GW-292 -- The Hottest Gizmos and Gadgets from Japan

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The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
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Issue No. 292 Friday March 28, 2008
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This week's Gadget Watch takes a look at the KanaGTR audio
player, SoftBank's new mobile phone for stock traders, a
pen-shaped text scanner that decodes kanji, and two oddball
devices as well.

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GREEN HOUSE KanaGTR audio player with integrated FM transmitter

Name: GREEN HOUSE KanaGTR-2G
Category: Portable audio
Price: JPY8980
Release date in Japan: Late March, 2008

Tokyo-based peripheral maker GREEN HOUSE announced its
KanaGTR-2G series of stick-type MP3 and WMA audio players.
Sporting 2G flash memory, the device will not only play audio
through headphones but can broadcast the same to your home or
car stereo via a built-in FM transmitter. Add-on FM transmitters
have long been a popular gadget for those wanting to take their
tunes along on drives; GREEN HOUSE tosses in an auto
cigarette-lighter power adapter to further boost the
drive-friendliness of its unit. Expect 7-hour playback on a
battery charge, 4 hours if using the transmitter. Additional
features include voice recorder, 7-way equalizer, and a variety
of play modes.

Dimensions are 29x83x12mm and 36g - very pocketable, if chunkier
than the 1st-generation stick-type iPod shuffle. Intended for
use with Windows 2000, XP, or Vista.

More info:
http://www.green-house.co.jp/products/mp3/kana_gtr/index.html
(Japanese)

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SoftBank 920SH YK 'Stock Mobile Phone'

Name: SoftBank 920SH YK 'Stock Mobile Phone'
Category: mobile phone
Price: JPY95,520 for new account with White Plan
Release date in Japan: March 22, 2008

Freeing stock traders from the PC, Softbank Mobile and SBI
E*Trade Securities jointly offer the Kabu Keitai (Stock Mobile
Phone) 920SH YK. One touch of a dedicated button launches SBI
E*Trade's financial software that enables real-time (updated
every 5 seconds) portfolio checking, market and stock info
access, and online trading, all on a 3.2-inch horizontal VGA
screen. (You'll have to first set up an SBI E*Trade Securities
account via PC, however.)

The W-CDMA + GSM phone shares other accoutrements of the popular
920 SH AQUOS upon which it's based: a 3.2 megapixel autofocus
camera, 1-seg tuner, 'o-saifu keitai' contactless IC card (S!
FeliCa), microSD card memory, and web browser. The only
available color is black, but that's always been an auspicious
color in finance.

More info: http://www.kabukeitai.jp/holdings_top/index.html
(Japanese)

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Quicktionary 2 Kanji Reader scanning pen

Name: Quicktionary 2 Kanji Reader
Category: handheld scanner/dictionary
Price: Open price (about JPY30,000)
Release date in Japan: April 10, 2008

Thick kanji dictionaries have disappeared from many a desk,
replaced by computers (often weighing less than the
dictionaries) whose built-in software, or access to Internet
search, makes tracking down a character's reading much simpler.
But what to do when you come across an eye-stopping character in
dead-tree text, with no guess at pronounciation to let you
search online, and no access to a helpful human at the moment?
Time to dust off the Nelson or Spahn/Hadamitzky tome and try to
recall how to count radical strokes, right?

It's Quicktionary 2 Kanji Reader to the rescue. You can call the
handheld scanner by its nickname, 'Kanji-kun', though the full
name is likable enough. (It's clearly not a SONY device, or we'd
have to call it the Q2-KR500SCN or such.)

Kanji-kun is a version of the WizCom Technologies Ltd.
(Massachusetts USA) Quicktionary 2 line of pen-shaped
scanners/translators. Quicktionary II appears in a variety of
English-to-foreign language configurations; run the pen-like
scanner tip over a single word or line of text, and the device's
OCR software shows a target-language translation in the small
embedded display. (You can get a text-to-speech reading of the
English, as well.) WizCom partners with a number of
foreign-language dictionary providers for its Quicktionary
variants, including Taishukan Publishing for its Genius
English-to-Japanese dictionary.

