September 1, 2011
UEI was proud to sponsor Fukushima Game Jam, and two-day event that took place simultaneously in Fukushima, Tokyo, and Fukuoka. The participants? High school and college-age game creators. Their mission? To split into teams of two and create a complete game in 30 hours. The goal? To promote a theme of “connection” with victims of the tragedy in Fukushima.
But why tell you when I can show you? Here’s a video of the event as it unfolded at the NII satellite campus in Tokyo:
Be sure to play the finished games at http://9leap.net/!
The next Game Jam is in January…mark your calendars for another marathon of little sleep and lots of creativity!
August 19, 2011
UEI is proud to unveil a new home screen application for Android co-developed with cell phone giant Softbank!
Softbank is known for its iPhone success, but its Android offerings have also enjoyed excellent reception. Unlike the largely rigid iPhone interface, Android allows users to tweak and personalize the home screen to their heart’s content. With this in mind, UEI designed “Himasele,” the ultimate interface for geeks who love to personalize their smartphones.
“Hima” is the Japanese word for “free” or “unoccupied,” and “sele” is short for “Select.” Hence, “Himasele” is the ultimate tool for making free time productive!
A simple flick allows users to easily toggle between RSS feeds and thumbnail-sized images.
What’s more, this interface even enjoys touch-screen functionality on the flip phone 007SH:
We can credit much of this unique, cyber punk-inspired interface to UEI’s own Sho Yamazaki. “Himasele” was developed over a comparatively short period of time, Sho reveals, and as a result programmers had to work particularly hard to refine the product. The application delivers on all fronts, particularly with its easy access to Twitter-enabled 9leap games. Sho is also proud to point out the unique red-toned interface, a fresh look for such a home screen. Users can choose green as well, but red “isn’t used often in cyber punk” and thus presented a fresh challenge. The goal was to create the impression of “something familiar, but at the same time unlike anything you’d seen before.”
Sho promises many more features (especially new 9leap features!) to be added in the near future. Stay tuned!
June 28, 2011
UEI and NTT Docomo, Japan’s premier mobile phone operator, are pleased to present the jointly developed Android home application “docomo Palette UI.” The new application is designed to provide an intuitive interface solution for Android, with a fully customizable design. Users can cut through the clutter of multiple applications by grouping their favorites into groups such as “Recent,” “Entertainment,” and more. Colors and naming for group bars are also fully customizable.
Docomo Palette UI will come loaded onto NTT Docomo’s most popular devices, including the “MEDIA WP N-06C,” “GALAXY S II SC-02C,” and the “AQUOS PHONE f SH-13C,” to be released in July or August.
Docomo Palette UI utilizes UEI’s microZEKE middleware, which makes interactions between various Android applications possible.
For the original Japanese press release on docomo Palette UI, please see: http://www.atpress.ne.jp/view/21185
In partnership with Dentsu, UEI will create “BANG: 100 Million Mines,” a societal contribution game designed to draw attention to the plight of Cambodians facing one landmine for every man, woman, and child in their country. The mobile game will bring this plight home, re-imagining Japan as a wasteland with 100 million landmines buried underfoot. Players will use their smartphones to seek out and disarm the buried traps, and in the process will be encouraged to donate to actual relief efforts in Cambodia. By using gameplay to solve a real-world problem, we are placing ourselves on the cutting edge of “gamification,” a process by which daily life is infused with the gaming process.
Now, here’s the catch: in order to promote this endeavor at TEDxTokyo, Dentsu and UEI had less than a single night to design the game, program a demo, and create a 30 second video to send to Mr. Mizuguchi.
And so it was that team members from UEI and Dentsu gathering together at 9 p.m. at the Akihabara Research Center (ARC, a penthouse-esque extension of the UEI headquarters) for an all-night adventure. The team gathered around a table, consulted on Skype with Mr. Mizuguchi, and then got to work:
First on the agenda was selecting a title. The requirements of appealing to both Japanese and English sensibilities led to much head-scratching before we finally settled on “BANG: 100 Million Mines:”
With this accomplished, our talented programmers set to work making a short demo of the game. As they labored away, Dentsu’s copywriters sat down and together we storyboarded the sequence of events in the video. 30 seconds may seem short, but if used properly a complex message can be conveyed in that time:
Finally, with dawn creeping over the horizon, we shot the video and edited it together, working feverishly to meet our 11 a.m. deadline.
What happened at 11 a.m., you ask? Well, that would be when we presented the finished product to Mr. Mizuguchi over Skype. To our great relief, he took an instant liking to it. And, one week later, he was on stage at TED, delivering his trademark blend of wit and insight. Watch for the “BANG” video near the very end:
Thank you, Mr. Mizuguchi, for this fantastic opportunity, and thank you Dentsu for your hard work during a long and very fun evening!
