Looks alone might not determine a person’s character, but for marketing they are at least a good start. NEC certainly believes in the power of appearances, with its new FieldAnalyst camera. The device, in essence, judges passersby on the basis of their looks, determining their gender and approximate age. Its creators are working on developing it to the point where it can guess a person’s social class, too, based on how they dress as compared with examples in a database. The gadget is intended for use by big retailers in market research, with shopping malls in Japan already using early versions.
Turning zombie: A different beastie in the digital photography world is a special new Web site that transforms you into a zombie. Access the Japanese-language site kaocheki.jpfrom your cell phone (not a PC) and click the “Zombie” link to send them your photo by e-mail; they then shoot you a link to the image, manipulated to give you that living-dead look. The image can then be saved to an online album (registration required). The photo manipulation is more than just an amusing diversion: It is intended to promote the movie “Biohazard 3,” due out in November and based on the popular series of “Biohazard” video games. You don’t have to be a movie nut to guess the nature of that film. Mahjongg mania: A different kind of cultural obsessive is catered for by the new social networking site Nani Kiru, which is dedicated to those who believe that life without mahjongg would not be worth living. You have to register, log in and show you’re a qualified fan of the tiles by answering a few questions related to the game, such as what moves you would make in the game to deal with specific situations. You can craft your own questions and take part in message boards. While starting out small, more features are planned, and the site has reportedly already kicked up a storm of interest among the faithful. More information at blog.livedoor.jp/sasakill/archives/50172026.html.
Wii cushions: If you are talking obsessive gaming, Nintendo’s Wii is of course in a class almost to itself. The physical vigor that Wii players use, and the impact that has on the console’s remote control, is notorious. As a gaming aid, Nintendo is providing free silicone covers for the remotes, giving gamers a better grip and a bit of cushioning for the inevitable collisions between remote control and furniture. If you want one, apply at www.nintendo.co.jp/wii/jacket/index.html and make sure you have the serial number for your console to hand. The covers will be be included with all new Wiis.
Heavy petting: Genetics, no doubt about it. You’re either born a cat person or a dog lover — there’s not a whole lot of room for options. It’s much the same with the feline pinup Hello Kitty. Either you crave the latest toy/gadget bearing the furry feline’s moniker or you try to hide the credit cards from your crazed loved ones. Those in the addicted camp have a fistful more reasons to hunt for the plastic. First, it might be a bit late for summer, but check out the Hello Kitty USB-powered desk fan. The small plastic fan is shaped like a miniature palm tree with Hello Kitty in a red polka dot bikini to complete the atmosphere. Costing a bit over ¥3,000, it is available at item.rakuten.co.jp/lsshop/ua-k07/.Add to the shopping list, of all things, a Hello Kitty fish tank to sit next to the fan, with further details at item.rakuten.co.jp/lsshop/ua-k06/.Rounding out the USB-powered selection is a pink heated blanket, heated slippers and a desk cleaner. Purrfect for some.
Puppy love: Those who are determined to up their “kawaii” factor but fall on the canine side of the pet fence need not despair, thanks to a new puppy dog doll Webcam, Pochicam. It’s a stuffed toy of a suitably cute-looking puppy that sports a Webcam lens in the center of its muzzle. Check out www.gfj.co.jp/pochicam.htm.
Disc doctor: Belief in the idea that CDs, and their technological descendants, DVDs, are in some way indestructible has long faded. No doubt in terms of longevity, they are far more durable than the likes of audio and video tapes, but they are almost as vulnerable to scratching, and shattering, as vinyl. Elecom now offers a range of products for cleaning and repairing your damaged discs, not exactly making them indestructible, but at least extending their life a bit. For more information visit www.elecom.co.jp.
Fresh idea: Redeeming your atmosphere is the aim of the antibac2K Magic Ball. Plug in the small UFO-styled air-cleaning sphere and switch it on; the blue and green LED lights come on and the device starts spinning, sending forth an air-filtration mist. The effect is intended to be similar to that achieved by ionic filters — getting rid of bad odors, allergy-causing dust particles and bacteria. Clean air isn’t free — this’ll set you back ¥36,000 at item.rakuten.co.jp/e-yamagiwa/998qs1/.