For this month’s pingSeminar we welcome guest speaker Kazuhiko Hachiya. Hachiya-san is well-known for his massively popular PostPet virtual pet software, but is also known for his art and technology experiments and inventions. From jet-powered hoverboards to abstract CG production, Hachiya-san is a designer who can work across a wide range of media. Recently, Hachiya-san has been involved with his latest project, “Open Sky” – a personal flying machine, currently on display at the Aichi Expo. We hope he’ll tell us all about it today!
Ok we are starting!
We are welcoming Hachiya-san, a man who has created various things (something of an inventor) – probably most famous for his PostPet virtual pet software.
First Hachiya-san introduces himself. He is a media artist, and developer of PostPet (which he is very pleased about). Other than software development, Hachiya-san is making some “fun stuff” too.
The first project is his most current one – “Open Sky”.
Open Sky (pictured at the top of the page) is a project to create a personal flying machine – a compact one-man jet. Work on this project is currently under way in Osaka.
It’s also being displayed at the Aichi Expo, as an “in development” exhibition where you can see the frame of the flying machine.
Hachiya-san says that a lot of people doubt whether you can actually fly in such a thing, but he is staying positive!
The next project is something he created to demonstrate an “exchange of sight”. Two people wear a special helmet that allows you to see what the other person is seeing, instead of what is in your own view. Very interesting and confusing to watch (Hachiya-san is showing us a video – two people wearing these helmets are trying to find each other in a crowd of people).
The next project he is showing us is a “tail” that you attach to the back of your car (looks like a robot dog’s…). You control the “wag” with a joystick on your dashboard – it can be used to “thank” drivers behind you and is also meant to act as a warning – to make other drivers more aware of your road presence, to prevent accidents. He calls it “Thanks Tail”.
It’s actually on sale. They have sold a fair few, but he would like to see more tails on the road.
Next up is PostPet!
The initial point of PostPet was to promote female usage (or at least, a more balanced usage) of mail and internet facilities, which at the time was an area mainly dominated by men. It is like a virtual pet that reacts and delivers mail to your friends using various cute animations.
V3 (version 3) has improved over the basic version, it’s now in 3D and you can add accessories and plugins.
Hachiya-san says that the way PostPet works is virus-like, but non-destructive (obviously).
Depending on how many mails you send, who you send to, what character you use etc – different circumstances arise in the PostPet’s world.
One thing Hachiya-san wanted to achieve with PostPet is to be able to control everything, in terms of the brand, such as figures, packaging etc. As for accessories, there is one that allows the characters to display signs above their head such as “honesty”, and also stuff for the characters to play with, such as a paddling pool.
Mega Diary was a project to collect lots of diaries together on a global scale (and Japan especially loves diaries). 100 people contributed to a big bulletin board and the entries were displayed randomly. Now, mixi (the Japanese version of friendster) has taken over the mantle of this kind of service.
Over The Rainbow was an installation that used the movement of swings (the kind children play on) to create a CG light show moving along the floor. Light reacts to the movement of the swing. This is from about 10 years ago. This was part of Hachiya-san’s theme of “communication” which ruled most of his projects such as PostPet and Mega Diary.
For the next project various artists were asked to draw their interpretation of a nude model in 3 minutes, using any means they liked. Hachiya-san shows us a room of people using various methods to create an image – people working with regular paints, pencils, some modeling clay and one person seemingly using…cake…or something very cake-like, to draw on. Yep maybe I need new glasses.
Next Hachiya-san shows us an impressive jet hoverboard called “Airboard”, inspired by the futuristic skateboard in Back To The future II. It’s basically a hovercraft that you can stand on and it hovers about 1cm above the ground. The video first video Hachiya-san shows us illustrates the Airboard in one of it’s unsuccessful tests (lots of smoke).
Ooh now we are onto Version 3 of the hoverboard – it’s flying much better.
Since it flies about about 1cm above the ground it does wobble a bit in the air so it’s difficult to stand on. Hachiya-san says that creating this kind of tangible object is very satisfying – you gain all sorts of experiences you cannot get from pictures or on a computer etc – by creating something with your own hands from your own ideas you get to experience the smell, the sound etc. It’s a much more fulfilling experience.
Moving on from the airboard but keeping the theme of something a person can ride, Hachiya-san came up with the idea for the personal-flying machine that we talked about earlier. A rough working miniature prototype was made within 3 months and was about 4 meters in wing span.
We are watching the Open Sky machine fly around (in prototype miniature form) – it looks very graceful.
To make this into a real working full-size machine, he is working with aviation and aeronautics expert Shimada-san.
For training purposes, Hachiya-san has been taking gliding lessons. Some people ask him “why are you making such a thing?” since it’s such a big change from making software like PostPet. Hachiya-san says it’s because he wanted to create something more physical, tangible and that working infront of a computer all the time is a bit tiring
His approach to creating flying machines always starts with making a paper model. He finds this approach more useful than the kind of “theory” that you might do in a research lab or university, using CG simulations etc – but of course that kind of preparation is important too.
He is planning to have a test flight in either November or December – it’s difficult to find a good area to test, though. He carries around a wind-testing gadget at all times, to test wind speed etc, looking for good testing grounds.
Hachiya-san keeps checking mixi (a Japanese social networking website) – why? Because he promised the visitors to his mixi page that the 15555th visitor will get a present (a paper model of his flying machine). He is worried that he will miss the 15555th visitor in the middle of the seminar! He just checked, his page views are at 15543!
Hachiya-san just showed us some “magic”…one of his smaller experiments. It’s a box that displays an illuminated photo when you hold over a filter, but displays nothing without. Hachiya-san thinks that it might have an application in ATMs or other situations where you might need to have invisible information.
A question from IMG SRC:
“What do you want to make next?”
Hmmm a rocket. Or a robot! For the rocket, not something that you can ride, really, more like something small.
As for the robot, Hachiya-san says he has a funny idea for a robot. He tells us that when he is carrying or playing with his child he sometimes gets flashbacks of himself being carried by his father long ago. Hachiya-san says that since we forget these early childhood memories it would be nice to create a giant robot that can simulate being a “parent” to a fully-grown person (by carrying you, playfully throwing you in the air etc) to help us remember these kinds of memories. Hachiya-san laughs and says that he is not really serious about it, but he thinks the idea would be nice, at least.
Maybe like a robot that can be like a big brother or a protector for an individual.
Mixi accesses are up to 15553! Only 2 more people to go…Hachiya-san asks if he can stay a little longer
We’d like to thank Hachiya-san for such an interesting seminar. Good luck with your flying machine and good luck with your future projects – it’s very inspiring to see someone who works across such a wide range of media. Please visit IMG SRC again!
Transcript by Jon