J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan

Issue No. 244
Friday July 14, 2006

(Long URLs may break across two lines, so copy to your browser.)


Name: Thanko Strap USB Drive
Category: USB memory
Price: 4,680 yen
Release date in Japan: Already available

The Gist: This week's USB memory device comes from Thanko via their "Rare
Mono Shop." It's called the "Strap USB Drive," so you should already be able
to tell what the device is all about.

Indeed, the "Strap USB Drive" is a USB memory device that is somewhat
integrated with a neck strap. If you're required to wear an ID card at work,
this could be a nice way to save yourself from also having to carry around
your USB memory device in a place.

The actual USB memory portion of the strap is attached with a plastic buckle,
and there's a metal hook at the end for attaching whatever else you may need
to (keys, work ID card, etc.).

Even though the Strap USB Drive seems like a simple concept (probably
because it is), it's representative of the recent trend towards making electronics
devices more "subtle" and better integrated with objects we use on a daily basis.
It has a 512MB capacity and is available in black and blue colors.

More info:
Name: Novac Docodemo TV for Skype
Category: TV tuner for Skype
Price: 9,800 yen
Release date in Japan: Already available

The Gist: If you're a Skype user and a TV watcher, Novac's new "Docodemo
TV for Skype" is right up your alley. It's a software solution packaged with a
small TV tuner that allows you to trick Skype into acting as a window through
which to watch TV from your home.

To say the least, the "Docodemo TV for Skype" is an interesting idea. It consists
of two components: a USB 2.0 TV tuner, and Skype. After you connect your
cable/antenna to the TV tuner (it supports VHF, UHF, and CATV signals), the
tuner in turn pipes this video signal through Skype's "video chat" feature. You
can then "call" that computer using another computer's Skype account, launch
video chat, and watch TV.

As a result, the solution requires two Skype accounts: one for your home
computer putting out the TV signal over Skype, and one for your remote computer
to call your home computer. Using privacy features already provided by Skype,
you can set the home client to auto-answer for particular user names, so you
don't need to worry about other Skype users randomly stealing your TV signal
from you.

Through Skype's chat feature, you can also change the channels and adjust the
volume. Sending "##6##" over the chat window will, for example, change the TV
channel to 6.

If you already have a TV tuner and Skype, there's a possibility you could rig up
something on your own, but Novac makes it almost too easy to pass up such
an opportunity.

More info:
Name: Willcom W-ZERO[es]
Category: Smartphone
Price: Open Price; estimated around 29,800 yen with one year contract
Release date in Japan: July 27, 2006

The Gist: Sharp has updated their "W-ZERO3" smartphone for Willcom, and the
new model is named the "W-ZERO3[es]." According to Willcom, the [es] has
three meanings: "extra smart," "edit speedily," and "extended specifications."
It does not stand for "even more colors," because the W-ZERO3[es] will be
available only in black and white body colors.

The new model features Windows Mobile 5.0 and includes the same slide-out
QWERTY keyboard as the W-ZERO3. There are two "usage modes" for the
W-ZERO3[es] -- as a bar-style mobile phone, and PC style, using a slide-out

One of the primary complaints with the W-ZERO3 was how it was styled almost
specifically to be a PDA, and it wasn't very usable as a mobile phone. But the
W-ZERO3[es] seems to address this problem to at least some extent by
featuring standard mobile phone-style buttons immediately underneath the LCD.

Sliding the keyboard out of the side of the unit will put you in a PC-style usage
mode, and you will notice that the screen has automatically re-oriented itself.

That screen is the industry's first 2.8" Mobile ASV with a resolution of 640 x 480
dots. The W-ZERO3[es] now also includes ATOK for predictive text input, and a
USB host function; the latter can be used for connecting things like printers,
One-Seg tuners, VGA output adapters, and keyboards.

The camera on the W-ZERO3[es] is a 1.3MP CMOS camera that features a new
macro recording mode. It can also handle barcodes and QR codes, so at least
you won't be too far behind the 3MP+ cameras we're seeing standard on mobile
phones these days.

Inside the W-ZERO3[es] is a lithium-ion rechargeable battery that should last for
about 7 hours of continuous talk time, or as many as 500 hours of idle time.

More info:

Written by: Liam McNulty
Edited by: Burritt Sabin (

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