PingMag Podcast Vol.3: takram – Kinya Tagawa

This is the PingMag Podcast Vol. 3! Enjoy our audio cast (with pictures) by putting this feed into your podcast player! (instructions here)

The PingMag Podcast Vol. 3 is an audio podcast of our latest seminar held by design engineer Kinya Tagawa. Until recently, Tagawa belonged to Leading Edge Design (L.E.D.), a design research group lead by prestigious industrial designer Shunji Yamanaka.

Kinya Tagawa set up his own company takram in January this year. With takram he aims to bring design and engineering together with an emphasis on “prototyping.”

At our seminar Kinya Tagawa mainly talked about his cardinal project tagtype, Afterglow and his general philosophy on prototyping.

image is from LEADING EDGE DESIGN exhibition “MOVE”

a human-shaped, interactive machine “Cyclops”
image is fromLEADING EDGE DESIGN exhibition “MOVE”

In the beginning Tagawa talked about his past projects such as the concept model “OnQ” for NTT DoCoMo (a cell phone which is able to handle digital broadcasting which will take over Japan soon) and the humanoid interactive machine “Cyclops” which was exhibited both at the EXPO in Aichi and Ars Electronica Center.

Tagawa talking


tagtype is a Japanese character input device with 10 buttons. Since Japanese characters consist of syllables, having 10 buttons to type with your thumbs make it easy to type words. The tagtype project originally started during Tagawa’s time at university. One day his department was asked to invent “a device that makes it typing easy” by Ransei Eto, who is a physically-challenged history novelist having great difficulty using common keyboards to type. Tagawa turned this challenge into his thesis. Trying to find out what could be best for Mr. Eto, he spent lots of time at his house discovering that Ransei Eto seemed to occur no problems when playing Playstation. With this revelation, Tagawa realized that there are big differences in design concepts between keyboards and game consoles. This then lead him to the idea for tagtype.

application of the tagtype concept
an electric study pad “Study Gate”

application of the tagtype concept
special software for VAIO type U

Though tagtype received significant media appraisal, it never became an actual project. Disappointed with this failure, Tagawa realized that making good stuff is not good enough…. one also has to think about marketing. This is when he developed the tagtype Garage Kit as a second model.

assembly kit
“tagtype Garage Kit”

“tagtype Garage Kit”

The tagtype Garage Kit is an assembly kit for users to create a tagtype unit by themselves – with scope for modification and customisation. This newer model is aimed at “geeky people who are into building stuff.” There are 2 benefits takram gets from offering tagtype in a “DIY-format”: 1. cutting down costs 2. geeky people become tagtype – experts while assembling the parts and are much more likely to solve upcoming problems by themselves (which also prevents takram from having to set up a customer service). Similar to other open source projects, tagtype – users will probably educate newer users. (You can view a tagtype demonstration video here)

drawing tool “Afterglow”


Let’s move on to the next project Afterglow. Afterglow is an amazing piece of software that allows you to write on a projected image by using a regular laser pointer. Tagawa explained that the idea came from a design conference he attended. At that presentation everybody was so keen on talking about interactive media, however the way people presented their work was not interactive at all. He started comparing this presentation to chalk board lectures in his school days and somehow wanted to combine a standard computer presentation with more interactivity.

audience listening

demonstration of Afterglow

Afterglow basically turns your laser pointer into a drawing tool so you can write, scribble, point out and modify your presentation slides (or what ever shows up on the projector) as you go along. With Afterglow you can select a drawing style, marker style, brush style and also chose to use an eraser. It has an RGB ink palette to change the colors or your brushes.

Uleshka tried to write something with a laser pointer

ULESHKA written in Katakana with the brush style “Samurai Pen.”

Finally, Tagawa talked about what he considers most important about prototyping. He always keeps a few things in mind: firstly, before you fix an idea and get into details, try to make something very rough instead and show it around. This way you’ll get more feedback from users and will be able to improve things better. Repeat this procedure as much as necessary. Secondly, concentrate on the prototype’s most important function. Don’t try to make everything perfect but test what you really want to know.

Now, that was a rough summary!

Please make sure you check out our podcast for the audio commentary (in English – courtesy of Jon and Kyoko)!

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