Japanese are known for their quirky creativity and advanced technology. When I visited the Japan Pavilion at MWC, I had the chance to see what bizarre mobile product ideas are coming out of the Land of the Rising Sun. Here are my 5 favourite:

1. Arara Inc

Arara Inc is a creative company that has explored many business application opportunities with augmented reality. Note that users first have to download their Arappli, app from the Apple App Store or Android Marketplace. Here are some of the cool things they are doing:

  • Air France Campaign – In partnership with Air France, Arara created an augmented reality marketing campaign to give people a chance to win a free flight to Paris. At Tokyo and Nara airports, Air France posters were put up. When someone pointed their device at the poster, a realistic 3D image of an Air France plane would fly out of it. People were then prompted to capture an image of the plane and tweet it. The best picture won the free flight.
  • AR Map –In Tokyo, maps were given out to people on the streets. When pointing their mobile at the map, an augmented reality 3D image of buildings would appear. People then had to snap a picture of the building then tweet it to win a free gift card.
  • Hallmark Greeting Cards – let’s face it, greeting cards have been around for a long time and there has been little innovation over the last 20 years. The last greeting card innovation was adding music,  which is rather boring. Now with augmented reality technology, you can give someone a card with a very special message. In the example below, when the card receiver points their iPad at the QR code, a cute animated ‘Happy Birthday’ bear will dance around a cake, on top of the card.  After only 3 months in Japan, 20k cards have been sold at 5 Euros each. They have plans to roll it out across Britain and Australia next.
  • AR Message – Similar to the Hallmark greeting card concept, AR Message allows someone to send a very special video recorded message to another person. After my recording, I can choose from different characters like a girl or a rabbit which my face will be added upon. When the receiver gets the card, they point their phone at a card which will then display my message. I guess most of the time, nice messages will be sent but it could also be used to fire someone if you don’t want to do it in person!

2. Jig.jp

In partnership with Epson, Jig developed 3D glasses that allow people to see images and videos projected in front of them. Based on Android 2.2, for US$550 you can buy the glasses and watch anything on the move. You can upload your own media to the device through USB or SD card. In the picture below, there’s a picture of 3 Japanese friends. Imagine yourself lying outside in the garden, staring into space and watching a movie with the background of a blanket of stars.

3. DCloud

Kawaii or ‘cute’ in English is a big industry in Japan and Asia. Think Hello Kitty shrines worshipped for its grand cuteness.

Operated as a consortium of 3 companies, Bijutsu Shuppan, d2c and Dentsu; DCloud is the world’s first Emoji (animated emoticons) based cloud service. Simply, it allows developers to embed an SDK into their app and let their users play with over 100k cute emoji’s.  Think of a huge variety of cute bears, hearts, girls or drinks. No more boring smily faces! Users can add these emoji’s when messaging their friends or when chatting.

The API is free to use for developers and is available on Android on iOS. The business model is to eventually sell premium or branded emoji’s to developers or revenue share with them.

4.  Analog 12

In Japan, receptionist’s are considered as expensive at around USD$3,000 per month. In a global economy when saving costs anywhere you can is important, Japan has figured out a quirky way how.

Think about when you arrive at a company for an interview. Instead of being greeted by a real person, you see a TV screen connected to a virtual iPad receptionist. You first tap ‘interview’, then the virtual receptionist prompts you to select who you have the interview with. After tapping it, that person’s phone will ring and then they can come out to get you.

In a true Japanese way, Analog 12 has thought of a way to make the receptionist as real as possible. When idle, the receptionist starts to exercise and massage herself so she can happily serve the next person.  Of course the virtual receptionist can’t serve you physically and bring you drinks but she can amuse you with her funny moves.

Currently the company serves 5 clients in Japan and charge 80 Euros per month.

5. ChatPerf

This is the most bizarre product. For a long time, people have talked about enhancing the sensory experience through 4D technology. Allowing someone to feel, hear and smell something that’s not around you is the future. But that future has arrived with a product called ChatPerf.

Chatperf is a device that you attach to your iPhone and connect a small tank of perfume. When you send a message to someone with ChatPerf, the device emits a small dose of perfume. For example, on Valentine’s Day, you message ‘I Love you’ and then a whiff of sweet perfume hits the person’s nose.

ChatPerf also has an open API that allows developers to set when the smell will emit. For example, a game developer can let players smell a fart when playing with iFart for iPhone.

The product is currently in Beta for iOS and is planned for release in June. The device will sell for 20 Euros and the perfume tank for 3 Euro. In the future, they are looking to work with perfume brands like Calvin Klein to supply the perfume and distributors to sell their product.

Jason Lim

Jason is an Australian born Chinese living in Beijing, specializing in entrepreneurship, start-ups and the investment eco-system in China, especially in the tech and social area.

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