I recently moved my company, Cuteness Technology, to Kyoto, Japan. One of the (many) reasons for the move was the AR scene in Japan, which is blowing up.
One of the biggest events held about twice a year is ARISE, a gathering of AR creators held in Shibuya, Tokyo. It’s just a quick bullet train ride away from Kyoto. I decided to combine meetings with investors, a potential advisor, and this event for a glorious business marathon over the weekend! At the last ARISE event, I didn’t have a booth, so I watched all the presentations. I can speak a giant pile of Japanese, but these being highly technical talks and involving a lot of panels and crosstalk, I could only understand about %10 of the words. So I took a big ol’ nap.
So this time, to combat the sleepies, I asked if I could demo the Cuteness Technology apps at a table. This went super well as I was able to communicate much better in Japanese one on one, and also show my work in a visceral, hands on way. I was able to meet many more people this way as well. The booth was humble, and I demo’d Wuppets and a new caterpillar simulator I’ve been prototyping. I also passed out a pile of business cards (btw Meishi are super important in Japan).
One of the presentations I was the most excited for, was that of Tetsuya Mizuguchi.
Mizuguchi-san is like the Walt Disney of techno-utopian games and experiences! This guy has been a hero to me ever since I played Rez on the Dreamcast, and his works in both games and music have brought me many hours of joy throughout my life. Mizuguchi-san presented about his works over the years, mostly well known ones such as Rez, Child of Eden, and Tetris Effect. But he also mentioned something I had never heard of.
Apparently when he first worked at Sega in the early 90’s, one of the first things he did was, all on his own, build a prototype AR headset! Considering the state of tech at the time, this is absolutely insane. In talking to him afterwards he mentioned that after presenting it to a bunch of execs at Sega, they were like “calm down” haha. Soon after he began making Rez for the Dreamcast. Needless to say, Miz loves AR, and through his company Enhance Experience is working on new experiences to push the medium of interactivity forward.
Meet Kitasenju Design, an AR creation studio from the Kitasenju neighborhood of Tokyo. This primarily single person studio has been pumping out some of the most innovative and funny AR artwork in the field, and has blown up on his Twitter over the last year. He presented his work for the crowd and made them laugh many times with his ironic sense of humor and aesthetic. If you’re curious and have an iPhone X or later, check out the AR app Meisai to try out some of these amazing effects!
Tasku - D.I.Y. AR headset creator
Tasku took it upon himself to build his own North Star AR headset, based on the plans released by Leap Motion. He printed the parts out, bent his own lens from semi-reflective plastic, and hacked parts from a safety helmet all so that he could have awesome AR before anyone else. The guy is a genius and works at Team Lab where he designs magical experiences as part of larger teams all day.
Here I am trying out the headset myself!
Korogarium by Udasan
This wonderful little experience involved dropping marbles into a magical 3D screen. When you a drop a marble in the top, a little creatures plops down into the 3D screen. This illusion creates a seamless integration between digital and physical. It’s not strictly augmented reality but I loved it. The activity of dropping the marble in and hear the little creatures go “kyuu!” had a really calming effect. Thanks for the wonderful work Udasan! btw he works at Hashilus which is an interesting VR experience startup in Tokyo.
Meson - AR Startup in Tokyo
Meet Kaji, one of the youngest startup CEO’s in Japan. He’s running MESON, an AR startup that creates AR apps focused on helping business use AR effectively. Meson is helping organize ARISE and are doing a great job. Thanks Kaji and AR-Ojisan for throwing the event!
Japan’s AR scene is thriving and I really enjoyed meeting the tons of creators at the event, too many to mention. There were also a few students I met who seemed really inspired by the works they saw. One even mentioned that he now felt a drive to become an engineer/programmer because of the works he saw. Can’t wait for the next ARISE! For more info visit https://arise.meson.tokyo/