Latest Gadgets visit Panasonic – Intelligent Living

Panasonic invited Latest Gadgets to have a look at some of its household gadgets. Despite being renown for household goods in Japan and the rest of Asia, they lack a distinct presence in these areas in Europe and invited us over to change our minds.
At first we were wary – how exciting can fridges get? Aren’t gadgets mp3 players and cameras. Shouldn’t you be reading yet another article about 3DTV? Probably, but they told us there would be lasers so we went down anyway.

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The lasers in question were used as part of Panasonic’s Active Range (ES-RT31, ES-RT51 and ES-RT81) of shavers, which can be used wet or dry. Unfortunately there were no lightsaber based innovations but they did feature Nano-Edge blades (blade tip = 0.3 microns) to the new Active shavers – a feature normally reserved for expensive shavers and the ability to shave in the shower. They had epilators as well but I stayed well clear of those.

Amazing cooking smells took me to the over to see Panasonic’s award-winning Flatbed combination microwave oven range, the NN-CF778S, NN-CF760M and NN-CF750W. Flatbed Oven Technology means that the rotating part of the microwave is under the ceramic base of the microwave allowing bigger dishes and faster cooking times. The Panasonic Inverter Technology guarantees uniform and even cooking. And amazing brownies. Combination cooking can also reduce cooking times by half to two thirds, depending on the food, whilst giving traditional conventional oven results. A whole roast chicken can be cooked in half the time, using 25% less energy than a conventional oven. Effectively you could use one of these instead of a conventional oven. A boon for those in pokey urban flats.

Panasonic also launched its first fridge-freezers into the European market. The Fridges didn’t feature internet connected touchscreens, which is probably to their credit. What they did feature was significant energy savings due to Inverter technology and their U-Vacua vacuum insulation panels. However what grabbed me were two things. Firstly Hygiene active – a combination lifetime filter, air circulation and LED light system in the refrigerator compartment which combats 99.9% of typical bacteria more effectively than ordinary surface coating treatments according to Panasonic. What I found really cool however, was two flashing LEDs which activate fruit and vegetables’ natural defences and reduce the natural degradation effect of Vitamin C loss, allowing food to remain fresher for longer.

All in all it was clever stuff. Soon I may start demanding the same level of technical sophistication I want from my laptops and smartphones in my microwaves and fridges.

Latest Gadgets at the Gadget Show Live 2010 – Part 2

I found being at the Gadget Show a bit like being at Dragon’s Den with various people selling me on their mad ideas. Here are a few more stalls that caught my eye.

My flatmate likes to call Dyson the Apple of household goods, and I have to reluctantly agree with him here. The Dyson Air Multiplier fan in particular caught our eye. A bladeless fan, the Air Multiplier amplifies air 15 times and produces a smooth blast of air. As James Dyson puts it “I’ve always been disappointed by fans. “ And so he created the Air Multiplier – stylish, safe, easy to clean and child friendly. It’s also fun to play with and we think it would look great in the living room. The Dyson Air Multiplier™ fan costs £199 at dyson.co.uk and is available in selected design stores – it will be in most electrical retailers by the end of April.

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CaseMate make funky cases for iPhones and we went and had a play with 3 of them. Hug was a charging pad where you place your mobile phone on the pad, without plugging it in. Fuel Max was a holster/battery extender that allows you to boost your battery at the push of a button. This was my favourite case, especially as extended sessions on games such as Plants Vs Zombies or Minigore have been taking their toll on my 3GS’s battery life. Finally, I Make My Case – allows you to create your own iPhone cover by logging onto www.imakemycase.com and re-mixing the designs of well-known graphic artists including Thomas Hooper, Deanne Cheuk and Shadown Chen.

Pretty much every other stand had a media hard drive playback device that could spit out 1080p resolution from mkv files. Standouts included the Sumvision Cyclone range (covered nobly by Andy here) including the Cyclone HD, which allows you to download, stream and share all from one box. Also impressive was the AC Ryan PlayOn! DVR HD, which had pretty much all the same functionality but with a much nicer media wrapper – a little closer to recreating the dream or a beautiful XBMC/Plex/Boxee style interface. Iomega also had a ScreenPlay device, but it was just lying on a table so we didn’t really get to probe it.

