Square Enix Looks for Answers in the Cloud
Giantbomb CBS By Patrick Klepek


We’ve always been buying consoles and PCs to play our games, and the power bringing them to life happens on the machines in our homes. A popular vision for the future involves cloud computing breaking that cycle. Shinra Technologies, a wholly-owned spin-off of Square Enix, is one of those companies.

The elevator pitch for Shinra is an attempt to move consumers away from buying hardware by having the computational heavy lifting take place in the cloud. This could, in Shinra’s words, open the door to game concepts that wouldn’t be possible when companies like Microsoft and Sony must always compromise console technology to make it affordable.

Shinra is lead by Yoichi Wada, the former CEO of Square Enix. Wada left his post last year, not long after the publisher revealed it would take a huge financial hit. Slow sales prompted Wada to step down, but he became a chairman of the Square Enix board later that year.

It’s not hard to imagine how Shinra might apply to online games. In an MMO, where bits of latency are less of an issue, developers could create worlds impossible to render on consumer-level hardware. All players would need is the ability to log-in and receive a video stream.

"I began to think ‘if we have 100 people playing together, and, up until now, they’ve only been putting their positioning data on the server, what if they were all playing together in a way where their game calculations were done once for those 100 people?’" said Iwasaki. "We would be able to vastly simplify the way that the game is calculated. As an example, let’s imagine the protagonist is running on everybody’s screen, and we have the animation and rendering calculation that has to be done to get that protagonist to be running. Instead of calculating that 100 times, we calculate that once and send that video back to the users."

This doesn’t have to only apply to big-budget games, either. Wada views Shinra as a technology to enable a broader spectrum of games. Right now, he views development exclusively moving towards small scale creations built by tiny teams and huge projects funded by tens of millions of dollars. The middle is falling out, and Wada argues cloud computing could play a role in bringing it back.

"This is our true feeling," he said. "This is what we feel very deeply [about]. We want to open up the future of games, together with the users, together with the developers. Together, with everyone, we open up a new future for games."

Use of middleware is a relatively new phenomenon in Japanese game development, one that contributed to setbacks during the past generation. It’s not uncommon for Japanese game developers to build entirely new engines for the next game, and often won’t share tools between teams. While there’s been great change in this area, it’s certainly not to the point where one could imagine a Japanese game company sharing technology outside its offices. More than anything, this is why Shinra isn’t an internal project.

"There’s two important points in splitting it off from Square," said senior VP of business Jacob Navok. "One, we need to be able to gather content from lots of developers and publishers. Two, Square Enix, as a company, needs to be free to be able to put its content on to various cloud systems, including PlayStation Now and others."

When asked whether this was a heated discussion within Square Enix, Wada smiled.

"In those terms, I may not have been a typical Japanese [executive]," he said. "This method didn’t seem particularly unnatural to me. I thought this was the best, and this was the natural route to take."

Wada looks at the video game industry in 2014, and sees creative stagnation. Throughout my conversation with Wada and his team, everyone emphasized a belief Shinra could benefit game design. It’s early days, however, and there aren’t many games to prove this potential. It could. It might.

"My aim is to bring the cloud [to everyone], and create a very extreme game that is just mind-blowing," he said. "This is a win-win situation for the consumers and us because the consumers don’t have to invest in the machines that we will have in our data centers. Everyone will be sharing them. Consumers will be able to have these extreme gaming experiences without investing a lot on the machine of the devices."

Wada and company speak of themselves in a sort of savior role, one that’s identified core issues with modern games, and technology can provide a solution. It’s ironic, then, to choose the name Shinra. Final Fantasy VII players recall Shinra was the tyrannical corporation from the series’ PlayStation debut.

Pointing this out prompted laughter from the whole group.

"Cloud is the protagonist in Final Fantasy VII," said Wada. "As a joke, we chose something from Final Fantasy VII. Shinra was a very evil, massive company, and they always remained evil. But we are very good people! [laughs] The logo for Shinra Technologies was drawn by the artist who drew the logo for Shinra in Final Fantasy VIII. The logo in-game was black and red—evil. We took that away, and we changed it to blue and white, to not make it so evil."

