5 Mad Japanese Startups IFA 2019 Wasn’t Ready For

By Andrew Cottrill . October 25, 2019

Look out Europe, the Japanese are coming and they’ve brought eye-watering innovation with them.

In the West, Japanese inventiveness is not only recognised, but revered. From ridiculous/ingenious Chindōgu-style gadgets, to ideas that have shaped our modern world, there’s always a gasp of anticipation when the Japanese open their metaphorical ideas-briefcase to show what’s inside.

At this year’s IFA 2019 – the world’s biggest innovation show – the Japanese are descended with a line-up of startups that did not disappoint the thousands of spectators expecting the sublime.

Here are 5 Japanese startups that were – sometimes literally – out of this world:


ispace’s vision is clear: in 20 years, they will have built a city on the moon. The moon!

The robotics startup engineers moon rovers to seek out water on the lunar landscape. They then convert it into rocket fuel by separating it into oxygen and nitrogen, which they will use to power their space crafts’ return journeys to Earth.

Bistream i-space Hakuto R

Their moon refuelling station will allow their crafts to travel back and forth, carrying equipment and materials over and creating the first Earth-moon transport service, ready for the big move.

In 2020, a moon orbiting mission is planned and their first moon landing is set for 2021. They predict 1000 inhabitants in ‘Moon Valley’ by 2040.


We all spend too long gazing into computer screens and those black mirrors in our pockets. We know this. You know this. mui knows this.

We need more nature in our lives. That’s why mui have created tech out of wood.


Actual wood. Calming, natural planks of wood you can hold, touch and use to control your thermostat, play music, dim the lights, check your voicemail and connect to any other devices via wifi, cloud and bluetooth. They’re pure wood. They don’t even have screens.

mui believes your home should be a place of sanctuary from the modern world, that’s why they invented this – the technological answer to the humble houseplant.


It’s the future: we all own flying cars and holiday on the moon, right?

While ispace is working on the moon holiday thing, Toyota City-based startup Skydrive have already built a flying car.


The Cartivator team behind Skydrive are a group of highly-skilled and determined volunteers from across the aviation and manufacturing sectors who devote their free time to researching and testing their flying car design.

Resembling a car-sized drone, their Flying Car will be available for purchase by 2023, with mass-production predicted by the year 2026.

Yukai Engineering

Robot time.

Yukai Engineering specialise in making quirky, cutesy robots you can fill your house with. They all have specific uses (think: that butter-passing robot from Rick and Morty), and one main goal: warming ours hearts.

Bistream yukai qoobo

Take Qoobo, the cat-furred, cat-tailed (yet armless and headless) cushion that feels like a cat and even wags its tail when you stroke it – designed as a therapy robot, giving comfort to its owner.

Then there’s BOCCO, the “little family robot”, who watches over your children when you cannot be there. The BOCCO app alerts you when your home’s front door is opened and allows you to exchange voice messages with your children when you’re far away.

It’s also very, very cute.

Pixie Dust Technology

Pixie Dust Technology want to build a new relationship between us humans and the robots. They envisage a future where we form a sort of symbiosis with technology – one more intimately interlinked than swiping on touch-screens.


Among their many projects is SOUND HUG, a glowing, vibrating, pulsating orb which changes colour and frequency in response to music. Its idea is to give pleasure and a new sensory experience for those who hold it while listening to music – and it offers hearing-impaired people the chance to share in music.

Another is DeepWear, fashion that’s designed by AI. Their machine learning analyses the characteristics of many designers, plus a person’s own fashion style – enabling it to create unique designs that perfectly fit an individual’s taste. Your own unique wardrobe, designed by AI!


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