GW-303 -- The Hottest Gizmos and Gadgets from Japan

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The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
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Issue No. 303 Monday June 30, 2008
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Panasonic HDC-SD100, HDC-HS100: world's first 3MOS camcorders

Name: Panasonic HDC-SD100, HDC-HS100
Category: digital video camera
Price: JPY130,000 (HDC-SD100), JPY150,000 (HDC-HS100)
Release date in Japan: July 12, 2008

What's 3MOS? It's a Matsushita technology that uses three CMOS
sensors to capture twice the light of the equivalent single
sensor. Add to that a Leica Dicomar lens, 'New HD Crystal
Engine' processing (with next-generation Uniphier LSI) that
doubles dynamic range over the earlier HDC-SD9 camcorder, 'Next
Generation Optical Image Stabilization' that actually moves the
lens to compensate for hand shake, and 'Digital Cinema Color'
color correction, and the reward for you is better image quality
than ever, says Matsushita. Even in twilight or birthday-candle
situations, as low as two lux of light - twice the sensitivity
of the HDC-SD9 with its triple CCD sensors, and reportedly the
highest sensitivity you'll find in any HD camcorder.

The HDC-SD100 is the junior model, recording only to SD/SDHC
cards (up to 2GB for SD, 32GB for SDHC). The HDC-HS100 has the
same memory card recording capability plus a 60GB hard drive.
Both models are full Hi-Def (1920x1080), recording in AVCHD
format. Using the best recording mode (HA), expect 4 hours of
video on a 32GB card, almost 8 hours on the 60GB hard disk.

Other specs: 12x optical zoom, face detection (up to 15 faces),
VIERA HFTV connectivity, included 8GB SDHC card. Weight with
battery is a mere 382g for the SD100, 482g for the HS100.

More info: http://panasonic.jp/dvc/sd100/ (Japanese)

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Takara Tomy Hi-kara: world's smallest portable karaoke machine

Name: Takara Tomy Hi-kara
Category: karaoke machine
Price: JPY10,500
Release date in Japan: October 18, 2008

Shown at Tokyo Toy Show 2008 and coming to you this fall: a
palm-sized, 7cm-square cube with 2.4-inch video screen to serve
up your favorite karaoke hits. The Hi-kara is the world's
smallest karaoke machine, croons manufacturer Takara Tomy,
letting you 'create your own 'personal karaoke box' space, on
the go, any time'. (Even in the kitchen or on your veranda, the
press release suggests.)

You can attach a headset and engage in 'hitokara' - 'hitori
(lone) karaoke', a word that Takara Tomy says describes the
'social phenomenon' of people wanting to sing on their own for
fun or practice. If you're more of a people person, use two
headsets to let a friend join in. If you want to sing to a
group, though, you'll have to connect the Hi-kara to external
speakers. Whatever the setup, you're not just singing into the
air over piped-in music; the headset microphone adds your voice
to the mix, in true karaoke fashion. And yes, you can control
key, tempo, and echo.

Takara Tomy doesn't want just a single 10,000-yen note from each
customer, though; it plans to have the Hi-kara to earn its keep
by selling songs. Tunes for the machine are contained on
cartridges. To make your own playlist, you buy a blank cartridge
for JPY2100 (10 songs) or JPY3675 (20 songs), and then download
your selections from an online libary of 3500 tunes. The
downloads are free, but they can't be removed from the
cartridge; once it's full, it's full. (Be wary of selections
that'll embarrass you a month later.) Alternately, buy a
preloaded cartridge for JPY2100 (number of songs not specified;
presumably 10).

Who's the market? Anyone who wants to sing, sing, sing, of
course, but also parents: Takara Tomy suggests the product is
perfect for parents who are worried by the kids going alone to
'karaoke box' centers, with their small, private rooms and ready
access to alcohol. (Hijinks have been known to occur therein.)

