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Beyond Anime and Manga, Tokyo Content Showcases Augmented and Virtual Reality

Variety logo Variety 7/2/2017 Mark Schilling
© Provided by Variety

Last week’s Tokyo Content 2017 was an eye-popping demonstration of just how wide-ranging the definition of “content” has become in Japan. With its seven exhibitions and 1,650 exhibitors, the trade show featured the anime, manga and games that have become emblematic of “Japanese content” to the world at large.

But the cavernous exhibition halls were also abuzz with visitors examining and experiencing the latest advances in entertainment technology, particularly in augmented-reality and virtual-reality software and hardware.  At the booth of Hado, which designs entertainment content for Fuji TV, TV Tokyo and other clients, visitors played Hado Shoot, a game in which players wearing VR headsets shot virtual light balls at each other and racked up points by scoring body hits.

Meanwhile, Marza Animation Planet, a CGI animation house affiliated with Sega, offered a VR exhibit inspired by the “Resident Evil” sci-fi/fantasy action series. Visitors tried to thread their way through a 3D battle in an underground corridor without getting blasted.

Courtesy of music producer Grandfunk Inc. and animation studio Koo-ki was “Around the Sound,” an immersive 360-degree VR environment that melded music and colored triangles, cubes and other shapes to entrancing effect.

In a keynote address, Naomi Tomita, head of robotics company Hapi-Robo St and chief information officer for the Huis Ten Bosch theme park, said that the ultimate goal for VR development was the “merging of the ‘virtual’ and the ‘real’ as the technology advances.” Calling himself an “analog person,” the 69-year-old executive noted that digital technology still had a way to go before it could duplicate what he described as “the subtlety of analog.”

Not surprisingly, he cited Huis Ten Bosch as an example of that merging. Among the theme park’s current high-tech attractions are a robot-staffed hotel and a VR Center that offers such experiences as a virtual bungee jump and a marriage proposal from a handsome virtual guy inside a “love simulation” booth.

Tomita spoke about Shooting Star, a light show that will unfold nightly at the park from July 22 to Aug. 5. The show features 300 illuminated drones, as well as 3D animation and music.

“It’s a first for Japan,” Tomita said. “This is our way of celebrating Huis Ten Bosch’s 25th anniversary.”

But on both opening and closing nights, the show will be supplemented by a huge fireworks display: in other words, a merging of analog and digital entertainment.

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