Future Toys

The convergence of digital cameras with mobile phones continues apace with Samsung unveiling the SCH-S250 model mobile, equipped with an intense 5-megapixel camera, a “true colour” LCD with 16 million colours and a text-to-speech conversion function all in the one handset.

The CCD (charge-coupled device) camera and high-sensitivity flash allow the user to take the same quality pictures as a mdeium-quality digital camera. Like Samsung’s premium grade camera phones, the S250 can also function as a camcorder. The 92MB onboard memory can store up to 100 minutes of video (320x240), and a 32MB auxiliary memory is included as a standard feature. The shutter speed is as fast as 1/1,000 th of a second, allowing the user to film beautiful landscapes as well as subjects as close as 10 cm. The S250 can then be connected to a TV to display video during shooting or to show footage that has already been recorded in the mobile phone.

The S250 comes with a unique “stretch” design, reminiscent of the futuristic phones seen in the movie The Matrix . The high-quality camera lens and LCD remain covered and protected when the phone is closed, and when it is stretched open, the product has the feel of a regular digital camera. Until now, mobile phones had been equipped with LCDs capable of only 262,000-color resolution. The S250 boasts a QVGA TFD-LCD (Thin Film Diode-Liquid Crystal Display) that has previously been adapted only for top-end TVs and desktop monitors. The display can reproduce 16 million colors, over 60 times the color compared to existing mobile phone displays, all the hues found in nature.

Samsung has also taken voice recognition to a higher level by introducing text-to-speech (TTS) conversion. Now the user can listen to incoming text messages or the prepared “to-do” list rather than having to read them. The S250 also supports high-image-quality games and 3D sound effects. If a call is received in the middle of a game, the user can restore the game later and resume play. Other advanced functions in the S250 include an MP3 player, mobile banking capability and 64-polyphonic sound.

The S250 model comes hot on the heels of Samsung’s recent 1-megapixel camera phone a year ago and just 3 months after its first 3.2-megapixel camera phone back in July. The S250 is currently only available in Korea and continues the technological achievements that are shaping the future of mobile computing and telephony. The word from Samsung is to watch out for a massive 10- megapixel camera phone by the end of the year.

The publicity advantages of being the first MP3 player to reach the 100GB mark has pushed MP3 storage to breakthrough levels with the world’s first 100 GB MP3 player announced recently from Digital Mind Corp

The DMC Xclef 500 can store up to 3,500 hours of music (based on Windows Media format at 64kb/s) - that’s a whopping 145 days of recorded music or a whole summer of portable jukebox entertainment! Its internal battery provides over 20 of hours of play on a single charge and can be recharged 500 times to 100% capability. Its USB 2.0 interface also allows for data transfers of any kind at lightning-fast speeds.

The DMC Xclef 500 also features an FM Tuner with encoding (so you can record as you listen), a voice recorder with built-in mic, and an analog/optical line-in so you can digitally record from any source at up to 320 kb/s. In addition, the DMC Xclef 500 offers astonishing sound volume and quality, with 10 mW/channel of clean RMS, very low harmonic distortion, and a host of sound contouring options, making it the perfect addition to your home or car stereo system.

It is both PC and Mac compatible, and needs no software of any kind - just plug it in to your computer and it shows up as a regular hard drive.

The DMC Xclef comes in five models, a base with no drive (US $149), 40GB (US $249), 60 GB (US $299), 80 GB (US $349) and 100 GB (US $449). Specs on the company website suggest the current design may extend to a further record of 132 GB in the near future.

Segway has released details of a lightweight, four-wheel concept vehicle with some compelling features.

Dubbed Centaur, the vehicle combines the company’s proprietary gyroscope-based dynamic stabilization technology with advanced propulsion and suspension systems, and an intuitive user interface to create a unique four-wheel device that is easily controllable on two or four wheels. That’s right, you’ll be able to wheelstand out of sight the first time you ride it.

The Centaur uses dynamic stabilization technology to limit and/or maintain the angle the rider chooses.

What would normally be a dangerous manoeuvre on a motorcycle or ATV becomes safe and controlled on the Centaur. In addition, the rider can position his/her body in three different ways, which makes for a fun ride.

This technology also allows for a high-performance design with a short, compact wheelbase - a combination that traditionally can be very difficult to control.

And you can still steer with the front wheels in the air thanks to a clever combination of simultaneous mechanical and drive-by-wire steering that allows smooth transitions between two-wheel and four-wheel operation.

The front two wheels turn left and right mechanically, which is made possible by an innovative linkage system designed by Segway engineers.

The Centaur’s advanced control software also allows the rear wheels to turn at different rates in response to data received from the rider’s steering direction.

When on two wheels, steering is accomplished in the same manner, by turning the handlebar.
Sensors in the vertical portion of the steering column monitor the rider’s input and sends a signal to the controller boards, which then issues a command to drive either or both of the rear wheels.

Turning rate is coordinated so that even with the wheels off the ground, Centaur follows the path defined by the front wheel angles.

The lightweight Centaur weighs around 70 kilograms and can be easily transported in the back of a large SUV or small pick-up truck. If developed, its light weight would allow for transport on the back of small cars through a hitch-mounted rack, similar to that used for carrying bicycles.

Top speed for Concept Centaur is currently around 20 miles per hour but with more testing, this could be expected to vary, hopefully upwards.

Interestingly, one of Gizmo’s most popular stories in 2003 was the Bombardier Embrio, a similar concept to the Segway,using Segway-type gyroscopic balancing, and ONE weel!

The Vaio Type X home server debuted recently at the CEATEC 2004 convention in Japan. For around US $5000 it offers an entire rolling digital media library at your fingertips. Equipped with the 1-terabyte hard disk, the Sony VAIO Type X performs as an “audiovisual recording server.”

A terabyte, in case you don’t know, is 2^40 = 1,099,511,627,776 bytes or 1024 gigabytes, so memory isn’t an issue. And with the liberation of space comes a change in the viewing and usage patterns of Vaio customers that will transform the way they interact with their media and the medium itself.

The device can record six channels of terrestrial analog broadcasts simultaneously, and the dedicated recording disk has enough space for one week of viewing pleasure. It also has a “television time machine” viewing function, allowing users to watch programs that have been recorded. They can also use the remote control to go back in time and arrange programs by genre, as well as enter key words to find their desired shows.

Designed and available specifically for Japanese use, the Vaio Type X is a true home server with four 250 GB hard drives separated by partition, two for handling PC files and two for audiovisual media like recorded TV programs and music.

Files can be manually transferred from the PC to digital television function. Driven by the pressures of Japan’s seven network television stations and low cable take up, the Vaio can record shows on all stations automatically, allowing users to simply delete what they don’t want later.

A special user interface allows easy thumbnail identification and cataloguing of recorded material. Users can sift through the flood of recorded media for their relevant show, comparing programs recorded during the same time slot or enabling searching for a particular program by name. It also groups shows by categories - sports or children’s programming, for example - selected by the owner for greater control over viewing content

As the home becomes the battleground for media attention, devices like the Vaio help navigate the media tsunami and sort and digest the programs that you find. With such massive recording and storing capabilities about the only thing the Vaio Type X wont do for you is turn the tv off!