Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Japanese robot with soft hands chats, serves meal


TOKYO (Reuters) - A pearly white robot that looks a little like E.T. boosted a man out of bed, chatted and helped prepare his breakfast with its deft hands in Tokyo Tuesday, in a further sign robots are becoming more like their human inventors.

Twendy-One, named as a 21st century edition of a previous robot, Wendy, has soft hands and fingers that gently grip, enough strength to support humans as they sit up and stand, and supple movements that respond to human touch.

It can pick up a loaf of bread without crushing it, serve toast and help lift people out of bed.

"It's the first robot in the world with this much system integration," said Shigeki Sugano, professor of mechanical engineering at Waseda University, who led the Twendy-One project (http://twendyone.com) and demonstrated the result on Tuesday.

"It's difficult to balance strength with flexibility."


The robot is a little shorter than an average Japanese woman at 1.5 m (5 ft), but heavy-set at 111 kg (245 lb). Its long arms and a face shaped like a giant squashed bean mean it resembles the alien movie character E.T.

Twendy-One has taken nearly seven years and a budget of several million dollars to pull together all the high-tech features, including the ability to speak and 241 pressure-sensors in each silicon-wrapped hand, into the soft and flexible robot.

The robot put toast on a plate and fetched ketchup from a fridge when asked, after greeting its patient for the demonstration with a robotic "good morning" and "bon appetit."

Sugano said he hoped to develop a commercially viable robot that could help the elderly and maybe work in offices by 2015 with a price tag of around $200,000.

But for now, it is still a work in progress. Twendy-One has just 15 minutes of battery life and its computer-laden back has a tendency to overheat after each use.

"The robot is so complicated that even for us, it's difficult to get it to move," Sugano said.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Sony Releases World's 1st Organic EL TV

Tokyo, Nov 22, 2007 (Jiji Press) - Sony Corp. <6758> on Thursday put on the market the world's first organic electroluminescence (EL) display television set earlier than planned.

The organic EL TV's release was initially scheduled for Dec. 1, but Sony was able to move forward the debut date to fully promote the product for the year-end shopping season thanks to smooth production, company officials said.

The 11-inch XEL-1 TV, which is about 3 millimeters thick at its thinnest part, is available at some volume appliance retailers as well as stores specializing in Sony products. Sony hopes to sell it for 200,000 yen.

Since initial demand for the advanced TV has proved strong, some stores may face short supply, an official at a large retailer said.

But the Sony officials said the company will not boost monthly output from the current 2,000 units at least for the time being.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Experts reprogram skin cells to behave like embryonic stem cells

Researchers from Kyoto University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States said separately on Wednesday that they have each succeeded in reprogramming human skin cells to behave like embryonic stem cells, known for their ability to turn themselves into every kind of body tissue.
The converted cells have many of the physical, growth and genetic features typically found in embryonic stem cells and can differentiate to produce other tissue types including neurons and heart tissue, according to Shinya Yamanaka, a professor at the Institute for Frontier Medical Sciences at Kyoto University.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Sanyo's water-proof card-size digital TV

Sanyo's water-proof card-size digital TV

Sanyo Electric Co. says it will release a slim water-proof digital TV handset (photo) on Nov. 21 that retails for 50,000 yen in Japan. The company says the handset, which has a 4-inch screen, is designed primarily for users who want to watch TV in a bathtub and that no damage is done even if the device falls into water. (Kyodo)

Kyodo News

Friday, November 16, 2007

Honda Soltec Commemorates Opening of Solar Cell Production Plant; Accelerating Honda's Energy Creation Business

Tokyo(11/12) - Honda Soltec Commemorates Opening of Solar Cell Production Plant; Accelerating Honda's Energy Creation Business

Tokyo, Japan, Nov 12, 2007 - (JCN Newswire) - Honda Soltec Co., Ltd., Honda's wholly-owned solar cell subsidiary, today commemorated the opening of its solar cell production plant with a ceremony attended by approximately 80 dignitaries, guests and Honda officials, including Yoshiko Shiotani, the governor of Kumamoto prefecture; Junichi Mitsuyama, the deputy general manager of Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Department, Kyushu Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI); and Isao Ieiri, the mayor of Ohzu-machi; as well as Takeo Fukui, the president and CEO of Honda.

