GW-200

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G A D G E T W A T C H
The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
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Issue No.200
Friday July 29, 2005

1. Sony PSP-1000 KCW
2. Evergreen DN-DV310
3. Hitachi Miragraphy

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Name: Sony PSP-1000 KCW

Category: Portable gaming
Price: 26,040 yen
Release date in Japan: September 15, 2005

The Gist: To mark this 200th issue of Gadget Watch, Sony has dedicated
a new version of PSP firmware in our honor. This past week, Sony
Computer Entertainment announced firmware version 2.00 for their
Playstation Portable handheld gaming console. Coincidence?
I think not!

In case you're wondering why a simple firmware update would creep
its way into Gadget Watch here, it's because I feel the update adds
significant value to the PSP. To put it differently, if you had considered
purchasing a PSP earlier but decided not to, you may want to
reconsider. Sony Computer Entertainment (hereafter, just "SCE") added
a slew of features to the device, but the more notable features include
the addition of a web browser and support for playback of the H.264
video format from files stored on a Memory Stick Duo.

I believe the first feature is self-explanatory -- SCE added a miniature
browser you can use on your PSP. You'll need a wireless access point
that supports 802.11b (and you're probably safe if you don't know what
yours is, because a majority support 802.11b these days), but the
mini-browser allows you to use the PSP in many ways you've only
dreamed about. The most apparent benefits of a browser would include
the ability to check your email, the weather, or get the latest news
updates -- all while sitting and just using your PSP. Needless to say,
the browser adds quite a bit of value to the overall PSP experience.
In fact, So-net has launched a PSP-specific video distribution service
called "Portable TV" in Japan to be used in conjunction with the new
browser; you can navigate to the site, download files, and watch them
using only your PSP.

The second major feature gets a bit more technical. You've probably
heard of MPEG-4 video before; we've written about several different
"variations" of MPEG-4 here in Gadget Watch. The most popular
MPEG-4 variations would be DivX and XviD. A newer implementation,
however, is called "H.264." H.264 offers a VAST quality improvement
versus "plain vanilla" MPEG-4 (which is what the PSP previously only
supported). In other words, this means you'll see a big, big improvement
in the quality of videos that you watch on your PSP (those from the
Memory Stick Duo, anyway).

During their Gadget Watch Firmware Version 2.00 Dedication Ceremony,
SCE also unveiled a new Ceramic White PSP. If you haven't seen the
PSP before, it's completely black. Now you have options! As far as
specifications go, the unit is identical. Sony stated that they will be
releasing other colors of the PSP; personally, I look forward to Fire
Engine Red. Still, more "color variations" has been the style of
countless Japanese consumer electronics companies, and there's no
reason for Sony to get away from an obviously easy opportunity to sell
more units. The price of the white PSP will be the same as that of the
black PSP: 26,040 yen (though the white PSP will only be available in
a "Value Pack" that includes a case, headphones, and other such
accessories).

More info: http://www.scei.co.jp/corporate/release/pdf/050721e.pdf

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Name: Evergreen DN-DV310

Category: Video camera
Price: 17,800 yen
Release date in Japan: Already available

The Gist: This would be a perfect opportunity for me to mention
Evergreen's new "DN-DV310" video camera that records in the XviD
video format.

It looks, feels, and probably smells like a normal video camera. But
nary is this camera normal -- it is (what I believe is) the world's first
video camera that records in the XviD format. Above, I mentioned how
XviD was just one flavor of the MPEG-4 video standard. If you had to
choose a flavor besides H.264, XviD would certainly be the one you want.

The camera can record at either 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 resolutions,
both at 30 frames per second. Certainly not too shabby. Audio is
recorded in the MPEG-1 Layer 2 format.

It features 16MB of internal memory, and also offers an SD card slot
that supports cards up to 512MB in size. To make a guesstimate,
(512MB + 16MB =) 528MB of 640 x 480 XviD at 30 frames per second
is around 45 minutes of video.

Did I mention how light the unit is? Without the battery, it weighs only
145g (0.3 pounds).

With no video conversion or capturing required, this would make an
excellent camera for someone who wants to publish content specifically
for the web. Downloading files from the camera is as simple as
connecting it via USB and copying files using Windows or Mac.

More info: http://www.rakuten.co.jp/donya/573594/621157/

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Name: Hitachi Miragraphy

Category:
Price: A Yamatoload of Yen
Release date in Japan: September 30, 2005

The Gist: Do you ever look in the mirror and are disappointed with what
you see? Sure you do. We all do. Part of the reason for this is because
when we look in the mirror, all we see is a reflection. Computers haven't
really touched mirrors yet; I can't really think of any efforts that have
been made to digitize "mirror technology," if there is such a thing.

No more. Hitachi has announced a product called "Miragraphy," which
they define as an "in-mirror display." Because it is intended for use in
the business world, it could be some time before you see something
like this in your home, but technology from other sectors has a
tendency to find its way to into the hands of the general public, so I
wouldn't fret.

So what exactly is an "in-mirror display?" Hitachi's Miragraphy consists
of three main components: a mirror, a projector, and a PC. The projector
and the PC sit behind the mirror (let's think in three dimensions, now),
where the projector shoots its signal onto the back of the mirror (and
since you're looking into the mirror, directly at your face).

The projector thus uses the back of the mirror as a screen. Right where
the projector hits the mirror, the mirror backing (whatever aluminum-foil
type stuff they use on mirrors) is slightly different. It consists of
diffusion film and a "half-mirror," a technique frequently used on organic EL
displays.

Anyway, application of this diffusion film and half-mirror leads to some
stunning results: you can see what the projector wants you to see, but
you can still see what you'd normally see in a mirror. "What's the point,"
you ask? Hitachi didn't really seem to know either -- but they had some
nice suggestions to make it sound like they knew. They offered up the
idea of using the technology in restaurants, bars, and so on to help create
atmosphere, or in areas with high pedestrian traffic (like a train station or
airport bathroom) for advertisement. Perhaps the best suggestion they
made, though, was in the changing rooms of apparel shops. A reader
(whether it be barcode, RFID, or what have you) would detect what
garments you've taken into the changing room, and would display matching
accessories in the mirror. When used with motion sensors, it could
potentially do something like project earrings right where your ears are.

Don't expect to see the Miragraphy soon, and certainly don't expect to
see it outside of Japan...ever.

More info:
http://www.hitachi.co.jp/Prod/elv/jp/tosi/solution/c_tosi_solu_mirror.html

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Written by: Liam McNulty
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