The “coincidences” go even deeper.

"Our New York office is actually within the Avalanche Studios office in New York" he said. "If you remember, in Final Fantasy VII, the resistance that tries to go against Shinra in the game is called Avalanche. They battle Shinra."

Clever girl.

Shinra’s business center is located in New York for talent recruitment and tax reasons, while its development efforts are happening in Montreal. Though Shinra shares an office with Avalanche Studios, there are no formal plans for the company to work on anything using Shinra’s systems. That said, Wada suspects something will come of the close cooperation and interaction between the two companies.

We won’t have to wait very long to see Shinra in action, either. A beta launches early next year in Japan, with other countries to follow soon after. The initial beta will feature “catalog content” (read: old games) and a stress test in the form of a simple, overhead 2D RPG.

It’s not much. Technology means nothing without games to back them up, which Shinra doesn’t have yet.

"We come from passion and love for the industry and a feeling of frustration about what we see happening right now—a lack of innovation in game design," said Navok. "Everything looks cookie-cutter. [There’s] a lack of innovation in technology, which is resulting in products that always have to look the same because it’s the only way that they’re going to sell. We are hoping that by introducing a very different type of technology, we can come up with new game designs that will get people excited and see something new for the first time in a long time."

Read article HERE

Square Enix Looks for Answers in the Cloud

Giantbomb CBS By Patrick Klepek

We’ve always been buying consoles and PCs to play our games, and the power bringing them to life happens on the machines in our homes. A popular vision for the future involves cloud computing breaking that cycle. Shinra Technologies, a wholly-owned spin-off of Square Enix, is one of those companies.

The elevator pitch for Shinra is an attempt to move consumers away from buying hardware by having the computational heavy lifting take place in the cloud. This could, in Shinra’s words, open the door to game concepts that wouldn’t be possible when companies like Microsoft and Sony must always compromise console technology to make it affordable.

Shinra is lead by Yoichi Wada, the former CEO of Square Enix. Wada left his post last year, not long after the publisher revealed it would take a huge financial hit. Slow sales prompted Wada to step down, but he became a chairman of the Square Enix board later that year.

It’s not hard to imagine how Shinra might apply to online games. In an MMO, where bits of latency are less of an issue, developers could create worlds impossible to render on consumer-level hardware. All players would need is the ability to log-in and receive a video stream.

"I began to think ‘if we have 100 people playing together, and, up until now, they’ve only been putting their positioning data on the server, what if they were all playing together in a way where their game calculations were done once for those 100 people?’" said Iwasaki. "We would be able to vastly simplify the way that the game is calculated. As an example, let’s imagine the protagonist is running on everybody’s screen, and we have the animation and rendering calculation that has to be done to get that protagonist to be running. Instead of calculating that 100 times, we calculate that once and send that video back to the users."

This doesn’t have to only apply to big-budget games, either. Wada views Shinra as a technology to enable a broader spectrum of games. Right now, he views development exclusively moving towards small scale creations built by tiny teams and huge projects funded by tens of millions of dollars. The middle is falling out, and Wada argues cloud computing could play a role in bringing it back.

"This is our true feeling," he said. "This is what we feel very deeply [about]. We want to open up the future of games, together with the users, together with the developers. Together, with everyone, we open up a new future for games."

Use of middleware is a relatively new phenomenon in Japanese game development, one that contributed to setbacks during the past generation. It’s not uncommon for Japanese game developers to build entirely new engines for the next game, and often won’t share tools between teams. While there’s been great change in this area, it’s certainly not to the point where one could imagine a Japanese game company sharing technology outside its offices. More than anything, this is why Shinra isn’t an internal project.

"There’s two important points in splitting it off from Square," said senior VP of business Jacob Navok. "One, we need to be able to gather content from lots of developers and publishers. Two, Square Enix, as a company, needs to be free to be able to put its content on to various cloud systems, including PlayStation Now and others."

When asked whether this was a heated discussion within Square Enix, Wada smiled.

"In those terms, I may not have been a typical Japanese [executive]," he said. "This method didn’t seem particularly unnatural to me. I thought this was the best, and this was the natural route to take."

