to deliver broadcast content as well. One-seg has been one of those Japanese technology success stories.
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The story of 1seg is not a long one. In a nutshell, it can be described as a piece of technology that allows mobile devices such as cellular phones, global positioning system (GPS) devices, laptops, PDAs and of course, mini-televisions themselves, to be able to receive regular high definition (HD) broadcast signals.

The challenge, of course, has been space and strength. Analog broadcasts have traditionally taken a significant amount of resources to be picked up by any device. The answer has come with the “segmenting” of digital broadcasts.

Since HD signals are sent out with 13 segments, one segment could be reserved for a special signal to be picked up by properly equipped devices—thus the birth of the term “1seg.”
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The first devices equipped to catch this special signal began appearing in 2005. KDDI’s au was the first to sell cell phones advertising the ability to watch television using this new technology and competitors such as Docomo were not far behind. By April 1, 2006, the technology was “officially” launched in Japan and most manufacturers were onboard and preparing to include 1seg in many of their new products.

Interestingly enough, 1seg was not universally accepted at first. DIMSDRIVE Research conducted a survey asking Japanese consumers what features on their already overly complex cell phones were not needed. Television frequently appeared as one of the top 10 features not wanted.

Complaints also escalated regarding poor quality or lack of reception (especially on subway lines or tunnels), channels switching to other frequencies mid-voyage (especially on the shinkansen/bullet train) and faster depletion of the device’s battery.

Undaunted by these complaints, manufacturers continued their efforts to include 1seg technology in more devices and Japanese consumers began to not only embrace it, but take its existence for granted.

By late 2007, the Japan Electronics and Information Technology Industries Association reported that over 3 million cell phones were shipped with 1seg technology per month—accounting for over 63 percent of all shipped phones.

In fact, Japanese consumers now appear to have an expectation that 1seg be included on new, advanced mobile devices. The recent introduction of Apple’s iPhone in July 2008 saw a lot of excitement for its launch, but experienced lukewarm sales of only 200,000 units in the following two months. One of top reasons quoted for this has been the iPhone’s lack of 1seg technology.

Regardless of whether Apple or any other company decides to include 1seg in their products in the future, the technology itself continues to roll ahead. In late 2007, Brazil began HD broadcasting with 1seg to a few select cities.

Also over the past year, 1seg has been found on PSP, Nintendo DS and even Sanrio, makers of the ever-adorable Hello Kitty, released a 1seg mini-television in the shape of the feline character.
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Japan has made some smart moves as it progresses towards being totally digital by July 24, 2011 and 1seg has been a major part of the planning. It’s interesting to see how Japanese consumers have willingly become part of this change, not in the name of progress, but simply because they wanted a little entertainment and news while taking the train home.

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2200 Year Old Computer.

More than a hundred years ago an extraordinary mechanism was found by sponge divers at the bottom of the sea near the island of Antikythera.

It astonished the whole international community of experts on the ancient world. Was it an astrolabe? Was it an astronomical clock? Or was it something else? For decades, scientific investigation failed to yield much light and relied more on imagination than the facts.
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However research over the last half century has begun to reveal its secrets. Scientists used imaging and high-resolution X-ray tomography to study the Antikythera Mechanism.

It dates from around the end of the 2nd century B.C. and is the most sophisticated mechanism known from the ancient world.

The device contains a complicated arrangement of at least 30 precision, hand-cut bronze gears housed inside a wooden case covered in inscriptions. But the device is fragmented, so its specific functions have remained controversial. The team was able to reconstruct the gear function and double the number of deciphered inscriptions on the computer’s casing. The device, they say, is technically more complex than any known device for at least a millennium afterwards.

The Antikythera Mechanism is now understood to be dedicated to astronomical phenomena and operates as a complex mechanical “computer” which tracks the cycles of the Solar System.

A new paper from the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project (AMRP) is published in the prestige science journal Nature on July 31st 2008. It reveals surprising results on the back dials of the Antikythera Mechanism including a dial dedicated to the four-year Olympiad Cycle of the games of ancient Greece.