They lurk in your local high schools and convenience stores. Their innocuous garb and unassuming appearance belies their true nature. When you recognize them for what they really are, it may already be too late.
I’m referring, of course, to the next generation of game developers! (what did you think I was talking about?!)
UEI is proud to partner with D2 Communications (a creation of NTT Docomo and Dentsu) to present 9leap, a contest to discover the next generation of talented Japanese mobile game creators. Games should be designed for a mobile platform by Japanese programmers from elementary school age through age 25. The contest will run twice, once from May 1 to August 31 and again from September 1 to December 31. Contestants may submit as many games as they like, and all games submitted will be available to download and play from the official site.
Prizes include the latest MacBook Pro and MacBook Air models. The top three game designers will win a free trip to the 2012 Game Developers Contest.
So if you’re young and Japanese, get those games comin’! The official 9leap site can be found at http://9leap.net/.
Even if you can’t read Japanese, please click on some of the games and give them a try. I think that you’ll agree with me that they’re highly addictive.
April 5, 2011
A year ago, pundits were declaring that 2010 would be the year of the tablet. They foresaw an army of razzle-dazzle-kaboom touch screen toys sweeping through the stuffy landscape of notebook and desktop computing. We all know how well those prophecies turned out…100% accurate, provided you consider the iPad the only tablet in the game.
Fortunately, 2011 looks to be a bit more varied…and UEI is proud to position itself on the cutting edge of the tablet revolution.
This summer NEC will release the first dual screen tablet for Android, based on an idea from UEI. Our latest Zeptopad release, Zeptopad FOLIO, is one of the tablet’s central apps. Please enjoy the video above for a preview of what it has to offer.
Here is a transcript of Ryo Shimizu’s remarks about FOLIO at SXSW:
“Let’s imagine computers of the future.
This week saw the advent of the iPad 2.The first iPad was a tremendous hit, and we can surely expect the same from its follow—up. Needless to say, the iPad 2 is extremely impressive. It combines astonishing CPU and GPU power. Countless users were dazzled by its fluid touch screen capabilities. Less than a year after it went on sale, the iPad has become a common site in the arms of passerby. This is an astonishing achievement.
So, what’s next?
As the iPad and its imitators get thinner and lighter, faster and more efficient, what will come after them? Today I’d like to consider the issue.
The iPad seems destined to grow thinner and thinner. We can eventually expect an iPad virtually indistinguishable from paper. However, if it becomes too thin it will be difficult to use, so we can expect it to grow thin while maintaining a degree of sturdiness.
What happens when it reaches this ideal point of thinness? The existing iPad is too big for a lady’s handbag.
We can expect developing technology to solve the thickness issue. What about the tablet’s straight, flat shape?
Here’s my idea: FOLIO.
It folds just like books and memo pads, with two screens. Here’s the prototype for this concept. You can use it freely, maintaining your privacy even in a public place.
This at last fulfills the promise of an electric bookshelf. Countless numbers of books have been printed on paper. The Amazon Kindle offers some 1,000,000 titles. But paper book titles extend well into the tens of millions. Not all of these were made to be read one page at a time. For instance, comics and textbooks lose much of their meaning when presented in a single page format.
A two-screened tablet would preserve these works in a new form. I can envision a near future in which the Oxford English Dictionary defines “Paper” as synonymous with “Touch Screen.”
Let’s toss a stone at the giant.
The weakest point of the otherwise splendid iPad is its keyboard. When presented sideways it covers half the screen, and in vertical mode it is extremely difficult to use. The very first iPad commercials featured users lounging on couches, propping iPads up on their legs. Can anyone really relax like that?
A two-screen tablet could be used just like a PC, with its lower half functioning as a keyboard. This eliminates an uncomfortable posture and any fears of back pain.
If I were to name one other defect in the nearly impeccable iPad, it would be its lack of refinement. In pointing this out I feel a bit like the small child calling out the naked Emperor for his “new clothes.” But I suspect that you will all agree with me.
I’m referring to its inability to use a pen.
Is a stylus a bad thing? Is the finger still man’s first and best tool? Jobs has made these assertions. And I don’t disagree. But, how about it, really? Isn’t writing with one’s finger something like playing in a sandbox? If you go to Elementary School, the first thing you learn is the use of a pen. People have used pens for thousands of years, refining our history with them. When you make a purchase at the Apple Store, what’s the one uncomfortable moment? That’s right: signing. The transactions are made on iPhones and require you to sign with your finger.
Can one lead a complete lifestyle without a pen? Of course not.
That’s why school begins with the alphabet, followed by exercises in handwriting. Will people lose this storied and ancient ability all for the sake of one high-tech tablet? The thought is an arrogant one to say the least. This is why we think the next generation’s “paper” will require a pen to go with it. When using a pen at the computer, what sticks out most?