Wada looks at the video game industry in 2014, and sees creative stagnation. Throughout my conversation with Wada and his team, everyone emphasized a belief Shinra could benefit game design. It’s early days, however, and there aren’t many games to prove this potential. It could. It might.

"My aim is to bring the cloud [to everyone], and create a very extreme game that is just mind-blowing," he said. "This is a win-win situation for the consumers and us because the consumers don’t have to invest in the machines that we will have in our data centers. Everyone will be sharing them. Consumers will be able to have these extreme gaming experiences without investing a lot on the machine of the devices."

Wada and company speak of themselves in a sort of savior role, one that’s identified core issues with modern games, and technology can provide a solution. It’s ironic, then, to choose the name Shinra. Final Fantasy VII players recall Shinra was the tyrannical corporation from the series’ PlayStation debut.

Pointing this out prompted laughter from the whole group.

"Cloud is the protagonist in Final Fantasy VII," said Wada. "As a joke, we chose something from Final Fantasy VII. Shinra was a very evil, massive company, and they always remained evil. But we are very good people! [laughs] The logo for Shinra Technologies was drawn by the artist who drew the logo for Shinra in Final Fantasy VIII. The logo in-game was black and red—evil. We took that away, and we changed it to blue and white, to not make it so evil."

The “coincidences” go even deeper.

"Our New York office is actually within the Avalanche Studios office in New York" he said. "If you remember, in Final Fantasy VII, the resistance that tries to go against Shinra in the game is called Avalanche. They battle Shinra."

Clever girl.

Shinra’s business center is located in New York for talent recruitment and tax reasons, while its development efforts are happening in Montreal. Though Shinra shares an office with Avalanche Studios, there are no formal plans for the company to work on anything using Shinra’s systems. That said, Wada suspects something will come of the close cooperation and interaction between the two companies.

We won’t have to wait very long to see Shinra in action, either. A beta launches early next year in Japan, with other countries to follow soon after. The initial beta will feature “catalog content” (read: old games) and a stress test in the form of a simple, overhead 2D RPG.

It’s not much. Technology means nothing without games to back them up, which Shinra doesn’t have yet.

"We come from passion and love for the industry and a feeling of frustration about what we see happening right now—a lack of innovation in game design," said Navok. "Everything looks cookie-cutter. [There’s] a lack of innovation in technology, which is resulting in products that always have to look the same because it’s the only way that they’re going to sell. We are hoping that by introducing a very different type of technology, we can come up with new game designs that will get people excited and see something new for the first time in a long time."

Read article HERE

Miyoko Shida Rigolo interprets the Sanddorn Balance in a mysterious, almost mystical way. It is immediately clear how profoundly Miyoko Shida Rigolo touches people with her performance. After just a few performances she received invitations to Russian circus festivals and won prizes there (the Silver Medal and the Special Prize from the Russian State Circus at the 5th International Festival of Circus Art in Izhevsk, Udmurtia, Russia, 2012). Her first appearance in Spain was immediately broadcast on television and the clip of her performance became an internet sensation: more than 10 million clicks within a few days. The whole world was talking about Miyoko Shida Rigolo and the art of the Sanddorn Balance.

Miyoko Shida Rigolo interprets the Sanddorn Balance in a mysterious, almost mystical way. It is immediately clear how profoundly Miyoko Shida Rigolo touches people with her performance. After just a few performances she received invitations to Russian circus festivals and won prizes there (the Silver Medal and the Special Prize from the Russian State Circus at the 5th International Festival of Circus Art in Izhevsk, Udmurtia, Russia, 2012). Her first appearance in Spain was immediately broadcast on television and the clip of her performance became an internet sensation: more than 10 million clicks within a few days. The whole world was talking about Miyoko Shida Rigolo and the art of the Sanddorn Balance.

