GW-295 -- The Hottest Gizmos and Gadgets from Japan

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Japan Inc Magazine Presents:
G A D G E T W A T C H

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The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
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Issue No. 295 Friday April 11, 2008
Subscribers: 9467
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Nikon Coolpix P80: World's smallest 18x optical zoom camera

Name: Nikon Coolpix P80
Category: digital still/movie camera
Price: Open price (about JPY50,000)
Release date in Japan: April 25, 2008

Leave the heavy lens collection at home. The latest in Nikon's P
(Performance) series Coolpix models, the P80's marquee feature
is an 18x optical wide-angle Zoom-NIKKOR f/2.8-4.5 lens that
offers the equivalent (35mm [135] format) of 27mm wide-angle to
486mm telephoto shooting. It's the world's smallest model with
an 18x optical zoom, says Nikon of the 365-gram (before battery)
camera.

Focus range is from 40 cm on up, though a macro mode lets you
get up to 1 cm away. Image size is up to 10.1 megapixels (3648 x
2736). You'll store a scant 10 to 40 images at that size on the
internal 50 MB memory, depending on image quality setting; get a
big SD memory card or two to shoot all day.

There's a 2.7-inch LCD, 0.24-inch electronic viewfinder, camera
shake reduction, available automatic ISO adjustment (up to ISO
6400) based on lighting conditions, 'Face Priority AF'
recognition of up to 12 faces, and a 'Sports Continuous Scene
Mode' that'll capture up to 30 frames at 4, 6, or 13 frames per
second (though only with image resolution set at 3 megapixels or
lower).

Not too long ago, movie cameras began sporting still snapshot
capabilities; now, it's becoming the norm for digital still
cameras - even mobile phone cams - to also shoot movies with
sound. Although it's mentioned almost as an afterthought, the
P80 will record TV-quality (640x480) AVI video at 30 or 15 fps
(no image stabilization with the higher speed), or 320x240 video
at 15 fps. Highest-quality video will fill the 50 MB internal
memory in under a minute, while a 1 GB SD card will record close
to 15 minutes.

More info:
http://www.nikon-image.com/jpn/products/camera/compact/coolpix/
p80/ (Japanese)

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DoCoMo F884i does dictation and more

Name: DoCoMo Raku Raku Phone Premium F884i
Category: mobile phone
Price: Open price
Release date in Japan: April 14, 2008

Speak your mind and let the Fujitsu-made F884i convert your
words into email text. It's a way to bypass cell phones' slow
manual text input, especially for long messages and/or unfamilar
users; not surprisingly, the media is chalking up the feature as
primarily attractive to older users not used to communicating by
thumb.

Quality speech-to-text processing is an intensive task for a
cell phone CPU, so the F884i's 'Voice-Input Mail' service farms
out your voice data to remote DoCoMo speech processing servers.
To dictate email, bring a new message to the screen, hold the
input button, and start speaking for up to 30 seconds. Once
you've said your piece, the phone connects to the processing
server, and after a second or few, you get your text in the
target field. Unless the system parsed everything perfectly on
the first run, though, your hands will still get some exercise
re-converting kanji and otherwise cleaning things up, as well as
adding 'e-moji' emoticons of your choosing. For particular
problem areas, more detailed manual editing or voice re-input
are options.

'Voice-Input Mail' is a JPY210/month service, with a 30-day free
test period. But it's the packet fees, not that low monthly fee,
that you need to watch. If you don't have an unlimited or
low-cost packet plan, 5 seconds of dictation can cost you as
much as JPY10.5. Enough dictation, and the bill might send you
back to thumbing.

You can do more with voice input than write emails. The 'Map
Application for Raku Raku Phone' feature offers voice-enabled
navigation, train transfer info, map search, and everything else
you need to get where you're going. 'From Myogadani station to
Yokohama station, leaving 12:00', you say, and if all goes well
while DoCoMo's servers parley with ZENRIN DataCom servers, the
phone displays the route info.

Other features: DCMX 'O-saifu keitai' e-wallet, 1-seg TV,
3.1-inch (240x432) LCD screen (the largest in DoCoMo's Raku Raku
Phone series), 3.2 megapixel camera, twin microphones and voice
enhancement features, and WORLD WING (3G + GSM) service for
global roaming. That big screen will have you doing the
Yokomotion (from 'yoko', side), to use the maker's trademarked
name for its 'swing style' rotation: rotate the screen left to
fire up the camera, right to turn on the TV.

