[UPDATED with registration deadline details and new groups involved]

It’s this time of the year again. The time of bonenkais in Tokyo. A time for a tech bonenkai. The biggest ever.

After the resounding success of last year’s inaugural Tokyo Biggest Tech Party Ever, which we co-organized (see some Flickr pics), we’re going at it again and we’re hoping you’ll all be joining us!

Our friends at Tokyo 2.0, Lars and his Mobile Monday Tokyo, Digital Eve Japan, Akky and the whole Asiajin crew -of which I’m part too-, AppleCert, our good Steve with his Tokyo Beer and Blog, Jonny and his StartupWeekend Tokyo, Tokyo HackerSpaceGreenITers and Ninjava will all be with us. But also the International Computer Association Japan, our friends at the venture lab Open Network Lab, Rob, Peter and the crew from Poken Japan, RingoMUG, Masaru and his sweet Startup Dating, the Tokyo Linux Group (our Pietro is happy), the Tokyo PC Users Group & the Web Application Security Forum -don’t worry, they know how to party!

We moved this year to the Modapolitica to have an even bigger event space. In order to get a bit of control before we rock the place, we ask you to pre-register. Only pre-registered peeps will get food, as we need to order this gigantic buffet for all you tech-hungry beer-loving geeks! Note that registration ends on Dec 2 at 12pm!

Talking about beer, we’re proud to be helping Beers for Books once again this year. Or, more accurately, Beers for Bytes. We will donate funds to tech infrastructure for Room to Read, whose focus is on childhood literacy and gender equality in education in developing countries.

The party will take place on December 6, starting at 7pm. You can grab all the details in the announcement below.

If you want to share your attendance with your friends, you can say it so on our community, on Facebook or on Plancast. But, no matter what, we ask you to register at Doorkeeper (a great service created by our friends at Mobalean).

If you’d like to become a sponsor for the event (heh, we’re talking more than 400 people last year, all tech geeks who share their passion online), just shoot us a line on sponsor[AT]tokyobiggesttechpartyever.com

Here’s the official announcement for your viewing pleasure:

It’s time once again to bring all of the tribes together for our annual TechXmas event, aka: Tokyo’s Biggest Tech Party Ever. We have nailed an Awesome Venue for the 2010 gig with a larger collection of participating groups and are expecting an even bigger crowd than the 400+ very cool folks who attended our epic mixer last year!

So mark your holiday calendar for December 6th – make sure you register – and use Twitter, Facebook and Plancast to help share the good word

Charity Benefit:
All net proceeds go to Beers for Bytes, an offshoot of the acclaimed
Beers For Books event. The funds will be donated to tech infrastructure for Room to Read, whose focus is on childhood literacy and gender equality in education in developing countries.

Sponsorship Opportunities:
We will also be offering the opportunity for sponsors to donate door prizes or small cash envelopes, so please do drop us a note asap to make arrangements.
sponsor @ tokyobiggesttechpartyever.com

Date: Monday December 6th, from 7-10pm
Venue:
ModapoliticaMap
Fee: ¥2,000 with
Advance Registration – Or – ¥3,000 At The Door **Note Below
Menu: Advance registration comes with a super tasty buffet – while all drinks, including beer, standard mixed or non-alcohol and wine selection, will be cash bar 500jpy each.

**Note: ‘At The Door’ attendees will receive two-drink tickets instead of a food coupon as we need to confirm an accurate buffet estimate in advance.

Participating groups:
AppleCert, Asiajin, Digital Eve Japan, GreenITers, ICA Japan, Mobile in Japan, Mobile Monday Tokyo, Ninjava, Open Network Lab, Poken Japan, RingoMUG, Startup Dating, StartupWeekend Tokyo, Tokyo 2.0, Tokyo Beer & Blog, Tokyo HackerSpace, TLUG, Tokyo PC Users Group, WAS Forum.

Thanks for another fantastic year — We look forward to see you all again soon!

東京最大の技術者仲間のかってないパーティー!