The Hi-kara comes on the heels of Takara Tomy's successful
'e-kara' personal karaoke machine, which has sold nearly 3.5
million units since 2000. The company expects to sell 500,000
Hi-karas in the first year. Will customers bite at the unit's
price and the added cost of songs? Will karaoke-loving techies
immediately apply themselves to hacking the music format and
swapping tunes for free? Find out from late October.

Weight 150g. Available in pink or white. Expect to warble for
over 4 hours on 4 AA batteries.

More info:
http://www.takaratomy.co.jp/company/release/press/pdf/p080616.
pdf (Japanese, PDF)

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DVR-SP: high-tech video spying, low-tech note-taking

Name: Hanwha Japan DVR-SP camcorder
Category: digital video camera
Price: JPY17800
Release date in Japan: June 23, 2008 (new black model)

This gadget's been out there for a couple of months already, but
since the maker went through the trouble of telling the press
about a new color variation, I'll take that as a chance to check
things out.

Tokyo-based Hanwha Japan's earlier mini DVR-SP camcorder, the
size of a cheap lighter, apparently wasn't sneaky enough for
would-be spies, even when barely peeking over the top of a
pocket. So the company has dipped deeper into the espionage bag
of tricks with a camcorder that looks like a pen, the DVR-BP.
(Wait, it actually is a functional pen, too. Sly!)

The 15cm-long 30g cam, part of Hanwha's 'Digital Cowboy' gadget
line, incorporates a hard-to-spot 1mm pinhole camera lens and
microphone, recording onto 2GB of flash memory. Casually press
the top of the 'pen' to begin recording. (Try whistling to look
more innocent.) Video is 352x288 (4x the DVR-SP's resolution) in
H.263 format at 15 fps - decent enough for posting on YouTube.
Expect two hours' operation on a charge; download video and
recharge the battery via USB (which is the slower 1.1, not 2.0).

The product web site suggests the cam/pen as an 'information
gathering tool' for businesspersons and bloggers. One suspects
there will be buyers with more prurient uses in mind, and I
don't mean relaying state secrets to their KGB masters. If
nothing else, take this gadget listing as a warning to be wary
of chunky silver or black pens poised suspiciously upright in
your vicinity.

More info:
http://www.digitalcowboy.jp/products/dvr-bp/index.html
(Japanese)

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Short items

Spotted elsewhere in the news:

1) Attention, bloggers! Get off the sofa... and on the floor,
with Thanko's new 'Super Gorone (Snoozing) Cushion'. Lie
face-down with the Cushion below you, and its support will leave
your arms free for comfortable laptop computing or reading.
JPY7980.
http://thanko.jp/goronecushion/

2) These days, DVD players are cheaper than some of the new
Hollywood DVD releases. Case in point: the GREEN HOUSE
GH-DV100S, on sale around now, has all the basic features - the
usual DVD and CD formats, remote control, composite and S-video
connectors, and even coaxial digital audio connector - for a
mere JPY3980. (Don't look at me, though, if the unit barely
makes it to the one-year warranty mark.)
http://www.green-house.co.jp/products/av/dvd/gh_dv100s/

3) Also from GREEN HOUSE: 'cute and wild' GH-ERC-PIG earphones
for JPY1280. One earbud is shaped like the front end of a pig;
the other earbud, the back end of a pig. The visual effect is
that a very long little pig going through your head. All righty.
Pink, black, or white.
http://www.green-house.co.jp/products/av/earphone/erc_pig/index.
html

4) I'll admit, I laughed at the idea of 'digital photo frames'
when they appeared on the market. But industry watchers are
calling the category a hit: sales in Japan are nearly 5 times
what they were a mere half a year ago, especially booming from
March. A Bic Camera staffer told Business Computer News:
'Digital cameras sell well before events (school entrance,
graduations, etc.); digital photo frames sell well afterward.'
Another factor is Sony's entrance from May, bringing a household
name to the sector. Stop by any big electronics shop to find a
wide selection of frames from a growing number of manufacturers.

http://bcnranking.jp/news/0806/080625_11071.html
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Written by: Timm Tuttle
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