Japan’s first lady says husband helps with choresAssociated PressBy MARI YAMAGUCHI 9 hours ago
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s first lady says she has such a busy schedule that sometimes it’s up to the prime minister to do the dishes or take out the garbage.It’s the kind of flexibility that Akie Abe says is needed for the advancement of women in Japan.Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing companies and the government to hire and promote more women to allow Japan’s economy to grow and create a society where “women can shine.” He appointed five women to his 18-member Cabinet on Wednesday.Even though Akie Abe, 52, openly refers to herself as a member of the “opposition in the household” on some issues her husband favors, such as nuclear energy, she told The Associated Press on Thursday that she is a big supporter of his “womenomics” policy of promoting women’s advancement.In Japan, women are under-represented in senior-level positions in companies, government or universities. They have long been discriminated against in salary and promotion in corporate Japan, and often face obstacles to pursuing their careers due to a lack of help from spouses.Abe, the daughter of the former president of a leading Japanese confectioner, Morinaga & Co., said it’s important that society allows women enough flexibility to work again after child-rearing or other life events that interrupt their professional careers.Her husband’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has conservative views on gender equality, but the first lady is a businesswoman, owns a bar in downtown Tokyo, and supports local artists and craftsmen. She is active in organic farming and grows rice herself in Yamaguchi, her husband’s hometown in western Japan, and campaigns against AIDS and discrimination against minorities.Next week, she will speak at “The World Assembly for Women in Tokyo,” an international symposium at which she wants to show that Japanese women are also serious about making a society that is friendlier to them.Such activities, along with her differences with some of her husband’s views, have contributed to her image as a new breed of first lady."My husband’s conservative supporters think the wife of a prime minister should keep quiet and support him, so for them my speaking up is unthinkable, but those on the other side of the spectrum say I should speak up even more," she said in an interview at the prime minister’s official residence.The first lady said people tend to categorize others, like right and left, west versus east, “or men should be this way and women that way,” creating walls and differences. “I want to tear them down,” she said.Abe is often out all day, leaving herself little time for housecleaning. The couple has chosen to live mostly in their own home in Tokyo, rather than the official residence, so they don’t have the benefit of government household staff.She said she sometimes hears her husband mumbling about the house, but that he is never a bossy husband telling her to do things for him.She said he does chores when he can, including sometimes washing the clothes."Sometimes he tries to move things out of the way, but I end up scolding him for putting things in the wrong place. Poor thing," she said.Abe said women tend to work harder than men in many parts of the world but are not represented fairly."I think a society where women can advance and shine is a global trend, otherwise a country cannot be sustained," she said.But that doesn’t mean all women should work like men to be able to “shine,” she said.Read article HERE

Japan’s first lady says husband helps with chores
Associated Press
By MARI YAMAGUCHI 9 hours ago

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s first lady says she has such a busy schedule that sometimes it’s up to the prime minister to do the dishes or take out the garbage.

It’s the kind of flexibility that Akie Abe says is needed for the advancement of women in Japan.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pushing companies and the government to hire and promote more women to allow Japan’s economy to grow and create a society where “women can shine.” He appointed five women to his 18-member Cabinet on Wednesday.

Even though Akie Abe, 52, openly refers to herself as a member of the “opposition in the household” on some issues her husband favors, such as nuclear energy, she told The Associated Press on Thursday that she is a big supporter of his “womenomics” policy of promoting women’s advancement.

In Japan, women are under-represented in senior-level positions in companies, government or universities. They have long been discriminated against in salary and promotion in corporate Japan, and often face obstacles to pursuing their careers due to a lack of help from spouses.

Abe, the daughter of the former president of a leading Japanese confectioner, Morinaga & Co., said it’s important that society allows women enough flexibility to work again after child-rearing or other life events that interrupt their professional careers.

Her husband’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has conservative views on gender equality, but the first lady is a businesswoman, owns a bar in downtown Tokyo, and supports local artists and craftsmen. She is active in organic farming and grows rice herself in Yamaguchi, her husband’s hometown in western Japan, and campaigns against AIDS and discrimination against minorities.

Next week, she will speak at “The World Assembly for Women in Tokyo,” an international symposium at which she wants to show that Japanese women are also serious about making a society that is friendlier to them.

Such activities, along with her differences with some of her husband’s views, have contributed to her image as a new breed of first lady.

"My husband’s conservative supporters think the wife of a prime minister should keep quiet and support him, so for them my speaking up is unthinkable, but those on the other side of the spectrum say I should speak up even more," she said in an interview at the prime minister’s official residence.

