As someone who grew up in a small Newfoundland fishing town, I was instantly intrigued when Japanese toy giant Takara Tomy announced one of its latest products recently. The company’s Virtual Masters Real is a digital fishing-simulation device. No joke.

I always found fishing a little boring, so initially I was puzzled as to why anyone would want to simulate it. But apparently Takara Tomy aspires to capitalize on recent outdoor-themed trends, such as how city girls have suddenly taken to hiking in the mountains or taken up fishing. Surely there must be a demographic who are too lazy to leave the house to fish for real, right? If that sounds like you, then you may want to give Virtual Real Masters (right) a go.

The device is designed to resemble an actual fishing rod and reel, but with one big difference: An LCD screen which shows you all the virtual fish that are waiting to be caught. When you’re lucky enough to hook one of them, the fish’s details are displayed on screen and then saved to memory where you can later look back and review your accomplishments.

There are two ways to play, either in “select mode” or “AR mode.” In select mode the player chooses the type of setting to fish in. It could be a river, a lake, or an ocean, and there are varying levels of difficulty as well. But things get really interesting in AR (augmented reality) mode. Virtual Masters Real is also equipped with a 0.3 megapixel camera. So when using AR mode the screen will show the scene that’s directly in front of you (it could be your kitchen, it could be a park, it could be even the scramble crossing at Shibuya) and overlay fish on top of that environment.

I suddenly have the urge to try this out at an actual lake . . . I wonder if it would explode?

The simulation isn’t just visuals however, as the rod and reel give physical feedback to the player whenever you have a fish. When you cast your line there’s a simulated casting whizz followed by a plop as it hits the water. When there’s a fish biting, the rod vibrates a little, and if you manage to hook one there’s a simulated line tension which corresponds to the size of the fish. When you’re fighting to reel in a fish you can see where it is on the screen, and how close it is as you pull it in.

The game Virtual Masters Real comes with a ¥6,279 price tag, and will go on sale in Japan in July.

For kids who are a little more active, Takara Tomy also has a running training device that’s especially made for children. Think along the lines of the Nike+ system without the iPod or iPhone.

Developed in cooperation with junior sports shoes maker Achilles, the Sprint Gear system (below) is a watch-like gadget that straps on your wrist. The aim is to motivate young runners in their training by making it a little more fun.

Using a vibration sensor, Sprint Gear monitors your body movement, including the number of steps you’ve taken and the distance that you’ve run. With 11 different activity settings, there are many ways for kids to keep themselves active without the need for any trainer to watch over them. Kids can use training mode, stopwatch mode, or try their hand at a 50-meter run or just jump rope for a change of pace.

Much like Virtual Masters Real, Sprint Gear is a great way for any parents out there to spend more time with their kids. If you’re out for a short Sunday-morning run, why not take your child out as well? It’s a nice, enjoyable alternative step up from those wimpy Wii games that pass as exercise these days.

Sprint Gear hit the market back in mid-December, so you can pick it up at a local retailer near you for ¥2,940.

Rick Martin is a contributor to Gizmag.com. Read more of his work at 1rick.com


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