OMOTE / REAL-TIME FACE TRACKING & PROJECTION MAPPING

Article by Chris Davies from slashgear

Projecting computer graphics onto buildings or rooms to make them digitally come alive isn’t new, but how about if your canvas is a living, moving, human face? Omote does just that, a combination of real-time face tracking and projection mapping that takes a model’s face and turns it into something far more mesmerizing, even as it moves around.

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It’s the incredible handiwork of a team led by Nobumichi Asai, which brings together digital designers, CGI experts, and make-up artists. Combined, they create what seems to be the electronic equivalent of makeup.

Technical details are scant at this stage, unfortunately. Judging by the video below, however, there’s an initial scanning stage – in which presumably the contours of the model’s face are mapped – and then the graphics are overlaid and manipulated in real-time to follow.

Asai is no stranger to projection mapping, having worked with Subaru and other companies in the past to put CGI onto everything from cars through docks to buildings. Most of the time, however, the subject of the projection is stationary.

It’s not clear how much movement the system could handle – for instance, if it could be used even if the model was walking around a stage rather than seated – but it’s an incredibly impressive demonstration all the same.

Meanwhile, Microsoft is known to be working on its own projection-based immersive environment, dubbed IllumiRoom, which expands Xbox One games from out of the TV and to cover the rest of the room’s surfaces.

Cat cafés in Japan

Article by Brian Ashcraft from Kotaku

Japan has loads of cat cafes. Loads. Many of them look the same—like coffee shops with cats or, even, like somebody’s apartment with, well, cats.

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For many Tokyoites, an evening after work spent in a “neko cafe” (cat cafe) sounds purrfect. The metropolis is home to several dozen of these cafes, which charge patrons by the hour to play with cats.

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For regulars, the cafes offer a place to unwind and play with cats, while they sip coffee. Many urban apartments do not permit pets, meaning that pet lovers are left without furry friends to call their own. The neko cafes fill that void.

Pet lovers often describe the joy their animals give them. Those living in environments that do not permit pets yearn for that interaction.

“It’s a great place, it calms the stresses of working life,” Ayumi Sekigushi, 23, told Reuters about her favorite cat cafe.

An example of cat café is Temari no Ouchi which looks like something out of a Studio Ghibli anime.

Located in Tokyo’s Kichijoji, the cafe opened last year. There’s a 1,200 yen ($11.81) entrance fee on weekdays and a 1,500 yen ($14.80) one on weekends and holidays. Once inside, there is an array of foods and beverages that can be ordered (of course, for additional fees).

What’s neat about this cafe is that it really looks like it was influenced by Studio Ghibli anime. There’s space for the cats to wander about and play, as well as explore and relax, which, as these types of cafes go, seems to be good for the animals.

Below you can see photos of Temari no Ouchi via websites AsItShouldBe, Buu Buu no Blog and the cafe’s official Facebook page (all the images are from the cafe’s Facebook except where noted):

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Obsession with Manhole covers – Japan

Article from Amusing Planet

One of the coolest attraction in Japan lies beneath the feet. All across the country, manhole covers are custom made for individual towns and cities and they are colorfully painted. Designs ranges from images of cultural history, from flora and fauna, to landmarks and local festivals, to fanciful images dreamed up by school children.

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The trend started in the 1980s when Japan wanted to standardize their sewer system. Until then, Japan used regular geometric shaped manhole covers similar to those used in other countries. As communities outside of Japan’s major cities were slated to receive new sewer systems these public works projects were met with resistance. One dedicated bureaucrat solved the problem by allowing the town folk to choose their own design. Today nearly 95 percent of the 1,780 municipalities in Japan sport their own specially designed manhole covers.

The art of manhole covers has now reached the point of a national obsession in Japan with numerous municipal departments competing against each other in the pursuit of the perfect manhole cover. The designs are manufactured by a municipal foundry where they are cast and created. The city or council will submit ideas and the symbol of choice to the foundry and their in-house designers will then create a design based on these specifications, going back and forth until the design is approved. The foundry will then cast a prototype before doing the final cast. These manhole covers are made of metal, as opposed to European manhole covers, which are typically constructed of pre-cast concrete. After the covers have been cast the carved wooden masters are saved in an enormous central library.

