With the constant flood of gadgets that flows across my desk, I've realised that we're throwing away and replacing products much more quickly today than in the past. When I was a kid we took our broken TV to the local repair shop and, usually for the price of a valve or resistor, the set was returned in a day ready to provide another few years of service.
These days a broken TV just gets dumped. It's partly due to the increasing complexity of electronics: replacing a component just isn't feasible anymore as so much is compressed on to chips. But this digitisation and miniaturisation has also brought down prices, making repairs increasingly uneconomical.
Unfortunately, a lot of dead electronics end up in landfill sites where they break down over years and pollute the environment. That's why recycling is becoming important and why the best product I've seen this month is, in fact, a service. From September, Sony will start offering free recycling of its old products across the US. It's something the company should be recognised for.
In the UK, of cours, most electronics companies have set up recycling programs and there are schemes run by local authorities. Under the WEEE directive, they have to. But fair play to Sony, there is no such law in the US, and the impact of its scheme should be impressive.
See also: Green computing & PC recycling made easy
Anyway, here's my pick of this month's coolest gadgets to buy, enjoy and then recycle.
Hitachi Blu-ray Disc camcorder
The first camcorders based on an 8cm Blu-ray Disc are on the way from an unlikely name: Hitachi. The company has two models, the Hitachi DZ-BD70 based solely on disc and the Hitachi DZ-BD7H, which adds a 30GB hard disk drive. A single-sided 8cm recordable (BD-R) or rewritable (BD-RE) disc can store about an hour of footage shot in full high-definition quality (1,920 pixels by 1,080 pixels).
The hybrid model can store an additional four hours of high-definition video on its hard-disk drive. The cameras have a 10X optical zoom lens, a 2.7in widescreen monitor and a viewfinder. Additionally, the cameras can also be used to take still images at up to 4.3Mp resolution (2,400x1,800 pixels).
Hitachi plans to launch both cameras in Japan on August 30 and they'll cost about ¥162,000 (£650) for the DZ-BD70 and ¥185,000 for the DZ-BD7H. They will be available in north America in October. European release dates are not yet known.
Tomy humanoid robot
Toy robots have been in the dog house since the demise of Sony's Aibo but Tomy hopes to change all that.
In October, it will start selling what it says is the world's smallest humanoid robot. Called the i-Sobot, it stands 16.5cm tall, and has a bulky body that's 10cm wide and 6.7cm deep. Inside are 17 little motors, known as servos, 19 chips and a gyro that work together to let the robot perform more than 200 preprogrammed actions.
The actions include push-ups, somersaults, dancing, and imitations of animals, and are sent to the robot via remote control. It will cost ¥29,800 in Japan and roughly £200 in the UK. The products will be available in Japan and the U.S. in October, and in Europe in early 2008.
World's smallest high-def camcorder
Panasonic has what it says is the world's smallest camcorder. The Panasonic HDC-SD7 measures 52x110x87mm and weighs 350g. 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 takes up much less space than a DVD or hard-disk drive. The Panasonic HDC-SD7 packs three CCD (charge coupled device) sensors behind a 10X zoom lens and has a 2.7in widescreen LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor.
The Panasonic HDC-SD7 can record full HD (1,920x1,080 pixel) MPEG4 AVC/H.264 video at a range of quality levels. At the average 9Mbps (bit per second) rate, a 4GB SD card can hold up to 60 minutes of video. The camera will launch in Japan only on September 8 and will cost about ¥140,000 (£600).
Samsung internet video mobile phone
Samsung is adding video editing and production functions to a new mobile phone so users can shoot, edit and upload videos to Internet video sites without using a PC. The Samsung SCH-B750 shoots CIF-resolution images (352x288 pixels) and includes software to edit the images and do limited production work, such as adding a caption or background music.
Once done, the videos can be immediately uploaded to online sites such as Pandora TV, South Korea's leading user-generated video site. The camera is a 3Mp model with auto focus and other features include reception of satellite mobile digital TV broadcasting. The phone, which will be available only in South Korea, will be sold through SK Telecom Corp. and will cost around 600,000 won (£325).
Fujitsu's easy-to-use mobile phone
The latest model in Fujitsu's Raku Raku mobile phone line packs some advanced features. Aimed at older mobile phone users, the phone includes a two-microphone noise cancellation system to make it easier to be heard in noisy environments. The phone will also boost the audio level of the caller if the user is in a noisy place.
The Raku Raku can also record the latest 60 seconds of a call so if you miss a detail, you might be able to play it back. It will also slow the speed at which an incoming caller seems to speak, making it easier to understand what is being said and with safety in mind, the phones also pack an ear-piercing alarm that can alert people in the vicinity if the user is in trouble. If programmed, the phone will also call family or friends automatically to notify them. The person's location is determined by GPS and sent along with the alert. The Raku Raku phone will be available in Japan only through NTT DoCoMo at a price yet to be announced.
From the labs: Nissan's alcohol sniffing car
As part of its drive to reduce road deaths and injuries Nissan has developed a high-tech system designed to stop drink driving. It attempts to detect the odor of alcohol from the driver's sweat. After drinking, a certain amount of alcohol escapes the body in perspiration and this can be picked up by sensitive detectors if they are in proximity with the driver.
One of the four sensors in the car is on the gear shift lever. As this has to be touched in order to start driving, the system can stop the car from being started if alcohol is detected. The navigation system also flashes up a message: "The sensor has detected alcohol from your palm. You cannot use the shift. Please refrain from driving by yourself."
There are also sensors on the two front seats mounted at about neck level, and one in the back seat. There's no word on when it might be available commercially.
Nissan alcohol car