Quicktionary 2 Kanji Reader is a Quicktionary II with
Japanese-language OCR, co-developed and sold by Tokyo-based
purveyor of overseas technology Japan21 Inc. Run the tool over
those questionable kanji, and wait two seconds - voila,
Kanji-kun offers a text reading. Dictionary functions are of
course built-in as well, thanks to three Sanseido Daily Concise
dictionaries: English-Japanese, Japanese-English, and Japanese.
Japan21 says Kanji-kun will read Romaji text, hiragana,
katakana, all 2965 JIS Level 1 kanji, and about 20% of the 3388
JIS Level 2 kanji. (Text-to-speech output remains limited to
scanned English text only.) Japan21 warns that Kanji-kun prefers
nicely printed text; don't expect much when scanning trickier
originals like handwriting or faxes.

I wonder how much my old kanji dictionaries will fetch at Book
Off.

More info: http://wizcomtech.jp21.jp/product/qt2j.html
(Japanese)

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BANPRESTO GUNDAM Series Core Fighter Transforming Card Holder

Name: GUNDAM Series Core Fighter Transforming Card Holder
Category: um... transforming card holder?
Price: the price of an arcade game, plus luck and skill
Release date in Japan: Late April

BANPRESTO has a new prize for 'UFO Catcher'-type crane games in
game arcades throughout Japan: a meishi (business card) holder
themed after the giant robots of Mobile Suit (Kidou Senshi)
GUNDAM cartoon fame. The GUNDAM Series Core Fighter Transforming
Card Holder changes configuration, all robot-like, to reveal
your hidden business card to awed onlookers.

Sounds like good fun for the kids!... but wait, kids don't have
business cards... which means...

Ah, BANPRESTO spells it out: the card holder is aimed at salary
men in their 20s and 30s. The novelty will let the fellows take
their GUNDAM fandom out of the house for some fresh air, says
BANPRESTO, and act as a conversation starter in business
situations. (That, I don't doubt.)

Coming to game centers in late April. Get yours in time for that
next big job interview, guys!

More info: http://news.livedoor.com/article/detail/3566857/
(Japanese)

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RoboMop x Hello Kitty floor cleaner

Name: RoboMop x Hello Kitty
Category: 'robotic' floor cleaner
Price: JPY5880
Release date in Japan: April 1, 2008 (March 1 at Tokyu Hands)

'Robot' is stretching things; a Roomba it's not. Nor is it a
Japanese invention. Norwegian Torbjorn Aasen was inspired by a
battery-powered rolling toy ball to create a really simple
duster for hard floors: place a bowler-like 'hat' over the ball
with a dust-catching pad under the 'brim', let the ball run
crazily all over, and presto, clean(er) floor. There's no fancy
brain in the patented RoboMop; the ball reverses or changes
direction randomly upon hitting an obstacle, theoretically
covering key spots throughout the room during a 30-to-90-minute
run. But what it lacks in Roomba-like cleaning strategy it makes
up for in a toy-like price: currently under $10 on Amazon.com in
the US (sold as RoboMaid), versus a couple hundred bucks or more
for various Roomba models.

What's new in Japan? The RoboMop x Hello Kitty 'special
collaboration' model sold by importer Daisaku Shoji. The sassy
red 'hat' and ball, sporting Kitty-chan designs in black, will
zoom around a largish (12-jo) room in 30 minutes, for a power
recharge cost of under 1 yen. With a height of less than 9 cm,
it'll sweep under any furniture with a little clearance. But
while Daisaku Shoji touts the cleaner for tile, wood, or
linoleum floors, there's no mention in the web page of
performance on tatami mats. And the company sells a dull grey
RoboMop for only JPY4980, so you pay JPY900 extra for Kitty. (I
say it's worth it, to see her finally get a job.)

More info: http://www.robomop.jp/robomop_kitty.html (Japanese)

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STAFF
Written by: Timm Tuttle
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