One of the first books celebrating this unique form of art is Drainspotting, penned by Remo Camerota. The English book published a few years back details the history of these manholes, along with several pictures of some of the best designs.

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Japan – Dining alone without dining alone

Photos and article by CNN

(CNN) — Talk about creative coping mechanisms for being alone —
To save its lone customers from the awkward perils of solo dining, the Moomins House cafe kindly seats diners with stuffed animal companions called Moomins, a family of white hippo-like characters created by Finnish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson.

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Moomins are brought to each table so that patrons — solo or in groups — can have a turn sitting with them.

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Moomintroll (L) and his girlfriend the Snork Maiden hope for a double date.

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Weekday mornings are the quietest time, while weekends are packed all day long.

While there are three Moomin Cafe locations in Japan, the Tokyo Dome cafe is popular with Dome concert goers.

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Moomin House Cafe features bread made from Finnish rye and food in the shape of Moomin characters, such as Hattifattener cookies (pictured).

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This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Moomins creator, Tove Jansson, who was born in 1914 and died in 2001.

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Happy in Harajuku

Harajuku, Tokyo is known internationally as a center of Japanese youth culture and fashion. Shopping and dining options include many small, youth oriented, independent boutiques and cafés, but the neighborhood also attracts many larger international chain stores with high-end luxury merchandisers extensively represented along Omotesando – Wikipaedia

You will find youth dressed up in different styles and times.

Here are examples:

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Had been there and really, who can’t help being happy there?

Following is a video with music from Pharell Williams.

Baskin Robbins – Ice Cream dolls in Japan

Photo: Gigazine, cowardlion|Shutterstock

To contact the author of this post, write to bashcraftATkotaku.com or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.

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In Japan, March 3 is Girl’s Day (雛祭り or “Hinamatsuri”). It’s a doll festival. To celebrate, Baskin Robbins is releasing a set of five ice cream “dolls.” Delicious!

Here is how the real dolls are displayed during Hinamatsuri. The dolls represent the Emperor and Empress—as well as their attendants.

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And now, in ice cream form, with images courtesy of Gigazine:

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Each is made from one of five flavors: Nutty Cream Cheese Brownie, Love in Berry, Orange Sorbet, Love Struck Cheese Cake, and Oreo Chocolate Mint. The set is priced at 1,540 yen (US$15).

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サーティーワンのひな祭りメニュー「ひなだんかざり」を食べてみました [Gigazine]

Photo: Gigazine, cowardlion|Shutterstock

To contact the author of this post, write to bashcraftATkotaku.com or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.

Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Amasan – the sea women of Japan

Amasan (ama means sea women in Japanese while san is a salutation of respect) , are free divers for shellfish and pearls in the waters of Pacific Ocean, mostly in Japan’s Mie Prefecture, about 300km south-west of Tokyo.

The amasan’s work is believed to be at least 2,000 years old and is part of Japan’s enduring folklore and legend.

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References to the ama exist in famous texts such as the 8th century Man’yoshu collection of Japanese poetry and Sei Shonagon’s Pillow Book from the 10th century. The ama are also depicted in ukiyo-e woodblock prints from the Edo period (1603-1868) and have influenced Western popular culture thanks to their practice of diving semi-naked up until the introduction of modern wetsuits in the 1970s.

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From the subtly erotic woodblock prints of the 18th-century master Utamaro Kitagawa to the voyeuristic “documentaries” and titillating B-movies of the 1950s and ’60s, the romanticised ama became the pin-up girls of their time. Sassy, tanned, athletic and confident, the ama captured the imagination of film-makers, photographers, novelists and storytellers.

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One, Kissy Suzuki, “married” Agent 007 James Bond in the 1967 film, You Only Live Twice, while novelist Yukio Mishima penned Shiosai (The Sound of Waves), a classic Japanese romantic love story filmed no fewer than five times since it was first published in 1954. But the era of the ama as seductive sea nymphs is long past.

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This article adapted from SilverKris newsletter is written by RODERICK EIME.