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To 3-D, or not 3-D: Despite the dearth of content to watch (Avatar and Alice in Wonderland aside), 3-D television is quickly rising to the top of the hype parade. Sony is determined to remain leader of the 3-D pack, despite rivals LG and Panasonic also coming out with significant offerings. Sony’s latest products are four new models for the LX900 series. The cutting-edge LCD sets can show 3-D images in full 1,080p resolution, with the aid of RealD’s active shutter glasses. In welcome contrast to Panasonic’s move to offer a single pair of glasses with its own top-end 3-D sets, Sony is including a pair of the special glasses with its TVs.

Cleverly, Sony is not relying solely on those willing to watch TV while wearing odd-looking glasses. The LX900 sets promise exceptional viewing in their own right with LED backlighting. Of greater interest, and uniqueness, is the “Intelligent People Sensor.” The sensor causes the TV to automatically fit the viewing experience to the environment. It locates where viewers are and directs the sound to match. Moreover, the television’s brightness is matched to the TV watcher’s position, so it dims if the viewer’s head is facing down. If nobody is detected watching the TV, it shuts off to save energy. One innovative but nagging feature is that when somebody is detected to be too close to the screen, a warning message is flashed on the TV until the offender backs off a sufficient distance. The technology also includes a wireless connection, making for easy access to media stored on home networks.

LX900 sets with 40- and 46-inch screens will be released on June 10, with 52- and 60-inch models are due out July 16.

The 40-inch KDL-40LX900 will cost around ¥290,000; the 46-incher will cost ¥350,000; the KDL-52LX900 is priced at ¥430,000 and the 60-inch KDL-60LX900 will command a hefty ¥580,000.

Those not willing to pay that much can opt for the cheaper HX900 or HX800 models. All four sets in those two series are 3-D capable; they just lack the glasses and 3-D transmitter, which are sold separately. The glasses will not only serve as accessories to the HX900 and HX800 series, but come in pairs (unlike with Panasonic) understanding that the joys of 3-D are likely to command audiences of greater than two at a time. The glasses will cost around ¥12,000 each when they go on sale in June, with the 3-D transmitter priced at about ¥5,000. www.sony.jp/CorporateCruise/Press/201003/10-0309/

No damp idea: Gadgets frequently totter along a thin line between kitsch/ silly/other derogatory adjective and some degree of inspired. The Music Planet from Idea International is one of those in the minority of such products that lands on the right side of the line. Looking like a large white ball, the Music Planet is a waterproof music player designed for use in the bathtub, kitchen and other damp environments, The IPX7-certified device can survive immersion in water up to a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes at a time. It plays music from either a memory card, SD or SDHC, or USB memory. The top half of the sphere rolls back to reveal the memory card slot and USB socket. The speaker is also located in the top half and when immersed stays above the waterline. The device includes an FM radio tuner and alarm clock. It runs on no fewer than six AA batteries, with running times of 28 hours for radio, 13 hours for memory-card MP3 files and nine hours for USB memory stick. The ball is not quite truly spherical but is close with measurements of 165 mm for width and height but 160 mm for depth. It comes only in white, costs ¥10,500 and can be ordered directly from the company.

Clever though it is, the Music Planet remains a niche product. If you need an MP3 player for bathtime, then Idea International has done a nice job with the concept. The ball can also serve well as a conversation piece. Moreover, it doesn’t cost too much, although at six batteries at a time, it won’t be the cheapest device to keep running. www.idea-onlineshop.jp/showcase/7190320-1

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