忘年会 2010 - 12月6日 – モ-ダポリティカ

技術者仲間が一同に会して年末恒例のTechXmas event、別名Tokyo’s Biggest Tech Party Everを楽しむ時期がまたやって来ました。主催する多くの関係団体の合議で2010年の集会場として息を呑むような会場が最終決定されました。今年の人数は去年の壮大な交流会に集まった400人超のステキな仲間をさらに上回ると予想しています。

そこで、皆さんはカレンダーの12月6日に上記行事を予定して下さい。その事前登録の確認をお忘れなく。適切な発言の共有に役立つ Twitter, Facebook, Plancast を使いましょう。詳細は下記を参照して下さい。

チャリティ収益:
チャリティ利益の全額は、賞賛を受けている
Beers For Books より分派したBeers for Bytesに寄付されます。寄付された資金は、開発途上国の教育において子供の文盲解消および両性平等に注力するRoom to Readの技術インフラに使われます。

スポンサー募集:
私共主催者は福引の賞品または大入袋を寄付するスポンサーを募集します。希望者は準備が必要なので出来る限り早くその旨を連絡して下さい。
sponsor @ tokyobiggesttechpartyever.com

日時:12月6日(月曜日)午後7時 - 10時
会場:
モ-ダポリティカ(Modapolitica)Map
入場料:前売券=2000円 当日券=3000円**
メニュー:前売券には一流のうまいビュッフェ食事が含まれています。一方、飲み物として、ビール、標準的な選別した洋酒、ワインとソフトドリンクが用意され、バーで一杯500円にて販売します。
**注意:主催者は事前に食事する人数を正確に把握する必要があるので、参加者は受付で食事ク-ポン券の代わりに2枚のドリンク券を受け取ることになります。

参加団体:
AppleCert, Asiajin, Digital Eve Japan, GreenITers, ICA Japan, Mobile in Japan, Mobile Monday Tokyo, Ninjava, Open Network Lab, Poken Japan, RingoMUG, Startup Dating, StartupWeekend Tokyo, Tokyo 2.0, Tokyo Beer & Blog, Tokyo HackerSpace, TLUG, Tokyo PC Users Group, WAS Forum.

すばらしいこの1年に感謝しましょう-- まもなく、皆さんに再会できることを楽しみにしています

On a personal note, I’ll be missing the party, since I’ll giving a talk for LeWeb in Paris. Be sure to drink a few beers for me, I’ll appreciate it. The other Mobile in Japan team members will certainly make up for me, though. I’ve got this feeling Joseph will come up with some crazy stunt only he can imagine.

You can check Tokyo Biggest Tech Party Ever on the web, follow @tbtpe on Twitter (and use the #tbtpe) or through the Facebook page and finally share your party pictures on the Flickr group (and tag them with tbtpe)

(Photo credit: Jim Grisanzio)

“Who is my boss” is a new campaign led by DoCoMo to announce something by Tuesday May 11th. What will they announce? Is this a product? a new phone? Is DoCoMo going to get out something that nobody will be able to imagine?

Who is my boss?

This campaign has a story, our friend, Darth Vader is looking for a boss. He is like a ronin looking for a lord that will fit his expectations. Go to www.docomo-1-1.jp and check the website, you will find a funny video of Darth Vader trying to desperately find his boss.
You have to write your name in Japanese characters, then link an image avatar from twitter or your disk and finally you have to make a call to a free dial number and introduce a code that they will provide for just few seconds. If you are not in Japan, forget about the call, you can wait it timeouts and see the same result in the website. Basically, if you call that number, Darth Vader will call you back giving some important messages for your life :-)
If you don’t know how to write your name in Japanese, try this website but remember that Japanese language uses syllables so if your name is “Michael” you have to write it as “Maikeru”.

The campaign is quite aggressive. Darth Vader just invaded all the walls and corners of Shibuya station.

Who is my boss?

The big screens in the Shibuya crossroad constantly show Darth Vader looking for his Boss…

Who is my boss?

Who is my boss?

More pictures at Flickr

Check the website www.docomo-1-1.jp and try to play. Your picture will be included in the video :)

In an attempt to find his boss, Darth knows how to use new technologies and social networking. He has a twitter account and will reply to your questions with a nice link including your avatar:

It’s quite weird to see Darth Vader in every corner, I thought that he won’t make it but finally it seems that he will invade earth soon… :)

I’m a bit wishy washy about the title of this article as the iPad has had it’s US launch, but it hasn’t launched in Japan (or anywhere else in the world) yet, and we are still a weeks away from Apple’s “magic” device arriving on our shores officially.