Using thin film made from a compound of copper, indium, gallium and selenium (CIGS) instead of silicon, Honda's next-generation solar cell achieves a major reduction of approximately 50% in the amount of energy consumed during the manufacturing process compared to what is required to produce conventional crystal silicon solar cells. This makes Honda's solar cell more environmentally-responsible even during the production stage.

Honda Soltec began mass production of solar cells in October, and the annual production will reach the full capacity of 27.5 megawatts (an equivalent amount of electricity to power approximately 9,000 houses) by next spring. The company has also begun sales of solar cells for homes throughout Japan with 80 distributor locations and plans to accelerate sales by increasing the number of distributor locations to more than 200 within 2008. Honda will also work to begin exports of Honda solar cells from its new operation based in Kumamoto.

In 2006, Honda announced a global CO2 reduction target for its products and the manufacturing of those products. In addition to its effort to reduce CO2 emissions, Honda is focusing on the development and sales of energy-creation products such as cogeneration units and thin film solar cells in order to further accelerate its efforts to reduce the threat of global warming.

To reduce its environmental footprint, Honda has been proactively pursuing voluntary targets to make its automobiles, motorcycles, and power products cleaner and to reduce CO2 emissions. At the same time, Honda has been committed to develop technology for a clean energy source which does not use fossil fuels. In addition to the development of new technology to produce ethanol from cellulose, and development and sales of fuel cell vehicles and household cogeneration units in Japan and the U.S., the commercialization of the next-generation solar cells enables Honda to accelerate its efforts to contribute to the realization of an environmentally-responsible and sustainable society.

Continue reading at JCNNetwork.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

New oral vaccine targets AIDS, influenza

A group of researchers has developed a new vaccine that can be taken orally and absorbed through the intestinal mucous membrane, a breakthrough expected to be used for the next generation of vaccines to tackle AIDS and influenza.

The study group was headed by Prof. Hiroshi Kiyono of Tokyo University's Institute of Medical Science. Kiyono, a specialist in mucosal immunology, focused his research on a cell that triggers the mucous membrane's immune system.

He combined a protein that targets the cell with a vaccine and tested it on a mouse.

The combined vaccine worked effectively to prevent disease agents.

In the intestines and pharynx, M cells absorb viruses, bacteria and allergens and help the immune system work.

However, because there are relatively few such cells, it has been difficult to use them for immunological purposes, with the polio vaccine among the few that can be taken orally.

However, the group found a special protein that only reacts to the M cell from the mouse's mucous membrane.

Researchers combined the protein with vaccines for tetanus and botulinum and gave them to the mouse orally. They found that the vaccine stimulated the mouse's immune system to produce enough antibodies to give it effective protection against disease.

They then gave the new vaccine to another mouse and injected it with 10,000 times the lethal dose of botulinum. The mouse survived, proving the effectiveness of the new vaccine.

(Nov. 10, 2007)


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Toshiba develops new MRAM device which opens the way to giga-bits capacity

Tokyo--Toshiba Corporation today announced important breakthroughs in key technologies for magnetoresistive random access memory (MRAM), a promising, next-generation semiconductor memory device. The company has successfully fabricated a MRAM memory cell integrating the new technologies and verified its stable performance. Full details of the new technologies were presented today at the 52nd Magnetism and Magnetic Materials Conference in Tampa, Florida, USA which is being held from November 5th to 9th.

MRAM is a highly anticipated next-generation non-volatile semiconductor memory device that offers fast random write/access speeds, enhances endurance in operation with very low power consumption. MRAM can theoretically achieve high level integration as the memory cell structure is relatively simple.

