Designing Tokyo: The most mind-blowing things we saw at Tokyo Design Week 2016

The Product/81 team was able to put our inspiration search into overdrive thanks to coincidence of arriving during what feels like festival season in Tokyo. We’ve stumbled upon everything from Jamaican Fest to Ramen Fest, but the two most productive finds so far have been the Good Design Exhibition in Ropongi Hills and Tokyo Design Week.

Although both festivals were not necessarily dedicated to tech as they featured things like consumer goods, furniture and even developments in paper – we found a few things that really had us feeling like we took a glimpse into the future and a few others that were just cool. 

1. Mind control curtains

 As we explored the Good Design exhibits in the Midtown Tokyo mall, a maze of billowing white curtains on the back lawn caught our attention. Not only because the structure held together by a metal framework appeared to be opening and closing on its own,  but because of the line of people waiting to stand on a podium facing the curtains facing the display.  We learned that a simple,  geeky looking headset connected to an iPad could track the brainwaves of participants, allowing them to open and close the curtains based on their level of concentration. The appropriate reaction is,  “get the ‘eff outta here.”  We each took turns and although with some delayed results, the system did in fact work. Although similar games have been on the market for a while, we had never experience it on this scale. Once this technology is perfected it could have limitless applications – controlling the devices you interact with in daily life with just a thought. 

2. E-Paper Accessories 

On sight this simple white display by Sony seemed like one of the many smartwatch setups at the fair. We get it,  they’re the future. We still can’t get exited about anything besides the Apple watch. But then we noticed that the watches, along with all the other fashion accessories like bags and glasses were changing colors and patterns on their own. Holy shit. The technology is an e-paper, similar to what’s in a Kindle for example.  This might seem fun yet trivial on the surface, and the items themselves were not very cool, but think of the application on a large scale. Instant and unlimited customization to any surface. 

3. Synesthesia Suit 

This prototype was produced for multi sensory VR game called Res Infinite by the Keio University School of Media Design. The suit contains 26 actuators that vibrate along the body to simultaneous music and lights. But the suit is way more than a haptic feedback setup that just rumbles or vibrants. The really fascinating part was that actuators mimic  the feel of any surfaces, like the roughness of sandpaper or the bumpiness of cobblestones to a really high degree of accuracy. The suit is part of the university’s Embodied Media project that focuses on future media technology and how they create human experiences. 

4. The Standing Chair

There’s not much to the Tatiisu standing chair.  We would’ve called it the leany-thing because that’s pretty much what it is. But once you try it you realize just how ingenious and useful it is. The chair is design to encourage standup work for desk or manufacturing workers while still being comfortable – people that are either standing or sitting for long periods of time. This has longterm health benefits and we could easily see it becoming a standard piece of office furniture.

5.  The Music Mimic

It’s just weird. A curved, cadaverous finger tapping away on its own. But once you program your rhythm into the tapboard and maybe slide a little xylophone under the finger, the result is pretty fun. The creator couldn’t exactly explain the applications of his invention outside of “music,” but that could’ve just been the language barrier. Still, the music mimic had us do a double-take as something we’d never seen before.

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