Through the efforts of great friends at Rinkya (a must use service for non-Japan based people to purchase hard to find Japanese goods), I was able to procure a 16GB wi-fi iPad just a couple days after the US launch.  I’ve had it for several weeks now and have been trying to figure out what the iPad is and what it isn’t, and most importantly, is it worth getting one.  After spending many hours with the device (it has hardly left my sight since I first got my hands on it), I can confidently say “maybe”.

What the iPad is:

The iPad of course is the new tablet device released by Apple to fill the void between the mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPod Touch, and the laptop Macbook line.  With a 9.7 inch capacitive resistant, LED backlit screen, the iPad is much more than just a “big iPod touch”.
While it runs a similar OS to the iPhone and iPod Touch, the iPad’s larger screen makes a world of difference to the overall experience.  Remember, the iPhone’s OS has been  billed by Apple as a full (albeit customized) version of OSX, so the new 3.2 OS adds support for 1024×768 pixel screens, a Safari browser much closer to the desktop version with support for html5, and a new category of iPad only applications which are optimized for the larger screen and more powerful device.
For over a year I have dragged a MacBook Air around with me as my mobile office solution.  It’s been great and I love the design and slim design of the Air, but with the iPad I have been able to knock off about half of the weight.  For a setup that I usually just carry around with me in case I want to get some productivity out of a hour in-between appointments, this has been great on my shoulder.  Throw in a small stand and an Apple bluetooth keyboard and I have pretty much everything I need while on the run.  A powerful web browser, word processor (I am using the iPad only Pages app to write this), and apps that cover my major productivity needs, NewsRack for Google Reader RSS feeds, Twittelator for iPad for twitter, and LogMeIn Ignition for when I need to access my more powerful system at home.  Note that I do more complicated work at home on a full desktop system, such as anything multi-media related or data management tasks.
In particular, I really like using the Safari browser and am starting to feel that touch is the killer app for browsing.  The in-line video support is very impressive and the A4 processor of the iPad seems to handle high quality video without even breaking a sweat.  I now feel pity for anyone watching TV on the sofa who does not have an iPad within reach.

What the iPad is not:

Well, for starters, the iPad is not small or light.  While it is quite thin, the iPad is still about as large and heavy as a hardback book.  This is not a mobile device that you carry with you all the time, but instead is more of a ultralight laptop or netbook.  In fact I often find myself typing on the iPad at the same time as I am checking up on things with my iPhone.  It’s a bit too heavy to pull out while I am walking around the streets of Tokyo and feels quite unwieldy when I try to use it while standing on the subway.
But it’s not quite a computer either.  It’s certainly more limited than a laptop computer.  No open file area I can use freely, means I have to rely on apps to take care of any complicated tasks I want to do via the iPad.  I like how it takes up much less table space when I want to work in a Starbucks, however, even with an external keyboard.  And the 10 hours of battery life (about what I have experienced even with wi-fi on) is miles better than my Air was capable of.

What about eBooks?

When I first saw the demo of the ipad I declared Amazon was doomed.  I now feel that sentiment was very premature.  Comparing the iPad to a Kindle2 is pretty much impossible.  The iPad looks gorgeous and offers color, backlit screen, animation, and tons of other features to boot.  But compared to the Kindle it weighs a ton.  The backlit screen is hard on the eyes in completely dark room and I just can’t see that reading on the iPad for hours on end will be either comfortable or good for your optical health.
The Kindle on the other hand has a much smaller screen, relies completely on available light, has  limited expandability and a prehistoric interface when compared to the iPad.  However with a weight only a fraction of the iPad it’s much easier to sit by the pool for a few hours catching up on a good trashy novel (yeah, I know. I never do this either, but I think I read a book where people do it).  The e-Ink technology, while still very limited compared to full displays, still gives the Kindle a battery life that makes even the iPad green with envy.  Simply put, the Kindle is a great single purpose ebook reader, the iPad is a much more powerful, and complicated computing device.