It all sounds great, but does the dictation really work? Reports
from website ITmedia and quick-testing bloggers in Japan are
mostly positive: yes, it works, and is genuinely handy for
longer messages, though you'll have to expect lots of manual
clean-up, and voice input do-overs, while you get the hang of
speaking to the phone's liking. (Like all purveyors of speech
recognition products, Fujitsu offers tips for good performance:
speak clearly, use short sentences, use the little grammatical
particles that aid parsing, etc. But feel free to speak at
normal speed, says the company.) While your accuracy will
improve, testers still recommend an unlimited packet plan for
dictation.

In any case, it's interesting to think that instead of
communicating directly with a party by talking into the phone,
you can send instead a text message... by talking into the
phone.

Ready to talk to your new dictation assistant? Get a F884i in
gold, red, or black at a DoCoMo shop near you.

More info:
http://www.nttdocomo.co.jp/product/easy_phone/premium/index.html
(Japanese)

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Low-cost Corega CG-1SGT 1-seg tuner brings TV to your PC

Name: Corega CG-1SGT
Category: 1-seg tuner
Price: JPY6930
Release date in Japan: Late April, 2008

Yokohama-based Corega hopes to have you watching more TV on your
Windows Vista/XP PC with its low-cost CG-1SGT tuner. It's
cheaper than the company's JPY11,025 CG-3SGTR, though lacks that
model's digital radio.

Plug the tiny 14-gram One-seg tuner into a USB port, find your
show, and watch on-screen or record to hard disk. Just like the
big HDD recorders, you'll have EPG and iEPG program guides, news
and weather data reception, fast-forward/reverse controls for
recorded content, and 'timeshift playback' to stop and later
restart currently-playing broadcasts.

If the dongle's small antenna isn't pulling in the show,
position the included 45-cm long tethered antenna elsewhere in
the room for better reception. It's all powered by the USB port,
so take your TV-watching habits wherever you and your laptop go.

More info: http://corega.jp/prod/1sgt/ (Japanese)

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Industry Notes

NEC Saitama unveils keitai manufacturing secrets

NEC Saitama held an open house in April to show the press its
prowess as the only cell phone factory to implement Toyota's
'kanban' manufacturing and just-in-time inventory methods. The
plant manufactures N-series phones bound for DoCoMo, including
the ultra-thin N705iu and the N905i.

NEC Saitama introduced the Toyota way in 1997 after calling in
ex-Toyota consultants. The switch from belt-conveyer assembly
lines to team-based 'kanban' manufacturing greatly shortened
assembly lines, slashed logistics-related floor space by as much
as 80%, cut procurement lead time from 2-3 weeks to 5 days, and
lowered costs overall while increasing quality. Final product
inspection focuses not only on removing defective products, but
on identifying where and how in the assembly process the defect
occured.

Demonstrations of the N905i's assembly showed 11-meter assembly
lines, each manned by an eight-person 'Group-based Cell
Production System' team. It's heavy on the human labor, not
robots - in fact, NEC Saitama dismantled what used to be
robot-heavy lines. The company says human flexibility, know-how
and teamwork are more economical than automation for a product
category that requires rapid adaptation to short-lived model
changes and unpredictable demand. While some operations, like
screw-tightening, use automation, most assembly tasks - even
every-5-minute delivery of parts by cart - are performed by
workers.

Creating a single N905i takes all of 10 minutes to go from trays
holding 80 parts to assembly to final inspection (which is
automated) to packaging. Each line churns out 1000 units a day,
or one phone every 27 seconds. To keep up with the pace despite
low parts inventory, trucks bring parts to the plant from nearby
suppliers in 10 regular daily deliveries.

In addition to assembly lines, NEC Saitama showed off its
'Monodzukuri (Crafting) Dojo', a Toyota-derived training center
that aims to boost workers' assembly skills and teamwork, as
well as their ideas for improving production lines. An exercise
demonstration shown to the press: five-person teams working in
assembly-line fashion to turn 80 blocks of LEGO into a tiny
truck and car (there's that Toyota legacy again). Exercises
focus on identifying slowdowns (such as finding a recipient's
hands full when attempting to pass along a sub-assembly), and
learning to properly stop the 'production line' to effect fixes.

NEC Saitama told the press that the Japanese market for cell
phones is a particularly challenging one for the manufacturer,
with completely new models appearing at a much faster clip than
in overseas markets. Keeping pace with the market - instantly
ramping up production of a new model, and knowing exactly when
to cut off production of an existing one - is the most difficult
task of all, says the company.

More story and photos (Japanese):
http://plusd.itmedia.co.jp/mobile/articles/0804/10/news122.html
http://bcnranking.jp/news/0804/080410_10410.html
================================================================
STAFF
Written by: Timm Tuttle
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