** What is Hacker's Cafe? **
Hacker's Cafe [ja] is a community of geek/hackers in Japan.
Basically their activity is to meet up in some cafe which allows you to use power plugs in Akihabara and hang out and code. They also have a Skype chat group to chat.
One example of their projects is a web server that has wheels and can be controled via iPhone [ja].
Photo courtesy of Akio0911
You can see a video of the server actually running:
Another project is hand-made Augmented Reality (AR) glasses which look like this:
Photo courtesy of Akio0911
AR is a technology which makes it possible to view virtual objects overlaid on the real world if you put on special AR glasses (or view via camera).
Here is a picture of my friend looking at a white sheet of paper with simple black marks,
But the vision she is getting is a virtual girl floating in the cafe we were in.
Using this AR technology, Hacker's cafe folks held an event back in August 2008 called "Cyber Star Rally [ja]". They put virtual stars all around Tokyo, which is only visible when you are wearing AR glasses. Members rode on a bicycle to wander around and grab those cyber stars.
Photo CC-BY Yuiseki
** Hacker's Cafe Fes **
On 3/28, Hacker's Cafe organized an event called Hacker's Cafe Fes in Harajuku Design Festa Gallery.
I went to the venue at 10AM when they were scheduled to start, and found 2 guys sitting in an old-style Japanese tatami room working on their computers.
"Hi. Where are the exhibits and displays and everything?" I asked, and their replies were "We're displaying ourselves :D"
"Hmm okay, you're displaying your selves.. and what do you actually do?" I asked again. "We are coding."
I went into the room, sat down on the tatami just like them, opened my computer, made myself cozy and started to work. We had power, we had a very weak but working wifi, and a space and some company we can talk to.
After a while there were more and more members coming in.
Coding on the floor:
Coding inside the little storage room:
And yes they have power in there too
Coding wearing a Darth Vader costume:
Some went out of the building to wander around and code outside.
One of the highlights of the fes probably was the "Real-world Hatena Star [ja]" created by Showyou.
Just to give you a background:
Hatena is a company that provides a group of web services such as blogs, photo sharing site, social bookmark etc. Hatena Star is a service that allows the Hatena users to add "stars"(which is like Digg) to contents they like within Hatena. Popular blog posts, nice photos, interesting comment on social book mark will attract lots of Hatena stars.
"Real-World Hatena Star" will add a Hatena star to a specific content if you put RFID tag close to RFID reader.
On the left you can see the code, on the right you can see a photo that is getting Hatena stars via this system.
Companies that organize conferences can probably play around with this system and do interesting stuff :)
There were more and more people coming in towards the evening, and in the end, the room of 6jou (10m2) was packed with 17 people and I decided to leave the room so that others can have more space.
The power outlets ended up like this:
Some more geeky stuff I found at the fes:
MS/Mac decorated fried chicken...
Darth Vader rice balls...
BW, the venue (Harajuku Design Festa Gallery) was great- they have artworks everywhere including the entrance