AI-programmed Astro Boy robot kit to debut in magazine's monthly issues

The Japan Times

A kit to gradually assemble an artificial intelligence-programmed robot based on Astro Boy, an iconic work by the late manga artist Osamu Tezuka, will be put on sale, Kodansha Ltd. and other firms said Wednesday. Parts needed to build the 44-cm robot will be available in a weekly magazine to be published from April by Kodansha, the publisher and its partner technology firms said. The AI-equipped humanoid robot, which can recognize the faces of people and chat, can be assembled with 70 issues of the magazine, with a total expense of around ¥180,000 (around $1,600). "This is a dream-like project, connecting fantasy and science," said Makoto Tezuka, the son of the manga writer and a director at Tezuka Productions. The project, launched by Kodansha, the studio, NTT Docomo Inc., Fuji Soft Inc. and Vaio Corp., commemorates the 90th anniversary of Tezuka's birth in 1928.

Power Stone: the Dreamcast brawler that foresaw Fortnite and Overwatch

The Guardian

From the very beginning, developers saw the Dreamcast console as a place to experiment. Sega set the tone with innovative outliers such as Shenmue, Jet Set Radio and Seaman, but other game publishers soon caught the wave. There was Acclaim with the odd extreme sports title Trickstyle, developed by the Burnout team; there was Interplay with futuristic shooter MDK2, created by Bioware five years before Mass Effect; and there was Capcom with its joyful, rule-breaking brawler Power Stone. Set in a boisterous, steampunk-infused universe of pirate ships, taverns and temples, Power Stone was a two-player 3D beat-em-up, in which environmental awareness was as important as punching. There were 10 characters to choose from, most drawn from weird Victorian and Edwardian adventure fiction tropes: pilot explorer Edward Falcon; dancer (and ninja) Ayame; tank-like miner Gunrock; Galuda, a Native American bounty hunter.

Super Mario's Reluctant Leap to the iPhone

The New Yorker

As recently as five years ago, Nintendo's late president, Satoru Iwata, was adamant that Super Mario would never make the leap to smartphones. "If we did this, Nintendo would cease to be Nintendo," he said in an interview with Nikkei, in 2011. The decision was philosophical rather than economic. The goal of smartphone developers, Iwata had said earlier that year, "is just to gather as much software as possible, because quantity is what makes the money flow." A game's artistic quality, he added, "does not matter to them."

Social media weighs in on design and purpose of Japan's new bank notes

The Japan Times

Social media has been awash with posts following the public unveiling of Japan's new era name, Reiwa, at the beginning of April. The announcement was almost the complete opposite of an April Fools' Day joke and yet every detail has been picked apart online, from the way the name was officially unveiled to the actual name itself. On April 9, netizens jumped on a related topic after Finance Minister Taro Aso unveiled new designs for the ¥10,000, ¥5,000 and ¥1,000 bank notes that will be put in circulation from 2024. Considering the new bank notes will eventually be a part of daily life, it's not surprising people had plenty to say about the announcement. Many criticized the font that appears on the new bills, suggesting it looked a little janky.

Japan's 'SWAT' team hones terror attack response after Brussels

The Japan Times

Police armed with guns tackled a grenade-throwing man and his accomplice in a bus hijack enactment in Tokyo on Wednesday after the Brussels airport and subway bomb attacks that killed 32 people. The Emergency Response Team, a select group from members of the country's anti-firearms squad, is stepping up preparations before the nation hosts the Group of Seven summit in late May. The police have increased patrols and are stationing more staff at the nation's biggest airports following the Belgium and Paris terrorist attacks as the country attempts to gird its defenses against assaults from groups such as Islamic State. The practice drill took place in a new bus terminal at Shinjuku Station, the world's busiest train hub, with more than half a dozen police apprehending the two hostage takers and releasing the passengers. "The terror threat is affecting the whole world," Takahiro Tezuka, the head of Harajuku Police Station, said after the drill.