Technology · June 23, 2022

What if you could carry a chair?

Story Highlights

Japan’s innovative wearable devices include Archelis, a “standing” chair designed for surgeons.

Tokyo’s first Wearable Expo debuted in 2015 and was the largest in the world.

Japan’s wearable technology market is expected to grow to 13.1 million units in 2017 from 530,000 in 2013.


What do Discman, Tamagotchi and Game Boy have in common?

They are all pioneering Japanese inventions from the 80’s and 90’s, symbols of an era when the Asian nation was a world leader in technological innovation.

But with the rise of Silicon Valley and American tech giants like Google and Apple, Japan has produced less epoch-making technology over the past two decades.

That, says Professor Masahiko Tsukamoto of Kobe University’s Graduate School of Engineering, is about to change thanks to a new generation of young entrepreneurs, an increase in international collaborations and new partnerships with university academics.

Japan’s focus this time isn’t on smartphones or games, but rather on wearable chairs, smart glasses and communication devices for dogs.

In short, crazy wearable technology.

In 2013, Japan sold 530,000 units of wearable tech, according to the Yano Research Institute.

That number is expected to skyrocket to 13.1 million units in 2017.

Perhaps the best indication of the boom in this industry was the launch of Tokyo’s first wearable expo in 2015 – At the start it was the largest wearable tech trade fair in the world with 103 exhibitors.

It features electronic kimonos, cat communication devices, and electronic gloves to record a pianist’s fingerwork.

The organizers are expecting more than 200 exhibitors and 19,000 visitors at the next trade fair from 18th to 20th January 2017.

“With better functionality, lighter components and smaller designs, carrying devices is now no longer a fantasy,” says show director Yuhi Maezono. “Wearables are gaining attention as the next big growth market.”

Inupathy is a dog harness due to launch later this year that will allow pet owners to communicate with their dogs.

In addition to a heart monitor, the harness features noise-cancelling technology that can isolate the animal’s heartbeat and track its reactions to stimuli such as food, games, people and toys.

With this data, the harness assesses a dog’s mood and changes color to let owners know.

Equipped with six LED lights, the collar glows blue to show calm, red for excitement and a rainbow theme for happiness.

Inupathy CEO Joji Yamaguchi was inspired by his Corgi Akane, who was a nervous pup. To better understand the dog’s fear, biologist developed Inupathy to monitor its heart rate.

“I always felt like I didn’t understand Akane very well and wanted to get closer to him,” says Yamaguchi.

“Buddhism and ancient Japanese religion say that all animals, plants and even rocks have a spirit within them. It’s stressful when you can’t solve problems that upset her.”

Yamaguchi expects wearable wellness tracking to have human applications as well.

“Personalization of artificial intelligence will change the game,” says Yamaguchi.

“For example, if you exhibit a certain behavior before you start feeling depressed, it is extremely valuable for a person to use that behavior to predict their depression. An AI working for you personally will eventually make this possible.”

Archelis – a portable chair launched in Japan this year – is also making waves internationally.

A collaboration between Nitto Mold Factory, Chiba University, Japan Polymer Technology and Hiroaki Nishimura Design in Japan, it was originally intended for surgeons who need to rest their legs during long surgeries.

The chair enables its wearer to effectively sit down and stand up at the same time.

The Archelis chair.

“The Archelis concept is very simple, like the simplicity of Columbus’ egg,” says Dr. Hiroshi Kawahira, the surgeon behind the concept. “Long surgeries can lead to back, neck, and knee pain — especially in older surgeons.”

Archelis is made from 3D printed plates and requires no electrical components or batteries.

The innovation lies in the effective design: flexible carbon panels enclose the buttocks, legs and feet to provide support and minimize pressure on the joints.

The system stabilizes the ankle and knee joints so that the pressure when standing up is evenly distributed over the shins and thighs.

Although the wearer appears to be standing, they are actually resting their back and legs while working on their feet.

Other wearables are on the smaller side.

Measuring approximately 3 inches in length, BIRD is essentially a modern day thimble that turns your fingertip into a magic wand.

BIRD can control up to 10 devices at the same time.

The device uses algorithms to decipher a user’s intent and also has precise sensors that track direction, speed, and gestures.

The technology allows users to turn any surface into a smart screen and interact with other smart devices.

Users walking around the home can project a laptop screen onto a wall, turn on a coffee maker, read on any surface, and make online purchases with a tap or swipe of their finger.

The developers – Israel-based MUV Interactive and Japan-based Silicon Technology – expect BIRD to be embraced by the educational and corporate sectors thanks to its ability to create collaborative presentations.