August's coolest gadgets

Despite Tokyo's sizzling summer heat the country's gadget makers aren't slowing down

Despite Tokyo's sizzling summer heat the country's gadget makers aren't slowing down and we've seen some interesting products in the last few weeks. The highlight has to be Toyota's Winglet, which is sort of like a shrunken version of the Segway transporter. Toyota let me take it for a test drive and it was a lot of fun. Despite a little nervousness getting on it the first time, it was soon a breeze to drive.

The potentially most significant news of the month was the consortium formed around Sony's TransferJet technology. While there are a few competing standards out there, TransferJet leaves the starting gates with a host of big-names behind. But frankly, whether its this or wireless USB or some other technology, I just can't wait to get rid of all the gadget wires in my life!

Toyota Winglet

It's not very often that we get to see something as futuristic as Toyota's Winglet! The Segway-like device was developed with engineers from Sony's robotics program and can scoot people around at about 6 kilometers per hour, which is the speed of a brisk walk. You ride by standing on it and steer by moving the handle. The rider pushes a handle forward to make the device move ahead, pulls back to reverse or stop and pushes the handle to the side to turn. Three versions have been developed with the smallest weighing 10 kilograms. Toyota envisages the device will be someday used by people to travel around urban areas and is small enough for a commuter to carry with them on the train or in the trunk of a car, it said. However the company doesn't have any immediate plans to commercialize the device.

Sony TransferJet

Back at CES in January Sony unveiled a prototype short-range, high-speed wireless data system called TransferJet. Now that system has taken a big step towards commercialization with the launch of a consortium that will work on promoting it and ensuring gadgets are compatible. TransferJet is a Sony-developed wireless system that can send data at speeds of up to 375M bps (bits per second) over distances of around 3 centimeters. It's designed to replace the cables that are typically needed to connect gadgets and its speed rivals that of USB2.0 and Firewire, the two dominant cable-based systems in use today. The 14 companies include some of the biggest names in consumer electronics including Panasonic, Nikon, Samsung and Toshiba.

Au Smart Sports

If you're like me then you need all the help possible to stay in-shape so new mobile phones from Japanese carrier Au could be just the thing. The three Smart Sports handsets bring together a motion sensor and GPS (Global Positioning System) so that when you're running, the number of steps taken, distance, and calories burned are measured and recorded. When you're done the work-out information can be sent to a server and later your run can be mapped and analyzed through a PC so you can see just how well, or badly, you did. It also hooks up with Au's "Lismo" music download service to grab some motivational tunes for your run -- all at extra cost, of course. Using the "Beat Run" playback mode, it will also match musical tracks and the pace of the exercise. To date 33,000 people have used it this month and burned 16 million kilocalories in the process. The phones are Japan-only.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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