The first lady said people tend to categorize others, like right and left, west versus east, “or men should be this way and women that way,” creating walls and differences. “I want to tear them down,” she said.

Abe is often out all day, leaving herself little time for housecleaning. The couple has chosen to live mostly in their own home in Tokyo, rather than the official residence, so they don’t have the benefit of government household staff.

She said she sometimes hears her husband mumbling about the house, but that he is never a bossy husband telling her to do things for him.

She said he does chores when he can, including sometimes washing the clothes.

"Sometimes he tries to move things out of the way, but I end up scolding him for putting things in the wrong place. Poor thing," she said.

Abe said women tend to work harder than men in many parts of the world but are not represented fairly.

"I think a society where women can advance and shine is a global trend, otherwise a country cannot be sustained," she said.

But that doesn’t mean all women should work like men to be able to “shine,” she said.

Read article HERE

Japanese firm showcases ‘touchable’ 3D technology
TECHNOLOGY SEP. 02, 2014 - 07:12AM JST

TSUKUBA —
Technology that generates touchable 3D imagery was unveiled in Japan Monday, with its developers saying users could pull and push objects that are not really there.

Know-how that could improve a gaming experience, or allow someone to physically shape objects that exist only on a computer, will soon be available to buy, said Miraisens, a high-tech firm based outside Tokyo.

“Touching is an important part of human communication but virtual reality has until now been lacking it,” its chief executive Natsuo Koda told a press conference.

“This technology will give you a sense that you can touch objects in the 3D world,” said Koda, a former Sony researcher on virtual reality.

It works by fooling the brain, blending the images the eye is seeing with different patterns of vibration created by a small device on the fingertip, said Norio Nakamura, the inventor of “3D-Haptics Technology” and chief technical officer at the firm.

In one demonstration of a prototype head-mounted display, the company showed how the user can feel resistance from virtual buttons that he or she is pushing.

Miraisens is a spin-off of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology based in the city of Tsukuba east of Tokyo.

Billing the technology as a world first, the company says it wants to commercialise it through applications in electronics and the services industry.

The system can be built into devices in the shape of coins, sticks or pens, amongst others.

Company officials said they could foresee a number of ways of using the technology.

For example, if built into a game controller, it could be used to give a sense of resistance in response to certain actions within the game, they said.

It could also be used to make up complicated data that could be fed into a 3D printer, allowing a child to make a virtual dinosaur model and then watch it come into existence.

Other applications could include help for doctors carrying out surgery remotely, or navigation assistance in canes used by visually impaired people.

Read article HERE

Japanese firm showcases ‘touchable’ 3D technology

TECHNOLOGY SEP. 02, 2014 - 07:12AM JST

TSUKUBA —

Technology that generates touchable 3D imagery was unveiled in Japan Monday, with its developers saying users could pull and push objects that are not really there.

Know-how that could improve a gaming experience, or allow someone to physically shape objects that exist only on a computer, will soon be available to buy, said Miraisens, a high-tech firm based outside Tokyo.

“Touching is an important part of human communication but virtual reality has until now been lacking it,” its chief executive Natsuo Koda told a press conference.

“This technology will give you a sense that you can touch objects in the 3D world,” said Koda, a former Sony researcher on virtual reality.

It works by fooling the brain, blending the images the eye is seeing with different patterns of vibration created by a small device on the fingertip, said Norio Nakamura, the inventor of “3D-Haptics Technology” and chief technical officer at the firm.

In one demonstration of a prototype head-mounted display, the company showed how the user can feel resistance from virtual buttons that he or she is pushing.

Miraisens is a spin-off of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology based in the city of Tsukuba east of Tokyo.

Billing the technology as a world first, the company says it wants to commercialise it through applications in electronics and the services industry.

The system can be built into devices in the shape of coins, sticks or pens, amongst others.

Company officials said they could foresee a number of ways of using the technology.

For example, if built into a game controller, it could be used to give a sense of resistance in response to certain actions within the game, they said.

It could also be used to make up complicated data that could be fed into a 3D printer, allowing a child to make a virtual dinosaur model and then watch it come into existence.

