The Keio-NUS CUTE (Connective Ubiquitous Technology for Embodiments) Center is the first and still Keio's only research center outside of Japan. It is a joint collaboration between National University of Singapore (NUS) and Keio University. Currently the Graduate School of Media Design (also known as Keio Media Design or KMD) plays a core role in the CUTE Center activities. KMD believes in the importance of multi-national collaboration to think beyond borders, hence the CUTE Center offers KMD faculty members and students an exceptional opportunity to spend time in Singapore and work closely with researchers and students at NUS.
The Keio-NUS CUTE Center is partially funded by a grant from the National Research Foundation (NRF) administrated through the Media Development Authority (MDA) of Singapore. The CUTE Center has also engaged in projects with partners in industry. Commencing operations on 1 April, 2009, one of the objectives in establishing the center was to collaborate on research in the area of interactive digital media to support the growth of this industry in Singapore.
There are currently two physical research laboratories, with the main laboratory headquartered at NUS in Singapore and a smaller laboratory at KMD on Keio's Hiyoshi Campus in Japan. These two labs are connected by a video conferencing system for joint collaboration and communication between researchers. The CUTE Center laboratory spaces are designed by KMD to share its collaborative, open-minded, and serendipitous culture in order to support the multi-faceted creative process.
The cultural differences between Singapore and Japan produce a culturally rich environment that opens up routes for new understanding of trans-nationality to bring depth to research projects.
The CUTE Center relies on trend-spotting and user- and industry-driven paradigms as foundations to guide the creative process. The CUTE Center crosses disciplines within and beyond academia, time, and space to provide for different perspectives, discussion, and reflection. It is a unique community that pushes engineering excellence with cutting-edge design, as well as pursuing academic contribution while sustaining the entrepreneurial spirit to create a social impact. Using practice-based techniques to explore and manifest ideas, the CUTE Center has evolved to become a place where contemporary issues can be investigated and technologies, artifacts and theories tested.
KMD faculty members and students are actively engaged in various CUTE Center projects, visiting Singapore frequently and many are also employed in Singapore as researchers. Multiple awards, expansive media exposure, a long list of academic publications, and some spin-off companies reflect the interest and relevance of the CUTE Center projects as a result of various levels of collaboration. In this article, several projects are showcased to illustrate the diversity and uniqueness of the CUTE Center projects.
Ninja Track is a belt-shaped object that has the capacity to alter its flexibility and its strength. It is a foldable, multi-function device that changes its function according to how one interacts with it. When flat, Ninja Track is fluid and wavy. When the user folds it at the horizontal hinges, Ninja track becomes a rigid stick. Using Ninja Track, the research team created two applications. One is a physical game interface which can transform a whip into a sword virtually and physically. Another is a musical instrument which can control sounds depending on its shape and interaction. The project was awarded the Excellence Prize in the 15th Japan Media Arts Festival, Entertainment Division in 2012.
See a video of the Ninja Track in action here:
Media Furniture is a collection of living room furniture that is embedded with sensors and incorporates smart materials. It behaves in sync with the human activities in the space and offers content and services such as atmospheric music, dynamic lighting, and playful interactions. The project received the Red Dot Design Award 2011 in the Home Furniture Category.
Scented Pebbles is a collection of interior lighting elements to create multisensory ambience of light and smell. When it senses people's movement and touch, the networked objects will generate dynamic ambience. The pebbles emit scents and controls the lighting conditions to create a unique ambience such as Hawaiian Sunset, Japanese Onsen, or Autumn in Shanghai.
Sound Perfume is a wearable and mobile system that provides users with additional auditory and olfactory sensory inputs through a pair of glasses, to enrich face-to-face interpersonal communication. You can send a particular sound and smell to the person you meet for the first time to create an emotionally rich first impression. The results of the project were documented in a doctoral dissertation submitted to KMD.
CITIUS (Communication Infrastructure of Transport Information for Universal Service) is a location-aware digital signage service on the bus. CITIUS uses real-time location sensing technology to inform bus passengers of the traffic condition and ongoing events nearby. This may facilitate better understanding of traffic conditions and be extended to advise on future road pricing. The project is a joint collaboration between the CUTE Center and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.
3rd Eye is a special helmet that assists bike riders to make safer riding decisions. The collision prevention system adopts vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technologies to provide hints on the helmet visor and warn riders of possible danger. This project showcases the value of a collision prevention system as well as the capability to operate across systems such as cars and motorbikes.
For further information about the Keio-NUS CUTE Center:
For further information about the Keio Graduate School of Media Design (KMD):
Photo 1: Keio-NUS CUTE Center at I3 Building, NUS, Singapore
Photo2: Collaborative environment at the CUTE Center in NUS
Photo 3: Ninja Track
Photo 4: Media Furniture
Photo 5: Scented Pebbles
Photo 6: Sound Perfume
Photo 7: CITIUS
Photo 8: 3rd Eye