My suggestion, get both :)
If anything, I think that Amazon will come out a big winner here.  The Kindle App for iPad is great and in fact has some features that even the iBook app can’t match such as whipersync, allowing me to read one book on my Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Mac, and PC and have them all stay in sync so I never lose my place even when I swap devices.  While Kindle may lose some hardware sales to people who will stick to just the iPad, I think Amazon should see even better book sales (the Kindle store has much better selection) and I can see some people buying from the Kindle store now without even owning a Kindle.


To 3G or not to 3G

The US has just seen the launch of the 3G version of the iPad, and so far, the reviews are not stellar.  Basically, the 3G version only adds cellular wireless capability, giving the iPad the same data capability as the iPhone.  I am very amused by all the people who expected that the somehow the iPad would be exempted from all the restrictions.
When using the iPhone over 3G network, there are download caps, streaming video is restricted to low bandwidth resolutions and VOIP applications are for the most part unavailable.  Of course the iPad suffers the same limitations, and while high resolution video from YouTube on the iPad over wi-fi networks is amazing, I can imagine the disappointment of the blocky, rough 3G throttled version.
I have been using my iPad with an EMobile Pocket Wifi portable router, which has for the most part performed like a champ.  I can get data access for my iPad wherever I go, giving me pretty much the exact same functionality as a 3G version, with the bonus of a faster upload speed and ability to connect the internet to another four devices.  One problem I have noticed is that the iPad drains the battery on my portable router much faster that I have experienced in the past.  I think this may be due to the iPad forcing the connection to stay active, even when the device is in sleep mode, but need to do a bit more testing to confirm.  As such I had to pick up a spare battery for the Pocket Wifi to ensure I can keep the iPad properly fed and happy.
I can see the benefit of the 3G connection, but am not convinced that the additional monthly bill will be worth it for me as I have no plans to drop the EMobile.  And with still no official launch date in Japan (announcement expected on May 10), and no idea what kind of pricing plans we will see here, It’s still a very big question mark.  Also i am not in love with the big black plastic bar across the top side of the iPad 3G.  Love the clean back of the wi-fi version.

So is the iPad for you?

Well, for now, if you have to ask the question, probably not.  The people getting iPads right now are die-hard Apple fans, developers, journalists, and people with too much money (no comment on which categorie(s) might apply to me).
The iPad will continue to develop it’s own ecosystem, and soon we’ll see a pattern of what type of people get what kind of benefits from this new device.  But for the most part, the iPad does not replace any mainstream device.  And since it does not rely replace anything, it’s hard to make the case that it is necessary for anyone.  What we need to see is for the iPad to develop a new niche for casual computing hereto unseen similar to the iPhone revolution.  Judging from the response I have seen from Japanese consumers getting their first touch experience with the iPad, I think there are a lot of reasons for Apple to be optimistic about their chances here.

Follow our complete iPad landing in Japan coverage

Tonight, from 7:00 pm to 10:00 JST (Japan standard time), was held the new entry to Tokyo 2.0 series of events in collaboration with Mobile in Japan. Tokyo’s Next Mobile Application Star was discovered after great presentations of four participants in front of a passionate audience & special judges.

Steven Nagata did a great job organizing this wonderful event, in which some celebrities took part. Danny Choo, Noboyuki (Nobi) Hayashi, Hareo Shiiya and Hiroko Tabuchi were the celebrity judges, Hideki Francis Onda was the Moderator of this imposing quest to discover Tokyo’s Next Mobile Application –more information about the panelists.

Tokyo2.0/Mobile in Japan Event: TOKYO’S NEXT MOBILE APP STAR Tokyo2.0/Mobile in Japan Event: TOKYO’S NEXT MOBILE APP STAR

While lots of people were filling the place, the virtual public from around the world did join the event through various channels, from Twitter (hashtags #MiJ and #t2p0). Presentations were kept under 5 minutes each. The goal for the participant was obviously to be able to explain his application and convince the public and the judges of its greatness.

Tokyo2.0/Mobile in Japan Event: TOKYO’S NEXT MOBILE APP STAR

The first application was ふきだしツクール (manga balloon maker) [iTunes link] from Pool Inc., presented by Tomoya Nakamura.
With Manga Balloon Maker, you can add manga-like text balloons to your photographs.

Tokyo2.0/Mobile in Japan Event: TOKYO’S NEXT MOBILE APP STAR

The second application was iPoseable [iTunes link] from Ryuuguu & presented by Grant Morgan.
This application lets you play with 3D articulated models.

