All Things Digital

Thursday 24, March 2016



One thing we didn’t mention from last weeks SXSW Interactive highlights was the wake held for dead startups.  

9 out of 10 startups fail so its no wonder failure in the entrepreneurial world is now synonymous with ‘cool’. Speakers at the wake reminded a mournful audience that even when embracing regret there’s still a lot to learn about ‘what went wrong’.


The first of the ‘mourners’ was Christina Wallace, who was fired as CEO of her ecommerce startup Quincy - Source 


A commemorative approach to technological innovations seems futuristic to say the least, but the collective mourning of defunct startups is just the beginning when it comes to tech and the afterlife. 

The overpopulation of our planet is causing an increasing scarcity of burial space, in order to curb the problem countries are now welcoming 'burial tech.'




Around 8000 B.C the world population totalled approximately 5 million. 

8,000 years later that figure, with a growth rate of 0.5% per year had increased to 200 million. By 1800 the population stood at 1 billion and during the Industrial Revolution climbed to 2 billion in just 130 years. 

In 1970 there was roughly half as many people in the world as there are now and during the 20th century the world population has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion. 


World Population: 1950-2050 - Source




In a climate that demands a solution enter the new market of ‘High Tech Graveyards’ such as Shinjuku Rurikoin Byakurengedo in Tokyo’s shopping capital Shinjuku, a white, square spaceship centred amidst towering skyscrapers. Or The Ruriden columbarium, operated by the Koukokuji Buddhist Temple also located in Tokyo. 


Shinjuku Rurikoin Byakurengedo - Source  


The graveyard technology at Rurikoin was designed by Toyota and is strictly guarded so as to protect its unique design being duplicated in neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and China who are now expressing interest in burial tech due to the systems efficiency of space.  

Naoko Kinoshita, a member of the Rurikoin’s public relations team forbids photography within the complex as, “the technology tends to get copied, and each complex will have their own particular tech and graveyard aesthetics. We’ve welcomed potential customers before, but they’ve turned out to be technologists-in-disguise, who are coming here to study the technology layouts that we use.”     




At both Rurikoin and Ruriden each family possesses a swipe card that stores information regarding their locker number and specific details of their cremated loved one.

At Rurikoin three communal tombstones are located on one separate floor, behind which stand up to 3,500 separate lockers.  Once the owner of the locker swipes their card and detection is activated, a command is then forwarded to a centralised computer system, which in turn activates Toyota’s hidden conveyer belt and fork lift technology, bringing the specific cremated ashes to the locker.


Shinjuku Rurikoin Byakurengedo -Source 


Kinoshita explains that the system is similar to how library books get delivered from basement to library or how cars are taken from underground parking station to ground level for your convenience. Relative’s remains are delivered to a hollow in the communal tombstone whereby a digital photograph provides a slideshow of commemorative images of the person passed.      


The Ruriden - Source


“These days parents dot want to burden their kids with having to clean the family tomb, or pay high yearly maintenance fees. This place is very close to the train station, and when people come to hang out in Shinjuku they can just swing by here if they have extra time. I just don’t think that children these days related to traditional burial practices. This way of dealing with the afterlife is more practical.”      

The Ruriden is similarly home to 2,046 small alters, with glass Buddha statues that correspond to accompanying drawers. A corresponding smart card grants access to the building and lights up the assigned statue with a specific warm LED light to signal its whereabouts.           





Germany has opted to simply reuse the same grave space after several years and in Venice’s San Michele island cemetery, which is also over subscribed, bodies are now completely removed after they have decomposed.       

Despite opposition from Orthodox Jews, Israel has approved the creation of multi-storey underground burial tunnels to counter the burial space issue. 

In Hong Kong thousands of families ashes are stored in sacks in funeral homes, whilst relatives and loved ones wait for an opening space in either public or private cemeteries. 




Because that’s also an option.

Ever since the cremated remains of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry were shot into orbit in 1992, there have now been 450 space burials, making it no longer the stuff of science fiction. 

San Francisco based company Elysium Space announced last year they plan to venture past orbit, officially launching ‘lunar memorials.’ An instruction manual on the Elysium website gives customers a quick introductory lowdown; 

You receive a kit containing a custom ash capsule to collect a cremated remains sample. After we receive the ash capsule back from you, we place your capsule in the Elysium memorial spacecraft. The latter is eventually integrated to the Astrobotic lander during integration event. From here, the lander is integrated onto the launch vehicle. On launch day, the remains are carried to the moon where the lander will be deployed to it dedicated location, preserving our memorial spacecraft for eternity.”       

Seems straightforward enough….


The Engraved Capsules Ready For Interstellar Travel - Source


What are your views on the development of burial technologies? Are these innovative leaps to far of a stretch from traditional approaches to the afterlife? Share your thoughts and idea in the comment section below.   



The overpopulation of our planet is causing an increasing scarcity of burial space, in order to curb the problem countries are now welcoming 'burial tech.'