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The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
Issue No. 309 Friday August 07, 2008
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Pocket-sized 'Vitiny' makes mountains out of molehills
Name: 3R-VT101 'Vitiny' Digital Microscope
Category: digital imaging device
Release date in Japan: Late August, 2008
The 3R-VT101 (aka 'Vitiny') is a pocket-sized digital microscope
from Fukuoka-based 3R Systems, offering zoom magnification from
7x to 108x. With its flat body and embedded screen, it looks a
bit like a compact digital scanner, which in effect it is. The
70-gram Vitiny lights up its tiny subjects with a white LED
lamp, reads the image with a 300,000-pixel CMOS sensor, and
displays the output on a 1.8-inch TFT screen. Built-in effects,
such as negatives, greyscale, embossed edges, and side-by-side
image comparisons, help reveal fine details as needed. There's
2MB of built-in flash memory for saving up to 60 images, which
can be downloaded to a PC via USB. The unit runs on power from
three AAA batteries or via USB (PC or wall adapter).
Who would use this pocket digital microscope? Its modest
magnification isn't for microbiologists, but might aid in
student research projects, quality control inspections,
counterfeit detection, beauty clinic skin analysis, and other
investigative work. Order from one of 3R's several online shops
(such as http://store.shopping.yahoo.co.jp/3r-shop/index.html )
from late August.
More info: http://cf.3rrr.co.jp/products/vitiny/vitiny.cfm
TASCAM GT-R1 IC lets musicians record on the run
Name: TASCAM GT-R1
Category: portable digital recorder
Price: about JPY35,000
Release date in Japan: August 26, 2008
Here's one for the musicians. TEAC, the Tama city-based maker of
recording gear, offers the new 208-gram GT-R1 IC recorder and
effects box for music makers on the go.
While aimed primarily at recording guitar and bass via direct
line input, the GT-R1's stereo microphones will capture acoustic
guitar - or your whole band - at better-than-CD 48kHz/24bit
quality. (Or capture your sales meeting instead, should you want
to request such mundane tasks of the device.) Record your riffs
for later output to another device, or lay a new track on top of
a saved recording. Also built in are a 55-effect multi effector,
which you can add either during recording or during playback;
rhythm presets to give your session a beat; and a chromatic
tuner. Playback options include such niceties as speed control
and interval looping.
The GT-R1 saves to WAV or MP3 format on SD/SDHC external memory.
The included 1GB SD card will record about 100 minutes of audio
in WAV format, or over 18 hours in MP3 format.
Look for the device at music and electronic shops throughout
Japan from late August.
TOYOTA takes on the Segway?
Category: Personal transportation device
Release date in Japan: 2010?
Look out, Segway. Someone's trying to do you one better, and
it's none less than transportation powerhouse TOYOTA.
The Segway two-wheeled personal transporter made waves when
released in late 2001, though it hasn't yet revolutionized urban
transportation anywhere near the way that some predicted. Still,
there's a lot of potential in energy-thrifty people carriers
that don't take up much more space than a person alone does.
Gazing toward that future, on August 1 TOYOTA revealed three
configurations of its variation on the Segway concept, the
A 'next-generation mobility tool', the Winglet falls under the
TOYOTA Personal Robot division, which a year ago absorbed Sony's
unprofitable robotics business. The device isn't too coy about
borrowing from the Segway: there's a similar two-wheeled
platform to stand on, internal gyroscopes that make the device
self-balancing, and sensors that read the user's body position
to steer the vehicle. From there, the Winglet takes some
interesting departures. Light weight and small size are at
Winglet's core, with its A3 paper-sized footprint (about the
size of two pieces of standard office paper side by side), and
its tiny wheels (watch out for obstacles over 2-cm high). Unlike
the Segway and its hands-on steering column, Winglet steering is
dependent upon body position only; two of the three concept
models are entirely hands-free.
The squat Type S weighs only 9.9 kg, achieves a range of 5 km,
and has a legs-only 'steering column' that doesn't even reach
the knees. The larger Type M boosts the steering column to knee
height, while the similar-sized Type L offers a full-height
column for resting the hands (presumably to aid stability). Both
M and L weigh 12.3 kg and have a 10-km range.
The Winglet travels at no faster than 6 km/hour, less than a
third the Segway's top speed, and the above ranges are far less
than the maximum 40 km claimed for a Segway i-series. On the
other hand, the Winglet is far lighter than a 48-kg Segway, and
recharges in only 1 hour compared to about 10 for the Segway.
Low-speed, convenient, short-distance zipping through crowded
streets - that's what TOYOTA appears to have in mind. The
Winglet may not have the potential shown by the Segway for
police, postal, and other serious work, but with its low speed
and small size, might find better regulatory acceptance as safe,
practical sidewalk transportation. (While the Segway is
undergoing testing programs in Japan, actual street use
currently categorizes the Segway as a small motorcycle, which
would require a license plate and the addition of signal lights
and brakes.) It's practical for hilly areas too, says TOYOTA,
able to climb 20-degree slopes.
From here out, TOYOTA plans user tests for the Winglet,
including evaluation programs at Chubu International Airport and
a marine resort from this fall. Commercialization by 2010 is the
goal, so stay tuned to see whether TOYOTA makes the move from
Japan's streets to its sidewalks and parks.
More info: http://www.toyota.co.jp/jp/news/08/Aug/nt08_045.html
Winglet in action: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VqV2z7dq3M
Spotted elsewhere in the news:
1) GREEN HOUSE introduces two tiny lenses for the serious mobile
phone photographer. The DN-MCL30 (JPY1799) is a 2x telephoto
lens that weighs a scant 6.6 grams. The DN-MCL40 (JPY1999) is a
170-degree fish-eye lens weighing 10.8 grams. Both lenses make
use of a steel ring that you attach around your camera's pinhole
lens with double-sided tape; the lenses then attach to the ring
2) iPhone 3G users in Japan: SoftBank Mobile just unilaterally
made your monthly data fee cheaper. Maybe. The company is
revising its monthly JPY5985 all-you-can-eat 'Packet Flat-rate
Full' data plan, required for all iPhone 3G contracts, to a cost
of JPY0.084 per packet. The new minimum fee drops to only
JPY1695 for up to 20,175 packets; the fee rises with usage from
there, up to a maximum of the old cost of JPY5985 for 71,250
packets or more.
In other words: it's still all-you-can-eat, but light users can
now shave some coin from their bill. At the same time, SoftBank
Mobile is strengthening its E-mail (i) service for iPhone 3G to
store users' mail indefinitely with no scheduled deletion,
though a mail data limit of 200MB or 5000 messages will still
3) How cheap is storage these days? Price watchers in Japan
report that the retail price of a 1TB internal hard drive has
marched relentlessly downward, breaking JPY20,000 around March,
and dropping to around JPY12,000 currently. Some retailers are
blowing out name-brand 1TB drives for as little as JPY9800;
check low-price shops like T-ZONE or TSUKUMO for bargains.
It won't be long before talk of 'deleting stuff to make room on
the hard drive' becomes a delightfully quaint thing of the past.
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Written by: Timm Tuttle
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