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Tofugu’s new post ‘Do Your Ears Feel Lucky, Punk?!’ was an interesting exploration into Japanese superstitions and its effect on what its society perceives as an attractive physical trait. An extract from the article explains, “A person with large earlobes is considered to be blessed with luck and wealth in his or her life.” This association stems from the fact that Siddhartha (the founder of Buddhism) was born and raised in a royal family and as a part of their accessories, they often wore heavy earrings. Hence the Japanese association of large ear lobes with wisdom and fortune and it’s said in Buddhism that this particular quality is a “required vessel to hear the voice of God as well as natural revelations”.

What does this have to do with augmentation as a form of expression and communication as a concept in Japanese society? Well a link posted by one of the readers took me to a video (posted above this post) which features a video showcasing cat ears. “What’s so special about cat ears, they’re at every anime convention?”, you might ask if you’re a fan of Japanese animation (anime) culture. Well these cat ears, the “neurowear vol.1 necomimi” cat ears, are more than just cat ears, these are attached to a brainwave sensor which detects and analyses the wearer’s neural activity to determine an appropriate response which then results as a movement by the ears. Now, while this is a cute concept, the ‘cat ears’ part isn’t exactly a novel concept, but the fascinating and novel aspect is the underlying appeal of the ears as a form of visual expression as well as an extension of the wearer’s expression, simultaneously. It’s an augmentation that focuses on emotional expression, these expressions are translated into motion, emphasised by the ears which capture the viewer’s attention through its unique look and captivating motions.

Now this is amazingly fascinating because in a society that markets things predominantly via cuteness (‘kawaii factor’), this stands out and isn’t entirely unusual to those experienced with anime culture. It is an accessory, it provides a visual experience by enhancing aesthetics, yes, but this also reflects on the relevance of augmentation and its place in society; to enhance, improve and provide some sort of extension of ability to the user. What will Japanese society perceive of augmentation as a form of enhancement of physical trait? Well, it’s well known that Japan is a country that embraces technological progress but also keeps a firm hold of its traditional roots. I think it wouldn’t be surprising to see alterations, visual enhancements and augmentations being geared towards traditional beliefs and its modern adaptations in the future, especially within Japanese society. I’m really excited about this movement as this echoes the human desire of self expression through indirect means which in a subtle way points at the reserved nature of Japanese expression. This is definitely a unique category of augmentations, these are forms of emotional expression extension. I am truly open to embracing this concept as these augmentations have the potential enhance communication, provide interesting human interaction opportunities and pave the way for a myriad of ideas regarding the concepts of human interaction and communication.

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