Nose for innovation: Sales campaigns have traditionally focused on just one of the five senses. Retailers love to deck out their products in eye candy — some of it even connected to the offerings on sale — to attract the attention of the shopping public. The sense of hearing also gets some attention, but the other three senses usually get short shrift. Now, however, NTT Communications is addressing the disparity with its prototype Kaoru Digital Signage display. The radical creation relies on emitting aromas to lure customers. It’s on show now in front of Kirin City Beer Hall in the Yaesu Shopping Mall in Tokyo Station, wafting out scents of orange and lemon to complement video clips of foaming jugs of beer. Citrus smells were chosen for their alleged association with beer. The device uses ultrasound to vaporize aromatic oils and can project the olfactory messages through a space of up to 500 cu. meters. Check out the press release at www.ntt.com/release_e/news07/0010/1017.html. The sweet smell of sales.
Freshen up: Yin and yang, eh? When we aren’t loading up the atmosphere with odors, we are trying to scrub it clean of them. Takara Tomy is targeting the market for purifiers for infants with its BabyCleamo pocket air purifier. Weighing in at a paltry 300 grams, it comes in light blue and lime green colors, each with a cute face. The purifier works on batteries or an AC adapter.
Hot hues: Another seemingly humble appliance getting special treatment is the space heater. Electronics company Plus Minus Zero is bringing out a line of chic heaters in December that stake their claim on your wallet with their sleek and unusually sharp design, coming in bright red, forest green, baby blue and (no adjective needed) gray. Priced in the ¥10,000-plus range, the heaters were designed by Naoto Fukuzawa, the creative touch behind some of au’s most popular keitai (cell phones), such as the neon. More information is to be had at www.plusminuszero.jp/collection/fourth/4th07_heater.html.
Dial up the style: No electronics device is left in the world of the ordinary these days. Beyond the must-have mobile phone, the once-so-ordinary- it’s-invisible telephone is also undergoing a startling evolution thanks to the Internet. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), which in effect allows users to make cheap or even free phone calls via the Internet, might ultimately kill off the home phone in ways that not even the keitai has been able to do. Naturally, form has to follow function. Yamaha has come up with an arresting-looking entrant into the world of VoIP peripherals with its PJP-25UR sound station for conference calls. In effect it is a triangular set of speakers and microphones, with adjustable arms to optimize placement. The top-drawer device plugs into your computer via a USB port and includes software for Windows Vista and XP. It is expected to ship in December with a price tag of around ¥63,000.
Empowering the keyboard: It’s easy to take for granted the classic configuration of keyboard and mouse that has made our interaction with computers reasonably intuitive and functional. For those with physical disabilities, it’s not always so simple. But Actbrise presents a solution for the physically impaired with its new touchless keyboard. The gadget is plugged into the computer and then hung above the monitor. The user attaches a sensor to their head or body and moves the sensor so that it lines up with a key on the keyboard. The movement is registered and the key is activated, thus allowing the user to type or to use the sensor as a mouse to navigate between windows or documents. The simplicity of the system may represent a dream come true for many, but unfortunately its ¥298,000 price tag makes the keyboard as expensive as a high-end desktop computer.
Portable power: Thanko has a different purpose in mind for attaching electronics to your body with its Charger Bracelet. Looking a bit like an electronic bracelet that a criminal might have to wear so their movements can be tracked, the gadget allows you to carry around some extra power for your DS Lite, PlayStation Portable or mobile phone. The company claims the wearable battery can provide an extra 28 hours of play for the Nintendo portable or 4.5 hours for its Sony rival. The item is on sale at ¥4,980 from thanko.jp/chargerbracelet/.
Shop till your phone drops: Spectacles superstore Megane Top is tapping into the ubiquity of the mobile phone with its new “Mobile Fitting” service that allows phone users to try out new glasses frames. Simply take a photo of your face with your camera phone, and then combine the mug shot with pictures of glasses downloaded from Megane Top at www.alook.jp/mobile/. Keitai are creating a virtual world all of their own.