Computers might be the greatest tool since the stone ax but unlike that early technological breakthrough they have done nothing for improving the human physique. Adding injury to declining muscles, contorting our body to allow us to chain ourselves to the desk leaves us with a lot of dull aches. The obvious solution is to hit the off button and get some exercise. But that isn’t going to happen. Luckily the whizzes at Thanko have come up with a gadget to address the problems our old ones give us. The USB Muscle Mouse uses electrical stimulation to tone your muscles while you keep working away on the next pain in the back. You attach a pair of electricity-inducing patches, powered via the USB-connected optical mouse, to your ailing muscles and the patches ease the muscular tension. You can switch between three different modes and 20 levels of stimulation via controls on the mouse, allowing you to fit the “workout” to how much tension you need to relieve. Those who are pregnant or have a pace maker are included on a list of those are advised not to use the system.

Details on the gadget are available at www.thanko.jp

Mickey iPod: Exclusivity is one of the few adjectives the iPod Nano doesn’t warrant. But Runat is doing its bit to fence off that piece of the land of iPod with its limited edition Mickey Mouse/iPod Nano set. A 2-gigabyte incarnation of The ubiquitous sound machine comes in a specially branded box with its own leather case. Both box and case are liberally decorated with images of the famed Disney mascot from his appearance in the 1940 animated epic “Fantasia.” Costing 33,600 yen the sets went on sale March 14 with just 500 of them available.

Details are available at www.runat.co.jp/runat/index2.htm

Hello Kitty air purifier: If there is one rival to Mickey’s title of most commercialized animated characters then the feline of Hello Kitty fame has got to be it. Sanrio Corporation opted for a surprisingly useful product for the latest addition to the Kitty pantheon, an air purifier. Not content just to put the cat’s mug on the new device, Sanrio shaped whole thing to resemble the feline’s illustrious visage. The purifier is intended for use in either home or car, operating off mains power at home and using a car’s cigarette lighter for on-the-go electricity. Sanrio Corporation Japan has announced the launch of Hello Kitty dual purpose air purifier. The air purifier can be used at home as well as in the car. Power is drawn from the cigar lighter of the car and from the mains at home. The air purifier measures 17 x 20 x 9.2 cm, weighs 520 grams and goes on sale for 7,140 yen.

Never enough space: A defining characteristic of digital cameras is their ability to keep photos stored electronically, which means that you can either keep your photos or delete them at will. Gone are the days when if you shot a roll of film, you could never shoot it again. Freed from the discipline of film people are taking more photos than ever, and although today’s storage cards allow you to keep an awful lot of pics, sooner or later you run out of space. You can then download them on to a computer and reuse your card, buy a new card or do something completely different. A popular choice with the truly photo crazy is a portable storage device. The title is self explanatory. Many of these go one step further and offer the user a small screen, typically a few inches across. Such devices allow you to not only keep your photos but peruse them at will, not to mention to show off your prowess to family and friends. Almost invariably they end up doing duty as multimedia assets, playing music and videos. AXES has been in the business of offering such devices for some time. Its latest incarnation is the Pict Star VP8360. This sports a memory card reader (for CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SD, SDHC, and miniSD cards) and a 160GB hard disk. It supports AVI/MOV videos (Motion JPEG) in 352×240 at 30fps, and Mpeg-1/Mpeg-4 videos in 720×240 at 25fps. You can record from video sources directly to the unit for later watching. There’s also a special mode for using with the PlayStation Portable.

Bigger is better: A different beast in the portable storage arena, and one that is becoming as common in pockets as the house key is the USB key. Buffalo is spurning the trend to dress up these as pieces of culinary delights, like sushi, and instead is making a serious play for a ridiculously big capacity. The SHD-U16G sports a full 16 gigabytes of memory, which in the not too distant past was enough to encompass your whole electronic life. Apart from not carrying a memorable moniker, its other sin is that it only works with the Windows operating systems (2000/XP and Vista).

Yogurt maker: Toshiba isn’t too subtle in claiming the nature-friendly connections of this new gadget. Badged the Naturia TYM-1000, the yogurt maker’s controls are located in the middle of a small panel sporting big black spots on a white backdrop — ala dairy cows. The Naturia has temperature settings from 25C to 50C, rising in 1C increments, allowing it make different sorts of yogurts, and has a 1,200 ml capacity. Beyond fermenting milk into yogurt it can also transform soybeans into natto, what may be viewed in some quarters as a culinary sin. punishable by fermenting of a more permanent kind. It goes on sale from April 16 with a price of around 10,000 yen.

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