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Cool Japan / Looking at life through data-loaded spectacles

Pick up News Article by Asahi Shinbun regarding "Cool Japan".
This time take up herewith "Looking at life through data-loaded spectacles".
You might be able to feel one of the "Cool Japan" aspect.
Looking at life through data-loaded spectacles
Feb 17, 2010 by Asahi Shinbun

Imagine a pair of goggles that give instant, real-time information on everything you see. Imagine walking down a street with comments from thousands of other people who had visited the same places scrolling on the little screen through which you peer at the world.

Takahito Iguchi (MISAKO TAKAHASHI))

The wealth of information offered by the Internet would no longer be confined to the computer on your desktop; it would become part of your everyday life, changing the way you perceive reality.

This seemingly fanciful vision may be on the brink of becoming reality. Takahito Iguchi, a 46-year-old computer system designer as deeply versed in the sayings of Mao Tse-tung as the complexities of computer code, is leading the revolution.

He is the mastermind behind the hit iPhone "augmented reality" application "Sekai Camera" (World camera), which allows people to view the world through their iPhone's camera and access information relevant to what they see posted by thousands of fellow users.

This information, each piece of which is known as an "air tag" by users, overlays the scenery seen through the camera lens like speech balloons in a cartoon.

The system allows people to share their views of restaurants or shops with other users whom they may never have met but who happen to point their cameras at the same locations. Users can post photographs and text, including comments on objects, people or places.

Sekai Camera is already being used on a commercial basis in some tourist and shopping areas. The scenic city of Takayama, Gifu Prefecture, provides tourist information on its historic architecture and other attractions through the application.

But Iguchi is intent on something more than a convenient gadget for tourism officers. He believes "augmented reality" has the potential to broaden our perception of what reality is.

As a junior high school student in Okayama, he buried his nose in Chairman Mao's "Little Red Book" and was deeply impressed by how the leader's land reforms won the hearts of Chinese at the time.

At university, where he majored in philosophy, he was exposed to the thought of Gottfried Leibniz, the inventor of the modern binary system, and says he became convinced that "all things can be digitized." He studied computer programming while still a student and decided to work as a system engineer on leaving university.

After taking jobs at several companies, he set up his own business publishing Internet blogs.

But, two years ago, a former colleague quoted one of Iguchi's favorite questions back to him: "Are you doing something that will change the world?"

He started to work on the secret project that became Sekai Camera soon after.

The idea of digitizing the world has its critics. Concerns have been raised that Iguchi's software could infringe upon individuals' privacy. But Iguchi believes that many of the unsettling implications can be ironed out.

"How people think or perceive things can differ from person to person. There must be a way that people, understanding this point, can get along together," he says. "I hope people will be able to broaden their perception of reality by using the software with an open mind."

Sekai Camera has already established a large user base. There were 100,000 downloads in just four days when it was first released for free through iPhone App Store last September. It was available in 77 countries by the end of last year.

The software was among six programs nominated for the Best Mobile Application category of the prestigious Crunchies Awards in December, beside big-hitting apps such as Google Voice, Kindle for iPhone and Foursquare, a social networking application with game functions which was the eventual winner.

The awards are known as the "Oscars of the IT industry."
By T.S. on Mar 3, 2010
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Author:T. SATOH