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TOYS

New toys that really put sound and vision at your fingertips

by Rick Martin

Last month we brought you a double feature from toy giant Takaratomy. This month we look at another pair of fun products, courtesy of Thanko — the most notable of all the wacky gadget-makers in Japan.

Recently Thanko rolled out the mini-cam to out-mini all other mini-cams. Measuring a mere 30 × 27 × 27 mm, this tiny camera is so small that you can balance it on your finger tip. It weighs only 11 grams, so you can easily wear it as a geeky accessory on a necklace or on your cellphone strap. And if you have any spy missions scheduled in the near future, the Mame Cam would be a useful tool to have in your arsenal.

Thanko has very logically used the microSD format for the camera’s storage, although the memory card is sold separately. The Mame Cam shoots still photos in JPEG format at a resolution of 1600 × 1200 pixels, and can also record video in AVI format at a frame rate of up 30 fps at 640 × 480 pixels. The camera charges via a USB connection to your personal computer, and requires about an hour to be fully juiced. The USB cable comes included, along with a tiny little lens cap, a key chain, a strap, and a manual (in Japanese).

The Mame Cam is available for ¥7,980 on Thanko’s website (Japanese).

Thanko has also released another fun piece of fingertip gadgetry — transforming the tips of your fingers into a musical instrument. While not exactly high-tech, Piano Gloves are a novel idea, allowing you to transform any surface into a virtual piano.

Touch something with a finger while wearing the Piano Gloves, and a note is played. Each finger corresponds to a different note, so it’s easy to compose simple songs — perfect for those of us who like to tap our fingers in time to music.

Despite the name, Piano Gloves play an assortment of virtual instruments — not only the piano. You can choose from guitar, violin, drums and more. Music is emitted from an attached speaker node, which includes a handy hook that can attach to your belt or your pocket. On top of the speaker unit you’ll find handy controls for tempo, a button for demo sounds and (most importantly for all you parents out there) volume controls. While it would be nice to see a USB charger included, Piano Gloves are powered instead by four AA batteries. So if you’re compulsive about practicing you may want to get some rechargables.

If you know any young musicians with idle hands, this might be a productive way to keep them occupied. But as the gloves come in one size only (127mm wide × 203mm deep), you might want to check they fit before you go ahead and order them.

Piano Gloves are available for ¥4,980 at www.thanko.jp/product/interior-daily-necessaries/piano-glove.html.

Rick Martin is a contributer to Gizmag.com Read more of his work at 1rick.com