TOKYO EDGE - April's coolest gadgets

Robots, haptics, high-def cams, and technology that allows users to send fragrances from their mobile phone

The month has been notable not just for some of the cool new products that will be hitting store shelves soon but for a few interesting prototype products.

Four PC makers offered a glimpse of their upcoming Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs). The PCs are part of a push by Intel and the manufacturers to extend portable computing beyond laptops to even smaller devices that are a couple of steps up from a cell phone. MIDs, offering full Internet access, should be appearing soon.

Next up, Toshiba's cute ApriPoco robot is promising a future where you'll no longer be confused by all of the buttons on the remote control. Digital technology has brought us so many advantages in the living room but 100-button remote controls certainly isn't one of them! ApriPoco will just listen to what you want to do and follow your orders.

Once you don't have to stress about controlling your gadgets it's time to take your relaxation to another level with NTT's fragrance communications system. Select a desired fragrance and your in-room fragrance emitter will mix up essences to produce and waft it into the room.

Toshiba ApriPoco robot

If you've become hostage to a clutch of remote controls in your living room, then Toshiba's ApriPoco might be the answer. The prototype robot can act as a voice gateway to just about anything in the room that has a remote control. When activated it watches for the infrared signals emitted by remote controls and asks the user what each one means. From the voice reply it learns the meaning of each signal and eventually can imitate the remote control when commanded by voice. So all it takes is to say "switch on the TV" and the set should spring to life. In a demonstration the ApriPoco was able to switch on and off a TV, air conditioner and lamp in response to commands. Toshiba wants to develop the robot into a commercial product but more development work needs to be done, so at present there are no plans to put ApriPoco on sale.

Samsung Anycall Haptic

Samsung's Anycall Haptic looks like a thinner version of Apple's iPhone, but adds a new dimension to the touch interface. For example, when the volume of the radio is changed, the phone simulates both the sound and feel of the "clicks" on an old-style volume knob on a real radio. There are 22 kinds of vibration in total built into the phone. There's a 3.2-inch widescreen display, a 2-megapixel digital camera, full Internet browser, Bluetooth 2.0 and terrestrial digital TV reception. It will cost between 700,000 won and 800,000 won (US$700 to $800) in South Korea. There's no word from Samsung on when it might be available elsewhere.

Sony High-def Handycam

Sony has developed what it says is the smallest high-definition video camcorder. The HDR-TG1 is 32 millimeters thick by 119 millimeters high by 63 millimeters wide and weighs 300 grams. It's a tall and thin camcorder with a fold-out display -- a design along the same lines as Sanyo's Xacti line of high-def camcorders, but the Sony camcorder is about two-thirds the volume of Sanyo's latest full high-def model. One of the secrets of its thinness is the lack of a DV tape desk, hard-disk or optical drive. Instead the TG1 records to a Memory Stick Pro Duo or Pro-HG Duo memory card. The camera lays down AVCHD format video at 1,920 by 1,080 resolution (so-called "Full HD") and can also take 4-megapixel resolution still images. Like some of Sony's still cameras the TG1 has face detection and can track up to eight people in the shot. Other features include an optical 10X zoom, 2.7-inch widescreen touch panel LCD monitor and HDMI connector. It will be available in Japan from April 20 and will cost around US$1,300. In the US it will appear in May and will cost about US$900.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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