Digital | ON: TECH

Listen to the sound of new technology

by Chiho Komoriya

Bathe yourself in music

Singing in the shower, one of the private pleasures of daily bathing that many of us enjoy, is far better when you have musical accompaniment, which isn’t that easy when there’s so much water around threatening to destroy any electrical equipment you may consider using. Portable speakers, too, often don’t quite cut through the sound of running water or splashing about. But what if you could turn your bathtub into a speaker?

The Docodemo Speaker and Bath Capsule set does just that. Gadget company BoCo’s Docodemo Speaker is a small bluetooth device that works like bone-conduction ear buds by vibrating whatever its sitting on to amplify sound and turn it into a speaker.

According to the developer, it’s particularly good for acoustic and wooden instrument bass notes, which don’t always translate well through ordinary speakers. Now the company has developed a Bath Capsule in which you can place the Docodemo Speaker to make it completely waterproof. This means it’s not just safe to use while showering, but you can even drop it into a full bathtub and immerse yourself into the music.

Currently, the Docodemo Speaker and Bath Capsule set is only available on Makuake, where the crowdfunding campaign has already achieved more than six times its target. The cheapest options are gone, but you can still get one for ¥20,700.

www.makuake.com/project/boco (Japanese only)

Hey Hikari

In 2016, startup tech company Gatebox released a limited production virtual assistant that, like Amazon Alexa or Siri, could control smart appliances and retrieve information for its user. Unlike the other devices, however, Gatebox’s virtual assistant was a holographic moving animation of a female character called Azuma Hikari, who lived in a glass case, spoke to her user, and cost a hefty ¥300,000.

Only 300 of those virtual assistants were made, with around another 40 made and sold a year later. Now Gatebox is releasing a newer model for mass production at the slightly more affordable price of ¥162,000.

The new version has a slimmer design and like the original it has cameras, a microphone and motion sensors. However, it now also has face and voice recognition, a dual microphone that allows her to hear you better from a further distance and improved camera performance that makes interaction with Azuma more intimate (she makes more eye contact and will smile directly at you). This may all sound a little creepy, especially since Azuma can also text you via messaging app Line to see what time you’re coming home and then welcome you back when she sees you, but she does have other, more useful, functions: She can control smart home devices via Bluetooth, others via infrared and offer information, like weather reports.

The new Gatebox device is being released in October with a trial version of Azuma, but in December, when an official version of her character is released, she’ll have extra features including better dialogue and the option of celebrating anniversaries with her.

Of course, no assistant works for free. In addition to paying for the device, it will cost ¥1,620 per month for Azuma’s services, though Gateway is currently offering it for free until the end of March 2019. For more information on pre-ordering, visit the website below.

gateboxlab.com (Japanese only)

Sutras at the push of a button

Many in Japan still follow Buddhist customs, but it seems fewer people are continuing the practice of chanting sutras. Telecommunications and video products company Let’s Corporation aim to help more people bring Buddhist sutras into the home, with its Okyoto Portable Speaker.

This slightly somber rechargeable speaker was designed to not look out of place at a family altar, with an LED light that emulates the flickering flame of a candle in its base.

You can start a chant simply by pressing the power button at the top and then adjust the volume using the surrounding buttons. Deliberately simple so that the elderly don’t have any issues using it, the speaker comes pre-loaded with sutras, which can also be custom chosen when purchasing.

Priced at ¥8.164, this is a Bluetooth gadget, too, so if paired with another device, it’s also a reasonably priced speaker that you can use to play sounds other than sutras.

www.lets-co.jp/lets/top/news/okyoto_press.html (Japanese only)