Japanese scientists creating lifelike human organs

Japanese scientists creating lifelike human organs

Print out a new liver or build a realistic mouth: The choice is yours

Artificial liverPrint me a liver -- this anatomically correct model popped out of a 3D inkjet.

Say what you want about the economy, but there’s rarely a month that passes when we don’t see some sort of astounding technology emerge from Japan.

July was no exception. The folks at Kobe University Hospital rolled out 3D printers that can create biological models of organs.

These models can be used not only to simulate and prepare for a procedure, but because they can be printed with transparent outer layers, doctors can refer to the structures on the inside as well.

Meanwhile over at Kagawa University, researchers have created a faux human mouth capable of producing speech.

The structure, which includes its very own tongue, is composed of silicon and produces a pretty eerie sound. Apparently the next step in development is for the researchers to add teeth. 

But I have a sneaking suspicion that the love doll industry will be in contact with them before they can go that far. Mark. My. Words.

iPhone does what Nintendon’t?

Gaming giant Nintendo pulled a bit of a head-scratcher early in the month. When news emerged that a Pikachu iPhone app was on its way, the company’s stock price enjoyed a bump, as many expected that Nintendo would finally develop games for smartphone platforms.

But Nintendo quickly denied that this was the case, pulling the plug on all the valuable buzz surrounding its brand by reiterating that it would develop for its own hardware only.

The "Pokemon Say Tap" game on the iTunes App Store was developed not by Nintendo but, rather, through its affiliate Pokemon Company. The latter, while 32 percent owned by Nintendo, is independent. Confused yet? You can bet a few million young Pokemon fans are too.

Pokemon iPhone app'Pokemon Say Tap' is available on the iPhone, but Nintendo's mixed messages about the platform are confusing.

And who wants a piece of that booming smartphone market anyway? I’m sure it’s just a fad ...

Nintendo capped off the month by cutting the 3DS’s price by 40 percent in order to boost sales that thus far have not lived up to expectations.

This month saw a few significant moves in the consumer electronics space as Ricoh acquired camera maker Pentax, Nokia pulled its luxury brand Vertu from Japan, and Lenovo and NEC announced a personal computer joint venture.

Meanwhile, Sony, which has had a very difficult past few months, expressed hopes that it can make the top Android tablet. Similarly, Panasonic looks poised to launch an e-book reader in cooperation with Rakuten.

Triumph and failure

It was a good month for Japan abroad, however, as the Women’s soccer team took the World Cup, knocking out the favored U.S. team on penalties.

The moment was pretty sweet for Japan, a nation still struggling to get back on its feet post-quake, but that didn’t stop a number of Twitturds from pooping on the parade.

Twitter’s trending topics list, besides showing a classy “congrats Japan” also displayed “Japs” and “Pearl Harbor.

But Twitter didn’t appear to dampen Japan’s celebrations until much later in the month when a fan shared comments from Saki Kumagai via the microblog saying that she criticized her coach. She has since apologized and says the comments we misunderstood.

In addition to the sporting success abroad, a number of Japanese tech companies look poised for global competition as well. GREE made news earlier this month when its young CEO Yoshikazu Tanaka indicated that his company is considering a U.S. IPO.

GREE CEO Yoshikazu TanakaGREE CEO Yoshikazu Tanaka lays out just why he might be keen on the big bucks available stateside.

His goals are lofty, as GREE sees Facebook-like user numbers as a possibility. Meanwhile its competitor, DeNA, is also making inroads into overseas markets, expanding its Mobage platform to English and Chinese users late this month.

As for foreigners visiting Japan, the most notable visitor in July was Lady Gaga. After showing support for the nation and assuring would-be tourists that it’s a safe place to visit, Lady Gaga fell foul of one Japanese danger that she likely didn’t foresee: copyright.

After a video of her performance with SMAP was published on her YouTube channel, Media Interactive Inc submitted a copyright claim resulting in the suspension of her account. It has since been reinstated.

Carrying on with technology

Google is continuing to play an important role in earthquake recovery. This time, its Street View service will be used to capture panoramic images of the disaster-stricken areas.

For its part, Softbank is jumping in on the energy front with intentions to build a solar power plant in Hokkaido this year, with more to follow later on.

But it isn’t just big companies pitching in to help. One iPhone developer is getting in on the action by releasing a hardware add-on that will convert your iPhone into a radiation detector. When used in conjunction with the app, Smart Radiation Detector can pick up levels of radiation around you.

On a more intangible, but no less important note, a Fukushima City poet, Ryoichi Wago, is disseminating his verses about the earthquake on Twitter. It certainly helps that you can fit more into 140 Japanese characters, and he seems to be building up quite a following.

Tokyo University’s professor Tatsuhiko Kodoma put a strong punctuation mark on the radiation issue on behalf of the many citizens who are concerned about the government’s handling of the situation thus far.

His angry speech before the Lower House Diet has received hundreds of thousands of views thus far, despite being online for only a few days. A subtitled version is of the video is here.

Hacking headlines

Hacking continues to be a staple of tech news this month, as Toshiba was the latest high-profile company to come under attack.

The Japanese electronics maker had a United States-based web server fall victim to a cyber attack as customers’ email addresses, telephone numbers and passwords were compromised.

In domestic hacking news, 28-year-old Masato Nakatsuji was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on charges of property destruction as a result of his “ika-tako” virus. The malware, once it took over a victim’s computer, would replace files with cartoon pictures of squid and octopuses. It’s creative, at least.

Rick Martin lives in Tokyo where he writes about technology in Japan, China, and around Asia. He contributes to TechInAsia.com, The Japan Times and a few other publications. He can be reached via his website, 1Rick.com.

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