YEAR END - TOKYO EDGE - 2007's coolest gadgets

Nissan Pivo 2

From Nissan at the Tokyo Motor Show came the impressive Pivo 2 concept car. Fully electric, it has a cab that can rotate through 360 degrees and can also twist its wheels around so that it can move into parking spaces sideways. Equally impressive is Pivo-kun, the robot embedded in the car's dash. Since Pivo-kun is equipped with voice recognition, the driver can ask questions like the location of the nearest parking lot. Its facial recognition has an important safety aspect: It monitors the driver's face for signs of tiredness and suggests a rest if one is needed. More than that, it provides virtual companionship to the driver and that should mean safer roads -- Nissan research shows happy drivers have fewer accidents. Look for cars like Pivo 2 on city streets around 2015.

NTT DoCoMo Raku-Raku Phone Basic

We love NTT DoCoMo's Raku-Raku Phone Basic for its lack of gadgets. Developed by Fujitsu, the handset is designed to appeal to users for whom the dizzying array of functions, features and buttons on current phones are just too much. The buttons and on-screen text are bigger than conventional cell phones and there are three dedicated speed-dial buttons. The phone includes a neat-sounding "slow voice" function that can slow the speed of the other person's voice without slowing down the conversation (it slows the speech and shortens the gaps between words to compensate) and "clear voice" which automatically adjusts clarity and the ringtone volume to match the surroundings -- now why don't all phones have that?

Samsung TPEG Cell Phone

Samsung Electronics developed a cell phone capable of receiving real-time traffic information using a new system called TPEG. The SPH-B5800 phone can receive and decode the information broadcast using the Transport Protocol Experts Group format, which was developed in Europe in the late 1990s and is already in use in South Korea. The phone updates travel information every five minutes and can also receive TV via the country's Satellite DMB system. It went on sale in South Korea at the beginning of the year for around AU$686 and includes a 2-megapixel camera, 330,000-word dictionary and 2-inch color TFT (thin-film transistor) LCD (liquid crystal display) screen. It measures 96 millimeters by 46 mm by 16 mm and weighs 96 grams.

World's smallest high-def camcorder

Panasonic claimed headlines with what it said was the world's smallest camcorder. The HDC-SD7 measures 52 millimeters by 110 mm by 87 mm and weighs 350 grams. One of the secrets to its small size is the use of an SD memory card as a recording medium. The electronics and socket needed for a flash card take up much less space than a DVD or hard-disk drive. It packs three CCD (charge coupled device) sensors behind a 10X zoom lens and has a 2.7-inch widescreen LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor. It can record full HD (1,920 pixel by 1,080 pixel) MPEG4 AVC/H.264 video at a range of quality levels. At the average 9M bps (bit per second) rate, a 4G-byte SD card can hold up to 60 minutes of video. It costs about ÂYEN 140,000 (AU$1,344) in Japan.

Sony Video Walkman with TV

The year finally brought from Sony a Walkman with video support and then later in the year an upgraded model with mobile digital TV viewing and recording. It's an important addition because Apple's iPod, which is the biggest competitor for the devices, doesn't offer TV reception. The "OneSeg" TV system has proved very popular in Japan and can now be found in many portable gadgets including cell phones, laptop PCs, car navigation systems and even electronic dictionaries. The only difference between the three new Walkman devices with TV is their memory capacity. The NW-A916 has 4G bytes of memory, the NW-A918 has 8G bytes and the NW-A919 16G bytes. Compared to the last players the screen size has been increased to 2.4-inches from 2-inches. They went on sale in November and the NW-A916 costs about ÂYEN 30,000 (AU$297), the NW-A918 ÂYEN 35,000 and the NW-A919 ÂYEN 45,000.

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