Videophones might be the future of communication, but there is more than a whiff of narcissism about them. After all, whose self-image is such that they believe the person at the other end actually wants to gaze at their visage? Thanko is appealing to the powers of the ego with its Mirror WebCamera. It is a deceptively simple but clever concept — a Web Camera positioned behind a small circular mirror. You simply connect it up next to your computer, and looking in the mirror you get to see just what the person on the other end is privileged enough to see. It operates with both PCs and Macs, is USB-powered and even includes lights around the edge of the mirror to brighten up your image. More information is available at www.thanko.jp/mirrorwebcam/ and the camera is on sale for 5,980 yen. For many of us it might be advisable to disconnect it in the early hours of the morning.
The color of individuality: Apple and, rather fitfully, other computer makers have managed to create computers whose style marks them off as a creative cut above the standard gray box. But the ability to personalize our computer’s appearance, to make it as much an extension of ourselves on the outside as it already is on the inside, remains elusive. Plastering a few sticks on the case only goes so far. Digital Cowboy opens up the options with its Acrylic Cowboy range of PC cases, including various shades of translucent plastic, among them an arresting orange that may appeal to fans of the Dutch soccer team in particular. More details are available at www.digitalcowboy.jp/products /ac/index.html
Gadgets for the blind: PDAs are probably past their prime, the good old days when the Palm was a premium asset. But they remain useful gadgets, at least for many. One group that never really had a chance of enjoying the faded fad is the blind, as PDAs are generally reliant on using their nifty little screens. GW Micro is living up to its name with the VoiceSense, a PDA designed for the visually impaired. Looking rather like a fancy remote control with extra large buttons, the gadget runs on the Windows operating system for PDAs with the standard features for its class of device like Internet browser, calculator, MP3 player, schedule, WiFi connection, memory cards and so on. But it also employs a vocal guiding system and its own specialized keyboard to allow the blind to write documents and otherwise get the most out of their gadget. It weighs in at just 266 grams and hits local shelves this week. More information is available from www.gwmicro.com/Voice_Sense/
Putting more fun into Wii: Nintendo’s Wii is emulating the iPod, beyond the device itself a mini-industry is developing devoted to providing add-ons to augment the Wii experience. Nyko is taking a leaf out of Nintendo’s book in focusing on the fun factor rather than the technology. Its Wii Party Station looks like conglomeration of plastic pencil holders with a few extras thrown in. Apart from providing LCD scoreboards to help you keep track of your results, it includes a built-in fan to cool your hands — definitely a nod to the obsession value of the Wii. If that isn’t enough of an indulgence, it also includes a chip and dip bowl set up and four cup holders complete with sleeves that you can chill in the freezer so that your drinks are kept suitably cool. Capping it off is a holder for your Wii remote control and a drawer for, whatever. Check it, and other Wii accessories, at www.nyko.com/. Just think, the Wii was once such a simple pleasure.
Photo storage: Canon is another company that knows the virtue of crafting gadgets that help you to get more out of other gadgets. A dominant force in the world of digital cameras, Canon is not content to let Epson, with its highly regarded P3000 and P5000 models dominate the market for high-class portable photo storage devices. It is bringing to the market the Media Storage M80, a kind of portable hard disk drive with an LCD screen that rather resembles the back of a digital SLR camera. It is intended to let you both store your photos and videos and view them on the go, as well as serving as an MP3 player. It boasts 80 gigabytes of storage and a 3.7-inch screen with a 648×480 resolution and naturally is compatible with the various memory cards beloved of today’s cameras.
Lead’s fine aroma: The pen may be mightier than the sword but Pentel has less ambitious aspirations for the lead pencil. It just wants to make the low-tech writing devices better for you than a box full of incense. The famed stationery firm is offering a new selection of leads for mechanical pencils that come across as a merger of nanotechnology with aromatherapy. The leads come with one of three different aromas — refresh, healing and positive — and are claimed to offer the benefits suggested by their titles, all with the aim of enhancing your mind. The leads will sell for 210 yen each, with more information available at www.pentel.co.jp/news-release/2007/070704_00.html. You don’t even need to light them up to get the claimed for benefits.