Dear Diary,

Day 47 of lockdown.

Cabin fever! Yes, I think I have cabin fever. With the hazardous conditions outside, I've been cooped up here like a hamster in a cage. My mind a proverbial running wheel.

There is nowhere left to go now, nothing left to see. And with the way things are going, it could be weeks, months--who knows, maybe even years before there is a break in these conditions.

Recently, I pass the days weary, rewatching
Tiger King, and staring sharply at my significant other. There she is now. Yes, what is she thinking? She’s looking this way. But why is her expression so perplexed? Is she plotting against me? She must be. Yes! I know she is, just biding her time until she--

“What’s that, honey? Oh, nothing in particular. Just thinking about sports.”

Curses! She's on to me. I knew this time would come...

The Days of Yore

It wasn’t always like this.

Recently, Japan seems to be experiencing something of a resurgence in COVID-19 infections. Governments are offering beef tickets while they deliberate over what to do, and YouTubers are turning nearly every household item into a mask. Before the pandemic, I would’ve never supposed bras made good respirators.

We definitely had it good here in the land of the rising sun. Everyone worked hard, it's true, but businesspeople could relax at bars after work. Others enjoyed fabulous dining experiences, followed by bar-hopping on Saturday nights. People freely attended mass gatherings like sporting events and the baseball season was just about to kick off.

Fast-forward to the present, and pedestrians brave enough to hit the streets are sure to wear protective gear. As teleworking becomes the norm, more and more people are wary of public transport, especially crowded trains. Scenes like the famous Shibuya crossing are also relatively deserted.

Check out this live stream below for yourself:

Confined to their computers, many residents are doing their best to maintain a normal life. Employees are teleworking, musicians are live streaming concerts, and Japanese Maiko are holding online dance parties for children. Even kyabakura Hostess clubs are moving online amid the lockdown.

A COVID-19 Entrepreneur

More disingenuous residents, on the other hand, are licking their lips over duplicitous opportunities. Indeed, within the tech-centric lock-down Japan finds itself in, many are looking to scam unsuspecting consumers.

Twitter user Nariyū (@nariyu) was so inclined. Or so it seemed.

Nariyū had a simple, but a potentially profitable idea: create an online "girls bar" posing as delightful young lady, market it to consumers in lockdown, and make a killing.

Sure enough, the idea was brilliant. Filter technology is increasingly advanced these days, so turning himself into a young woman was no problem. Take a look here.

Photo reproduced with permission from Nariyū (@nariyu)

Pretty convincing. With a little practice, Nariyū even managed some welcoming gestures, the hallmark of a hostess, to help lure in costumers. A new life awaited!

Unfortunately, there was one small problem. See for yourself below:

When Nariyū picks up his cup to drink, the filter cannot keep up. She, who was seemingly a beautiful young lady, instantaneously transforms into a stern-looking middle-aged man. So much for the millions of yen he would have made.

Despite the false premise, Twitter followers had a good chuckle. It seems they were willing to forgive Nariyū’s smoke-in-mirrors transformation:

  • "This is great. I was thinking, 'Oh, I'd like to have a drink with you,' until you picked up your cup. Then I changed my mind."
  • “This was so funny that I accidentally snorted the tea I was drinking. What app did you use to make this?"
  • “Have you tried using a straw?”
  • “I think this has subconsciously made me think that guy is cute.”
  • “During times like these, your wit makes Japan a more cheerful place. Thank you so much for making me laugh."

What App?

While everyone certainly had a good laugh, many followers were curious about how the “man behind the curtains" actually made it happen? Was this some new YouTube function? A unique filter on Zoom?

Well, as it turns out, it was a Snap Camera preset filter, perhaps something many readers have used. Yet, Nariyū seems to have some interest in facial recognition software.

Later in the week, Nariyū announced he was actually working on facial recognition programs as part of a meeting software suite. Rather than rely on Snap Camera, however, he implemented the system using TensorFlow. If you're unfamiliar, TensorFlow is a mathematics software library created by Google for use in machine learning.

Nariyū's prototype seems pretty impressive. The program almost perfectly tracks his eyes, nose, and mouth. It tracks well even when he is wearing a medical mask. Pretty impressive.

Followers will have to wait, but perhaps improved software can make his online "hostess bar" a reality.

By - Luke Mahoney.