Qurve produce bespoke speaker systems in the shape of a perfect acoustic horn – “life’s natural amplifier”. Eye catching, crisp and very very expensive. FatMan by TLAudio had their Wi-Tube systems on display. High quality yet affordable audio systems that had an amazing Vintage feel to them and allowed Wireless iPod docking. Their systems stand out for the amazing sound quality due to the use of valve based amplification systems. They also had CHARLiE – high end PC speakers to introduce the average mp3 collection to a thing know as “Bass”.

USB Thumb drives are almost disposable these days (I get all my press packs on them) so I almost walked straight passed the YuuWaa stand until I realised what made them special. YuuWaa combines a secure USB stick with online storage capacity meaning you can automatically backup, access and share all your important data, music, videos and photos from multiple locations. As a big fan of the cloud, I liked the simplicity of the device and it would be a easy way to get regular people into backing up things online, as well as simplifying the sharing of large files. And they just release a Mac version, which made me happy (although minus marks for writing MAC in the press release).

3 had a nifty little in car Wi-Fi device that connects over the 3G network to create a personal Wi-Fi hotspot, allowing passengers to connect to the internet on a range of Wi-Fi enabled devices like an iPod Touch, Nintendo DSi XL or Netbook, without the need for wires or a USB connection. The MiFi modem is only £59.99 and includes 1Gb of data (various plans are available).

The name of the Self Cleaning Cat Toilet tells you pretty much all you need to know and it was one of my favourite gadgets – partly because cleaning kitty litter destroys all the cuteness from cat ownership but also because it looked ridiculously futuristic in an old fashioned way.

Latest Gadgets at the Gadget Show Live 2010

As this year’s Gadget Show Live draws to a close we round up the top tech that caught our eye during our trek across every inch of the NEC, Birmingham.

The foldaway Yikebike caught our eye as it looks to become the latest answer to personal travel solutions. It’s a sleekly styled piece of kit with carbon composite frame and a leather seat and looks to bring back the classic penny-farthing design. Expect to shell out £3,000 for one of Time Magazine’s top inventions of 2009, weighing in at a measly 21lb’s it can clock a top speed of 25kph and will have a range of 9km.

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One of the best and cheapest things we came across was from Hong-Kong based Sumvision, called the Cyclone Micro. It’s a USB 2.0 1080p up-scaling HDMI media player adapter, which allows you to plug and play with any USB storage device and play your media files directly to TV via HDMI, and at £40 it’s great value.

The most expensive gadget we came across was the Sky Car MK2 from Wiltshire Company Parajet. Half car, half plane, the Sky Car is rear wheel off-road buggy, which can hit 110 mph and o-62 in 4.2 seconds. As well the impressive performance on the road, it can also fly with the attaching of a ram-air wing and is capable of take-off from a field or airstrip in less than 200 metres. It’s £55,320 and is on sale now.

We loved new headphones from US company Monster who in partnership with rap legend Dr Dre are looking to revolutionise headphones. Called Beats by Dre, they have been designed to allow you listen to music the way artists recorded it. The big powerful speakers dwarf the capabilities of in-ear buds and with excellent power, clarity and super-deep bass we were blown away by the sound quality. And with Monster’s powered isolation technology these headphones cut all external noise so all you hear is the music. On sale now they will set you back a premium price of £270.

At this year’s show, watch phone brand Swap unveiled the new Swap Lady and Swap Rebel designs. The former is “gorgeous” bangle-style watch and phone for the ladies and the latter a lightweight colourful version for the hip young lads. The new Lady design and Rebel design join the recently announced sporty, waterproof Active Design. Prices are predicted to be around £300.

And finally in the year 2010, no gadget show would be complete without 3D kit everywhere you look. To this end, Sony showed of its latest 3D gear, as did Panasonic, MSI, Nvidia, and the rest. We really liked Sony’s 3D TV, which looked impressive when hooked up to a 3D PS3, you can expect a software update this summer for your Playstation, but you will need to save £2,000 for their 3D TV which will be on sale later this year.

Highlights from the Game Developer’s Conference 2010

The 2010 Game Developer’s Conference in sunny San Francisco has just finished, with a record-breaking 18,250 attendees from the gaming industry. GDC isn’t the place you tend to see big new games announced, but sometimes you do get a glimpse into the technology of titles yet to be revealed.

Too much goes on at a conference of this size to recap it all, and a lot of it is pretty special interest, so we’ve picked out a few of the most interesting tidbits that emerged from the developer hive mind.

Sony’s Playstation Move

Sony finally announced the name of its motion controller as ‘Playstation Move’ at GDC, and showed off some of the games in develop. We’ve got a full article about Move here, so mosey over for more details.

