Japanese Entrepreneurship Shines At SXSW

The trade show at this year’s SXSW is more international than ever before. Germany, Ireland, Canada and Argentina are all sponsoring booths to showcase their nation’s startup scene, but the Japanese expo space takes the cake.

We don’t talk too often about the tech talent brewing in Tokyo, but the first day of the trade show at SXSW made it clear that the Japanese entrepreneurship scene is growing rapidly.

On Sunday, several Tokyo-based companies gave demonstrations and samples of their latest projects. Here’s a preview of the some of the coolest innovations, straight from the heart of Japan:

OpenPool is an open source billiard system that uses projection mapping to enhance the experience of playing pool by projecting motion-detected images onto the surface of pool tables, which turns them into futuristic gaming machines. Since OpenPool is open source, users can create and add their own visual effects. Earlier this week, the company launched a Kickstarter to back a digital billiard DIY kit. The campaign has raised more than $1,500 in just three days. OpenPool has been nominated as a finalist in the Amusement category of the 2014 SXSW Interactive Awards.

Moff, Inc. is a hardware startup that develops and produces interface devices to make computers more user-friendly. At SXSW, the company founders showcased Moff, a wearable smart toy with sound effects that connects to mobile devices. The motion-activated bracelet responds to interaction with gestures and turns cell phones into on-the-go games. Instead of forcing people to “buy toy things,” Moff allows them to download the play experience.

Scentee is a fragrance-emitting plug-in that lets you associate certain smells with particular notifications. The add-on device connects to the headphone socket of mobile phones and the company sells scent packs for fragrances such as coffee, lavender and strawberry. Users can set their phone’s alarm to emit a certain smell at a certain time of day, for exampl,e coffee in the morning or lavender before bedtime, creating a 4D sensory experience. The company started in Tokyo in August 2011, but has since expanded to Singapore and the United States.

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Leezia Dhalla is the Speakers Bureau Program Manager at Rackspace, where she is responsible for coordinating external speaking engagements and helping to develop corporate messaging for senior leadership, software developers and key subject matter experts. Her interest in writing and foreign affairs led her to Northwestern University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science.