I met Akira Ouchi – or Akkie, as he prefers to be known (his site’s in Japanese, but you can use an auto-translation service) at the Big Raspberry Jam in Tokyo back in May. Although we didn’t have much, if any, language in common (besides Python), we became friends instantly. Largely because he had strapped a Raspberry Pi and a CD-ROM drive to his head, and kept issuing the whole system an eject command while shaking my hand warmly.
I noticed a different approach to hobbyist electronics in Japan. This is a broad generalisation, but it does hold some water: here in the west, we have a tendency to spread ourselves very broadly in our approach to projects (a carputer one week, a garden sprinkler the next). We noticed that our Japanese friends tend to explore a single idea very, very deeply and thoroughly: so rather than making a good-enough project and moving on to another, people like Akkie will take a single, simple idea, and refine and push it to a degree that…it’s either madness or genius. I’m still not sure which.
So. On the day, Akkie went on to give a presentation about what he was doing with the CD drive and the Pi. As well as making a fine fashion accessory, he hooked the kit up to the Twitter API, so whenever someone favourited one of his tweets, the eject mechanism would trigger. Call it an alternative to an LED notifier. (Akkie is @Akkiesoft on Twitter, and you should follow him even if you don’t speak Japanese, because as well as being able to trigger his CD-ROM drive, you will discover that the man is a savant of 140-character ASCII art.)
Akkie then gave me a little sticker he’d had made, with a CD-ROM drive on it.
Later on, Akkie attached a pencil to the CD-ROM drive and demonstrated that it could be used as a remote-control for his antiquated air conditioning system, which does not have its own remote. He triggers the Pi and CD-ROM drive with a web app and this time, instead of acting like an LED notifier, it works like a solenoid, and presses the on button on the air conditioner.
And then he showed it working as a hamster feeder.
On New Year’s Eve, it rang a bell to welcome in the New Year.
Since then, Akkie has refined his hat. (The original version was not well-adapted to a culture where you have to do a lot of bowing.)
He has also become a published author: he contributed a chapter (which I can’t read, but I bet it’s great) to the Japanese Raspberry Pi User’s Guide. See if you can guess what it’s about.
I have a picture of Akkie wearing a maid’s costume at the party we went to after the Big Jam (he had borrowed it from an NEC engineer), but he probably wouldn’t thank me for showing it here. So instead, here’s a picture I took of a picture Yuriko-san took of Eben, to whom Akkie donated his headgear for the evening.
I post this because I want to impress on you that sometimes simple ideas can have more application and potential than we imagine – we tend to write about huge, complicated systems here, but there’s beauty in simplicity. And I post it because I really miss our Japanese friends; the Raspberry Pi community there is huge, imaginative and more friendly and generous than any other group we’ve met. We’re hoping to return in 2014. Until then, check out Akkie’s eject gubbins on GitHub, and let us know if you can think of any more applications for his helmet.
(☝ ՞ਊ ՞)☝ウイーン, Akkie! (See. I’ve been practising.)