Japanese company introduces irresistibly cute mind-controlled 'cat ears' (w/ video)

May 06, 2011 by Bob Yirka report

(PhysOrg.com) -- In a bit of science mixed with whimsy, a Japanese company has created a set of electromechanical cat ears that can be worn on the human head and manipulated with nothing but the mind. Called the necomimi (a combination of the Japanese words for cat and ear) and looking very much like the ears that come with a cat costume, the ears respond to thoughts or mood by means of a sensor on a second small band pressed against the forehead; they can stand straight up when the wearer is concentrating, or wriggle and turn slightly when amused, or lay flat when tired or bored, demonstrating what the company calls, an ability to reveal emotion.

The company, called Neurowear, demonstrated its new product in the “Smile Bazar”at Omotesando Hills, which it captured on video and displays on its site; and while the participants are clearly amused by the cat ears moving around, and there is much smiling and some laughing, it’s difficult to tell just how much control over the ears the wearers have. A natural question arises also as to whether people can get better at manipulating their ears if they wear them over time.

In spite of the gimmick quality of the necomimi, it’s obvious that the concept could have a more serious purpose, such as helping those with communication difficulties express themselves.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Also, a not so obvious part of the necomimi experience is the reaction of the people around the person wearing the ears; in the video, it’s impossible to not notice the looks of mirth on the faces of the people around, and, it’s difficult to not smile yourself as you watch the people in the video try on the device; their reactions, and the way the ears react combined with the expressions on their face, is actually rather profound, though it’s hard to say why. Whether it’s the cuteness factor, or a feeling that something is being conveyed by the person, albeit artificial ears, that you don’t generally see in any other way, there is something unique and sweet about the whole human/machine interaction that very clearly evokes something in others.

The necomimi is another in a long line of products that listen and respond to brain waves, and doubtless there will be many more, though what’ s not certain, is whether they will be nearly as cute.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.


Explore further: Reflected smartphone transmissions enable gesture control

More information: via neurowear.net/

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User comments : 32

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Kedas
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2011
The commercial video is missing the front sensor.
Doesn't look nice with front sensor.
Na_Reth
4.4 / 5 (7) May 06, 2011
If i saw a cute asian girl with this... love at first sight :D
Isaacsname
1 / 5 (1) May 06, 2011
Meh, make me an extra pair of arms that I can control like that and I'll buy it.

A very un-exciting application, imho.
Quantum_Conundrum
3.4 / 5 (5) May 06, 2011
Yeah, I was more interested in the cute asian girl as well.
warmer
not rated yet May 06, 2011
The Cosplay demographic is clinched with this one. ;) Not many other people will drop the money to buy this I'm sure.
Fig1024
5 / 5 (8) May 06, 2011
Why am I not surprised this is invented in Japan?
For some strange reason, Japanese are the weirdest civilized nation on earth.
Temple
4 / 5 (4) May 06, 2011
Why am I not surprised this is invented in Japan?
For some strange reason, Japanese are the weirdest civilized nation on earth.


I don't know that I'd use the word 'weird' myself, as that term has some pejorative connotations, but it is useful to note two things when thinking about the differences between Japanese culture and those of the rest of the world:

1. There are an awful lot of people living very, very close to one another.
2. They are the only people to have had the bomb dropped on them, and it happened twice.

I'm a lover of cultural diversity; I find Japanese culture to be deliciously rich and extremely fascinating.
Recovering_Human
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2011
Irresistibly creepy...
epsi00
4.2 / 5 (5) May 06, 2011
I'm a lover of cultural diversity; I find Japanese culture to be deliciously rich and extremely fascinating.


cultural diversity in Japan? Rich culture, yes. Diverse? No. At least when compared to the US or some countries in Europe.
macsglen
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2011
Funny and cute, but otherwise just another waste of batteries. They should make them so that they'll track sounds, too. That sensor band needs to be made unobtrusive.

The furries will love these.
maxcypher
5 / 5 (4) May 06, 2011
Yeah, I agree that the Japanese has what practically amounts to a mono-culture; but it's an amazing one.
emsquared
4.1 / 5 (9) May 06, 2011
Hopefully the tail isn't too far... behind...?
Skepticus
2 / 5 (4) May 06, 2011
Probably the ED men's third legs will get a similar gizmo to get them stay up...
NickFun
5 / 5 (1) May 06, 2011
If my wife wears this I'll always know what she's feeling!
Richek
5 / 5 (2) May 06, 2011
So the sensor is likely calibrated to respond to beta waves produced by the brain. Beta waves are the prototypical "awake" wave form that humans exhibit and are often seen when performing motor tasks (that is to say, moving and arm or the like). Beta makes the most sense because its easily readable and if the ears are actually "trainable" beta manipulation is the easiest way.

The rig is big enough to accommodate amp of other waves, and if I had to guess its probably also measuring either Alpha (because of the whole relaxation thing) or Theta (if it really does read emotional states theta is pretty necessary). Alpha is tricky because having your eyes open suppresses the wave almost entirely. Theta is also tricky because its a slow wave that is easily masked in EMG noise from eye movement.

There might be some some Galvanic Skin Response to gauge stress, but the placement isnt ideal.

