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Japan’s ridiculous robot hotel is actually serious business

Japan's ridiculous robot hotel is actually serious business

“My name is Yoshiyuki Kawazoe. This is my hotel.” The University of Tokyo’s associate professor of architecture gestures behind himself to a flat, two-story building that doesn’t really look like a hotel. “Two-hundred people were involved in making this happen,” he says. “Experts in environmental design, engineering, architecture, robotics and construction … it’s their hotel.” The “Hen-na Hotel” will go down in tourist guides as the robot hotel, but there’s more being invested in here than just talking robots: The minds behind it hope the facility will change the world of low-cost hotels — and save the world. (Well, at least a little.)

The aim of the hotel, as CEO Hideo Sawada puts it, is a serious one: to be the most efficient hotel in the world. He draws on comparisons with low-cost airlines that “changed how we travel.” Two years ago, as hotel prices continued to rise, the CEO (who runs the nearby Huis Ten Bosch theme park) began discussions with robotics and engineering experts with the aim of creating an efficient hotel, one that costs (both fiscally and environmentally) less.

If you thought Hen-na Hotel was a kitschy gimmick, well, that’s partly true. (The receptionist is an English-speaking dinosaur and there’s a talking tulip in each room.) Still, the bigger picture here is that researchers from Japan’s largest, most influential university are involving themselves and testing out cutting-edge green technology, as well as trying to create a space where both robots and humans can move around and do what they want (or need) to do. Robots could help reduce staffing costs, as well as help to run a hotel more efficiently. (To some extent — human workers are still required — just less of them). The entire premise might scream wacky Japan, but it’s also testing the boundaries of robot-human interaction in the field — and trying to make a profit as it does.

The Hen-na Hotel is actually Hotel Zero, a proof of concept: Everything that goes down here will inform the next stage. Sawada-san is planning to roll out the Hen-na Hotel concept to two more hotels: another somewhere in Japan, and one overseas, although he wouldn’t be drawn to exactly where. “Given the philosophy behind the hotel, the location of the site will have a large effect on what the hotel will look like, how it’ll be built.” The CEO didn’t discount the idea that a hotel could be made inside a city center, while Kawazoe added that design considerations could make future hotels substantially different from this real-world proof of concept. Rents are at a premium in built-up areas.

Hen-na Hotel, Huisten Bosch

The layout of the four-building complex is arranged in a way to let air flow through the entire thing. That’s important, because there’s no air conditioning. Dealbreaker? Given that the hotel is on Kyushu, the hot, humid main southern isle of Japan, that sounds insane. However, while outdoor temperatures reached 93 degrees Fahrenheit, the place was reassuringly cool. That’s done through a network of high-end radiator panels, combined with heat-absorbing bricks, special reflective paint and solar panels on the roof, as well as sensors to monitor temperatures down to the individual room. (The architecture team even took inspiration from Japanese tearooms to design roofs at an angle that lets in winter sun, but blocks summer rays.)

The company expects to reduce energy costs by around 30 percent compared to typical hotels and these temperature considerations are a major part of how it’ll do that. Those cost savings also tie into how Hen-na Hotel is trying to pitch itself as a clean, stylish-but-low-cost hotel: Amenities are bare minimum, with extras sold in vending machines. Room cleaning only happens if you pay for it or stay for longer than a week, but that all translates to room prices that are cheaper than the local competition.

Hagi-San, another expert from the University of Tokyo, was brought onto the project to “integrate robots and architecture.”

There’s another crucial design difference in comparison to other hotels: This one isn’t only designed for humans. Hagi-San, another expert from the University of Tokyo, was brought onto the project to combine the robots and architectural design of the hotel. “I don’t think this combination [of robots and building design], while working to provide a service [to humans], exists anywhere else in the world. … The problem has been integrating these designs with human-centric ones. For the porter robots, we designed the hotel to include wide paths.” Two paths slope around the hotel lobby: One inches up to the second floor, while another follows a gentle decline to guide first-floor guests (slowly, but with their baggage) all the way to their room.

Design considerations dovetail into sensors and infrastructure too, like the hotel’s face-detection locks on each room. While you don’t need your keycard (your beautiful face will suffice), the design of the hotel had to account for this, with low-power LED lighting located both at check-in (where your face gets scanned in), and next to each guest room entrance. During check-in, the process is distributed among multiple machines, working in tandem with each other. Face-scanning software interacts with the touchscreen console, while directions are delivered (and questions answered) by enigmatic robotic receptionists. The performance of these robots is monitored, and that will inform changes in design in the future.

