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Thursday, July 20, 2006


Artist as inventor

Special to The Japan Times

You, like many, might be satisfied with just dreaming of flying. But for inventor/artist Kazuhiko Hachiya, such an idea is hardly in the realm of fantasy -- he thinks that if people want to fly, he should find a way of making it possible.

News photo
Kazuhiko Hachiya's projects ride the border between fantasy, art and practical applications. Above is a test flight this year from his "OpenSky" personal glider project.MANAMI OKAZAKI PHOTO
News photo

While Hachiya is most famous for his e-mail software PostPet, he also has an artistic portfolio that includes "AirBoard," a skateboard that hovers, and "OpenSky," a personal jet glider.

Hachiya's "AirBoard" will be on display at the Nagoya City Science Museum July 22-Sept. 3.

Hachiya is humble about his projects. As important as having the desire and imagination to produce them, he has to have the patience to see to completion creations that can take up to three years.

"I don't think I'm particularly creative," he says. "My talent is to decide to make something, then spend a lot of time making it."

Being an artist rather than a commercial designer gives him the freedom to pursue such projects.

"Designers basically take requests off clients, whereas an artist just starts making things without being asked to -- they make things because they want to," he says. "I wanted to make products with such an ideology."

Still he also states that much of his motivation to invent comes from a desire to change, in subtle ways, how people interact. Another project, "Thanks Tail," is a taillike attachment that is stuck to the back of a car, and which can wag in appreciation or to say "sorry."

"A car is equipped with many ways to warn, but very few to say 'thanks'," says Hachiya. "That's just strange! In any country in any language there is the word 'thank you,' in human society that's normal. But in the car world it isn't -- there are many ways to say 'be careful' or 'you idiot!' but you can't say 'thanks' or 'sorry.' "

While such products may lack the familiar functionality that consumers typically seek, Hachiya's unusual ideas have yielded commercially viable designs.

"While it's not my job to make products, I have studied design so I do have a notion of how to," he says. "My works are usually one of a kind, but I think about making tools that people can use normally as well -- which is how PostPet came about. I've only really made three things with the thought of selling them as products."

So does that include his air boards and gliders? Will consumers be able to purchase one soon?

"My plane -- you can make a lot," he says, adding to all daydreamers' disappointment, "but because of legal issues, and in terms of safety, I have no plans to produce many."

Kazuhiko Hachiya's "AirBoard" will be on display at the Nagoya City Science Museum, 2-17-1 Sakae Naka-ku, Nagoya, from July 22 to September 3. For more information call (052) 201-4486 or visit www.ncsm.city.nagoya.jp

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