TOKYO EDGE - February's coolest gadgets

Fragrance-suggesting mobile phones, a handheld Bravia TV, Sony's Alpha DSLR cameras, and a monkey that can control a robot

LG Divx mobile phone

Digital video recording is nothing new in mobile phones but LG Electronics has something new in its LG-KU990 Viewty phone. The handset is the first -- according to LG -- to record video into the popular Divx format. Divx is a favorite of file-sharers because of its ability to retain a good video quality and high compression and because of cross-platform support. The phone will record VGA resolution (640 pixels by 480 pixels) video into Divx. The Viewty comes with a 3-inch LCD screen -- something else that should be handy for video -- and also has a 5-megapixel camera with image stabilizer. The phone has just gone on sale in Europe.

Sony Alpha DSLRs

For the second time so far this year Sony is expanding its Alpha digital SLR camera range. The DSLR-A300 and DSLR-A350 are intended to compete in the entry-level section of the market and differ in the resolution of the camera's image sensor. The A300 has a 10.2 megapixel sensor while the A350 pushes this up to 14.2 megapixels. This latter resolution works out to a 4,592 pixels by 3,056 pixels image. Both have "Live View," a Sony system that allows users to frame photos with the camera's LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor. That 2.7-inch monitor sits on hinges so can be swiveled upwards, when taking shots close to the ground, and downwards for times when photographers might hold the camera above their heads. Both will debut in April. The A300 will cost about US$800 with a lens while the A350 will cost about US$900 with a lens. The A350 camera body with no lens will also be available and cost about US$800.

PlayTomato Video Touch

One look at PlayTomato's Video Touch music and video player might leave you thinking you've seen it before. The device, which debuted in South Korea in January, takes a cue from the iPod design cut but that's where the similarities end. It has a 2.5-inch touchscreen QVGA (240 pixels by 320 pixels) resolution screen with 260,000 colors that, with the exception of the touchscreen, is similar to those found on many current cell phones. Two versions of the player are available, one with 2G-bytes of memory and the other with 4G-bytes. Through a Windows PC users can load in MP3, Windows Media Audio, WAV, FLAC and the Monkey Audio APE format audio files and it will also play MPEG4 and AVI videos. It's also a lot cheaper. The 2G-byte version costs 59,900 won (US$63) and the 4G-byte version has a 79,900 won price tag.

R&D: Brain control of a robot

Scientists in Japan said in January they have succeeded in controlling a humanoid robot with signals picked up in the US from a monkey's brain and transmitted across the Internet. The research, which represents a world's first according to the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), could be a step toward giving doctors the ability to restore motor functions in severely paralyzed patients. It can also contribute to the development of robots that move more like humans. In the tests scientists trained two monkeys to walk on their legs on a treadmill. The activity of neurons in the leg area of the monkey's brain was recorded while the monkey walked and decoded into predictions of the position of their leg joints. These predictions were then sent across the Internet to Kyoto where they were used to control a robot.The results of the work are groundbreaking, according to JST, although much remains to be done before it can be worked into something useful.

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Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
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