Tokyo2.0/Mobile in Japan Event: TOKYO’S NEXT MOBILE APP STAR

The third application, presented by Yoski Akamatsu, was Twitcasting [iTunes] by sidefeed.
TwitCasting Live is a Twitter client which adds a live broadcasting service (both visual and sound streaming).

Tokyo2.0/Mobile in Japan Event: TOKYO’S NEXT MOBILE APP STAR

The fourth & last application was フーフーミントン (Huff Puff Volley) [iTunes link] from ConIT, presented by Tetsuya Imamura
It’s a comical 3d sports game for iPhone. It’s a multiplayer game via bluetooth where you can interact with your character, blowing directly on your iPhone

At the end of the presentations, the public had around 15 minutes to vote for its favorite application, while the online audience was able to cast its poll using twitter.
When the time ran out, votes were counted and Tokyo’s Next Mobile Application Star was finally discovered! Two different prizes were given: the public’s and the judges’. Twitcasting got prize of the public (getting a mysterious prize the name of which cannot be revealed for legal reasons) and Huff Puff Volley got second prize. The first prize granted by the judges, though, went to Huff Puff Volley while the second went to Twitcasting. Funny, isn’t it??

Tokyo2.0/Mobile in Japan Event: TOKYO’S NEXT MOBILE APP STAR

Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times Tokyo journalist, announcing the winner.

Tokyo2.0/Mobile in Japan Event: TOKYO’S NEXT MOBILE APP STAR

The night ended with a glamorous background and a great feeling of achievement for all participants. Not only tech people attended the event, but also journalists, photographers, artists, etc. all coming to discover the Star of the night. Not to forget the cute girls who were cheering up the party.

Tokyo2.0/Mobile in Japan Event: TOKYO’S NEXT MOBILE APP STAR

Special thanks to all the participants who made this event a reality and kudos to all the volunteers.
First and foremost, thanks to Steve Nagata without whom this would have not been possible! Thanks also go to Joseph Tame and his funny D. App videos, Pepi Valderrama for helping to prepare the set, Satoka F for her technical support, Paul Papadimitriou for his transcontinental support from the old continent, and many others that made this a success.

Check for more pictures at Mobile in Japan Flickr group (join and add yours, don’t forget to tag with MiJ)

UPDATE: watch Dr. Appleton’s videos that ran throughout the event.


TOKYO’S NEXT MOBILE APP STAR
Date: Tuesday, March 30, 2010,  7PM – 10PM
Venue: Super Deluxe, Roppongi.  http://www.super-deluxe.com/

Entrance: 2,000 yen (includes 2 drink tickets)
http://plancast.com/a/1fun

Who will be the Star of Japan’s Mobile App scene? Join Tokyo 2.0 as we see the best that Tokyo has to offer!  This event will pit new, unknown developers against each other and against our panel of expert judges to claim the ultimate prize, the title of Tokyo’s Next Mobile App Star!

Four untested but talented developers will each be presenting a new mobile application for considerations.  Each contestant will give a five minute presentation and practical demonstration of their application.  Following each presentation, our panel of celebrity judges will critique each presenter looking at originality, technique, and appeal of the application as well as the quality and effectiveness of the sales pitch/presentation.  Following the presentations, all attendees of the event will be able to vote for the title of Tokyo’s Next Mobile App Star.  Prizes provided by event sponsors will be awarded to the overall winner and the Judges will also award additional prizes for their favorite presenters.

If you are interested in applying, check our application guidelines. Applications

Tokyo2.0 Event: 東京の次のモバイルアプリスター

日時:2010年3月30日(火)19:00~22:00
場所:スーパー・デラックス http://www.super-deluxe.com/

会費: 2,000円 (ドリンク券2枚付き)
http://plancast.com/a/1fun

日本のモバイルアプリシーンのスターは誰だ?Tokyo 2.0に来て、一緒に東京のベストを見よ う!このイベントでは、新人無名の開発者たちが互いに闘い、エキスパート審判団とも闘う。目指すは、究極の褒賞、 「東京の次のモバイルアプリスター」の称号だ!

