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Internet Umbrella Lets Users Browse in Any Weather (October 4, 2007)

The umbrella projects images on to its underside. ©Pileus LLC / Keio University
Gray, rainy days may be about to get more colorful thanks to a new umbrella invented by Japanese researchers. The Internet Umbrella, conceived by a team at Keio University, acts as a photo browser by displaying images from the Internet as the user walks along. The handle of the umbrella contains a projector that displays images on the underside of the umbrella.

Student Inventors
The Internet umbrella, named Pileus (meaning the head of a mushroom) was created by two young graduate students. Second-year doctoral student Matsumoto Takashi, 27, and first-year master’s student Hashimoto Sho, 22, of Keio University’s Graduate School of Media and Governance were motivated by a desire to make walking on rainy days more enjoyable. Both belong to a research lab led by Professor Okude Naohito that is renowned for its interaction design research based on the concept of ubiquitous computing.

Prompted to start this project by the everyday act of using an umbrella, Matsumoto and Hashimoto combined numerous technologies to make the Internet umbrella a reality. The handle of their creation contains a camera, a motion sensor, GPS, and a digital compass. The device is controlled by rotating the grip.

The Internet Umbrella, Pileus ©Pileus LLC / Keio University

Pileus has been presented or displayed in several countries, including the United States, France, and Austria, and won the Innovation Prize at Laval Virtual 2007, Europe’s biggest virtual reality convention.

Future Vision
The Internet Umbrella has two main functions. One is browsing the online photo-sharing site Flickr. Not only can the umbrella display photos from the site; using the camera in the handle it can also take pictures and upload them to the Internet via a wireless connection. Pileus users can thus view each other’s photo streams. The umbrella can also display movies from the video-sharing site YouTube.

The other key function of the device is to help users find their way around by displaying 3D maps using Google Earth. The umbrella “knows” the user’s location (thanks to GPS) and direction (thanks to the digital compass), so it can show a bird’s-eye map of the surrounding area, enabling the user to navigate streets with ease. Both functions are easily controlled by rotating the grip of the umbrella. The team is currently working on enabling photos taken with the umbrella to be displayed on the map, along with their location.

©Pileus LLC / Keio University

Predicting continued growth in the quantities of tagged photos and consumer-generated media on the Internet, the developers imagine a time when Pileus users will be able to view social information generated by other users anywhere in real time. On their website they stated, “This product aims to enhance people’s everyday lives by synchronizing information on the Internet and in real places.”

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Copyright (c) 2007 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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