VIBRATING BONES: Call me old-fashioned, but I feel attached to speakers. Innate pieces of metal and plastic vibrate in harmony to produce sound waves to caress the ear. The idea of substituting my body parts to carry out the vibrating bit of the business just doesn’t hit the right note for me. But hey, bone conduction, to give it its due title, is a technology that is getting its 15 minutes’ worth. Temco is doing its bit with the HG40SAN-TBT, a hands-free Bluetooth headset that allows you to hear music and conversations thanks to vibrations transmitted from the headset via your skull. The battery life is three hours for telephone conversations and five hours for music playing and the set weighs in at just 50 grams. Maybe I am just not good at using my head.
NINTENDO HANDSET: Taking a more conventional approach to communication, the official Nintendo DS Handset is due to arrive on April 22. This will allow players to converse with one another over a Nintendo WiFi connection without having their brains vibrating.
CRANKING IT UP: At the opposite end of the technology spectrum is the hand-crank cell phone charger. It is intended as an emergency gadget and does double duty as an LED flashlight. Just apply a tad of elbow crease to the crank and you can recharge any Japanese cell phone or put a bit of light on the subject. For more information see www.nodaya-net.com
TINY FLYER: Moving up the technology food chain and getting back to the nonproductive but fun ethos we come to a fresh innovation in remote-controlled flying. The biggest problem with such midget aircraft is that they have to fly at a reasonable speed to stay afloat, which means they need a good deal of space to operate in, something of an impediment in this country. Tomitech’s Aero Soarer is notable for being small enough that it can be flown in your home or office. It achieves this breakthrough by being made from extremely light styrofoam, which requires very little thrust to keep it airborne. Its subsequent slow speed might take some of the edge off the flying pleasure, but it does give you a lot more opportunities for take off as it can be easily controlled in even small spaces. For more information see www.takaratomy.co.jp
STICK TO THE BASICS: Elecom is taking an old-fashioned approach with the new must-have gadget, the USB key. Forsaking the fancy motifs — from making devices look like sushi to rendering them in too cute cartoon characters — it has stuck to making them practical. Its new 8-gigabyte keys, the MF-KU2 and MF-AU2 go for speed as well as capacity, transferring data at 25 megabytes per second.
MANGA MUSIC: Take one musical instrument, decorate it liberally with the image of a manga star and you have the Keroro electric guitar — proudly bearing the name of the famed cartoon creature. While it might not become the instrument of choice for heavy metal bands, Bandai has at least kept up the Japanese tradition of mixing cultures to come up with something else entirely.
HELPFUL ROBOT: A creature of a very different sort is a small new robot dubbed Chapit. This contraption from the Raytron company is meant to be an “intelligent” companion, helping you to perform basic tasks like turning on a light or other electronic device, such as the TV or air conditioner. While this might seem to be going to a lot of trouble to avoid what don’t even rate as menial tasks the robot does have potential. It can recognize people without any programming and while the base model comes with a starting vocabulary of about 100 words, it is possible to teach it up to 10,000 words. It also has an Internet connection so you can have the apartment all warmed up for you on those long winter nights. Now if only it can go fetch a cold one from the fridge … Check out the details at www.raytron.co.jp
FRAMED: And finally, the question all digital photography enthusiasts face, to print or not to print? Perhaps not. An alternative to both is the digital photo frame. These are basically an electronic version of that decrepit approach in which you took one photo, in hardcopy believe it or not, put it inside a picture frame and placed it somewhere for others to gaze at. The digital version is a miniature electronic screen, usually a few times the size of that of a mobile phone, with a small amount of memory for storing digital photos and the ability to take storage cards, such as SD cards. You pick which photo you want and up it comes on the display, until you change your selection. DreamMaker has brought out a new selection of the photo aids, including an upmarket choice made from that most versatile of stone-age materials, leather.