In making these major advances, Toshiba applied and proved the spin transfer switching and perpendicular magnetic anisotropy (PMA) technologies in a magnetic tunnel junction, which is a key component in the memory cell.

Spin transfer switching uses the properties of electron spin to invert magnetization and writes data at very low power levels. It is widely regarded as a major candidate among next-generation principles for new memory devices. PMA aligns magnetization in the magnetic layer perpendicularly, either upward or downward, rather than horizontally as in in-plane shape anisotropy layers. The technology is being increasingly used to enhance for storage capacity for high-density hard disc drives (HDDs), and Toshiba has successfully applied it to a semiconductor memory device. With PMA data write operation and magnetic switching can be achieved at a low energy level. Toshiba also overcame the hurdle of achieving the required precision in the interface process and significantly cutting write power consumption.

In order to realize a miniature memory cell based on PMA, Toshiba optimized the materials and device structure of the new MRAM. Close observation of performance confirms stable operation (see the diagram for full explanation of structure).

Toshiba will further enhance development toward establishing fundamental technologies within the coming years.

Development of the new MRAM technologies was partly supported by grants from Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO).

Monday, November 05, 2007

Secret of Solar Cell System on Mitsubishi 'i MiEV' Sport

Mitsubishi's "i MiEV Sport" concept car (Tech-On!)

"I knew someone would point it out," said a Mitsubishi attendant in response to my question.

Mitsubishi Motor Corp is drawing interest by displaying its "i MiEV Sport" concept electric vehicle equipped with a thin-film solar cell system at the 40th Tokyo Motor Show. I was interested in the thin-film cells' fat wires like those in crystal Si cells. So I asked the booth attendant about it, and he gave me a secret of the solar cell system, starting with the phrase above.

The solar cell system mounted on the i MiEV Sport is a 13%-efficiency CIGS system. CIGS and other thin-film solar cells use extremely slim wires and usually look black. The objects on the i MiEV Sport that looked like wires are, in fact, not wires, the attendant said.

When it comes to solar cells, many consumers think of crystal Si type, which features outstanding fat wires. Therefore, Mitsubishi discussed with designers and added lines that are compared to wires so the system can be easily recognized as a solar system.

Mitsubishi chose thin-film type instead of crystal Si type because of its slimness and shock resistance. Furthermore, the company was attracted by the logical possibility of increasing conversion rates and therefore chose CIGS type among thin-film solar cell technologies.

The latest prototype can drive 20km per 1-week charge. This is, however, not worth the cost of a solar cell system. The company expects the solar cell system manufacturer to lower system costs further, Mitsubishi said.

The manufacturer of the CIGS solar cells has not been specified. The attendant, however, stressed the cells were "CIS type, not CIGS." In Japan, Honda Motor Co Ltd calls the same technology CIGS, while Showa Shell Solar KK calls it CIS.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Gasoline car converted to run on solar power

Those clever Japanese scientists have been at it again, working hard to find answers to problems we never knew existed. This time, they’ve come up with a way to convert dirty old normal cars into clean, green electric vehicles.

The breakthrough comes to us courtesy of the Total Mobility Project, a scheme intended to prepare for the rapid aging of Japan’s population and led by the local government of Fukushima Prefecture, which lies 300km north of Tokyo.

Using a Mazda Roadster as a test bed [Subscription link], the team has succeeded in removing the engine and gas tank and replacing them with an electric motor and battery. After slapping seven solar panels across the hood of the car, they found it able to run for 30km at a top speed of 100km/h.

As for cost, the conversion ran to a hefty ¥2.5 million ($21,000), but the bright side is that drivers doing a daily average of 60km can expect to save ¥1 million ($8,400) over five years.

Article 100% copy and pasted from Digitalworldtokyo.com
Visit this site to see the picture of this vehicle.