That’s where big challenges likely lie: This was a hotel on opening day, with everyone looking to give the best first impression. How will the hotel handle the realities of day-to-day hospitality? With normal visitors (and less staff around when accidents happen), it’s likely to be a steeper learning curve than the inclines on those gentle slopes to the first floor. What happens when kid hopped up on one too many soft drinks consistently gets in the way of the porter robot? Is the drone going to fly through your window? What happens when you just need some air-con? Lots of questions, and plenty of challenges for robotics experts (as well as architects, hoteliers and engineers) to tackle.

Quotations in this article have been translated, condensed and edited.

Filed under: Misc, Robots


Source: Hen-na Hotel


Mini review video: our verdict of Windows 10 in 45 seconds

Windows 10 Mini Review

Didn’t read all the way through our nearly 3,700-word review of Windows 10? You really should: Devindra makes some good points. That said, if you’re short on time, or just have a hopelessly short attention span, we’ve distilled our writeup into a mini review video. As you can tell by the score alone (91 out of 100), we really, really dig the new software, and found very little fault with it. In particular, we love how the new, Live Tile-ized Start menu seems to combine the best of Windows 7 and 8, all the while correcting some big UX mistakes that Microsoft made over the past few years. In addition, new features like Cortana search and the Edge browser are in and of themselves worth the upgrade (and what an easy upgrade process it is too). Find the highlights in the short video above, and head over to our full review at the link below if you decide you want a little more detail after all.

Filed under: Software, Microsoft


Source: Engadget’s Windows 10 review


The best of Public Access Vol.7: online security and Android frustrations

Microsoft set the world on fire this week with the release of Windows 10 as a free download for existing Windows users. And in our review of the OS, we found that Edge, Windows 10’s new web browser, is a sleek and speedy onramp to the information superhighway. Simply upgrading to the latest and greatest software doesn’t make you impervious to harm on the internet, however, so last week we asked you to share how you stay secure online. Caroline Leopold doles out some handy tips for password management and stresses the importance of HTTPS. Meanwhile, Jess James has a bone to pick with Google’s all-encompassing power over Android, and Bob Summerwill thinks we could all be more efficient at our jobs if we eliminated synchronous operations from the workplace and embraced asynchronous communication instead.

Since we’ve told you what we think of Microsoft’s latest version of Windows, we want to hear your thoughts too. This week, tell us if you’ve taken advantage of Satya Nadella’s largesse to grab a copy, and what you think of Win10. If you’re a Windows person, but don’t plan to upgrade, well, tell us why not? And finally, if you’re a Mac user, are you tempted to leave the cozy confines of OS X?

P.S. The homepage is coming soon! in the meantime you can check out the latest from Public Access right here. Not a member? Apply, and keep the weird alive.

Recommended Reading

“Well guess what? Our work “work streams” suffer from exactly the same concurrency problems as computers, because these patterns are the nature of the beast for any coordinated activities, whether that is in digital form for computers or in organization form for team activities within corporations.”

Read the rest of Why I will probably refuse your meeting request and not answer my phone by Bob Summerwill

“One of the biggest security risks is when you are using an unsecured Wifi hotspot. Hackers can collect all of the data you sending, including private emails, credit card information and security information. Then, hackers take that information and masquerade as you, which can cause havoc to your bank account and compromises your identity.”

Read the rest of How-to: stay secure online by Caroline Leopold

“And so, when I put inserted my SD card all excited that my awesome solution was imminent, and headed giddy and breathless into the configuration of my Google Music app (and my camera app, for that matter), to tell it to use my SD card I was met with nothing but a greyed out button and the bitter sting of disappointment.”

Read the rest of Digital Therapy: share your most frustrating tech moments by Jess James

Your Dose of Inspiration

Microsoft has finally made Windows 10 available to the world, and upgrading is free for existing users. Critics’ responses has been good, but we want to know if you’re on board the Win10 train, and what you think of the OS. If you’re not, well, we want to know that too. And, if you’re a dyed in the wool Mac fan, are you now tempted to take the Microsoft plunge? Why or why not?



