Back to Contents of Issue: January 2003

+ Portable Wizardry from WiLL
The SV-AV30 is the latest portable wizardry in the WiLL line of designer products that are supposed to appeal to a hipper, trendier audience (mainly women, in fact) by combining funky design with useful features. The first wave of products did this but looked pretty darn odd in the process, but not so the WiLL SV-AV30. Seriously compact and looking very much like one of those scanner thingies off a Star Trek movie set, the SD multi-camera is capable of taking both still and moving digital images but has other very neat functions bolted on.

The first SD Multi Camera was out in January in Japan, and now the AV30 goes a step further, putting out MPEG4 movies at 15 frames per second and 320 x 240 pixels (2.5 times quicker than the previous model) as well as incorporating a 2x digital zoom. There's an hour and 30 minutes of recording time with the included battery and it comes with an "AV cradle" to stick the thing in for a recharge -- this also doubles as a no-fuss hookup to the TV. Just as with the previous machine, still images are recorded at VGA (640 x 480 pixels). The handy little thing can also act as an SD memory card portable audio player, of course, so you can chuck out your CD Walkman or MD player (there's an integral speaker, too), and also as a digital IC voice recorder for those all-important high-flying executive memos you'll be getting or making, such as "Honey, your dinner's in the fridge."
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+ France's Brand New Baby I-mode
In November, France's Bouygues Telecom (more than 6.6 million subscribers) saw the safe arrival of a bouncing new baby i-mode, complete with about 85 content providers and two handsets (NEC and Toshiba). Judging from the Web site, the look and feel of i-mode in France approximates that of i-mode on KPN, E-Plus, Base and, of course, DoCoMo. But while the media has been filled with reports of DoCoMo's massive write-down of overseas investments, a search on the Web turned up not a whiff of news related to Bouygues' i-mode launch.

J@pan Inc spoke with Brice Auckenthaler, a France-based mobile industry watcher and consultant. He said that i-mode's presence in Europe is very significant and agreed that it will increase when data roaming is achieved between the various baby i-modes.

David Macdonald, executive for i-mode strategy at DoCoMo i-mode Europe, said that Bouygues has closely followed the same i-mode model that gave NTT DoCoMo overwhelming success in Japan, although content, marketing and services have been localized for the French market. "It is all very similar to the Netherlands, Germany and Japan -- but the key is now it is done by the French," he added.

It's starting to seem that while DoCoMo has been defeated in the realm of network technology (W-CDMA), it will enjoy modest success w

+ Wildseed on Making Ringtones Sing

In early 2003, Kyocera is planning to release a new phone for the US market (code-named Delta 2), which is aimed at the "young and fun" segment and optimized for entertainment. The Delta 2 will feature Wildseed's "Smart Skin" intelligent faceplates and "Smart Screen" software. In addition, the phone will be one of the first in the US to feature 16-voice polyphonic ringtones. The new phone is also one of the first in the US to use Yamaha's 16-voice polyphonic MA-2 sound generation chip. The primary characteristic of the MA-2 is that it uses FM sound synthesis, which allows for stronger sounds with more "punch." In contrast, Rohm's competing chips incorporate PCM sound, which is based on digital sampling of actual instruments, giving them more of a real sound.

J@pan Inc recently contacted Steve Ouimette, who handles audio creation for Wildseed, and asked him to tell us a bit about his ringtone production work. Here's what Ouimette had to say about ringtone creation for the new Kyocera/Wildseed phone.

JI: How did you come to be involved in ringtone creation?

Ouimette: It was a long 10-year process! Actually, I've been a musician all of my life and have done scores for PC games as well as audio for corporate branding and instructional videos. I have also run a recording studio for the past nine years in the Seattle area. But it was a friend of mine that I had worked with at Microsoft, now at Wildseed, who mentioned I should come by and take a look at what they were doing. I ended up officially starting with Wildseed last April.

JI: Do you find it difficult to work within the constraints of 16 voices?

Ouimette: Because I worked for Creative Labs in the early 90s, I already had some familiarity with Yamaha's FM synthesizer. In fact, the early Soundblaster cards used a Yamaha chip, which was for all intents and purposes the same as the MA-2, allowing 16 voices of 2-operator FM synth. Those chips also had a single channel of PCM audio. In the early days of PC game development, the single channel of PCM audio was exploited to incorporate speech or other special-effect sounds that the FM synth couldn't produce. It was amazing what could be done with such a limited set of resources. That experience has been helpful in my recent work with the MA-2.

JI: What are your general impressions of the MA-2 chip?

Ouimette: All in all, the MA-2 has a lot of flexibility to explore. Though it seems rather simple, it's really quite a deep tone generator capable of making a lot of very interesting sounds. Besides that, working with limits like 13mm speakers and low polyphony tends to make you think outside the box and come up with solutions beyond what you normally would think of in a more expanded studio situation.

JI: How do you use the PCM channel in your ringtones?

Ouimette: I look at the PCM channel as a good place to really expand on the sound of a ringtone. There is only a limited space to work with, but you can still add a lot of character with ADPCM. Also, since the default drums are FM-based, I like to supplement them with drum loops or individual samples to thicken the sound. Our phone also has a stereo earbud set in addition to the ringtone speaker, so the difference is really heard when the user listens through them. It also makes a good case for creating ringtones in stereo.

JI: How do you find FM-based ringtones compared to the other types?

Ouimette: FM is a great vehicle for ringtones. There are now a variety of synth engines for mobile devices, but the one type that really cuts through is FM. The software synths are very flexible, but they don't seem to have the ability to cut through a purse or a bag as well as FM does.

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