Cloud gaming

OnLive and Gaikai both want to power gaming on their end and then deliver it you live over the internet. All you need is a computer/set-top box capable of showing some video. Whether these services really will be able to deliver a good gaming experience with barely any hardware use on your end remains to be seen, but the fact they’re both planned for launch this year and turned up to GDC bodes well.

Unreal Engine

Epic Games still hasn’t announced a new Gears of War game, but as the GDC crowd was shown a jungle scene with a Brumak stomping through it to show off new features of the Unreal Engine, it’s probably fair to say GoW3 is coming. Also, Epic was very pleased to show Unreal Engine 3 running on the iPhone 3GS. It wasn’t quite comparable to PC versions, but opens up possibilities for more accomplished graphics on the iPhone and iPad. Oh, and there’s a 3D version of UE3 coming too.

Virtusphere

Yes, this really is a virtual reality sphere. Virtusphere makes them for the military, but there’s obvious gaming uses here, hence the appearance at GDC. Strap on the virtual reality helmet and just walk forward to walk forward. Turn quickly to turn. Interact thanks to special equipment. Okay, this would take up a whole room of your house, and would get pretty expensive for multiplayer, but if this isn’t the ultimate gaming experience then I’ll eat my virtual reality visor. Just as long as I don’t get out of it after four years and discover that my real name is Dwayne Dibley.

Bonus rumor! Nintendo DS2?

Rpad.tv were determined to dig up info on a new Nintendo handheld at GDC so they set about doing just that. They discovered that it would have two screens again, but with barely any separation, so they could act as one if the developer was so inclined. It would have roughly the power of a GameCube thanks, possibly, to Nvidia’s Tegra chip. It will have an accelerometer, bringing it into line with the Wii and the iPhone. It might be due late this year, with an unveiling at E3 in June. Or maybe random devs told the Rpad guys this stuff just to get rid of them. Who knows?

UPDATED:
Nintendo has announced the successor to the DS will be the 3DS. Details are scarce, but it’ll have 3D screens without the need for glasses and will be backwards compatible. We’ll have more information at E3 in June.

Round-up: The best of CeBIT 2010

CeBIT has once again graced Germany, and there was all sorts of technology on display. Granted, most of it was tedious or irrelevant, but there were plenty of diamonds shining in the teutonic rough.

Very kindly, we’ve sifted through the chaff and have found you five pieces of tasty, tasty wheat. Oh, now, stop your thanks. We not heroes, but it’s nice of you to call us that anyway.

  • Asus RT-N56U router

It’s always great if you can look at a new piece of technology and think “Yeah, I can imagine that on the starship Enterprise”. So the fact that Asus’ super-thin router actually looks like something the Enterprise’s crew would find on some abandoned ultra-advanced alien vessel makes it doubly cool.

It does nice things like USB hard drive and printer sharing and 3G USB dongle support and blah blah – who cares? Loads of routers do all that. But just look at it! I’m no stranger to gadget lust, but this is my first time with a router. Be gentle, sweet RT-N56U…

  • Mio Moov V780

I’m not too sure about these mid-size tablet PMP things. 7“ is a little ‘in the middle’ to be obviously useful. A fair bit larger than the usual phone/touchscreen media player, but lacking the space you get at the magic 10” mark. That said, Mio have packed this little device with a slick 3D interface, maps and navigation, 720p HD video output, a digital TV receiver, WiFi, 3G mobile broadband and even a WiMax option. Interestingly, among its (copious) accessories is a carry case that adds a keyboard in case you’ve got some serious emailing to do.

  • 3D all-in-one desktops

3D’s coming. Whether you like it or not, it’s looming over the horizon. In fact, it’s particularly daunting and dramatic because it’s in 3D.

The next difficulty we’ll face when buying a new computer, then, is whether we get a 3D monitor or not. Asus and MSI both see the obvious solution to this dilemma, by incorporating 3D tech into some of their forthcoming all-in-ones. The prototypes shown off at CeBIT seem to be powered by Nvidia’s proprietary 3D Vision tech. Hopefully, future development of ATI’s 3D drivers and some clarity on Blu-ray 3D standards will come to take us out of Nvidia’s iron grip.

  • Motorola HS1001 Android landline phone

This one’s pretty simple. This is a home, wireless DECT phone, with a big ol’ screen and it runs Android, so you can play media and surf the web on it. Now, an awful lot of people will have a laptop and/or iPod touch and things they can use in the house for this anyway, so why would you want all that in your non-mobile phone? Well, there’s no major reason, but look at it this way: Next time you’re getting new home phone, why wouldn’t you get this? It can play media and surf the web!

