Dear readers, I hope you had a fun, restorative summer. I visited Tokyo for the second time this year with my 11-year old, spending time with family and enjoying the hubbub of the city. There was so much to see, it was kind of overwhelming. One of the highlights of our trip was visiting Miraikan, a science museum with heavy focus on future tech. My son and I loved this place so much, we made two visits.
Miraikan, National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation
Miraikan is located in the Odaiba area of Tokyo, with a nice view of Tokyo Bay. This museum features multiple interactive exhibits that are well designed and innovative. They do a good job of introducing new concepts and making them easy to understand. Most (if not all) of the exhibits are in English as well as Japanese, a huge plus for English-speaking visitors.
Visualizing big data
Can artificial intelligence anticipate people’s needs by analyzing their movement and interaction with their surrounding?
In this interactive exhibit on spatial-information science, we create a digital “body double” by registering our names (or remain anonymous) at a data station. When we enter the exhibit, a projection of your digital body double appears at your feet. It moves with you as you walk inside the exhibit, and will interact with other guests’ digital body double in close vicinity.
Visualizing data transfer
How do data get transferred in the world wide web? Let a gigantic marble machine show you how. You set a sequence of black and white marbles into a slot (because data is binary, you see), and off they go! At the end of the marble run is the sequence of marbles you sent. Simple yet fun.
Visualizing the effects of natural disasters
Here is a marble machine of another kind. This is a big Rube Goldberg machine that illustrates the random and inevitable nature of disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires. The Rube Goldberg machine of death! Red balls go around the Rube Goldberg machine, flooding and knocking out domino of infrastructure and people. There is even sound effects of people screaming. It’s a rather grim and blunt way to visualize natural disasters, but it shows how dependent we are on infrastructure like power plants to keep us alive.
Visualizing our future
In this exhibit, we’re asked to choose from eight possible outcomes as the vision of our future: a future with clean water, a future where all languages are preserved, a future where we stopped global climate change, etc. We take a stamp the future of our choice onto paper, then scan it into a digital obstacle course where our digital earth gets hits with obstacles along the way. The path to our future looks like a pinball board…
Most of the earths we saw on the board failed to reach 50 years into the future. From there, we can go to one of the monitors along the wall to read a letter from our future descendants. The messages are depressing.
The purpose of this game is to start with an outcome that we’d like to achieve, then see what bumps on the road. After you finish reading your letter from the future, you can watch videos of scientists and experts who describe in detail how we can reach the desired goal.
Watch Asimo’s amazing/cute antics
It was a while ago, but you may have seen a video of President Obama kick a ball back and forth with a humanoid robot. It’s the Honda Asimo, and Asimo shows off his skills four times a day in 10-minute shows. Asimo walks! Asimo kicks a ball! Asimo skips on one leg! Asimo’s movements are so lifelike, the show is well worth 10 minutes of your visit.
Ride the Honda Uni-Cub
There is an additional fee of $3 to $6 per person, but learning to ride the Honda Uni-Cub is a super cool experience. The Uni-Cub is like a motorized unicycle that takes five minutes to learn. Easy! It uses the same gyro technology inside Asimo, and only a small shift in balance is needed to maneuver it. It’s even featured in a OK Go! video. Being a huge fan of the band and its videos, my kiddo had to give it a go.
Fun, right? We went zooming around the first floor of the museum and also a little bit outside. You can’t buy the Uni-cub yet, which makes it a rather exclusive experience on the cheap! Umbrella dancers not included.
These are only a fraction of what you can see and do at Miraikan. You could spend three or more hours here easily.
When you’re done, you can take a quick walk to Diver City. You can’t miss it. It’s a shopping mall with a life-size Gundam.
Majestic. Here’s to our bright robot future!