The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
Issue No. 218
Friday December 16, 2005

1. AOpen MP915-B
2. Hitachi FLORA Se210
3. Nagase TRANSGEAR HMP-100

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Name: AOpen MP915-B
Category: Desktop PC
Price: Open Price; estimated around 46,800 yen
Release date in Japan: Early December 2005

The Gist: AOpen isn't a Japanese company, but AOpen Japan has
announced the "MP915-B" system for release in early December.
It's a barebones system that uses the Intel 915GM Express+ICH6
chipset, which means you'll need to pick up a processor, RAM,
and a hard drive before you can get started.

The punch of the system is its styling. It wouldn't be surprising if
AOpen faced a lawsuit from Apple over the system's design; it takes
every page from the Mac mini handbook besides the table of
contents. You'll be able to fit a Pentium M or Celeron M inside
the machine, and with its 165 x 165 x 50mm dimensions, it's
the smallest Windows XP barebones machine in the world that
has an optical drive and supports an Intel mobile processor.
That optical drive comes with the system; it's a DVD super- multi
drive that features +R dual layer writing support.

It can handle Celeron M 360 to 380 (1.4GHz to 1.6GHz) or
a Pentium M 740 (1.73GHz). The DDR2 memory slot accepts
a maximum of 1GB of RAM. Expansion includes a MiniPCI slot,
and a 2.5" drive bay for a hard drive. You'll find two USB 2.0 ports,
Gigabit Ethernet, DVI-I, S-Video, and Component (HDTV output
supported) connectors on the back. The Mac mini form factor
has arrived for PCs.

More info:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Name: Hitachi FLORA Se210
Category: Notebook PC
Price: 194,250 yen
Release date in Japan: Already available

The Gist: Hitachi unveiled the "Flora Se210," the world's first
notebook with finger-vein recognition equipment.

So how is finger-vein recognition different from good (old?)
fingerprint recognition? Fingerprint recognition systems generally
use a CCD to capture an image of your fingerprint that is
illuminated by LED lights -- it's not too much different from
a standard desktop scanner. This type of setup is able to
distinguish the "ridges" of the end of your finger, producing the
image of a fingerprint to compare against the original image.
There's an inherent problem with this: the CCD doesn't know
the difference between a real finger and a fake finger (cellophane
tape with a fingerprint left on it, for example, was able to fool
early fingerprint readers). Enter finger-vein recognition, some
of the latest and greatest biometric technology. Rather than
using LED lights to light up your skin, finger-vein recognition
systems use LED lights to penetrate the skin. The light heads
directly for your veins, bounces off of them, then makes for
the scanner in a certain pattern. The scanner in turn checks
against the original pattern. Finger-vein recognition patterns
are not only harder to fake, but the entire process happens faster.

That's the reasoning behind Hitachi's new FLORA Se210. It does
not contain a hard drive, for security purposes; if you're going to
steal data from a computer, the first place to look is a hard drive.
Instead, you get 512MB of non-writable flash memory that stores
Windows XP Embedded. The system is intended to be used as
a terminal within a network. For added security, the finger-vein
pattern is stored on a USB key. Without the key and your finger,
the machine cannot be unlocked. Let's hope you don't lose both
in a freak typing accident.

Inside the Se210 is a Celeron 600MHz CPU, Intel 915GM chipset,
and 256MB of memory; outside is a 12.1" XGA (1024 x 768)
display, as well as USB 2.0, Type2 PC card, IEEE 802.11a/b/g
wireless LAN, Gigabit Ethernet, and 56k modem interfaces.
The battery life on this one is a mere 2.1 hours, so don't go far.
Perhaps that's part of the security.

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* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Name: Nagase TRANSGEAR HMP-100
Category: Portable audio
Price: Open Price; listed at 24,900 yen
Release date in Japan: December 10, 2005

The Gist: Nagase Industrial Corporation announced the
"TRANSGEAR HMP-100," the latest portable audio player under
their "TRANSTECHNOLOGY" brand. We'll be frank -- the only
reason this player is in this issue of Gadget Watch is its internal
database of information on 3.5 million songs.

The 6GB hard drive of this portable audio player contains the
entirety of Gracenote's "MusicID" database. This is roughly
630MB worth of information, spanning as many as 3.5 million
songs. Available information includes track name, artist name,
and genre. This feature may seem useless at first, considering
most songs for portable digital audio players are transferred from
a computer (which theoretically has access to all the track
information you'd ever need), but it turns out to have some merit
after all.

This MusicID database is integrated with another database
called "FingerPrints." Fifteen seconds of waveform data is
extracted from music recorded via the HMP-100's analog audio
input; this waveform data is compared against the FingerPrints
database. The result is the ability to identify tracks recorded from
virtually any other audio device. 3.5 million songs may seem like
a low number considering how long has existed. That's
why the player has another function called "MagicSync," which
allows you to connect it to a mobile phone (FOMA, WIN, or
Vodafone 3G) and download track information from the internet.
You'll be directly connected to Gracenote's entire database of
track information for over 40 million songs. The logic behind this
is straightforward: not everyone who wants this kind of information
has access to it via the Internet. In fact, according to a survey
conducted by Nagase, a whopping 72% of MiniDisc owners in
Japan don't own a PC. This seems unbelievable at first, but if
they're still using MiniDisc in 2005, it makes a bit more sense.

Unfortunately, the rest of the device's specifications are dry. It has
the same old format playback support (MP3, WMA, WAV),
the same old voice recording, and the same old 1.8" monochrome
LCD. But that's all easily excused given the new functionality
provided by the Internet MusicID database. The lithium ion battery
will last about 15 hours, and it can recharge to 80% capacity in
roughly one hour and thirty minutes.

As a side note, don't be too surprised if you see local Gracenote
databases popping up in other players -- Nagase plans on
licensing the technology to other companies for use in their
own players.

More info:

SUBSCRIBERS: 8,597 as of December 16, 2005

Written by: Liam McNulty
Edited by: Burritt Sabin (

(C) Copyright 2005 Japan Inc Communications KK. All Rights Reserved.