Japan is famous for cool camera-phones and its massive vending machine industry, put them together and you’ve got a significant business opportunity. We visited Pinchange Co. Ltd, and got a step-by-step demo. of their lean, mean Print Club Sticker making vending machine. Spun out of Panasonic’s Central Research Institute in 2001, the company is making a digital photo printing unit thats sure to follow in the foot steps of digital cameras – on phones or otherwise – around the world. By allowing users to input their photos from almost any type of memory card or even straight from the handset IR Port, we think they’ve tapped into a global goldmine. But thats not all we saw, they also gave us a sneak preview at a prototype LED virtual keyboard for mobile devices set to hit the streets here in 2004.
Full Program Run-time 13:49
When we first saw Pinchange, we didn’t know what to make of them. We arrived, and the place looked liked an electronic toyshop. Anybody remember BladeRunner’s genetic designer JF Sebastian, Ridley Scott’s future geek (now two a penny in Japan), who lived with a bunch of mechanical robot friends? Walking into Pinchange was like walking into J.R. Sebastian’s bedroom, fully of strange networked vending machines, a talkative WLAN boosted, purple-coated comfort muppet (for Senior Citizens, according to President Kayashima), and a fantastic machine that allowed you to virtually drown the object of your choice in an enormous PDP mockup tropical fish tank (Goodbye Kittie, he-he-he..!?)
“We’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe..” (Rutger Hauer/Roy Batty, Bladerunner.. adapted)
More seriously, the late 90s saw purikura flying out of the factories, and watching thekids queue up to snap and snip was reminiscent of the long lines that stretched in frontof the first Space Invader games of the early 80s. In 1997, it was impossible to crawlaround Shibuya’s cafes without seeing hordes of girls cutie-cutie exchangingthumbnails of themselves dressed in Kimonos battling Godzilla on the top of Mount Fuji.
Thankfully their talented young marketing consultant Hiroyasu Terajima was on hand to translate and give us a hands on demo. of their digital photo printing coin-op machine..!!!
Pinchange is set for the Asian markets first and then Europe and the US later. In factKayashima is constantly on the road spreading the word at trade shows. Here’s twointeresting things we?d like to leave you with. With the camera switched off,Pinchange spent 20 minutes asking us what we thought they could do to reconfigure thekaitai print club for U.S. shopping malls.
We said, make it simple for American kids, you know big buttons and simple explanations,and you’re off.
Of course, the biggest problem for Pinchange is the phones with the flash memory need tobe in Europe and the United States first. Onwards, ever onwards, wireless device evolution
Talking of that, Pinchange’s keyboard development comes as handset makers arethemselves battling with the all thumbs’n'buttons issue of crappy cellie keypadsand what to do with them as keitai smartphones morph into PDAs and wallets. Onward,Ubiquity! Oh yeah, just let us spend 10 minutes on a cellphone tapping out an urgente-mail message beyond “Meet you at the pub at 9:00.”
Qualcomm, for example, has just announced that it’s BREW 3.0 Client will add a numberof new multimedia and management features, while an updated software development kitincorporates improved application-testing properties.
Multimedia enhancements to the BREW client include support for removable storage mediasuch as SD-IO cards, and a serial interface that allows BREW handsets to connect to otherdevices. Qualcomm said these will include keyboards and PCs. The BREW 3.0 porting kit isavailable now. Qualcomm said BREW 3.0-enabled handsets should reach the market by summer2004.
At his last press conference before the Christmas/ New Year break, DoCoMo’s presidentTachikawa made it clear that next year will be the beginning of DoCoMo’s Symbian/Linux smartphone push, with Microsoft locked out because MS wanted to monopolize mobile.Thankfully, they seem to have a big fat zero chance at the moment. While we know DoCoMoand Sony are spearheading Japan’s push to the keitai wallet, the morphing, or attemptto morph all sorts of PDAs, sub-laptops and mobile phones into do-anything be anywhere andalways on devices will need some sort of Pinchange-like keyboard solution. Unless, ofcourse, the push to make voice recognition keeps place with the ability of devices.
For us, it’s a sure-fire bet that Pinchange will be working with Panasonic tointegrate the infra-red keyboard into keitei early next year, with the first phones outperhaps as early as a year from now.
— the Editors.