Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mozilla Japan!


MozFest in Tokyo


東京のモズフェストへようこそ! 

With an enthusiastic “Welcome to MozFest in Tokyo!” Chibi, the Chair of Mozilla Japan, kicked off the first localized Mozilla Festival on September 15th at Shibaura House in central Tokyo. Despite severe typhoon warnings, over 120 people came to experiment with and learn from 27 different sessions across 4 floors, loosely divided into themes:
  • Animation
  • Make the Web Physical
  • Webmaking for Mobile
  • Mozilla Factory groups
Weaving everything together was Mozilla’s open-source ethos; even the venue, with its floor-to-ceiling windows and balcony-access stairs, contributed to the day’s openness.

After one-minute introductions from each session, participants spread out to celebrate monozukuri  – literally “making things” – the tradition of making that is an integral part of Japanese culture. With this year’s Maker Party campaign encouraging a learning-through-making philosophy, the festival was abuzz with excitement as traditional concepts and modern tools came together in cutting-edge, sometimes odd-looking, projects.


On the ground floor, Maker Party was in full swing with Popcorn Maker fired up for remixing. A national media conglomerate shared access to some anime characters, so middle school students and university professors alike created original stories like this one.


  Of course, no festival in Japan is complete without manga: Html5j showcased their animated manga maker that, using html5, converts video into black and white anime in real-time.  People lined up to make funny faces, recite poetry, and give shout-outs to their friends in manga form. Since a picture paints a thousand words, here are some unique manga gifs.


In Make the Web Physical, activities used the web as a medium to connect the tangible with the virtual. For example, Make the Web Haptic uses a DIY amplifier producing inaudible wavelengths to create vibrations in connected objects. When running a mouse over a textured surface on a screen, the mouse vibrates to create the sensation of feeling the texture.  So far, ideas for using the Techtile Toolkit focus on Internet shopping; come “touch the web” at MozFest in October, and share your ideas!
 
 Plant de Interface was all about integrating natural phenomena with technology. One project proposed attaching very small solar battery cells to phototropic plants to increase the exposure to the sun. This is still very much in the idea stage, but it would be cool to see if/how/where this goes.



Mozilla Factory, a holistic initiative that brings together student-mentors, NPOs, universities, and employers around the central themes of openness and making, showcased as well. Sessions included building Firefox OS apps using geolocation to insert images into photos, testing new Firefox OS phones being developed by KDDI in Japan, and remixing cell phones. This session was led by two middle school students showing how to create your ideal cell phone by mixing parts from several phones.

A slightly more serious program, OpenStreetMap Foundation/OpenRelief shared a prototype of a remote-controlled airplane with a wingspan of about 1.5 meters that will collect geographic data to create maps of remote areas. Its first trip will be around the Fukushima devastation site for everyone to see. The project leader is a driving force behind MozBus and its relief efforts.


Speaking of which…
MozBus

Thursday afternoon saw the launch of MozBus, a giant, orange camper van outfitted with a satellite dish on the roof, a 3D printer whirring away inside, and plenty of space to cart making materials around the country. Japanese media, university students, and Mozilla community members heard Professor Jun Murai -- Father of the Internet in Japan and 2013 inductee in the Internet Hall of Fame – Moz Japan’s Chibi, and prominent Japanese engineers and professors explain the rationale for this Nomadic Web Factory.
 

The concept of MozBus rose from the ashes of the Fukushima disaster, when victims were without any means of communication for weeks. Reports were strictly controlled by the government – including the famous picture of the roads being fixed just days after the earthquake. With cell towers knocked down, information coming out and going into the area – when there was any – was heavily censored. Professor Murai refers to this experience as the line that divided recent history into “pre-Internet” and “post-Internet” in Japan.


MozBus not only bring Internet access to remote and/or devastated areas, but also provide printed goods when needed, and education about everything from how to make Ethernet cables to the importance of the open web. As 3D printing gets more sophisticated and accessible, the range of printable items increases. At the launch, plastic whistles that had been printed moments earlier were displayed as examples of how printing could be used for relief. You see, in some parts of Japan wild boars threaten residents; an energetic tweet from a whistle can scare them off to give people time to get to safety. A simple plastic whistle that scares of a couple boars may seem inconsequential, but as the bus moves along relief will become customizable and printable.

MozBus will set out on its maiden voyage in early October, heading north to Fukushima with the OpenStreetMap Society/OpenRelief team aboard. The current vision includes multiple buses across Asia, starting with disaster prone areas. No doubt food, water, and shelter are a priority when travesty strikes; still, Fukushima made the argument for communications also being a high priority, to let the world hear from the suffering communities about their needs and realities, and not blindly accept what the talking heads have transmitted.

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