A couple of days ago I travelled to Duisburg in Germany to attend the grand opening of Shimadzu‘s Laboratory World. This refurbishment project, which involved the remodelling of their existing facilities into state-of-the art labs and seminar space, has taken several months to complete and marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of Shimadzu Europe.
The event was attended among others by Akira Nakamoto, President of Shimadzu Corporation, and Kiyoshi Koinuma, Japanese Consul General. Besides the usual formalities (ie speeches, cutting the ribbon, tour of the facilities, etc) we were treated to a cask-breaking Japanese ceremony (pictured) called kagamiwari.
During kagamiwari, our hosts - wearing brightly coloured Happi jackets – broke open a beautiful sealed barrel filled with sake. They then shared it with all guests after serving in square wooden cups known as masu. [Drinking from a square cup is not easy so here's a tip: take sips from the corner of the cup]
To coincide with the opening there were a couple of European product launches (Tracera and Nexera), and I was very interested to hear the latest about LABNIRS, a project in the growing field of brain science. This technology measures brain function using near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) rather than recording electrical activity. More specifically, NIRS measures the changes in concentration between oxidised and deoxidised haemoglobin in the brain. Therefore, when brain activity occurs, this causes a temporal increase in blood pressure, which in turn increases blood circulation resulting in a higher consumption of oxygen and affecting the oxidised/deoxidised haemoglobin ratios.
Shimadzu have been working with the makers of ASIMO, the robot developed by Honda, in informatics research and brain-machine interfacing. Because LABNIRS permits real time NIRS and electroencephalogram measurements and data transfer it is now possible to characterise the brain function of a human while visualising manual actions and then translate these into appropriate signals for robot movement, thus allowing control of the robot’s actions using human thought. The future is here.