TOKYO EDGE - April's coolest gadgets

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

Panasonic, Fujitsu Mobile Internet Devices

Fujitsu and Panasonic unveiled a couple of prototype computers at an Intel event that are based on the chip maker's Mobile Internet Device platform. MID is the name that Intel has given to handheld devices based on Centrino Atom that are expected to be produced in a range of form factors, with many using touch screens or slide-out keyboards. Both the Fujitsu and Panasonic devices have keyboards and the Panasonic model is a Toughbook version, built to withstand harsh handling and conditions. Also on show were a couple of other MIDs, one from Clarion that will feature a personal navigation function, and one from Toshiba, that were previously shown at CES in Las Vegas in January. Look for product launches later this year.

Sharp blogging phone

Japanese bloggers have a new tool with which to update their sites with the launch of a new Sharp phone that packs a small QWERTY keyboard. The 922SH has a 3.5-inch display that folds out to the side so the phone can be used more like a miniature laptop than a traditional clamshell phone. The widescreen VGA display has a resolution of 854 pixel by 480 pixels. The phone has an RSS reader and a PC-style Web browser in addition to one more adapted to mobile use. There's a three-row QWERTY keyboard above which sit hot keys for functions such as digital mobile TV and the camera. There are also buttons for phone functions, navigation keys and a shortcut key to Yahoo Mobile. The phone is locked to the Softbank network in Japan and there are no plans at present to launch it overseas.

LG Black Label phone

LG has begun teasing the upcoming launch of the third cell phone in its style-focused "Black Label" family of handsets. The phone, the name of which wasn't announced, will follow on from LG's popular Chocolate and Shine handsets that launched in 2006 and 2007. It will be officially unveiled soon but LG has already released three images. It's a slider-type handset with a shiny face, three shortcut buttons for answering a call, hanging up on a call and a cancel button sit below the shiny face and the upper part of the phone's body is covered in what appears to be a faux leather plastic. Previous LG phones have touch-sensitive keys underneath the shiny cover and the new phone appears to have enough room for such a keypad, but it's impossible to tell from the images if there is indeed one. The only technical detail available was the inclusion of a 5-megapixel camera.

R&D: NTT Fragrance Communications

After satisfying the senses of sight and sound through video streams and music downloads, NTT Communications aims to tap into the sense of smell with a new system that allows users to send fragrances from their cell phones. A trial of the service will take place later this month during which users will be able to select and send certain fragrance recipes to an in-home unit that is responsible for concocting and releasing the various fragrances. The system involves selecting a scent from those available through an I-mode site on a cell phone. Once chosen the instructions on how to make the scent are then transmitted to the fragrance device through infrared or email from the phone, and from there the scent is quickly mixed and emitted. NTT Communications believes that fragrance is the next important medium for telecommunications, as more value is placed on high sensory information. NTT hopes the fragrance emitter will cost about US$195 when eventually launched commercially.

(Chiara Castaieda in Tokyo contributed to this report)

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