T wo obsessions in Japan — celeb rities and the cell phone — go to gether like sushi and soy sauce. Magic has taken this unholy alliance a step further with a new service dubbed “Face Check” (Kaochecki). This rather literally named offering is intended to tell you what celebrities you look like. Jut take a picture of yourself with your cell phone camera (or heaven forbid, even make use of a real camera) and then e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org for guys or email@example.com for the ladies, or even firstname.lastname@example.org, presumably for others. The company then scans your face and dispatches back to you three photos of celebrities that you allegedly resemble, based on Oki Electric Co.’s face-recognition software. Some 15 million users have done so since the service’s recent launch.
Public figure: Strapya has made use of another cultural icon for this next cell phone adornment. Its new phone straps feature the varied poses of a balding, drunk Japanese salaryman — including hugging a shochu bottle, singing and dancing and hugging the toilet bowl like the best friend it is to lost souls. The hand-held figures cost 420 yen a piece and are available at: item.rakuten.co.jp/keitai/375-096049/
Dieting on call: Osaka residents are making use of a new cell phone camera diet plan. Regrettably this doesn’t involve weaning oneself off the digital temptress but rather making good use of it instead. Local governments and medicos have banded together to offer a service whereby people can take a picture of their meal, with the phone cams naturally, e-mail it to a nutritionist and receive the low-down on the calories they intend to consume, seasoned with some advice. The service is working on a trial basis with a similar offering from Kansai Medical University’s Hirakata Hospital with a joining fee of 4,500 yen with a monthly charge of 2,500 yen. It shows there is hope for the cell phone after all.
Cat’s whiskers: Lurking on the other side of the diet are the dreaded scales. Tanita, www.tanita.co.jp/, is trying to take some of the fear out of asking the oracle of weight for the bad news with, what else, Hello Kitty scales. Nothing much to be said, a routine set of scales that you stand on in the standard fashion and wait for the verdict, all the while having the image of the ubiquitous feline to distract you. I guess cuteness, like cell phones, is not entirely without virtue.
Wash your face: Cashing in on the health craze is the mpion, an MP3 player that is claimed to give users a facial while they listen to music. Packing an underwhelming 128 megabytes of memory, capable of holding all of 32 tracks or so, the claim to your wallet for this otherwise standard device is a negative ion generator attached to the back of the player. The purported health benefit is that negative ions (“minus ions” is the preferred term in these parts) can do a better job of cleaning skin pores when applied to the face than no-tech soap and water are able to do. The player has two modes, one for cleansing you of dirt and the other to help diffuse skin cream. Since it carries a price tag of 20,790 yen those minus ions had better do a pretty good job of putting a positive look on your face. It is available from various mail-order retailers, including Netyokocho at www.netyokocho.jp/cupid/goods/N-0013/
Stealth computing: Only those who a) suffer from Internet addiction and b) share living space with a better half who has a more sensible attitude to cyberspace need check out Thanko’s latest gem. The Silent Mouse 2 boasts of being as silent as, well, a mouse, thus ensuring stealthy surfing. The ordinary breed of pointer has ever struck me as having the auditory properties of an alarm clock. More information is available at: www.raremonoshop.com/catalog/
Building a better mouse: If anything Sony has gone even further into the territory of “Why did they do that to a mouse?” with their new VN-CX1A telephone mouse. It works as your garden variety-pointing device but can also be opened up, ala clam-shell style, as a Skype handset and can do extra service as a speakerphone. The phone garnishes its do-everything credentials as an instant-messaging device. At least it comes in a variety of color choices to match your PC’s fashion statement and is available from Sony Style Japan for 7,980 yen at www.jp.sonystyle.com/Qnavi/Detail/VN-CX1A.html
Rubber duckies: And finally, a low-tech twist on an old favorite – glowing, dancing rubber duckies for bath time. These “I Love New Yoku” quackers have embedded LED lights that make them glow in dimly-lit bathrooms and when you wind them up they dance on the water. They measure some 8x7x6 cm and color options include traditional yellow and white. If you want to buck tradition, the frogs perform a similar function, look cooler and come in more color choices. The aquatic menagerie cost 714 yen each and are available from Rakuten at: www.rakuten.co.jp/zakka-soho/465367/832884/