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Consumers Enjoy the Latest Technology in Showrooms (March 1, 2004)

Dinosaur Factory
Visitors use a PDA to learn about the exhibits. (Panasonic Digital Network Museum, Hayashibara Museum of Natural Sciences "Dinosaur FACTory")
The traditional image of showrooms is of places where major corporations show off their latest wares, get consumers to test new products, and stimulate people's desire to buy. Recently, however, showrooms have evolved into places that entire families visit on holidays and where couples might even go on a date. Many corporations nowadays are working to develop theme-park-like showrooms where visitors can experience cutting-edge technology and learn about new products while having an enjoyable time.

Stepping Back in Time
One attraction that has been especially well-received is the "Dinosaur Factory" that has been set up in Tokyo's famous Panasonic Center, which features the technology of the Matsushita Group. Visitors can step back in time as they witness the process of research on dinosaur fossils conducted at the Hayashibara Museums of Natural Sciences in Okayama Prefecture and even see a lifelike replica of a dinosaur as well as a real specimen. At the entrance, visitors are given a personal digital assistant (PDA), which they wear around their necks. When they reach different areas of the exhibit and hold up the PDA to a pole called a Fact Scope, information about nearby exhibits is displayed on the PDA. Visitors can also listen to an audio program via earphones; the virtual tour guides are real researchers. The visitors can also use the PDA to take pictures. Providing visitors with information using PDAs is many times more efficient than having them read printed brochures or signs at the exhibits; they can get the feeling that they are actually at a dinosaur excavation site. A limited number of PDAs capable of presenting the information in English is also available. Visitors wishing to use one should call ahead and inquire about their availability.

Dinosaur Factory
A real dinosaur skeleton (Panasonic Digital Network Museum, Hayashibara Museum of Natural Sciences "Dinosaur FACTory")

When visitors complete their tour, they are given a special ID number and a password. After returning home, they can access the official website [] and view the data from the PDA they used during the tour, as well as any pictures they took.

Hands-on Experience
Tokyo's Odaiba district is home to the Toyota theme park called Mega Web, where, in addition to seeing classic automobiles and mini cars, visitors can take new models for a test drive on a limited course. Reservations are needed and can be made by phone; English-speaking receptionists are available. In order to drive one of the vehicles, it is necessary to have a drivers license from France, Germany, or Switzerland, or an international license. Visitors who do not possess the necessary license can still enjoy a ride in a small electric vehicle that drives itself, which is a great way to move between pavilions. People intending to visit are advised to check the English version of the website [] ahead of time so that they will understand the process.

Sekisui House, Ltd., reopened a newly renovated theme-park-like display of residential facilities in Ibaraki Prefecture in October 2003, called Kanto Living Dream Factory. Visitors can learn what makes a house an easy target for burglary and what steps to take to prevent it. Natural disasters, such as the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji Great Earthquake that rocked Kobe, are re-created, and visitors can experience the shaking that such a temblor causes. Members of the factory's technical staff serve as tour guides, but tours are unfortunately offered only in Japanese. While it would be preferable to bring along someone capable of providing interpretation, no words are necessary to experience the terror of an earthquake.

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Related Web Sites
Dinosaur Factory
Panasonic Center

Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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