Beam me everywhere, Scotty: Laziness is an industry in itself, and, judging by the gadgets that we crave, we are working rather hard to not work hard. Or maybe it is just the pursuit of versatility; why have just one way of doing something when we can create dozens of ways of fulfilling our wishes? Whatever the motive, NEC is pursuing it with its new Lui system, which was shown off at the iEXPO event in Tokyo last week. In essence this is a central server that allows you to stream media such as music, photos and videos to other devices in your own personal network. Initially at least the system will hook up with just two special “client” computers, a hand-held device and a notebook computer. These won’t have their own operating systems but will be able to access Windows Vista via the server. The hand-held device will have a 4.1-inch touch-screen and weigh a suitably light 250 grams, with the notebook sporting a 10.6-inch WXGA screen and weighing 650 grams. The server, which looks like a stylish black and silver stereo deck, but which is almost devoid of buttons and lights, will include a pair of high-definition TV tuners and be able to record programs for beaming to the client devices. An expansion in the pipeline would allow the server to be accessed from a regular TV or video-game console. The system, which will use WiMAX to communicate to its constituent parts, is expected to hit the shelves in the first half of 2008 for an as yet undisclosed price. NEC has more information on Lui at: www.nec.co.jp.
Simple sounds: Speakers have come a long way from the fake-wood-style boxes with black-metal mesh on the front. Elecom pays tribute to Apple’s influence with its new ASP-S750-series stereo speakers. Intended to work with computers or digital audio players, they come in pairs of simple white or silver rectangles with their square black front ends projecting up at an angle. Spare but stylish. The speakers, which measure 60x133x84 mm each and put out 2.5W a piece, are about to go on sale for ¥5,040 a set, with details from Elecom.
iPod extras: Polaroid looks to ride the iPod’s coattails in a different way with its new DVD player, the DPJ-08480B. The device doubles as an iPod dock, allowing video from fifth-generation iPods to be shown on its 8.5-inch, 234×480-pixel screen. The dock does extra duty as a storage bay for your iPod when your miniature wonder is not needed. Also able to play regular DVDs, the gadget’s screen can swivel through 180 degrees, and the 1.1-kg device can also be clipped to the back of a car seat for mobile viewing. The battery tops out at 150 minutes, suggesting that directors of some Hollywood epics weren’t part of the design team. The unit is on sale from this week for ¥28,000, with details at www.polaroid.co.jp.
Straight to video: Panasonic is bypassing the PC with its new DVD burner, the VW-BN1. The device is intended to work with the company’s HDC-SD5 and HDC-SD7 camcorders. The emphasis is on simplicity, with the camera plugged into the burner, via USB, and the video copying straight to a regular DVD. The burner is able to copy and play back the AVCHD high-definition recording format that both cameras use. Panasonic has more details at panasonic.co.jp. The burner goes on sale Dec. 20.
Worth the weight: Weight-watching is a serious business for some, and it seems that the simple hand-held devices that check your body fat, and the ones that look like bath scales for that matter, are not enough. Tanita is putting a high-tech body-fat percentage-checker on sale in February. You lie on your back under a big plastic upside-down U, with a smaller beltlike device on your stomach, and it electronically probes you and your dietary sins. Accuracy comes at a price though, and at ¥294,000, these will turn up in hospitals, beauty salons and the like, rather than the average lounge. Those wanting to get the skinny on it can check out www.tanita.co.jp.
Time flies: Some crazed inventor must be concerned about the general need for more exercise, too. Why else would they concoct the Flying Alarm Clock? This is a pretty standard black clock, shaped like a hemisphere, but crowned with what looks like a three-bladed helicopter rotor. As soon as this torture device sounds the alarm, it takes off and lands somewhere else. It keeps making a racket until you track it down and squelch the alarm. Find it on Rakuten for ¥3,969. Maybe NEC has the right idea after all — just kick back and let the remote controls do all the work.