GW-299 -- The Hottest Gizmos and Gadgets from Japan

Japan Inc Magazine Presents:

The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
Issue No. 299 Friday May 23, 2008
Subscribers: 9467

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PENTAX Optio V20 seeks perfect portraits

Name: PENTAX Optio V20
Category: digital camera
Price: Open price (about JPY30,000)
Release date in Japan: early June, 2008

Optics maker HOYA, holder of the PENTAX brand since this year's
March 31 merger, moves fast. Two issues ago, I wished for a
camera that would prevent photos of a subject in mid-blink. 'All
right,' said HOYA with uncanny quickness, 'here's the new PENTAX
Optio V20'.

The V20 is an 8-megapixel compact digital camera with a 5x
optical lens, packing 51MB of internal memory and an SD/SDHC
memory card in a little 145-gram package. That's all fine by
itself; what's spiffy is the heap of facial recognition
features. There's 'Face Recognition AF&AE' to automatically set
optimal focus and exposure for up to 15 faces, plus 'Smile
Capture' to automatically snap the shot when teeth gleam – great
stuff, though neither features is new. Where the new PENTAX ups
the ante is in 'Blinking Detection', notifying you after the
shot if your subject made an ill-timed blink that calls for a

Another feature to prevent bumbled shots is 'Digital Shake
Reduction.' Compensation for the photographer's own hand shake
is old news in cameras, but not everyone knows that recent
cameras like the V20 go further to reduce blur by digitally
compensating for your subject's movement as well. What's more,
if your hands are shaking when you play back your pictures (just
what were you shooting?), the V20 will attempt to compensate for
motion there too.

Other features: 3.0-inch LCD screen, 'Digital Wide Mode' (to
stitch two side-by-side snaps into one panoramic photo), ISO
80-6400 sensitivity, macro shooting to 10cm, movie recording
(640x480 or 320x240).

More information:
feature.html (Japanese) (English)


YAMAHA TENORI-ON goes on sale in Japan

Category: musical instrument
Price: JPY121,000
Release date in Japan: May 12, 2008

The TENORI-ON has been on gadget-watchers' radar for quite some
time - the artwork/instrument has been shown off at conferences
and concerts in Europe from 2006, leading up to a 2008 World
Tour that began in Frankfurt in March and ended in Tokyo in
April. It's been on sale in Europe since 2007 as well. So,
apologies in advance for European readers for whom this is old
news, but for those reading in Japan, take note: the TENORI-ON
can finally be yours – as soon as YAMAHA can make enough. And
that may take a while.

In case you missed the fuss over the gadget, here's the quick
overview: TENORI-ON is the brainchild of digital artist Toshio
Iwai and the Music and Human Interface Group at the YAMAHA
Center for Advanced Sound Technology. It's a magnesium-framed
square holding a 16x16 grid of LED switches, looking nothing
like a musical instrument. Touching the LED switches on the
grid, as well as buttons on the sides, sets up repeating
sequences of beats, tones, and chords, all set to flashing
pulses of light, letting you create rich synthetic 'sonic
textures' that... ahh, forget it, there's really no way to
describe it. This is one you have to see in action to
appreciate; follow the links below.

There's only one place to buy in Japan, and that's the official
YAMAHA TENORI-ON website. It went on sale May 12, but purchasers
swamped the site, with those able to complete the purchase
process quickly snapping up the initial lot of 100 units.
Another lot of 100 ships in early June, and is spoken for. To
get yours, keep an eye on the website for availability updates,
or watch the online actions (though Japan's preferred Yahoo!
auctions aren't showing any for offer at the moment).

In the meantime, you may be able to catch a demo at one of
several locations in Japan (see link below), including Spiral
Records (Minami Aoyama), Tower Records (Shibuya), and NTT Inter
Communication Center (Shinjuku) in Tokyo.

More info:
(Japanese) (Japanese sales site) (Japanese
demo locations) (English) (English video links)


SolidAlliance Baketan 2 updates the cutting edge of
ghost-detection technology

Name: SolidAlliance Baketan Strap 2
Category: portable 'obake' spirit detector
Price: JPY1980
Release date in Japan: May 8, 2008

Tokyo-based gadget monger SolidAlliance and Kanagawa-based
mobile phone strap maker StrapyaNext have lifted the veil from
the new 'Baketan 2' ghost-detecting phone fob. Baketan 2 updates
the earlier hit 'Baketan Strap' fob with the addition of
'Kotodama Tuner' spirit detection and dead-to-living speech
translation technology. Kotodama Tuner tech is a 'world's
first', say the companies - and I for one don't doubt it.

Baketan 2 has two modes. 24-Hour Mode, as the name suggests, is
your full-time watchdog. 'It may look like it's doing nothing,'
says the press release, 'but it's continuously searching for
ghosts; it'll flash a red light only if an evil spirit appears.'

If you'd rather steel yourself first before receiving spooky
surprises, go proactive with Search Mode. Press the center
button and receive a light in one of five colors to indicate
who's in the vicinity: red for bad ghosts, blue for good, etc.
At the same time, you summon the Kotodama Tuner (which takes its
name from certain ancient magical beliefs). The Tuner uses a
'unique algorithm' to translate the 'spatial energy' of ghosts
into human speech. (Sort of like those dog-to-human translator
novelties of a few years back.) You may hear things even when no
ghosts are present, as the Tuner will play back 'messages' left
behind by departed departed. 'I hear dead people!', you'll
whisper creepily.

Knowledge without action is itself dead, though. With, say, a
WiFi detector, you know exactly how to act on a positive report:
surf some sites, check your email, and explore files your
Starbucks neighbors have left unprotected. What to do with grave
news of a lurking ghost, though? You're on your own for dealing
with the good ones, but Baketan 2 takes care of the bad ones:
calmly give the center button a long press to activate 'Barrier
Mode', which sends poltergeists packing. Don't worry about
collateral nuisance, as the inventors have made the barrier
completely undetectable by humans. Now that's high tech!

In physical incarnation, Baketan 2 takes the shape of the curved
'magatama' beads associated with ancient tombs, is emblazoned
with mystic words, and comes in two unearthly shades: Itako
(female blind shaman) White or Onmyou (Yin-Yang) Black.

More info: (Japanese) (English
shop page)


Short items

Spotted elsewhere in the news:

1) Tokyo-based Princeton Technologies announced a big 8GB entry
in its ultra-light (8-gram) line of 'Xiao Jr.' USB drives. Comes
with shiny blue LED light, and access to free 'SecretZip' and
'MySHELTER' software downloads to keep your data secure on the
tiny drive. Open price.

2) From late July, Fujitsu will offer the MHZ2BK, a 250GB
2.5-inch 7200rpm ATA3.0Gbit/s hard drive that the company says
is the industry's largest-capacity drive rated for 24-hour
continuous operation. It should see use in enterprise servers,
ATM machines, POS systems, etc.
200805200514837A83562020.htm (Japanese)

3) Fan of the SONY a350 digital SLR camera? There's a new
limited edition model that swaps the usual black body color for
elegant 'Silky Gold' tones. It's available from May 19, for
delivery in mid-June, for JPY99,800 from Sony Style. Only 200
sets available, so move fast.

--------NEW GADGET BLOG: TEKRONOMICON.COM------------------

In collaboration with Gadget Watch, Gadget blog Tekronomicon
offers a detailed look at select gadgets - shiny and strange,
from gizmo ground zero in Tokyo.
See the gadgets introduced in Gadget Watch,
with photos and more at:


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