GW-177

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J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
G A D G E T W A T C H
The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
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Issue No. 177
Thursday January 27, 2005

(Long URLs may break across two lines, so copy to your browser.)

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Name: SegaToys iDog
Category: "Music Communication Pet"
Price: 4,179 yen
Release date in Japan: April 2, 2005

The Gist: I grew tired of seeing products whose names started
with "i" a number of years ago, but due to the iPod's success,
I guess things will work out in the end. That's why the
"iDog," SegaToys' newest "Music Entertainment Pet," could
eventually find its way into households across the globe.
Shaped like a small dog with a rather squarish head, the iDog
is capable of "feeling" four emotions -- joy, anger, pathos, and
humor. These emotions are expressed using seven colored LED
lights mounted in the face, movement of the neck and ears,
and the production of certain sounds. The iDog is also
touch-sensitive; touch its nose, it will be happy, touch its
tail, and it will get upset, etc.

Nevertheless, sound is of course the main strength of the
iDog. On the back of the dog's body lies a 27mm monaural
speaker. When the iDog gets "sleepy," it will play a soothing
tune. Inside the iDog are over 70 selections, 5 of which were
created by Nobuyuki Shimizu, a music producer famous for
working with SMAP, Gospellers, and other key figures from
the Japanese music industry.

Of course, the music features don't stop there; you can
even create your own custom tracks, controlled by waving
your hand in front of the iDog's face. As that were not
enough, the iDog is also equipped with a microphone and
analog audio input, making it a rather cute and
interesting karaoke solution.

Some of you may have been wondering what I meant by
"across the globe" at the beginning of this entry.
SegaToys plans to sell the iDog in 57 countries throughout
the world. In fact, they plan to sell 500,000 units in Japan
alone this year. Doable? Certainly -- one look at pictures
of the iDog (shown at the URL below), and you'll likely be
interested in finding out how SegaToys has turned a robotic
dog into a moving, intelligent speaker.

More info: http://segatoys.co.jp/idog/
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Name: Takara TERA AV
Category: Partner Robot
Price: Undecided, "under 150,000 yen"
Release date in Japan: Spring 2006

The Gist: While we're on the topic of cute robots that somehow
offer audio/video functionality, I thought it would be
appropriate to introduce Takara's new "TERA AV," a robot that
essentially boils down to the coolest DVD player I've ever seen.

Before I begin, I'd like to point out that the TERA AV is still
somewhat obscure. Takara exposed the entire "TERA Partner Robot"
lineup at this year's "Konami / Takara New Product Joint
Announcement Event," which includes the TERA SECURITY robot for
security purposes, TERA LIFE for "improving living conditions,"
and "TERA AV" for AV functionality. Takara is yet to make an
official press release regarding these robots -- in fact, I have
been unable to locate any mention of them on their official site.
Since I feel it's important to see a picture of the robot in the
flesh, be sure to check the second link under "More info." This
article is Impress Watch's coverage of the Takara / Konami show,
and they have some nice photographs. In addition, because of the
theme of the content we typically feature here in Gadget Watch,
and because a majority of the details revealed about the TERA
Partner Robot lineup pertains only to the TERA AV, we will only
be covering this particular model. However, rest assured that
once more details about the TERA SECURITY and TERA LIFE emerge,
you will also be hearing about them. So, let's get to it.

What I probably like most about the TERA AV is its shape. What
can only be described as a "soccer ball with feet," the TERA AV
is certainly appealing to all ages with its welcoming smile,
big beady eyes, and all around happy demeanor.

On the specifications side of things, the TERA AV won't skimp
you. It is amazing how Takara has packed so much functionality
into such a cute package --it contains a DVD drive, projector,
camera, speaker, modem, and even a hard drive. Interestingly
enough, the TERA AV can use its internal projector (which
projects from the eyes) to show DVD videos on your home theater
setup. Moreover, it supports voice recognition; if you say "I
want to watch a movie!" in the general direction of the TERA AV,
its eyes will light up as it starts to project whatever video
you happen to have loaded inside of it. Takara plans to include
communication functions into the TERA AV as well; the
representative at the show would only go as far as saying "I
can't be specific, but we're planning on including functionality
that will surprise just about anyone." While this is purely my
own speculation, the specifications of the TERA AV include
motors and ball bearings, it would be quite interesting if you
could call your TERA AV, have it roll into the room, and begin
playing your movie of choice. Takara estimates the TERA AV and
other TERA series robots to be available in Spring 2006 for
about 150,000 yen.

More info: http://www.takaratoys.co.jp/
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Name: Evergreen DN-DV610
Category: Movie camera
Price: 19,800 yen
Release date in Japan: Already available

The Gist: If you've ever wondered what sort of video camera
you can buy for under 20,000 yen, Evergreen this week
answers with the DN-DV610, an MPEG-4 movie camera. Capable
of writing to SD cards up to 512MB, the DV610 does not appear
to be too shabby given its price and specifications. It is
equipped with a 3MP CMOS image sensor, can record in High
(640 x 480), Standard (640 x 480), and Low (320 x 240)
quality modes, and even features still image capturing up
to resolutions of 2976 x 2232 with "Firmware Interpolation
Technology" (otherwise you'll be stuck with a max of 2048 x
1536). I was also surprised to see framerates of 30 fps for
all of the above listed recording quality modes -- it's
fantastic to see such an inexpensive camera able to record
at 640 x 480 at this framerate (in MPEG-4, no less). The
bitrate for High is 1.8Mbps; for Standard, 1Mbps; and
for Low, 500kbps. When using the above-mentioned 512MB SD
card, you'll get about 30 minutes of recording time in High,
60 minutes in Normal, and 120 minutes in Low. Likewise, it
contains 16MB of internal memory, so you'll be prepared when
you feel the urge to record the the train-platorm
"people-pushers" for your friends back home.

Other specifications include an 8x digital zoom, MP3 file
playback (and an earphone port to match), voice recording,
and a 2" color LCD monitor. Oh, and the all-important
size -- the camera measures 100 x 70 x 30mm (H x W x D),
so it will easily fit into your pants pocket. Assuming you
wear pants, of course.

More info: http://www.rakuten.co.jp/donya/527108/527121/527129/572918/
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