Other applications could include help for doctors carrying out surgery remotely, or navigation assistance in canes used by visually impaired people.

Read article HERE

Japanese researchers develop 30-minute Ebola test
TECHNOLOGY SEP. 03, 2014 - 06:55AM JST

TOKYO —
Japanese researchers said Tuesday they had developed a new method to detect the presence of the Ebola virus in 30 minutes, with technology that could allow doctors to quickly diagnose infection.

Professor Jiro Yasuda and his team at Nagasaki University say their process is also cheaper than the system currently in use in west Africa where the virus has already killed more than 1,500 people.

“The new method is simpler than the current one and can be used in countries where expensive testing equipment is not available,” Yasuda told AFP by telephone.

“We have yet to receive any questions or requests, but we are pleased to offer the system, which is ready to go,” he said.

Yasuda said the team had developed what he called a “primer”, which amplifies only those genes specific to the Ebola virus found in a blood sample or other bodily fluid.

Using existing techniques, ribonucleic acid (RNA)—biological molecules used in the coding of genes—is extracted from any viruses present in a blood sample.

This is then used to synthesise the viral DNA, which can be mixed with the primers and then heated to 60-65 degrees Celsius (140-149 Fahrenheit).

If Ebola is present, DNA specific to the virus is amplified in 30 minutes due to the action of the primers. The by-products from the process cause the liquid to become cloudy, providing visual confirmation, Yasuda said.

Currently, a method called polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, is widely used to detect the Ebola virus, which requires doctors to heat and cool samples repeatedly and takes up to two hours.

“The new method only needs a small, battery-powered warmer and the entire system costs just tens of thousands of yen, which developing countries should be able to afford,” he added.

The outbreak of the Ebola virus, transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids, has sparked alarm throughout western Africa and further afield.

Read article HERE

Japanese researchers develop 30-minute Ebola test

TECHNOLOGY SEP. 03, 2014 - 06:55AM JST

TOKYO —

Japanese researchers said Tuesday they had developed a new method to detect the presence of the Ebola virus in 30 minutes, with technology that could allow doctors to quickly diagnose infection.

Professor Jiro Yasuda and his team at Nagasaki University say their process is also cheaper than the system currently in use in west Africa where the virus has already killed more than 1,500 people.

“The new method is simpler than the current one and can be used in countries where expensive testing equipment is not available,” Yasuda told AFP by telephone.

“We have yet to receive any questions or requests, but we are pleased to offer the system, which is ready to go,” he said.

Yasuda said the team had developed what he called a “primer”, which amplifies only those genes specific to the Ebola virus found in a blood sample or other bodily fluid.

Using existing techniques, ribonucleic acid (RNA)—biological molecules used in the coding of genes—is extracted from any viruses present in a blood sample.

This is then used to synthesise the viral DNA, which can be mixed with the primers and then heated to 60-65 degrees Celsius (140-149 Fahrenheit).

If Ebola is present, DNA specific to the virus is amplified in 30 minutes due to the action of the primers. The by-products from the process cause the liquid to become cloudy, providing visual confirmation, Yasuda said.

Currently, a method called polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, is widely used to detect the Ebola virus, which requires doctors to heat and cool samples repeatedly and takes up to two hours.

“The new method only needs a small, battery-powered warmer and the entire system costs just tens of thousands of yen, which developing countries should be able to afford,” he added.

The outbreak of the Ebola virus, transmitted through contact with infected bodily fluids, has sparked alarm throughout western Africa and further afield.

Read article HERE

Japan space agency unveils asteroid hunting probe
TECHNOLOGY SEP. 03, 2014 - 02:06PM JST

TOKYO —
Japanese space scientists have unveiled the asteroid hunting space probe they hope to launch later this year on a mission to mine a celestial body.

The probe, named Hayabusa-2, is expected to be flung into space on a rocket for a mammoth four year voyage to the unpoetically-named 1999JU3 asteroid.

When it gets there, some time in 2018, it will release a powerful cannon which will fire a metal bullet at the asteroid’s barren crust, once the probe itself has scuttled to safety on the far side of the rock.

It will then return to scoop up material uncovered by the cannon blast.