These disposable vapes let you huff your caffeine instead of drink it

These disposable vapes let you huff your caffeine instead of drink it

Dammit, Logan. I’m glad it’s your first day working at this coffee shop; congrats on getting hired and all. But dude, seriously, I don’t have time to waste waiting for you to fish that beard hair out of my coffee. I’m “latte” enough for work as it is. That’s why, for a full week, I tried switching from my normal intake of three to four caffeinated beverages a day to Eagle Energy caffeine vaporizers. Oof, my heart is still racing.

Eagle Energy vapes are self-contained atomizers that operate much like Blu disposable e-cigs or the Blackout X hash pens, except that it’s loaded with caffeine instead of nicotine or THC. Each EE pen measures about five inches in length and is maybe a half-inch in diameter. Inside, a small reservoir holds about 3ml of liquid and 0.08 percent caffeine per milliliter. This liquid passes through a small atomizer driven by a non-rechargeable lithium ion battery where it is converted into a vapor and inhaled.

According to the included documentation, regular coffee drinkers will need about 10-20 puffs to notice the effects — a figure I found to be pretty accurate during my testing. Each pen is rated to last about 500 puffs before the battery conks out, which seems about right as well.

Eagle Energy’s kick comes from a mixture of caffeine (guarana extract), taurine and ginseng — basically the same stuff as in a Red Bull. Unsurprisingly, these things taste uncannily like the popular energy drink. The vapor does not, however, contain sugar or calories. But man, these pens gave me heartburn something awful. Even when huffing the recommended number of times over a three- to five-minute span, I immediately felt as if I’d just chugged a Big Gulp’s worth of espresso or a carton of apple juice on an empty stomach.

I also noticed that the kick didn’t last as long as a standard cup of coffee. I mean I typically average a 350 ml mug of Peet’s Major Dickason blend every hour for the first three hours of my workday with each cup’s effects lasting around an hour. According to Caffeine Informer, a 16-ounce cup of this blend contains 267 mg of caffeine. As such, Eagle Energy’s kick isn’t nearly as potent as the coffee’s. There isn’t the sip-sip-wheeeeeomgthisisawesomeImhavingeverythoughtinthewoooooooorld feeling you get with a good cup of coffee. It’s subtler and less of a jolt, though that also means there’s less of a crash later.

Overall, I rather like these things. They’re obviously never going to be a 1-to-1 replacement for my morning coffee and I can’t absentmindedly puff on it as I would a hash pen, but for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up or an emergency morning kickstart, you could do worse. Eagle Energy is currently running an Indiegogo campaign to fund both the 3-pack and 10-pack options, although the company’s rep has assured me that it will move forward with the 3-packs regardless of whether the campaign funds. They’re expected to retail for $9 apiece, $20 a 3-pack and $75 for 10.

Filed under: Misc



HBO is selling ‘Game of Thrones’ S5 downloads earlier than usual

In another sign that HBO is trying to convert some of the numerous Game of Thrones pirates into paying customers, the network announced that season five will be the first one available for downloaders to own before it hits DVD and Blu-ray. It’s actually going on sale via download way before the discs, with a digital release of season five due August 31st, just two months after the finale aired. The Blu-ray version is still on deck for next March as usual, but you can pre-order the digital season pass (including extras, listed after the break) from outlets like Amazon, iTunes, Vudu and Google Play for $39 (HD) — unless of course you live in another country like Australia, where season five has been on sale since it finished airing, or are already subscribing to HBO Now. Of course, you don’t really need to hurry, as HBO announced during yesterday’s TCA panel that it expects the series to last about eight seasons.

Game of Thrones S5 extras (* marks digital exclusives)