  • Archos 7 Home Tablet

Okay, I said I’m not sure about 7“ tablets, but as I’ve included two, maybe I should shut up. Actually, what I’m rooting for here is the concept rather than the application. Archos make really nice PMPs. Android makes for a snappy, comprehensive touchscreen experience with apps available. The price is said to be as low as $200.

This is year is going to be all about tablets. There are hundreds predicted to come out this year. They’ll need specialist touchscreen software. Apple wants every family to have an iPad, but it really isn’t for everyone. Maybe all the rest can be tempted by a $200 Google-backed experience from a great hardware maker.

Top 10 highlights of CES 2010

For the past week the annual International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has showcased the latest in consumer technology from the world’s leading manufacturers. The annual event is a mecca for geeks with a nice mix of hair-brained concepts and soon to be available tech, and despite the absence of the long-awaited Apple tablet, there was still plenty of jaw-droppingly gorgeous tech to get excited about at this year’s show and here, in no particular order, is our pick of the top 10 techs showcased at this year’s show.

1. Project Natal – Microsoft’s answer to the obscenely popular gyration gaming offered by the Nintendo Wii will be coming to the Xbox 360 in 2010. This isn’t simply a belated response however and Microsoft promises the Natal will be a radical reinvention of Wii’s motion controls that will revolutionise the way we play games.

2. The world’s largest 3D HDTV – Okay so we’re not likely to be able to afford one any time soon, even if we could fit a 152-inch screen into our living rooms; but you’ve got to applaud Panasonic for bringing the world’s largest high definition 3D TV to sin city. The show stopper of a screen was just one of a number of sets on display as 3D TV proved a hot topic.

3. Parrot AR.Drone for the iPhone – The Parrot Ar.Drone is a quadricopter piloted with an iPhone or iPod Touch. The gadget which launches later this year carries two cameras to deliver live video feed directly to your phone and is being positioned as a form of real life gaming where the user has to pilot the device whilst reacting to real life obstacles such as trees, wind and presumably confused looking pigeons.

4. Samsung transparent OLED laptop – It’s amazing how the stuff of sci-fi dreams is starting to make its way into stores and this Samsung laptop with a 14-inch 70% transparent OLED screen is just another example of the type of futuristic looking tech that was showcased in Vegas.

5. LBO LightTouch – Traditional keyboards could be facing their twilight if the trend for e-readers, slates and tablets continues to take hold. But it’s not only the cornucopia of new touch-screen gizmos that are making your traditional QWERTY number look outdated, as this interactive projector that turns any surface into a 10-inch touch screen shows. The LightTouch which uses frankly baffling holographic laser projection technology, can project a screen onto any flat surface; an infra-red sensing system then enables you to interact with the projected display just like a touch screen.

6. ASUS’ bendy screens – The company that kick-started the netbook revolution with its Eee PC’s was also wowing delegates with it’s concept range of bendy laptops and phones with flexible screens.

7. Motorola backfilp – Motorola is renowned for it’s quirkier approach to mobile phone mechanics and its new Backflip handset is a similarly odd proposition, but much better for it. The handset has a reverse flip-out QWERTY keyboard, a unique design that the manufacturer suggests will allow users to stand the phone up on a table and frees up the back of the screen to be used as a trackpad. This means that instead of your fingers getting in the way, you can see the whole of the display while you’re navigating using the handset. It’s a great idea and shows the type of imagination that’s putting Motorola firmly back on the mobile map.

8. Boxee – Is a piece of software that can be installed on your computer so that you can ‘beam’ video content such as YouTube and BBC iPlayer to your television. But the developers have simplified the process even further by releasing a set-top box that plugs directly into your television and streams web content through your home broadband connection.

9. Lenovo IdeaPad – This ‘hybrid’ gadget is a great idea, especially in these frugal times. It’s actually two gadgets in one working as a conventional laptop one moment, or by detaching the screen, as a tablet-style device.

10. Airnester – If you’re bored of plugs, and if even the new PowerMat technology I too much clutter for your tastes then Airnester’s for you. Described by its manufacturers as a “Wi-Fi hotspot power harvester” the device claims to harness small amounts of the signals broadcast by wireless access points. By its very nature this isn’t going to power your home but with the prevalence of free hotspots in almost every café and bar in the country this could turn out to be a useful and free energy source for small devices like mobile phones and music players.

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