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Home comforts, the tech way

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Wrapped up in the sound system

To get an immersive sound experience while watching TV or an online video at home, so far your only choices have been an extremely expensive entertainment system or using headphones or earbuds. But what if you don’t feel comfortable watching a two-hour movie with something attached to your ears?

Sony’s SRS-WS 1 neck speakers sound like a strange invention, but they are aimed to give viewers that surround-sound experience without the annoying feeling of being physically plugged into hardware.

This piece of wearable tech, priced at ¥26,870, has full-range speaker units that sit on the shoulder just below the ears. Sony describes the effect as being “wrapped” in sound. To ensure a boosted bass, the speakers, like loudspeakers and good headphones, also have passive radiator diaphragms. It connects to the optical digital output of the TV or computer, and although it unfortunately doesn’t support Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, it still works wirelessly via a small transmitter box. At 320 grams, it’s light, making it an unobtrusive hands-free device, which can run for seven hours on a full charge.

www.sony.jp/active-speaker/products/SRS-WS1/

Say ‘night light’ to the kids

Shutting the curtains and coaxing the kids into bed isn’t always an easy thing, but it could be more fun with the PopIn Aladdin light.

This looks like a cylindrical ceiling light and it even runs off a light outlet, but it is so much more. PopIn Aladdin can project images onto a wall, is a speaker and microphone, delivers kids entertainment and information via the internet, and offers three shades of lighting.

Once the curtains are drawn, children can enjoy simple educational games, which include an animated solar system and learning posters, or listen to a children’s audio book illustrated by images on the wall. Parents, meanwhile, can benefit from morning projections of weather forecasts, child care tips and other information, all updated via the internet.

The device is voice-controlled, too, so you can tell it to turn on and off.

Available on Kickstarter, all the extra early pledge plans have already sold out. But for those interested, the ¥29,800 early discount pledge is still available, as is a ¥59,600 pledge plan for two devices.

www.kickstarter.com/projects/popin/iotpopin-aladdin

Making the most of local government

Hojonavi — “hojo” means “support” in Japanese — is an app designed to help residents familiarize themselves with the numerous public services that every Japanese city government provides.

With so much information to share, government sites are notorious for being confusing or complicated to navigate. Hojonavi offers custom searches based on the user’s inputted information, such as age, city or residence and family status. To prevent privacy issues, users don’t need to register personal details, such as name or address. Working on the information provided, the app brings up a record sheet detailing public services appropriate to the users and their families.

There is also a calendar function detailing deadlines for applications, which can issue push notifications for those with smartphones and remind them to apply in time.

Best of all, this app is free from both the App Store and Google Play (available in Japanese only).

www.hojonavi.jp/lp