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A look at the products and services set to boom in 2017

Rice balls and two-wheeled taxis feature in Nikkei's annual hit forecast

Japanese <i>onigiri</i> and <i>oden</i> have taken off at FamilyMart convenience stores in Malaysia.

TOKYO The products and services most likely to spread in Asia this year run the gamut from two-wheeled transport to rice balls and virtual reality, according to Nikkei's annual hit forecast.

In New Delhi and other Indian cities, two-wheeled taxis are gaining favor thanks to their ability to snake through traffic jams. Rapido, a ride-hailing startup formed in 2015 exclusively for these vehicles, now has 400 bikes that can be summoned with a smartphone app. Motorcycle taxis are already common in heavily congested Indonesian, Vietnamese and Thai cities, and the service is on the verge of exploding in India.

Singaporeans have taken to commuting to work on their own two wheels -- specifically, electric scooters and e-bicycles. In December, the authorities started a six-month trial, during which these green, compact e-vehicles can be brought aboard trains. The government is also looking to enact speed limits and other laws for such modes of transport by the end of 2017, hoping to stem the growing number of collisions with cars and pedestrians.

Japanese food, meanwhile, grows ever more popular across the region. Increasing numbers of Southeast Asians are visiting Japan and returning home with cravings for the country's fare.

In Malaysia, Japanese-style onigiri rice balls and oden hot pot dishes have taken off at FamilyMart convenience stores since the Japanese franchise opened its first store there in November. Thais who have visited Japan are keen to purchase Japanese fruits -- so much so that Hokkaido's high-end Yubari melons are now being grown locally. Aomori apples sold in Vietnam by Japanese retailer Aeon have attracted upper- and middle-class customers in droves.

On the tech front, 2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year for gamers, as virtual reality grows more sophisticated. Chinese arcades were busy installing VR equipment in the second half of 2016; players wear special goggles and headphones while moving chairs amplify the immersive experience. Now, Sony's VR headset for the PlayStation 4 looks set to take hold in Chinese households.

In South Korea, Samsung Electronics is set to release the Galaxy S8 smartphone. A revamp of the device is expected to eliminate the home button and add artificial intelligence. The company hopes the handset will make consumers forget about its ill-fated Galaxy Note 7, which was prone to spontaneous combustion.

(Nikkei)

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