表には出ていないが才能ある4人のディベロッパーがそれぞれ新モバイルアプリケーション を紹介、それらの可能性を探ります。各出場者は5分間のプレゼンを 行うほか、実際にアプリケーションのデモを行います。各プレゼンに続き、アプリケーションのオリジナリ ティー、技術面、アピール度に加え、売り込み方やプ レゼンテーションの質や効果的だったかどうかといった観点から著名な審査員の方々による各プレゼンターの論評が行われま す。また、本イベントの参加者全員 が東京の次世代モバイルアプリケーションの星を決定する投票に参加できます。イベントスポンサー提供の賞が優勝者に贈られるほか、審査員の興 味を引いた出 場者にはその他の賞も贈られます。

ディベロッパー参加の申し込みはお願いいたします。申し込み方法

UPDATE: read the write-up of the successful event

ekotan_0983

Having been consistently disappointed by voice recognition apps in the past, it was with some scepticism that I installed Koetan Tokyo from Traffic Gate, Ltd.

[iTunes, Free]

Using it is very simple. You can ignore all the Japanese.

Image 1

- Tap the big black button in the middle.
- Say the name of your starting station. Pause a moment. Say the name of your destination station.
- Add the word “まで” (ma-de = ‘to’).
- Press the button in the middle again.

The app will now connect and search for your route (this only takes a few seconds. Of course you must have a data connection).

ekotan_0984

Image 2
The results screen shows several results, one of which is bound to match yours. Not once has it failed to place my  route at the top of the list. As you can see, it’s in English and Japanese, so this is a great way to see how station names are written in Japanese too.

ekotan_0985

Image 3
Having selected your route, the detailed results page appears. Yes, it’s all in Japanese, but even if you don’t read Japanese you can see all the important info, including time taken, cost and the number of changes. The route is diplayed below.

Click on the car / map option (地図によるルート)to see the route on the apps built-in map (image 4).

koetan_0986

You can then click on マップ (top right) to view the map in the iPhone’s native Google Maps app (image 5).

koetan_0987

Like many of these kinds of navigation apps (such as the Tokyo Metro App), Koetan! does not provide you with real-time timetable information – it’ll just give you the route and time it’ll take, so if you need precise timings you’ll still need an app such as Ekitan (Japanese only).

Another limitation is the fact that it only covers Tokyo (no Saitama, no Chiba etc) – no doubt this limitation is one reason it’s so accurate in terms of voice recognition, as there’s not all that much for the software to choose from.

However, this app is a fantastic way to quickly get this basic info without having to type in the station names, which is often the thing that causes the most problems for non-Japanese speakers.

Tokyo Metro App name: Tokyo Metro

Part 1: the Basic App

This is a great navigation app for Tokyoites, with a decent resolution pinchable image of the Tokyo subway network and, unlike most timetable apps which require an internet connection to function, this one will work mid-tunnel too.

It includes a GPS-enabled station finder for those times when you haven’t a clue where you are, or you can just enter the name of an area of Tokyo and it’ll pick out your nearest stations for you. A recent update brought the ability to simply select your start and end point by tapping on the stations on the map.

The app has a range of interface languages to choose from – this is a welcome addition to the line-up of japan-based public transport apps available, most of which require at least some knowledge of Japanese (Ekitan remaining the cream of the crop at present).

Whilst lacking that certain iPhone sexiness, the metro map is easy to use, with relevant stations being highlighted following searches. There’s also a link through to Google Maps, allowing the user to move seamlessly from the train to above ground to continue their journey.

There’s certainly room for improvement though, something the developers themselves acknowledge with their mention on the iTunes product page of updates currently being worked on.

Improvements to the basic app that would be good to see in future updates

Currently, the list of train lines is static, and merely serves as a key to understanding which line is which on the main map. Ideally, tapping on a line name would bring up a scrollable linear map of all stations along it, complete with interchanges for other lines.

As noted above, with the app using a local database no network connection is needed to plan a route. However, this also serves to curtail it’s functionality, as even when you do have a network connection results are limited to showing where to change trains and how long the total journey will take – there are no real-time departure or arrival times so for that you will still need something like the above-mentioned Ekitan.

Additionally, searches net only one result when multiple journey options may be available.

Being designed for non-Japanese readers, the lack of additional Japanese script for station names is understandable – but deprives users of the fun of learning kanji whilst they travel.

