Eyes front: Video may have killed the radio star, as the song says, but television has only bruised the movie screen, despite 70 years of trying to offer an experience to rival the cinema experience. Now cell phones and other mobile devices are competing with television.
Technology gurus have been trying for decades to create personal virtual screens that you can use to watch TV or video anywhere, with disappointing results. Most of the limitations have been solved with developments of the technology needed to drive gadgets such as iPods and 1-Seg mobile TVs.
Japanese technology distributor iSonic is boldly going where some have failed before with the recent release of Myvu Corp.’s personal media-viewer glasses — binocular head-mounted video displays. Plug these special glasses into a video source and the image is projected onto a small screen inside the visor.
Wearing a Myvu set is like wearing a pair of sunglasses with a rectangular screen taking up about one-third of the view. The picture is claimed to be like sitting 2 meters in front of a 37-inch TV screen. Stereo noise-reducing earphones by Ultimate Ears, which are attached to the frames of the glasses, complete the package. The devices can be used with various portable-media players, DVD players, mobile phones and game consoles.
iSonic is rolling out two models of the Myvu device in Japan: the Crystal 701 and Shades 301, both of which work with the various video-capable iPods, but not the much-heralded iPhone.
The larger 301, with its rather dubious dark lenses, has a battery life of 10 hours, a resolution of 320×240 pixels and costs ¥34,800. The more stylish 701 lasts up to four hours, comes in amber or black, has a resolution of 640×480 and costs ¥44,800.
Never get lost: In times past, figuring out where you were required a little knowledge, a map and maybe a compass. The electronics age has almost eliminated the need for such knowledge. GPS tracking allows you to figure out where you are with more precision than the finest compass and with as little exertion as pushing a button or two.
IBS Japan is adding to the GPS craze on the consumer level with its new GPS20C Bluetooth receiver, a dark oblong device about the size of a key holder and complete with a key ring. The GPS20C picks up GPS signals that pinpoint its location and relays that information to a Bluetooth device, such as a keitai (cell phone). It is compatible with Windows, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry systems.
The GPS20C can receive up to 20 channels, maximizing its chances of getting a signal. It contains a SiRFstar III chip and has Bluetooth 2.0, measures 39×33×19 mm and weighs only 28 grams.
Hikers and other outdoor types would seem to be a natural market for these devices, but photographers are also likely buyers. The GPS20C can operate in temperatures varying from -20 C to 60 C, so while much of the Arctic might be out, you shouldn’t get lost while on a stroll in the Sahara. The gadget costs ¥8,980 and is available now. www.ibsjapan.co.jp/news/62.html
Powered-up: Electric bicycles are a quirky form of transport. The idea is that by boosting the efficiency of human pedaling, bicycles become a more viable alternative to less environmentally-friendly transport mainstays such as scooters and cars. Electric assistance allows even the least robust of legs to power up hills. Unfortunately for the makers, high costs, heavy power units and a limited battery life have held these products back.
Panasonic, a longtime maker of power-assisted bikes, is trying to increase their attraction by boosting the range of the bikes with its new Lithium Vivi RX-10S electric bicycle. It does this in two ways. First, the act of braking helps to partially recharge the bike’s Li-ion battery. The bike also features an automatic mode that redistributes the amount of electrical power applied to the wheels, depending on the cycling conditions. Low assistance is provided when riding along a flat road, medium for shallow slopes and high for steeper inclines. When the bike is coasting downhill, the assistance is shut off, allowing gravity to carry the workload. Panasonic claims that when the automatic mode is used, the range of the bicycles on one recharge is extended to about 180 km, up from the usual 120 km. The Lithium Vivi RX-10S hits the road on Aug. 20 priced at ¥150,000.
These bikes have distinct green credentials, but their high cost tends to put the brakes on any enthusiasm. For ¥150,000, you could buy a half-dozen or so ordinary bikes. But if it gets people to hit the pedals then it is worth it, especially for the less able-bodied (or the metabolic syndrome crowd). www.panabyc.co.jp