The research team has also deciphered all the months on the Mechanism’s 19-year calendar, revealing month names that are of Corinthian origin, probably from a Corinthian colony of the western Hellenic world overturning the previous idea that the Mechanism was from the eastern part of the Mediterranean. For the first time we have direct evidence of its cultural origin.
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Additional research has also transformed our understanding of the Mechanism’s sophisticated eclipse prediction dials. These results have extended the work about the complex structure of the Mechanism’s gears and dials and have added new and intriguing cultural and social dimensions.

Where did this device come from? Aliens? What are your thoughts?

2D Codes

Can your mobile phone read these codes…all new phones in the USA will by next year. In Japan more than 80% of cell phone users access these codes daily.

The desire of today’s society, particularly among the younger, more tech-savvy parts of the population. To instantly gain information about a person, place or thing has been termed “infolust” by Trendwatching.com.
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The fact that “Google me” has entered the English language is just one example of the way in which social networking and marketing is being affected by the web. The inclusion of 2D symbols as a shortcut to this information — whether it’s information about a product or person — is just the next step in this evolution.
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Currently, scanning 2D symbols on ads or items can link the user to a website for more information, to receive a special offer or discount coupon. However, the trend toward the use of 2D symbols and cell phones goes beyond mere information.
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There are currently pilots and limited implementations that allow consumers to purchase event tickets over their cell phones (scan a symbol to go to the web site, make a purchase, get a 2D symbol — ticket — to display for admission).

The vision is that 2D symbols will be used to help consumers order a taxi, sign up for a text alert service, enter a competition, and more.

This code will take my phone to my xanga blog!
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Bullet Trains

The Japanese Shinkansen is the world’s busiest high-speed rail line. Carrying 151 million passengers a year, it has transported more passengers (4.5 billion) than all other high speed lines in the world combined.
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Though it is largely a long-distance transport system, the Shinkansen also serves commuters who travel to work in metropolitan areas from outlying cities. This train is the most relaxing way to travel I have ever experienced.
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There is no baggage check-in, no security lines, no seat belts, you walk on and bingo always right on time the train pulls out. I always took the 7:04 to Osaka from Tokyo…7:05 you missed but between Tokyo and Shin Osaka, the two largest metropolises in Japan, they have ten trains per hour with long trains, 16- cars each (1,300 seats capacity) running in each direction with minimum 3 minutes frequency.

It is clean of course (it is Japan) and it runs clean using electric power.

It is great. I was able to go to the Winter Olympics each day from Tokyo to Nagano door to door in about 90 minutes,

Where is our American ingenuity? GE helped Japan with its rail system let’s get them on the stick for our Eastern Seaboard. We need this train!

Marketers are Interacting with Consumers with Mobile Apps

My company is building quite a few apps these days as marketers of everything from beer to couture are dialing up mobile-device applications for their brands.
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As people have become enamored of how the software works for them without having to go to a mobile browser, they’ve made more than 1 billion downloads of free and paid “apps.” Apple’s iPhone has led the way: In less than a year, the number of iPhone apps available went from zero to 50,000.

Apps are fast becoming part of today’s marketing mix because they can connect brands and products directly to consumers. That’s also made them one of the hottest topics here this week at the ad industry’s biggest annual awards competition, the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

“A branded iPhone application grants a fantastic consumer engagement,” says Alexandre Mars, CEO at Phonevalley, a mobile-ad agency that has created apps for Kraft and Chanel. “They are rich, compelling and insightful. They provide a quick response time, and they are available without any data connection.”

Among other brands using apps to connect with consumers: Audi, Pacifico Beer, Hardee’s, movie studios, Sherwin-Williams, Target, Burger King and Zippo, as well as USA TODAY. Some branded apps offer games or information, while some provide utility, such as paint-color selection with ColorSnap for Sherwin-Williams. And some are just cool.

Audi, one of the first brands to launch an app last year, has had more than 3.5 million downloads of its Audi A4 Driving Challenge game. It recently introduced two more apps, including a 90-minute high-definition documentary.
“Our consumer is very tech savvy,” says Jeri Ward, general manager of marketing and strategy. “This is a way to connect on their terms and the way they use technology.”

