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February's coolest gadgets revealed

View from Tokyo: February's coolest gadgets

We round-up the coolest TVs, digital cameras, mobile phones and other gadgets being launch in Japan this month.

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 10.2Mp sensor while the A350 pushes this up to 14.2Mp. This latter resolution works out to a 4,592 x 3,056 pixels image. Both have "Live View", a Sony system that allows users to frame photos with the camera's LCD monitor.

That 2.7in monitor sits on hinges so can be swivelled 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 £400 with a lens while the A350 will cost about £450 with a lens.

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 2.5in touchscreen QVGA (240 x 320 pixels) resolution screen with 260,000 colours 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 2GB of memory and the other with 4GB. 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 2GB version costs $63 (about £32) and the 4GB version has an $84 (£42) price tag. See our news story here

Tomato Play

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 paralysed 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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