Verification of characters.
I feel that time spent waiting for confirmation of handwritten letters is time wasted. And no matter how much accuracy improves, I doubt it will be sufficient. This is because handwriting possesses its own unique flavor, capturing the emotions and thoughts of the writer.
Leonardo DaVinci excelled at mirror writing, which Richard Feynman invented his own unique symbols based on trigonometric functions.
This is true creativity. Creativity on a keyboard is an oxymoron.
Allow me to interject an idea. Why do we have to identify characters in the first place? For one, simply because they’re beautiful. If that’s all you’re after, use the keyboard that God gave you. The other is a far more important trademark feature: the ability to search. However, if search is your priority, there generally isn’t a need to perfectly recognize every character. I’m referring to recognizing writing not as letters but as an image, and searching for it as such. This means that even DaVinci’s mirror writing or Sumerian cuneiforms would be recognized in a search. And if you absolutely must have a clean hand written copy, that feature is included as well. But most people would use FOLIO just like a paper note, recognizing writing as images to save and search for. This recognition engine is quite efficient, allowing not merely reading and clean copies of characters but other helpful features.
For instance, drawing circles and squares.
Even if scrawled out roughly, the tablet makes them smooth and accurate. Computers are marvelous.
Of course Apple realized this same demo feature in 1993 with Newton. But here’s the difference. If you wish to draw a mind map, you can drag out a fresh note from inside this circle. It doesn’t merely recognize this shape as a circle, but gives it a whole new meaning. And not just that.Let’s draw a few parallel and horizontal lines. It recognizes this as a spreadsheet.Input numbers into the cells, and circle a few cells with your pen, and the total appears.It’s just like Excel’s SUM function, but without a keyboard. Clever listeners will realize that these few features solve most daily needs. And we’re patenting this design.
Still, paper notes are splendid creations.Consider this Moleskine. This Italian notepad was used by Chatwin, Picasso, Van Gogh, Hemingway, and even Indiana Jones’ father Henry Jones, Sr. This is truly the tool of great authors. Paper notepads are splendid not just because of their ease of use and portability. You can paste pictures and maps in the pages, add memos, and insert your own creativity. This FOLIO prototype features these same features.21st century creators can open a virtual map and cut and paste a selection of their choice. They can then write notes and pictures on the map to their liking. Web pages are the same. Cut a selection from a web page with the cutter. Then paste it to a note and use it freely.
This FOLIO is just a prototype, but we have plans to introduce them experimentally into the market this spring. Currently, NEC has provided the hardware, while we supplied the software and concept. Although we are still far from perfection, we believe that the ultimate shape of tablets lies in two screens. We are proud to dually present this concept with NEC. Both the hardware and software will be subject to further refinement.We hope to eventually widen our offerings to S, M, and L form factors, as well as full sized computerized blackboards and desks.
Thank you for listening.”
Stay tuned for more updates about Zeptopad FOLIO!
March 13, 2011
Update: New Photos from Help Save Japan at SXSW
The Help Save Japan at SXSW fundraiser proved an astounding success, with attendees generously sharing both monetary donations and emotional support. All money raised will be given to the Red Cross to help rebuild Japan.
Here’s a quick peak at some of the lighter moments from the donation table.
Hidemi and Kang-san in their traditional (?) Japanese garb. For mysterious reasons, these two lovely ladies earned far more donations than the men did:
Japan Nite tour producer Audrey Kimura, whose tireless efforts made the fundraiser a reality:
Dr. Serkan Toto of TechCrunch, who generously donated about $200 in cash despite a sudden ear infection:
Mr. Iguchi and Mr. Shimizu, showing their Japanese pride:
Our sincere thanks to everyone who contributed. We will be forever grateful to the love and support you have shown to Japan.
Greetings, readers. Today the UEI team finds itself in Austin, TX, preparing to exhibit at the SXSW Trade Show. In light of the devastating earthquakes and tsunami in Japan, however, we are refocusing our efforts to help encourage donations for quake victims.
Here is a translation of CEO Ryo Shimizu’s blog post. The original can be found here: http://wise9.jp/2011/03/13/wise9-uei-tonchidot-sxsw/
wise9, UEI, and Tonchidot Team Up to Gather Quake Relief Donations from Overseas
How is everyone?
As I wrote yesterday, I am currently at America’s largest music/film/interactive entertainment event, South by Southwest (SXSW).
This event saw the debut of such recent hit services as Twitter and Foursquare, and is a focal point for internet services around the world.
I had planned to use this event as an opportunity to introduce a two-screened Android tablet application, FOLIO, jointly developed with NEC.
However, as you all know Japan has just experienced an earthquake of unprecedented proportions.