Mexican beer brand Pacifico, with its image as a beer for people more interested in the adventurous side of Mexico than the beach, recently introduced a rooster alarm clock app that crows. It features Claudio the rooster, Pacifico’s longtime mascot. When the alarm goes off, you can shake the iPhone to turn it off and rustle Claudio’s feathers.

“It’s part of a fully integrated campaign that brings authentic bits and pieces of Mexico to life,” says Paul Verdu, vice president of marketing. “It’s especially appealing for our key audience, the 21- to 29-year-old beer-drinking guy.”

Kraft’s 99-cent iFood Assistant includes 7,000 recipes, a dish of the day and a store locator for grocers. Through last week, the iFood Assistant was the fourth-most-popular lifestyles app.

Kraft spokesman Basil Maglaris says that 90% of people who use the app also go on to register at kraftfoods.com. The app is also helping Kraft reach men. “A strong percentage of iFood Assistant users are men,” he says. “We’re appealing to a broader base of consumers than our traditional audience (of) women.”

David Carradine found dead in Bangkok

I was so shocked to read today that actor David Carradine, star of the 1970s TV series Kung Fu and a wide-ranging career in the movies, had been found dead in the Thai capital, Bangkok. A news report said he was found hanged in his hotel room and was believed to have committed suicide.

In a very recent interview he said to reporters about his latest movie with Rip Torn, “It’s time to do nothing but look forward.” I wonder what could have happened to make him take his own life.

A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy, Michael Turner, confirmed the death of the 72-year-old actor. He said the embassy was informed by Thai authorities that Carradine died either late Wednesday or early Thursday, but he could not provide further details out of consideration for his family.

Carradine was a leading member of a venerable Hollywood acting family that included his father, legendary character actor John Carradine (Stagecoach), and Oscar-winning brother Keith (Nashville).

In all, he appeared in more than 100 feature films with such directors as Martin Scorsese, Ingmar Bergman and Hal Ashby. One of his prominent early film roles was as singer Woody Guthrie in Ashby’s 1976 biopic Bound for Glory.

But he was best known for his role as Kwai Chang Caine, a Shaolin priest traveling the 1800s American frontier West in the TV series Kung Fu, which aired in 1972-75.

He reprised the role in a mid-1980s TV movie and played Caine’s grandson in the 1990s syndicated series Kung Fu: The Legend Continues.

He returned to the top in recent years as the title character in Quentin Tarantino’s two-part saga Kill Bill.
The character, the worldly father figure of a pack of crack assassins, was a shadowy presence in 2003’s Kill Bill, Vol. 1. In that film, one of Bill’s former assassins (Uma Thurman) begins a vengeful rampage against her old associates.

In Kill Bill — Vol. 2, released in 2004, Thurman’s character comes face to face again with Bill himself. The role brought Carradine a Golden Globe nomination as best supporting actor.

Bill was a complete contrast to his TV character Kwai Chang Caine, the soft-spoken refugee from a Shaolin monastery, serenely spreading wisdom and battling bad guys in the Old West. He left after three seasons, saying the show had started to repeat itself.

After Kung Fu, Carradine starred in the 1975 cult flick Death Race 2000. He starred with Liv Ullmann in Bergman’s The Serpent’s Egg in 1977 and with his brothers in the 1980 Western The Long Riders. Tarantino’s films changed that.

“All I’ve ever needed since I more or less retired from studio films a couple of decades ago … is just to be in one,” Carradine told The Associated Press in 2004.

“There isn’t anything that Anthony Hopkins or Clint Eastwood or Sean Connery or any of those old guys are doing that I couldn’t do,” he said. “All that was ever required was somebody with Quentin’s courage to take and put me in the spotlight.”

One thing remained a constant after Kung Fu : Carradine’s interest in Oriental herbs, exercise and philosophy. He wrote a personal memoir called Spirit of Shaolin and continued to make instructional videos on tai chi and other martial arts.

In the 2004 interview, Carradine talked candidly about his past boozing and narcotics use, but said he had put all that behind him and stuck to coffee and cigarettes.

“I didn’t like the way I looked, for one thing. You’re kind of out of control emotionally when you drink that much. I was quicker to anger.”

“You’re probably witnessing the last time I will ever answer those questions,” Carradine said. “Because this is a regeneration. It is a renaissance. It is the start of a new career for me.”