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November's coolest gadgets revealed

PC Advisor's monthly round-up of new launches in Japan

Wimax PDAs, an ultramobile PC with a fold-out keyboard and internet-based aroma advertising are the top candidates for innovations of the month in PC Advisor's monthly round-up of new launches in Japan.

The hundreds of thousands of people entering the Tokyo Motor Show are getting a chance to see more than just the latest cars - there's a whole section of the mammoth exhibition devoted to the gadgets and gizmos that are increasingly becoming part of motoring in the 21st century.

There are, of course, lots of new car navigation and entertainment systems - so complex that today's top-of-the-range products combine both in-car theatre with navigation and a strong tie to the mobile network so that all sorts of information can be downloaded. This includes where to find cheap gas, the closest parking lots and information on delays.

Japan's Sanyo stressed safety with its all-round-view system for trucks and other vehicles. Signals from up to five cameras mounted around the vehicle are mixed together to provide a virtual bird's-eye view that makes parallel parking and reversing the vehicle easy and much safer. And Panasonic showed a digital recorder that keeps a constant record of your driving for use if ever you are involved in an accident.

Without a doubt the most impressive use of technology was in the concept cars that automakers love to roll out at the motor show and the best came from Nissan.

Nissan Pivo 2

Nissan PivoThe Pivo 2 is a pretty impressive 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.

Toshiba HD-DVD Recorder

Toshiba is turning up the heat on the Blu-ray Disc camp with the launch of an HD-DVD recorder that can record high-def video to regular DVDs. The Vardia RD-A301 will hit Japan in mid-December and can transcode high-definition Mpeg2 broadcasts on the fly to the more efficient Mpeg4 compression format. That means the unit's built-in 300GB hard-disk drive can store 159 hours of HDTV from 39 hours without transcoding.

Toshiba HD DVD recorder

Toshiba Vardia RD-A301

Recording high-def video to commodity DVD discs is possible thanks to HD Rec, a recently standardised format from the DVD Forum. HD Rec allows up to two hours of transcoded high-def video to be stored on a 4.7GB DVD-R disc. Toshiba estimates that the RD-A301 will go on sale for under ¥100,000 (£440). It will be available in Japan only.

Samsung WiMax terminals

Samsung Electronics has four new WiMax terminals for use on the KT network in Seoul. At the top-end is the SPH-P9200, a 5in ultraportable computer that runs Windows XP and includes a fold-out keyboard. It combines WiMax, Wi-Fi and HSDPA wireless networking and has 30GB of embedded storage. It will cost around $1,500 (£750).

Samsung Wimax UMPC

Samsung SPH-P9200

The SPH-M8200 is a PDA that supports both WiMax and EVDO wireless networking. The Windows Mobile 5 device has a 2.8in touchscreen display and also includes mobile digital TV and a camera. It will cost $750 (£375). Then there are two USB WiMax data adaptors for laptops: the SWT-H200K and the SPH-H1300. Both run under Windows XP and Vista and the latter model also includes HSDPA support. They will cost $90 (£45) and $180 (£90), respectively.


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