(15 Dec 2016) LEAD IN:
Ever had a few too many drinks and missed the last train home?
Party-goers in Japan can now use a smartphone app with a special setting to help them catch their last train and get home in a few simple steps.
Tokyo is packed with bars, clubs and restaurants, where friends and office colleagues can an enjoy an evening drink or three.
But for those who enjoy drinking a little bit too much, a night out on the town can sometimes turn into a nightmare of missed trains and expensive taxis.
The Japanese smartphone transport app Ekispert has come to the rescue with a new setting, called Drunk Mode.
The app tells its user when their last train home is and even how many minutes they have left before they need to catch it.
Drunk Mode was created by the team at Ekispert's developer, Val Laboratory, and launched at the end of November in time for the Christmas party season.
Chief Engineer Mai Aisaka says the new function is designed to make people's lives easier.
"You can't help enjoying drinking. If you like drinking, drinking can be a lot of fun and you tend to get carried away. Well, that is what I think," she says.
"Of course, you need to pay attention to your health and you also need to catch the last train home. Otherwise you might have regrets the next day. So we hope our service will help people not to end up in that situation, having those regrets."
Most people get about by public transport in Japan's huge, busy cities and taxis can be expensive.
That means drinking too much and missing the last train home can be bad for your bank balance as well as your head.
Val Laboratory's engineer Erina Fukumoto came up with the idea for Drunk Mode around this time last year, when she was struggling to work out how to get home after parties.
Fukumoto, who admits that she enjoys a drink herself from time to time, says she realised that when she was drunk, she was less good at navigating the Ekispert app.
Since then, she's been working on developing the new setting by testing it herself.
She says the hardest thing for drunk people is to see small letters on the smart phone screen, so in Drunk Mode, the time of the last train is clearly displayed in big red characters.
There's even a handy little figure holding a glass of beer to draw attention to the time.
"So, we focused on how to make it easy to see the most important information. So we put the timing of the last train in red and emphasised it with decoration to make sure users can see this most important information," Fukumoto says.
Drunk Mode also simplifies the process of searching for a route home.
Fukumoto says she wanted to make the app as easy to use as possible, to minimise embarrassment for users.
"I wanted to reduce the user's anxiety. When I drink and wonder about the time for the last train I can catch, it is awkward to take out my phone and search for the information when everybody is having fun at the party as I'm worried about spoiling the atmosphere. So, I wanted to reduce such worries or anything that could be seen as negative at moments like this. My ultimate objective is to enable our users to have fun drinking at the party and to get home safely."
To activate drunk mode, Ekispert users need to make sure the GPS function is on and set their home address in the program as default.
After that, they just need to tap the Drunk Mode button.
A screen pops up showing the time of the last train home from the closest station.
The function also offers an option to beep 30 minutes before the last train to remind users that they need to start saying their goodbyes.
Users can tap one more big button to open up another screen showing their exact route home in big letters and a simple design.
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