Digital | ON: TECH

Bright ideas for bookmarks, toys and apps

Kyouei Design’s flashy bookmark

The tech-savvy may prefer to read e-books from tablets these days, especially since one of the advantages is that the device is often backlit making it easier to see text in dim environments. Printed matter, however, never seems to lose its charm, and there are still plenty of people who prefer to carry a paperback around with them. Keeping a reading lamp at hand, however, is not so convenient.

Kyouei Design’s Bookmark Light is a great idea for bibliophiles. It’s thin enough to be an unobtrusive marker when not in use and when bent in half, it becomes an effective reading light.

Made from a transparent film that helps spread the glow from two tiny LEDs, the bookmark’s circuitry is printed with a special ink that conducts electricity. To turn it on, all you need to do is place a CR2032 coin cell battery at one end of the strip and then fold the bookmark over so that its other end touches the battery and completes the circuit.

Available from Kyouei Design’s website, the Bookmark Light is ¥1,728.

Pet pixels

Smapon is a new internet-of-things game from Takara Tomy and, as a virtual pet that changes with interaction and attention, it’s a bit like a tamagochi — but far cuter.

The little device, which is placed on top of a smartphone screen, interacts with an app and responds with different expressions on its pixelated face. It works by recognizing and reacting to light fluctuations on the screen as well as to sound, which means you can speak to it.

Smapon has a vocabulary of 2,000 words, which increases with updates. It also knows some proverbs and can tell your fortune. Its personality is based on your choice of settings, which include gender, blood type and favorite food and, like the tamagochi, it develops with interaction. Depending on how much you talk to it and look after it (feed it, play games with it and more), its responses will change.

There are six colors for six different character types, each with a different way of speaking and set of expressions: normal, spoiled, geek, queen, old man and “a bit bad.” All the Smapons are ¥1,620 each and they don’t need batteries to run.

Sweet stuff for the diet conscious

Okashi Checker is a handy free app for those who like to know what’s in their snack food, but can’t read the Japanese labels.

Available in English and Indonesian, the app allows users to scan barcodes of popular Japanese snacks to find what out their ingredients are. It’s actually aimed at Muslims wanting to check if a snack is halal, but it’s also useful to people with specific allergies, vegetarians or anyone following a specific diet.

To use it, you simply hold the barcode under the camera or type in the number using the keyboard. The app then brings up an image of the product and a list of its ingredients. You can also “like” the product so that it can be ranked among users.

Okashi” means “sweets” or “snacks” and it has not been revealed how many such products are in the database. But a good way to help ensure that it keeps on growing is to download the app and give it a go.

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