  • Introduction to Dorne* – Visit the kingdom of Dorne in this special that delves inside the impressive realm and its many colorful characters, including Prince Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig) and the fiery Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) and her venomous Sand Snakes (Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rosabell Laurenti Sellers and Jessica Henwick).
  • Poisons of Westeros* – Explore the devious methods of poisoning seen throughout Game of Thrones in this featurette.
  • Invitation to the Set – Visit the set of Game of Thrones for this intriguing preview.
  • A Day in the Life – Glimpse the epic scale of Game of Thrones in this featurette that spends one day touring various Season 5 sets in Croatia, Spain and Ireland. See cast members preparing to shoot scenes while prominent members of the show’s massive crew talk about the many jobs they must oversee-sets and costumes, hair and makeup, and much more-to keep the production operating smoothly.
  • Set Design – Production designer Deborah Riley reveals the thought process behind the impressive sets used to create the territory of Dorne in Season 5.
  • The Weapons of Dorne – Game of Thrones weapons master Tommy Dunne takes a close-up look at the razor-sharp armaments he created for the Sand Snakes and other inhabitants of Dorne in this featurette.
  • New Characters & Locations – Take a tour of the new locations in Season 5 and meet some of the new players in this featurette. Included are visits to the sets of Dorne and the House of Black and White as well as introductions to Doran Martell, the Sand Snakes, the High Sparrow, and more.
  • Season 4 Recap – Revisit every twist and turn from the thrilling fourth season.
  • Trailer – Whet your appetite for Season 5 with this exhilarating glimpse at things to come

Filed under: Home Entertainment, HD



OnePlus 2 wallpaper design explained

oneplus_2_launch_never_settleThe story of how OnePlus designed the wallpaper for their new flagship phone, the OnePlus 2.

The lead designer, Arz, was said to have gone through 188 iterations before finally ending up with the final design for the first OxgyenOS release. Talk about Never Settle.

The first OnePlus 1 wallpaper, Pyra, was designed to be simple, and minimal while still maintaining a stock Lollipop feel. The colors were chosen to be fresh and vibrant, but not over the top.

For the second version OnePlus says they wanted to make users feel like their phone was something more personal rather than just a metal and plastic device. They got designs from all around the world before deciding on the final.

However for their second flagship phone, the OnePlus 2, things were a little different. A Swedish artist named Hampus met one of the OnePlus employees in Goa, India mentioning he would like to make some wallpapers for OnePlus. After they checked out his website they were impressed and knew he was capable of great work.

After some talking Hampus said he wanted to design the official OnePlus 2 wallpaper. They were worried that this random artist didn’t understand the work he was getting himself into. Especially since Arz, the last lead designer took 188 attempts before arriving at something perfect. Hampus didn’t mind and took on the job.

After two month an email came in from Hampus with the final design named ‘Hans’, which ended up being the new default wallpaper.

Hampus explained his process:

“I wanted to make something simple and not distracting to work well with the UI, but still at the same time look daring and inspirational. I worked with Arz to express the OnePlus feel. We wanted to somehow show the oxygen cycle in a visual and abstract way.”

Hampus also created a collection of other wallpapers included in the OnePlus 2. Hampus goes on to describe the collection.

“I’ve got too many dreams and things I want to create. Things I create might differ from each other a bit, but they all got something in common and that is the abstract, kind of surreal look. I love mixing bright, warm colors and adding small complex details. The work I’ve done for OnePlus might feel a bit psychedelic, but thats probably just an outcome of my creative mind.”

Source: OnePlus

Come comment on this article: OnePlus 2 wallpaper design explained


New variant of the Huawei G8 is coming to China


You may recall last week when Huawei unveiled its G8 smartphone in China. A new report from Gizmochina suggests the company is working on a new variant of the handset. It will likely feature the same all-metal body design on the G8, but there will be some subtle differences in the upcoming handset’s internals.

Unlike the Huawei G8 which came with the popular mid-range Snapdragon 615 chipset, the new handset will feature a slightly upgraded Snapdragon 616 processor. But don’t get your hopes up, we aren’t looking at a major revamp.

You will get the same Cortex A53 cores, half clocked at 1.7GHz and the other four clocked at 1.2GHz. This is a very minor difference in clock speed, and even the GPU will be the same Adreno 405 as the G8 smartphone. The major difference is that the new Snapdragon 616 will come with X5 LTE World Mode modem, which brings additional connectivity options in addition to Cat. 4 LTE speeds (up to 150MBps) with LTE Advanced 2x10MHz Carrier Aggregation (CA).

Other internal specifications will be kept mostly the same as the G8 smartphone. The handset will come in two different models. One 2GB / 16GB version, and one 3GB / 32GB model. Pricing for the new handset will start at 2099 Yuan for the lesser model and increase by 400 Yuan if you want the extra storage.

