New TVs get socially networked while a solar-powered lamp saves energy.


At the Consumer Electronics Show 2011 in Las Vegas earlier this year, Sony previewed its new line of BRAVIA LCD televisions, and the company has now announced that they will be released at the end of April.

The most fascinating aspect of this new line is the deep integration with a wide range of Internet services. Users can experience television socially by viewing comments from Facebook, Twitter, or Nico Nico Douga. There is also a trove of content to dive into as well, like the “BRAVIA Net Channel” or Sony’s own Qriocity distribution platform where you can find the latest movie titles in standard or high definition, or even 3-D (although 3-D glasses will be required). The line also features Skype functionality, enabling you to participate in video chat over the Internet, even while watching TV. The Sony camera and microphone unit is sold separately however.

The TVs utilize Sony’s X-Reality Pro, which is a two-chip digital video processor that brings a better, smoother picture quality and improved noise reduction. According to Sony, even lower resolution Internet content can be improved by referencing a database of “ideal” signal patterns. The series will include the company’s MotionFlow tXR960 technology as well, which creates a sharper and clearer picture, minimizing the blurred effect that often occurs with rapid camera movements. The new BRAVIAs will also use Corning’s Gorilla Glass, which results in a much lighter and thinner, but still stronger screen.

The new BRAVIAs range in price from the high-end HX920 at ¥430,000 (for the largest 55-inch screen size) to the more affordable 40-inch HX720 at ¥210,000. And while a new TV may be the last thing many in Japan are thinking of at the current time, the BRAVIAs’ power-saving functions make it an attractive choice for consumers concerned about the premium on electricity here at the moment.

Like the series from the previous year, this line of Sony televisions also features an Intelligent Presence Sensor which can detect when people are sitting in front of the TV attentively or when they aren’t looking. The television can then turn off or dim the screen appropriately, and then switch back to normal viewing when attention is detected again.

The power cuts in eastern Japan over the coming months are going to mean everyone pitches in to reduce their power consumption, and products such as Panasonic’s Solar LED Lantern may come in handy.

Originally developed by Sanyo Electric for use in Uganda, Panasonic Group (which now owns Sanyo) has donated 4,000 solar-powered lights to disaster relief efforts in Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima prefectures.

On a single charge, the LED lantern can run for five hours when set on “high,” to 20 hours when set on “low.” Weighing only 590 grams, it’s very lightweight and easy to move or hang up somewhere.

And while it’s best to always make use of the solar charger by juicing it up during daytime hours, the lantern allows for charging via alternative sources like an AC adaptor or a car battery.

There is even a version that includes a USB port which can be used to charge mobile phones and other small devices. It also features a clever ‘Auto Light-up’ mode that switches the lights on once the solar charging stops. This particular model can run up to 52 hours on a charge, set on “low.”

In the days following the tragic Tohoku earthquake, many companies jumped in to help the affected areas. In addition to donating the solar lamps, Panasonic has donated 10,000 radios, 10,000 flashlights, and 500,000 batteries. The company has also committed ¥300 million to the relief effort to go along with the material donations. Similarly Sony has donated 30,000 radios, 125 televisions, 500,000 batteries, a number of blankets and DVDs, and ¥300 million. Sony also has an employee donation program that has raised more than ¥200 million and is still in progress.

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