At the request of famed Sekai Camera creator and Tonchidot Corporation president Mr. Iguchi (@iguchiJP), SXSW’s Japanese guest gathered for a morning meeting.
With the full cooperation of the SXSW management, Tonchidot and UEI agreed to solicit relief donations at their booths, with a special booth and TV also prepared separately in SXSW to encourage contributions on a large scale.
That evening a party had been in the works to promote Tonchidot’s latest service, domo, and Mr. Iguchi proposed that we use it as an opportunity to launch our donation activities.
“Alright, let’s go buy a printer and start making posters and stickers!”
We wanted to show words of support from the American community…but in Japanese…so we enlisted UEI’s first American employee Eric to write the above message on iShodo.
Talented artist Hidemi then turned this into a poster.
Two hours passed.
We stopped by an electronics store, picked up CANNON’s smallest available printer, the iP100, and made some posters. And stickers.
We posted this message outside the event site.
Help Save Japan Text “RedCross” to 90999
This got considerable attention.
Many people texted the Red Cross on the spot.
To our surprise, there were other Americans at SXSW soliciting relief donations.
We decided to join forces.
Here’s a pic of the event site.
The plan was to sell Tonchidot’s latest service, but we projected recorded broadcasts from NHK and a slideshow of quake illustrations I made on the wall instead. The mood was dampened a bit.
Mr. Iguchi got up on stage to encourage charity donations.
Say what you want about him when he released Sekai Camera, but he was really terrific here. Not many people can do what he did under such circumstances.
We prepared a donation box for people who felt more comfortably giving directly than over the phone.
Mr. Iguchi and I plan to donate the collected money to the Red Cross.
However, we did not receive many donations simply by setting the box there.
Mr. Iguchi also enthusiastically encouraged listeners.
I have to do something as well.
Make no mistake: in truth, I have had a rather bad image of charities and donations. I like the idea of giving but not donations collected in the street.
I planned right from the start to deliver my work money, earned while soliciting donations, to charity.
That was of course my plan. To give the money I earned and saved in Japan.
But that by itself is worth little.
My loved ones are in peril, while I can do nothing in this faraway country, I realized. Soliciting donations is all that I can do.
I considered various plans, like giving our proceeds from AppStore apps and our GREE game “Elysium in the Sky,” but either one would require a 30% handling fee, and it would be better for GREE to use its own donation system.
That’s why, however feeble my efforts may be, no matter how strange or dubious I may look, I saw no choice but to encourage donations from Americans and those who escaped harm.
Happily, the event is drawing many people to Austin.
We can surely do something.
No matter how actively Americans donate, to them this is just another disaster in a foreign country.
To protect our countrymen, we have a duty to send a message.
Even a single dollar will suffice. All I can do is gather together money at the moment.
We also made a Facebook page.
In just a few hours it got 100 fans.
But right before our eyes, people ignored Mr. Iguchi, drinking and enjoying themselves. This is to be expected. They came to enjoy themselves. They had no plans to get involved in a charity event.
“Let’s do it,” I said.
No matter how clumsily, let’s solicit some donations.
And then everywhere, everywhere around the room, we went around telling people “Help Japan.”
People contributed enthusiastically.
Suddenly I came across my old Austin friend, Conrad.
“Ryo, you alright?”
“I saw your Facebook page. I’m encouraging my friends to donate too. You can donate by texting this?”
“Hey, and here’s a donation box. I gave 20 dollars.”
“Thank you so much, Conrad!”
Other people also encouraged our contributions.
“I’m gonna take a photo of this donation box and post it to Twitter. Maybe some other people will pitch in.”
“Great idea. I’ll post it on Facebook.”
Everyone photographed the box.
Though perhaps not the best environment to begin with, people got into the movement.
This is the beginning of something.
Tomorrow we will get a special donation space at SXSW.
I hinted at this earlier, but I didn’t think much of Mr. Iguchi when Sekai Camera came out.
When the iPhone came out, a world as pictured in the concept video was impossible.
I openly mocked the concept.
I had only studied AR for a year at University of Tokyo Graduate School, and was proud of learning about Japanese Virtual and Augmented Reality from the expert.
In my pride I considered Sekai Camera to be amateurish and out of date.
In truth, the same concept had been presented 10 years previously by Sharp and Sony CSL.
I had avoided Mr. Iguchi, and even declined appeared together at Nikkei BP event.
Sekai Camera has vastly improved. But I still harbored ill feelings. Mr. Iguchi, for his part, did not seem to reciprocate them at all.
In the face of this crisis Mr. Iguchi has shown himself to be a magnificent man who I humble show my respect to.
In the face of Japan’s greatest crisis, we must momentarily forget our jobs and hobbies, opinions and prejudices, and join our brothers to restore our great country.
I humbly thank him for his support and love.