Japanese Technologies (2020)
Curators: Alison Campbell, Christian Pitsch, and Davis Reinsel | University of Minnesota | June 2020
Collection Editor: Isabel Pedersen
Acquisitions Editor: Ann Hill Duin
Collection Archivist: Sharon Caldwell
This collection aims to highlight the influence of culture on embodied technologies that emerge from Japan. Japanese developers have integrated technology into traditional garments, such as a smart phone display in an obi
(traditional sash), as well as used digital technologies like AI and 3D printing to create environmentally sustainable fashions
that are inspired by traditional Japanese kimono design. We understand these innovations as a means for these developers to hold onto cultural traditions while refreshing them with a modern twist. Others have written about how Japanese styles and traditions inform technical adoption of devices, and sometimes they speak more to foreign cultures' curiosity over them. One historical artifact from 2005, Japan's Humanoid Robots: Better Than People
, queries more directly the role of robots in Japanese culture from a Western viewpoint. Without essentializing Japanese cultural traits, we observe technocultural adoption through these embodied computing devices. We assemble technologies developed in Japan by both small start-ups and large companies as a means to observe these themes in different ways.
We also identify robots developed in Japan and note how they are integrated in Japanese restaurants
or care homes
, which also points to cultural integration that is unique. For example, OriHime
robots were used in a pilot program where the robot servers in a restaurant were remotely controlled by people with disabilities from their homes; technologies for accessibility is a theme of this collection. This collection includes items from the Miraikan National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
located in Tokyo, including those created by inventor Hiroshi Ishiguro
of Osaka University, who has contributed some of the world's most famous humanoid robots.
Finally, we acknowledge that we present our observations from a non-Japanese viewpoint. We seek to recognize the theme of Japanese culture and the development of embodied technologies in global cultural spheres.