M Thomas Apple Author Page

Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

Meet Arisa, our local “inforobo”

July 16, 2020
MThomas

IMG_2770

This is Arisa, the “Information Robot.” It was recently installed at Yamato-Saidaiji, a Kintetsu Railway station in Nara City that I travel through to go to work.

Actually, today I went through the station on my way to renew my driver’s license. Interacting with the robot was much easier.

She (oops, I mean “it”?) can speak four languages (Japanese, English, Mandarin, and Korean) at the touch of a panel. But the functionality is still only limited to basic phrases about where to change trains and which platform to use. Still, it’s a first step (toward replacing human-controlled info booths, so get started learning programming, kiddos!).

Japanese convenience store to implement VR robot service

July 6, 2020
MThomas

“Rather than turn Family Mart branches into essentially giant vending machines, where products are automatically replaced after a customer selects one for purchase, the plan is to use remote-control robots, operated by human beings using VR terminals at a separate location.”

Hmm. The real avatar?

Remote-control VR robots to start working in Japanese convenience stores this summer

Shooting star above Tokyo

July 4, 2020
MThomas

“I thought a person living (in the condo) above knocked down a shelf,” wrote one Twitter user, while another said, “I thought my child sleeping on the second floor fell out of bed.”

Granted, the embedded video is only understandable to those who speak Japanese, but even if you don’t, the footage is still cool.

(The sound people heard was likely the result of a small meteorite — about 1 meter wide —  breaking the sound barrier as it disintegrated.)

https://japantoday.com/category/national/shooting-star-seems-to-have-exploded-above-tokyo?

Your Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker Reviews All Miss The Point

January 7, 2020
MThomas

Rey

Okay, so I figured that I would never do this.

I mean, write a Star Wars movie review? When so many have already been there, done that, loved it/hated on it/debated it? When I already did it (ah, twenty years ago, but still…)

But, then again, why not?

Especially when so many have gotten it so wrong… Continue Reading

Happy (Belated!) New Year’s 2020!

January 4, 2020
MThomas

NY2020Tokyo.jpg

Hi, everyone. I guess I should have planned a little better — should have written a “new year’s post” and then saved it before the holiday season began, scheduled the post, and then enjoyed overeating, overdrinking, and sleeping in.

Except of course that’s not what actually happened. Continue Reading

Exoskeletons in the house! Sorry, no mechas (yet)

November 8, 2019
MThomas

The “Every Muscle Suit” has a lot going for it. Weighing just 3.8 kilograms (2.2 pounds), the pneumatic artificial muscle suit is powerful enough to generate up to 25.5 kilogram-force and effectively relieves pressure on users’ backs when performing activities like heavy lifting.

And no batteries. That’s right: it uses air pressure only. Sells for the low low price of ¥149,600 (US$1,380)!

Well, OK, it’s not cheap. But compared to the robots used in heavy industries, this one’s close to affordable. And you can even test-run at the Bic Camera store in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

No mention of mounted laser rifles yet, though. Sorry.

Maybe V. 2.1?

https://soranews24.com/2019/11/05/assistive-exoskeletons-now-available-in-japanese-electronic-stores-lets-you-do-serious-lifting/

Winter is coming…well, not quite but

October 9, 2019
MThomas

Sorry I haven’t posted anything in a while. I know it’s been about two months. Summer was filled with fun family activities in Montreal. September was filled with trips to libraries and feeling sorry for myself. Got into a bit of a funk.

Now I’m back in Japan, back to the daily grind, and trying to find time to sort out all the stuff I mailed back from Montreal.

Rest assured, there’s lots of stuff to write about. Some of it even makes sense.

I’ll be writing a few quick posts about various cool science and space things in the upcoming days. Then maybe a couple of longish ones about weird family history. And maybe even an update on my SF novel.

Yeah. I still didn’t finish the first draft. Stuck on 70,000 words. But the end is in sight!

More later…

Full Metal Asteroid! Um. Maybe.

June 24, 2019
MThomas

Psyche

“Final planning stages” usually translates into “we have no idea when, if ever, this thing will work.”

Psyche!

Yes, actually.

Let’s hope NASA doesn’t resort to this:

FullMetal-bail

techcrunch.com/2019/06/11/nasa-moves-to-final-planning-stages-for-mission-to-explore-16-psyches-full-metal-asteroid/

Sakura: An Easter story

April 2, 2018
MThomas

IkomaSan

My friend, you died on Easter morning.

We all knew it would happen sometime soon. But still it seemed sudden.

My grandfather also died during Easter weekend, many years ago. Good Friday, in fact. I was 10. We had to have the wake and funeral right away. The Church said they wouldn’t allow him to be buried on Easter Sunday.

My mother told us that Grandpa went straight to Heaven, because he died on Good Friday. That we would one day see him again.

Terry, you died on April 1st. But it was no Fool’s. It was Easter. You were sleeping, and did not wake. Continue Reading

Death of a Cherry Tree

March 17, 2018
MThomas

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This past Monday, city workers came to cut down a cherry tree near our house. It had been there for years.

We found out later that a neighbor had complained that leaves falling in her backyard were a nuisance to clean. The fact that local children (and adults alike) treasured the cherry blossoms each spring seemed to escape her.

And cherry blossom viewing season is just around the corner. What a shame. A waste.

More’s the shame, I only have two pictures of the tree in full bloom.

Fleeting moments, lost in time and memory.

My children wrote a heartfelt letter to the tree, and I taped it as best I could to the stump:

“To the Cherry Tree,

For always showing your cherry blossoms to us until now, thank you.

We miss you, but we’ll never forget that this stump is the stump of a cherry tree.

If this stump ever grows, we want to see cherry blossoms again.”

Stories are made by fools like me…

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