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

Issue No. 79

Thursday, October 17, 2002
(Long URLs may break across two lines, so copy to your

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Name: Sony AIBO
Category: Robots
Price: 150,000 yen
Release date in Japan: November 16 to February 2, 2003

The Gist: I'm sure you all know about Aibo, the robotic pet (it's not
a dog, OK? -- Sony spokesperson) produced by Sony and have just been
waiting patiently for that something extra, that one, special feature
that will push you over the edge, persuade you to ditch the family cat
and lay down a couple hundred thousand yen for the privilege. Well,
gentle and alert reader, wait no more! Sony has just announced a brand
new duo of the ERS-210 variety (not the scary Terminator-style one
that'll give your kid nightmares) with -- wait for it -- Christmas
color schemes! Yes, rather than messing around with the irksomely
technical task of adding useful new gadgetry to the robots, which is,
let's face it, a lot of work and a major pain in the ass, Sony is
producing two new robopets in "Burgundy Red" and "Snow White"
liveries. Worry no more about how you're going to bedeck your house
with sufficient Christmas decorations and ornaments to distinguish
yours from the neighbors (Santa and his sleigh on the roof is so passe
anyhow) because now you can own the ultimate fashion accessory. A dark
red Aibo will amaze and astound guests at your Christmas party and, at
the same time, conveniently color-coordinate with the pitchers of
mulled wine dotted around the reception room. Beat that!

Better still, thanks to new and improved software, your new Aibo will
wander over to you when it recognizes your face to give you a special
dance but, fantastically, will not do the same for your guests,
shunning their advances because you've pre-programmed it to respond
specially to you. Hah! That's one in the eye for Bob next door who
insists on trying to grab all the glory with his 20,000 fairy lights
strung all over the house, trees and whatever else.

Seriously, though, Aibo represents an amazing bargain given the
technology you're getting and there IS one new feature that is very
handy indeed. Thanks to improved software, ERS-210A will now recognize
when its batteries are running low and stupefy all around it by
waddling over to the "Energy Station," sitting down on it and
initiating the recharge session itself! How handy is that?! And if the
endless reruns of old movies over the holiday period don't do it for
you, pick up Aibo's latest toy, the 18,000 yen "Speedboard." Strapped
to the board and using his legs for propulsion, Aibo can now hit the
vert, pull off ollies and generally catch some major air as he (and
fellow Aibos, if you buy more than one) chases down that pink ball he
seems so fond of. The two new Aibos are available exclusively online
( and only for a limited period over the "holiday

More info:

J@PAN INC magazine -- the premier journal of business, technology and
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Name: Fujifilm FinePix M603
Category: Digital camera
Price: 88,000 yen
Release date in Japan: November 10, 2002

The Gist: It's hard to tell whether the M603 is basically a tiny
digital camcorder with still-image capability or the reverse, since
this 3.1 megapixel digital camera takes still shots, obviously, but
can also record 640x480-dot AVI movies at 30 frames per second. At
that speed, the video should be very smooth without any of the
horrible, experience-ruining jerkiness of other cameras. The M603 is
equipped with a 2x optical zoom (4.4 digital) and is styled to be held
upright -- the top half of the camera, when held like this, is taken
up with the massive built-in 2.5-inch LCD monitor/viewfinder. Thanks
to the M603's other special function, still images up to a maximum of
2,832x2,128 can be taken and then edited while still in the camera.
There are a few storage options on the new camera; go for the new,
small-format "xD-Picture Card," a Compact Flash card or an immediate
download via the USB cable (and cradle). The microdrive can store the
most video footage, obviously, slipping into the CF slot and giving
owners 15 minutes and 9 seconds' worth of 30fps video with its 1GB

More info:

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Name: Victor RM-A550V
Category: AV
Price: 3,500 yen
Release date in Japan: October 10, 2002

The Gist: On sale by the time you read this, the RM-A550V is a voice
memo-capable television remote control unit. I love this kind of
thing, straddling the line as it does between the "possibly truly
useful" and "possibly truly a complete and utter waste of space, time
and money" gadget boundary. Worth a punt, surely, for only 3,500 yen,
the RM-A550V remote can record up to 15 seconds' worth of voice memo.
Soooo, if you're watching TV and a phone number or address comes up
that you really must remember, all you need to do now is hit the
record button and speak in the general direction of the handset.
Brilliant! The voice-memo remote is compatible with 14 different makes
of television and will zap your requirements to them from up to 7m.

More info:


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Name: Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ1
Category: Digital camera
Price: Open
Release date in Japan: November 8, 2002

The Gist: Claiming an industry first with a digital still camera that
incorporates a 12x "super optical" zoom and image stablizer, Panasonic
has released info on the LUMIX DMC-FZ1 (they're the ones with the
lenses from German manufacturer Leica Camera AG). In this case, the
lens is a F2.8 DC VARIO-ELMART and that zoom equates to 35-420mm on a
35mm camera. The built-in "Mega Optical Image Stablizer" is there to
control the shakes when you want to zoom in nice and steadily but have
possibly had a few too many beers to do so without assistance,
increasing the chances of a nice, non-blurry shot. The 2.1 megapixel
images are saved down to a dinky SD memory card and if the capacity of
the included storage card just doesn't cut it for you, there'll be the
SV-PT1 SD unit out in stores a couple of weeks after the DMC-FZ1
digicam itself that will provide a meaty 5GB of storage space to house
up to 5,000 of your pix. Also boasting a regular SD card slot, the
SV-PT1's 5GB of storage is actually a PC card and can transfer images
from an SD card at 1.9MB a second (so a massive 512MB SD card will be
all transferred over in a little over four minutes). The extremely
mini storage unit weighs only 250g, can be connected up to a TV set
for slideshow-like playback and is finished in classy silver.
Panasonic is also releasing another one of those very cool mobile
printers, the SV0P20, which is about the same size as the storage unit
and will make 86mmx54mm hard copies of your images for you pretty much
wherever you find yourself.

More info:

Subscribers: 2,570 as of October 16, 2002

Written by: Max Everingham (
Edited by: J@pan Inc editors (

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