If all goes well, these pristine asteroid samples will be returned to Earth by the time Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games in 2020.

At a press conference, Hitoshi Kuninaka, project leader at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said he and his team were readying to redouble their efforts for this “new voyage”.

“I’m grateful as the new asteroid probe is now nearly complete,” he said, according to Jiji Press.

The probe is the successor to JAXA’s first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa—the Japanese term for falcon—which returned to earth in 2010 with dust samples after a trouble-plagued seven-year mission.

The spherical 1999JU3 asteroid, which is around a kilometer across, contains significantly more organic matter and water than the potato-shaped rock previously studied by the original Hayabusa.

Analysing this valuable cosmic material could shed light on the mysteries surrounding the solar system and its origins 4.6 billion years ago.

Scientists at JAXA say Hayabusa-2 will build on the work of its predecessor, which was only able to collect surface dust samples that could have been altered by years of exposure to various forms of energy encountered in space.

Despite various setbacks during its epic seven-year journey, including intermittent loss of communication and damage to its motors, the first Hayabasa was hailed as a triumph of science when it returned to Earth.

JAXA’s work guiding the craft back to terra firma made it a source of pride for Japan, even inspiring several Japanese feature films.

Kuninaka said there were a number of possible complications and pitfalls that could await Hayabusa-2.

“Of course, I hope things will go smoothly,” said Kuninaka.

“We have had many difficulties in the process of developing the new asteroid probe. Space is never an easy place,” he said.

Asteroids are believed to retain materials unchanged from the solar system’s earliest days, unlike scorched remains such as meteorites or materials on Earth which have been transformed through pressure and heat.

The 1999JU3 asteroid was selected in part because of its make-up and also because of its relative accessibility. 

Read article HERE

Japan space agency unveils asteroid hunting probe

TECHNOLOGY SEP. 03, 2014 - 02:06PM JST

TOKYO —

Japanese space scientists have unveiled the asteroid hunting space probe they hope to launch later this year on a mission to mine a celestial body.

The probe, named Hayabusa-2, is expected to be flung into space on a rocket for a mammoth four year voyage to the unpoetically-named 1999JU3 asteroid.

When it gets there, some time in 2018, it will release a powerful cannon which will fire a metal bullet at the asteroid’s barren crust, once the probe itself has scuttled to safety on the far side of the rock.

It will then return to scoop up material uncovered by the cannon blast.

If all goes well, these pristine asteroid samples will be returned to Earth by the time Tokyo hosts the Olympic Games in 2020.

At a press conference, Hitoshi Kuninaka, project leader at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said he and his team were readying to redouble their efforts for this “new voyage”.

“I’m grateful as the new asteroid probe is now nearly complete,” he said, according to Jiji Press.

The probe is the successor to JAXA’s first asteroid explorer, Hayabusa—the Japanese term for falcon—which returned to earth in 2010 with dust samples after a trouble-plagued seven-year mission.

The spherical 1999JU3 asteroid, which is around a kilometer across, contains significantly more organic matter and water than the potato-shaped rock previously studied by the original Hayabusa.

Analysing this valuable cosmic material could shed light on the mysteries surrounding the solar system and its origins 4.6 billion years ago.

Scientists at JAXA say Hayabusa-2 will build on the work of its predecessor, which was only able to collect surface dust samples that could have been altered by years of exposure to various forms of energy encountered in space.

Despite various setbacks during its epic seven-year journey, including intermittent loss of communication and damage to its motors, the first Hayabasa was hailed as a triumph of science when it returned to Earth.

JAXA’s work guiding the craft back to terra firma made it a source of pride for Japan, even inspiring several Japanese feature films.

Kuninaka said there were a number of possible complications and pitfalls that could await Hayabusa-2.

“Of course, I hope things will go smoothly,” said Kuninaka.

“We have had many difficulties in the process of developing the new asteroid probe. Space is never an easy place,” he said.

Asteroids are believed to retain materials unchanged from the solar system’s earliest days, unlike scorched remains such as meteorites or materials on Earth which have been transformed through pressure and heat.

The 1999JU3 asteroid was selected in part because of its make-up and also because of its relative accessibility. 

Read article HERE