Source: Gizmochina

Come comment on this article: New variant of the Huawei G8 is coming to China


Elgato’s ‘Eve’ Smart Home Accessories Are Useful, But Hampered by Buggy HomeKit Platform

Elgato, with its Eve line of smart home products is one of the first companies to come out with home accessories that integrate with Apple’s HomeKit home automation platform, and it’s the very first company to produce a Bluetooth-enabled HomeKit product.

The Eve system, which consists of a weather station, an indoor room monitor, a door/window sensor, and a smart outlet, is one of five HomeKit-compatible products that became available for purchase in June. With the Eve components just now shipping out to customers, Elgato invited us to review the lineup to get a feel for what’s possible with Apple’s system.

HomeKit and Eve’s accessory lineup promise to make our homes smarter and our lives easier, but in its current incarnation, HomeKit is a service that feels unfinished. It’s limited in scope and even though I found many of the Eve accessories to be useful, the delays and bugs I ran into with the HomeKit system almost made the frustration outweigh the convenience.

Hardware Overview

As I mentioned above, Elgato currently manufactures four HomeKit-compatible products: Eve Room, Eve Weather, Eve Door & Window, and Eve Energy.

Eve Room – Eve Room is an indoor room monitoring sensor. It measures temperature, humidity, and air quality.

Eve Weather – Eve Weather is an indoor/outdoor sensor that’s simpler than the Eve Room, measuring temperature, humidity, and air pressure.

Eve Door & Window – Eve Door & Window is a two-piece sensor that detects whether a door or window is open or closed.

Eve Energy – Eve Energy is a power sensor and switch that can be used to turn an appliance on and off and detect how much power it’s using.

Each of the Eve products has a clean, unobtrusive design, integrating into any environment without standing out. The Eve Room and the Eve Weather are both small square-shaped sensors resembling an Apple TV, while the Eve Energy is a simple socket. The Eve Door & Window comes in two adhesive-backed pieces to fit on each side of a door or window, snapping together magnetically to detect whether it’s open or closed.
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Apple, BMW Could Resume Talks Over Possible Apple Car Partnership ‘At a Later Stage’

Earlier this month, rumors suggested Apple had been in talks with BMW about potentially using the body of the electric BMW i3 as the basis for its Apple Car, but those talks did not progress into a deal. Reuters has now spoken with some inside sources at BMW, giving us more insight into what the two companies discussed and where their relationship might lead in the future.

Apple CEO Tim Cook and other senior executives visited the BMW factory in Leipzig, Germany in 2014 to look into how the i3 is manufactured. According to Reuters‘ source, Apple left the talks without reaching a deal with BMW because the company wants “to explore developing a passenger car on its own.”


During the visit, Apple executives asked BMW board members detailed questions about tooling and production and BMW executives signaled readiness to license parts, one of the sources said. News of the Leipzig visit first emerged in Germany’s Manager-Magazin last week.

“Apple executives were impressed with the fact that we abandoned traditional approaches to car making and started afresh. It chimed with the way they do things too,” a senior BMW source said.

Apple and BMW do not have plans to jointly develop a car at this time, but one of the sources believes that “exploratory talks” could potentially be revived in the future. Given Apple’s lack of experience with industrial manufacturing, a partnership with BMW or another car company would make sense, as it could help speed up development and eliminate many of the headaches associated with entering an entirely new industry.

Details on Apple’s rumored car project remain scarce, but the company has been hiring several automotive experts over the past few months. Apple is said to have hundreds of employees working on the secret car project and has picked up employees from companies like Tesla, Ford, and GM, along with robotics experts and researchers specializing in cutting-edge car technologies.

Rumors have suggested Apple plans to introduce its car by 2020, but Apple often works on projects that never make it to fruition, like the much-rumored Apple-branded television set. It’s possible that Apple’s car plans could be shelved or delayed in the future if the company is unhappy with its progress or finds entering the automobile market to be an unviable option.


Get 10 country hits for free via Google Play


Country music fans looking for some free tunes need to look no further than Google Play. Right now Google is offering up its “Play: Country Hits” list for absolutely free, a list that is normally valued at $12.

We’re looking at a total of 10 songs, from arts including Tyler Farr, Chris Young, Jake Owen, Josh Dorr, and a few others. There’s no word on how long the list will be offered for free, so we’d get to downloading now if any of these country songs are up your alley.

Get it now on Google Play

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