Japanese brands and agencies are upping their presence at SXSW in an apparent aim to raise their international positioning as innovators.
In a relatively down-to-earth example, Yamaha will present an example of AI applied to music. Developed with Hakuhodo i-Studio, the installation, entitled ‘Duet with Yoo’, uses technology to create an AI partner to complement a musician on the piano.
The software provides real-time analysis of the musician’s performance and creates a harmonised ensemble along with on-screen displays. Participants at SXSW will have the chance to sample it by playing ‘Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star’, according to Hakuhodo i-Studio.
The installation is an example of advertising agencies playing a more active role in product development for their clients. Dentsu is also making its debut at SXSW this year with four conceptual technology projects.
The initiatives are outlandish to varying degrees. One is a contribution to the world of printed ‘food’, billed as ‘sushi teleportation’. A printer stores food-related data with the aim of recreating nutrients, textures and flavours. It's part of a broader concept in conjunction with Yamagata University, Open Meals, that envisages sending food over vast distances, such as from earth to astronauts in space.
Another, Lunavity, is a suit developed with the University of Tokyo that apparently gives the wearer supreme jumping ability. Dentsu describes it matter-of-factly as "a personal device for augmenting jumping skills". Given its size, it may not be quite ready for the basketball court, but it's an intriguing continuation of Dentsu's experimentation with robotics. Over the last few years, the company has also developed two androids as serious stand-ins for Japanese celebrities.
Another still, TVX, which has more obvious connections to Dentsu's heritage, is somewhat reminiscent of Poltergeist. It's a system that lets the TV, or specifically TV programs, take control of the viewer’s environment. If you've ever wondered what your children's toys think of your entertainment choices, this one's for you.
“By overlaying a control signal that cannot be heard by the human ear to the television audio, peripheral devices can be operated freely from the television program side,” Dentsu explains in a release. “For example, nearby dolls can comment on the television program, while room lighting can be altered to match live music programs, expanding the possibilities for television programs with imagination as the only limit.”
TVX is due for imminent release, as is ‘Lingering Voices’, an application that aims to make conversations more tangible. It uses AR technology to give visual form to spoken words. The idea is that users can "see and replay conversations with one another and share them with others".
Separately, Panasonic is another major Japanese brand that plans to use SXSW as a means to receive input on experimental projects and identify further areas for potential development. The company made its debut at the event last year.