The Tech Hall at Tepia in Tokyo is a maze of inventions ranging from medicine to housing, safety and environment. And some of these can change lives completely.

We are not surprised to be greeted by a robot. Unfortunately Wakamaru, as he is called, responds only to commands and questions in Japanese. But he smiles in red and blue lights that tell us he is happy to see us. Wakamaru is a receptionist and an easy internet reference guide, and can act autonomously according to his own life rhythms. He greets us, offers a hand for shaking, then like a good helper, zooms off to his station and positions himself against the wall to show us how he refreshes his power sources.

The robots we see at Tepia, at the centre of technical advancement and inventions, in Tokyo, are not really a cause for surprise. The country that commercialised the transistor radio and the quartz watch cannot but think in terms that push the frontiers of inventions across all horizons.

Age reader

Yet, we stand and giggle like children in front of the huge screen that quickly draws focus squares to enclose our faces and reads out our gender and reveals quite unashamedly, our respective ages, give or take some years.

We are stopped again en route to the Advanced Technology Exhibit Hall by another screen that will measure our smiles. The fact that I score in the high nineties only makes me smile broader, but the technology could make some of its clients, who place it at malls and public areas, frown just a bit if the results are not what they expect.

The Tech Hall is a maze of inventions, some already public, others still nascent.

The areas covered range from medicine to housing, safety and environment, and some of the ideas are so simple one wonders what took them so long. Indeed many can change lives as completely as the safety pin or electricity did. Here's a sampling!

Such a boon for those who live on fault lines, and that could be in Guwahati or Los Angeles, or of course Japan! The building has a cushion of Seismic Isolation air that lies dormant, till an earthquake strikes. Then the air is pushed in between the foundation and the building, and literally lifts the building off the ground, causing it to float in an instant and remain there as long as Earth does her dance number. Once all is still, back to gravity control! Compared with ordinary seismic isolation systems that dampen earthquake motion by 1/5th, the new system can dampen earthquake motion by up to 1/37th!

Ideal for small, one storey houses, it could find ways to be adapted to bigger buildings. But the multi-storey lovers will have to, sob, do without!

Anyone who has watched a psychotherapy session underway knows the pain and patience of it, for all concerned. The simple act of holding a glass can be the equivalent of taking an expedition up Mount Everest for both healer and patient.

The simple gadget that cuts the tedium comes like a partial glove that fits neatly over the back of a hand that a cerebral stroke has left inert. The glove employs light and soft bellows made from resin, and the bellows are placed directly over the finger joints, and an air pump and switching valve work together to supply air to the bellows and remove it to help curl and uncurl the fingers. I tried it on, and when the switch was pressed, the glove curled my fingers gently but firmly into a fist. Quite a story of matter over mind, and so helpful when the mind is unwilling and the body is weak!

Rolling the waste

This one is a boon for all those who write endless versions of presentations that they just need to print out and destroy before they move on to the next, better, improved version. Also for those who love written memos, and that sort of thing, and create so much waste paper, even the shredder burps. This not- so-cheap, but big-as-a fridge gadget, called the White Goat, however makes good of all of it, by quickly washing the paper waste, and with just electricity, meshing it into malleable layers and converting it into very usable toilet rolls.

One man's strategic plan is another man's… ok let's leave it at that!

Nano technology helps with tiny ceramic discs, innocent and conical, that look like something that a child would love playing with. But these are worth their weight in cement, if not gold. Their porous surfaces help absorb water when they are placed on roof tops in the rainy season. Preventing the water from seeping into your ceiling and from there on to the carpet. Aha, no more messy flooded rooms, thanks to these little cones. Once the sun comes out, the water vaporizes innocently away. Voila! No leaks. No angry tenants, no harassed housewives.

There's plenty more where that came from, including pre-cooked rice, a non-perishable steam dried rice with a shelf life of five years that becomes edible with hot or cold water being added to it, and thin as paper 1.4mm thick electrostatic AV speakers that one can fold away and cart off at the end of a show. They are not overly loud but “throw” their voice enough to be heard at considerable distances, and project sound with little spill or scatter in unwanted directions. This enables a line of speakers to be hung side by side with no “cross talk”. Also they can be printed on, so great as advertising material!

But that's enough food for thought for one session. Want more? Then visit TEPIA in Tokyo. Admission is open to all, and free!

Keywords: Tepia Tech Hall