Digital | ON: TECH

Gadgets and apps to help get up in the morning and enjoy the sky at night

by Chiho Komoriya

King Jim provides a useful buzz in the ear

Dozing off on trains is a common phenomenon in Japan, but you can’t really set a noisy alarm to wake you up before your stop. Stationery and electronic goods company King Jim has taken on that problem with a pair of earbuds designed to discreetly nudge you awake with vibrations in the ear.

The NMR10 is equipped with a timer that can be set up to 99 minutes, and a regular alarm mode, should you also need extra help getting out of bed in the morning. There are three kinds of vibrations to choose from and, of course, the earphones can also be used to listen to music on smartphones, tablets and other audio players. You’ll need a AAA battery to use this, but that should last around six months.

The NMR10 is priced at ¥6,480 and is available from most major electronic stores.

www.kingjim.co.jp/sp/nmr10

Bright skies at night are the astronomer’s delight

On May 22, Earth will pass between Mars and the Sun, putting Mars in a prime spot for viewing — an event that last occurred in 2006. On May 31, Mars will also be at its closest to Earth, while later in August, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter will all be visible at the same time. The question is, where exactly in the night sky should we be looking to observe such interstellar occasions?

The Planet Book, a free app by Vixen Co., Ltd., uses astronomers’ data to create a simulation of the solar system’s movements that shows users which nights would be best to get the telescope out, as well as which direction they should be looking.

The waxing and waning of planets, the position of Jupiter’s moons and the visibility of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot are among other details the app also provides, though you will probably need to be a somewhat keen amateur astronomer to fully understand it all. Having said that, telescopes are an expensive investment, so before you think of getting one, this is something that can at least help you point a pair of binoculars in the right direction.

itunes.apple.com/jp/app/planet-book/id1112073710

See what life is really like in the goldfish bowl

The Submariner Camera, made by Bandai subsidiary CCP, is actually a toy for kids, but it’s a great little gadget for anyone with a home aquarium.

This tiny remote-controlled submarine allows you to follow your fish around and take candid snapshots or videos of their activity. The camera has 256 MB of memory — enough for 800 1,280 pixels by 960 pixel photographs — and can record five-minute video clips. It also sports headlights for night-time photography and, if the fish get a little freaked out by their new mechanical companion, there’s a basket on an extended arm that can sprinkle fish food into the water to tempt them over. For those without fish, CCP says the gadget can also be used in the bath, provided the water is under 50 degrees.

The Submariner Camera costs ¥10,788 and comes with a remote control unit and USB cable for downloading.

ccp-jp.com/toy/products/item/218