This is all speculation based on my field of expertise. Wish I could see the specs but cool regardless
Mastoras
5 / 5 (1) May 07, 2011
Do they have versions for those who are not cute Asian girls?
-.
James_Mooney
5 / 5 (6) May 07, 2011
Why am I not surprised this is invented in Japan?
For some strange reason, Japanese are the weirdest civilized nation on earth.


Oh well, they make cute stuff for women, and we make gatling guns. Maybe we're not that civilized.
hush1
1.3 / 5 (3) May 07, 2011
Great sense of humorous comments all around.
The message was subliminal. Music is a language too.
I'll translate:
"Buy me. Then, we will go out on a date." The rest is X-rated.
The overtones of the individual notes, (actually the overtones of the Japanese spoken language), played, were manipulated to sound like music. :)

Humans. Easy prey for science. Too late. The music/message planted. Subconsciousness's are people too.

Disclaimer: All not true. I'm fantasizing again. Or?
(They let me out of the psychiatric ward just long enough to post this) :)
fixer
5 / 5 (2) May 07, 2011
Connect them to hearing aids and they would be functional as well as hillarious.
Bob_Kob
1.5 / 5 (8) May 07, 2011
So instead of making machines to stop their nuclear reactors *ahem* chernoyblying, these make this useless crap
MorituriMax
1 / 5 (3) May 07, 2011
Sure, as cute as a clown.
sstritt
1.4 / 5 (7) May 07, 2011
So instead of making machines to stop their nuclear reactors *ahem* chernoyblying, these make this useless crap

Exactly what I was thinking....but maybe they need some stupid diversions right about now.
KBK
3.8 / 5 (10) May 07, 2011
So instead of making machines to stop their nuclear reactors *ahem* chernoyblying, these make this useless crap


You ignorance is showing through.

Open your mind.

The Americans designed (General electric corporation) and executed those plants.

If you understood the actual socio-economic deep hidden corporate and political considerations that brought about WWII, what happened in (and to) Japan, and what happened afterward, you'd find out that Japan was literally forced to take those nuke plants. This may also cascade into their location, as far as additional cast influence and designs go.

Those who look at history and these situation clearly, without emotions in the way, and with more depth than the public considers, they do end up seeing these realities far more clearly.

As you well know, what the public knows and understands is only very rarely the whole idea or only rarely the correct story and information (used to understand the ramifications-origins-directions).
hush1
2.3 / 5 (3) May 07, 2011
@KBK
With the humor distractions put aside, there is only word for your comment:
Agreed.

There is only one Japanese person I know thoroughly. We lived together for quite some time in Germany. We never conversed with each other in English or Japanese. Just German. And we spoke better German than most of the Germans we met. Germans from the highest to lowest profiles.

Looking back, I can say:
That segment of time was the greatest cultural diversity exchange I have encountered in my life.

Yes. A wonderful admonition.
Open your mind.

rwinners
3.7 / 5 (3) May 08, 2011
Hey, mood ears! Easier to read than that old fashioned ring.
dan42day
1.3 / 5 (3) May 08, 2011
Do they have versions for those who are not cute Asian girls?
-.


Yeah, I want a set with horns!
Husky
not rated yet May 08, 2011
ill hook it up to my shoulder launch missile pad
Gaf_Kerg
5 / 5 (2) May 08, 2011
"So instead of making machines to stop their nuclear reactors *ahem* chernoyblying, these make this useless crap"
Think about it for a bit. Do you really think that, collectively, Japan got together and said, who cares about the tsunami and all that stuff--let's design gadgets instead? Maybe you do think that. In fact, you probably are simple enough to believe that. But the world doesn't work that way. Japan hasn't closed for repairs, since their lives depend on working and producing just like the rest of the world and this company has probably been working on this for quite some time. It's not like the power plant safety issue was pushed down a list of things to do while someone invented this device. Just something to think about.
Ricochet
not rated yet May 09, 2011
I don't know that I'd use the word 'weird' myself, as that term has some pejorative connotations, but it is useful to note two things when thinking about the differences between Japanese culture and those of the rest of the world...


I remember from my Psychology textbook that described the main difference between American and Japanese cultures, being that whereas American culture is very individually centered, Japanese culture is group-centered. In other words, where Americans will generally associate certain events with their personal senses, like sights, sounds, tastes, etc., before those they were with and their reactions, Japanese people tend to associate events with the people they were with and their reactions before their personal senses.
poof
not rated yet May 09, 2011
What does it do when she takes it in the butt?
Bob_Kob
1 / 5 (2) May 10, 2011
@KBK I don't understand how that is relevant to what I said. The reactors are there. Doesn't matter if they were forced to have them, Japan is at the forefront of robotics, and yet in one situation that had a CRUCIAL role for robots to help contain the reactors there were no robots in site. They couldve put an asimo or whatnot there to operate controls remotely.
Ricochet
1 / 5 (1) May 10, 2011
Asimo was busy running around yelling, "Bee-dee-bee-dee-bee-deep! Oh No!!!"

Seriously, technology like this, while in this form can be considered a bit whimsical and useless, does pave the way for more serious applications of this technology. Take, for instance, that guy that had the face transplant. A modified version of this technology could, essentially, be used to enable "artificial" facial expressions with the mechanisms installed under the skin, tied to his brainwaves to enable them to move in line with what his natural reaction would be.