Yesterday was the first day of the fourth Make: Tokyo meeting held at the Ookuyama campus of Tokyo Institute of Technology. Organized by Make Magazine, it showcases the work of inventors who are not affiliated to large companies. Instead, students, start-ups and hobbyists were there to display their work and share ideas. As you might imagine, the work ranged from the ingenious to the just plain silly, with all shades between. Here are some things that caught my eye.

The prize for most outstanding use of an everyday item had to go to Jinno for his Rainbow Engine, a beautiful kaleidoscopic machine, whose main part consisted of a disk made from Scotch Tape that, when filtered through another disk, created the beautiful display of colors you can see in the video below.

Craftive presented off a clock that allows you to travel back in time. The Photolock has a camera attached above to record images of the people who pass before it, when you turn the dial the clock goes back in time then flashes through images back up to the present moment.

Craftive also showed off ideas that hadn’t yet made it into physical prototypes, like a cushion that follows you around on wheels ready for the moment you wish to sit down. Though judging by the amount of giggling going on when the boffins were explaining their ideas, they didn’t appear to be entirely serious about the concept.

An eminently practical device came from OkometubuY. It allows you to take time-lapse shots with your DSLR camera, and costs only around ¥800 to make. A similar device would set you back ¥15,000 in a professional camera shop. Click to see some lovely movies made with the OkumetubuY camera.

Many devices were trying to interact with social networking services such as Twitter or Mixi. A sensor by Koress Project can detect whether you’re around or not and will inform your friends via Twitter if you are. I personally feel this is way too intrusive, not giving me the option to be unavailable online when I need some private time. On a more macabre, if not more practical note, the makers also claim that it can detect whether you are dead or not and said it would be a useful device for people with elderly relatives.

A cuter idea to help friends stay in touch was Coconachi from Yukai Gaku Engineering, a robotics startup company who recently enjoyed a lot of buzz on the Internet for their augmented reality game Miruku. Coconachi is an avatar that represents your friends, if your friend posts a comment on Twitter, it’ll move about, make a cute noise and flash its lights. If your friend logs off, it’ll also inform you, in an appropriately cute way of course. It can transmit a variety of emotions through sound and movement, so you’ll feel closer to your friends. The soft and squishy robot is aimed at women who wouldn’t usually be interested in such technology.

Perhaps even more loveable was this pair of cuddly creatures that attach to one’s cell phone strap or key chain from IAMAS. Lovers get one each and when they meet up can link their furry friends via the heart-shaped port. When they do so, the creatures emit purrs of satisfaction, even more titillating still, if pressed together the creatures buzz with joy. In a country where public displays of affection are frowned on, this is a way for young couples to connect physically without grossing out passersby.

As one might expect with a show that dealt mainly in prototypes, technical glitches abounded, which was a shame because I missed the change for a demonstration of Nishio Hirozaku’s  iPhone app for the Theramin. As with a normal Theramin, the device emits a sound when you wave your hands around it. You can catch a video of it working here.

Though it didn’t have any discernable practical use, this device from Research Associate Atsushi Kitani of Musashino Art University had hordes of people gathering round it just to get a chance to play. As you move your hand over the white keys, those ones in your shadow lift up. Perhaps this would be fun in a club environment?

Lastly I really loved this interactive device aimed at animators from ViVienne. Simply manipulate the cuddly bear’s motion and it appears onscreen. You can then edit or alter the motion as you see fit.

Bonus links:

More video highlights of Tokyo: Make, courtesy of TameGoesWild.

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