Part 2: Augmented Reality

Tokyo Metro appThe release of a new version of Tokyo Metro with an augmented reality location engine got quite a bit of attention from the international iPhone community – but how does it stand up to actual use?

Well, it’s a mixed bag.

How to use it

First off, you need to install the AR databases. These are sold separately from the app itself – you will be prompted to buy them within the app itself when you go to Settings and turn on the available Points of Interest. At present these come in several database sets (each set costing about 115 yen to download) include American Style restaurants, Japanese Style restaurants, Cafes, donuts and ice cream outlets, convenience stores and other misc leisure places. It should be noted that the same databases are used for Presselite’s other Tokyo-centric AR app, Bionic Eye Tokyo, so if you already have them for that the app will automatically use them.

(N.b. if you receive an error message when trying to buy these AR databases, reinstall the latest version of the Tokyo Metro app).

Having bought and installed your AR databases, from the app’s main display tap on the Locate icon. It will default to showing you a standard list of stations in the local area. From here, if you click on ‘Map’ you will see (surprisingly) a Google Map with all the POI listed. To enable Augmented Reality, click on ‘POI’ (Points of Interest). This will fire up your iPhone camera, and all enabled points of interest in the local area will show up, floating in the air (as shown above).

The app uses not only GPS, but also the iPhone 3GS’ built-in compass, so as you turn around, so the floating tags will change (see below about compass accuracy).

One neat thing is that as you then tilt the phone down towards the ground, the floating tags are replaced with a list, as shown below.


tokyomet_ar_screenshot_0979

Click on any of these and the display will change to an arrow pointing towards the place.

tokyomet_ar_screenshot_0980

When it comes to options regarding what is displayed: as well as the basic enabling / disabling of POI databases, you can also set the localization distance (200m – 3km).

The Verdict

Well this is very cool. A few years ago I never would have thought I would have this kind of AR device in my pocket, and especially not in the form of what has essentially just been a minor software install for the phone I already carried (is the iPhone not the sexiest device on Earth?!)

But to be honest, cool does not equal functionality in this case. Why? Accuracy. I’m guessing that this is not due to the app, but due to the limitations of the iPhone itself in this case and the limits in accuracy of today’s GPS (how many times have you used Google maps on your iPhone and have it tell you you’re on the other side of the street?).

Because of this, if you’re using it in AR mode to find a place the chances are you may be going in slightly the wrong direction. You are also at risk of tripping over big rocks in the road / falling down storm drains and breaking your leg because you have your eyes fixed on the screen.

BUT – the Google Map integration is good (just like the native google maps app but with more POIs). Using it in Map view allows you to make up for any inaccuracies in the positioning device.

The AR function is however great for impressing friends at parties who have yet to see convenience stores and Starbucks floating in the air.

It’s an incredible reasonable price for what is essentially cutting edge consumer technology, so if I were you, I’d get it.

N.B. Presselite’s ‘Bionic Eye Tokyo’ has no functionality that the Tokyo Metro app doesn’t have.

dsc00032[update] The video feed will be available at http://www.qik.com/tamegoeswild

It’s the most epic iPhone challenge yet seen in the world (probably).

Joseph Tame, known for his addiction to his iPhone (a.k.a. ‘my baby’) is going to attempt to complete the Tokyo quarter Marathon in record time whilst carrying 30,603 pairs of eyes on his forehead. This epic feat has been made possible by months of training, an Apple iPhone, Qik.com and a new invention of Joseph’s, which he calls ‘A Modified Hat’.

He will be joined by his trainer, Tom Kobayashi.

35,603 people applied to run this epic race across Tokyo – only 5000 got in: Joseph and Tom were two of the lucky few.

Knowing how disappointed the unlucky unfortunates must be feeling, Joseph vowed to make things right. He decided, he’d let them run with him.

The full story of this epic adventure will be featured on the new podcast that Joseph co-produces – Japan Podshow.

To get live alerts via twitter of Joseph’s progress & broadcasts, be sure to follow him @tamegoeswild.

Exclusive behind-the-scenes footage of this epic challenge is also available on YouTube.

Be there and submit your comments as he runs to make his iPhone vibrate – he’ll know he’s carrying your eyes and your hopes too.

UPDATE! JOSEPH POSTS VIDEO RESPONSE TO CRITICISM