February sees the world's first commercially available thin TVs, as well as a DivX-enabled mobile phone and Sony's latest DSLR range.

The technology industry works so fast these days and products have a very quick turn around time. Take Sharp's thin TVs as an example.

The first time we heard about them was when the company unveiled prototypes in the middle of last year. At that time Sharp talked vaguely about them hitting the market sometime before the end of the decade. They seemed a little way away.

A couple of months later at the Ceatec show in Tokyo a couple of Sharp's competitors had their own thin TVs and at CES in January in Las Vegas still more thin sets appeared from competitors.

Thin is apparently in and TV makers were starting to get bullish on the new designs.

Fast forward just a couple of weeks after CES and Sharp has shown its first commercial sets and is preparing for an aggressive launch schedule of March in Japan. With the speedy move Sharp, which was the first TV maker to fully embrace LCD technology, is determined to get a lead on the competition.

That this all happened in the space of six months is impressive to say the least, and points to the fast pace at which new technologies are appearing on the market. Sometimes consumer will put off purchases a few months to wait for a particular feature to come to market but all too often when the desired feature is finally available there's another even better feature just around the corner.

It's how companies are getting us to spend money and replace products faster than ever before. For example, back in the 70s and 80s TVs lasted 10, 15 or 20 years but can you imagine keeping an LCD TV set for 20 years today? The set might work fine but will look hopelessly out-of-date after just a few years. When it comes to buying technology it pays to remember, there might never be a good time to buy but there's also never a bad time to buy.

Sharp thin LCD TV

Just a few months ago Sharp impressed with prototype LCD TVs that were just a few centimetres thick. Now they're products and coming to Japan in March. Sharp's new X-series models come in 37in, 42in and 46in screen sizes and are just 3.44cm at their thinnest point and fatten slightly to 3.85cm at the thickest point.

That's less than half the thickness of sets in two other product lines that Sharp has also recently introduced. Sharp has also separated the tuner unit into a VCR-sized box thus furthering helping keep the TV thin.

Prices will range from $3,299 (£1,650) for the 37in set to $4,520 (£2,260) for the 46in. Sharp will be putting thin sets on sale overseas but it doesn't have a concrete plan at present, it said. Appearances will be further improved with the use of an optional wireless video transmitter than means just a power cable needs to be fed to the set. The wireless kit, which includes a transmitter and received, will cost $850 (£425).

Sharp LCD

NEXT PAGE: More of February's coolest gadgets, including a handheld TV from Sony and Sumsung's mobile phones aimed at women

Turnaround times in the technology industry are so fast that within a matter of months prototypes displayed at industry shows find their way into consumers hands. Here's a round up of the gadgets being launched in Japan this month.

Sony Bravia handheld TV

Sony is packing its Bravia technology into a new handheld TV it plans to put on sale in Japan on April 10. The XDV-D500 has a 3in screen and includes the "mobile Bravia engine" digital image processor that seeks to improve the picture's colour, contrast and brightness for an overall better image.

The device can also record up to 10 hours of TV programmes and comes with an AM and FM radio. It will cost $355 (£178). By putting the Bravia name on the set Sony is hoping the device will get a sales kick from the substantial brand it has built up around the Bravia name.

Sony will also launch a second portable TV set on the same day but it doesn't include the Bravia technology. The XDV-G200 has a 2in screen and will cost $280 (£120). The OneSeg TV service is based on the ISDB-T standard that is only used in Japan so the sets won't work overseas.

Sony Bravia handheld TV

Samsung calorie-counting mobile phones

Samsung is unashamedly promoting calorie counting, shopping lists and fragrance prediction as killer-applications in three new mobile phones aimed at women.

The phones are designed to appeal to women by being both stylish and functional - functions defined by these three features. While the workings of the shopping list and calorie counter are obvious, the fragrance function works by suggesting a suitable fragrance through the user's favourite food and beverages, said Samsung.

The L310 and L320 are tri-band GSM clamshell handsets and also have a 2Mp camera and Bluetooth. Both go in sale in February. The L310 will initially be available in Russia and Hungary and cost €240 (£160) the L320 will be on sale in Russia and CIS and carry a €220 (£145) price tag.

Samsung L320

LG Divx mobile phone

Digital video recording is nothing new in mobile phones but LG Electronics has something new in its LG-KU990 Viewty phone. The handset is the first, according to LG, to record video into the popular Divx format.

Divx is a favourite of file-sharers because of its ability to retain a good video quality and high compression and because of cross-platform support. The phone will record VGA resolution (640 x 480 pixels) video into Divx. The Viewty comes with a 3in LCD screen - something else that should be handy for video - and also has a 5Mp camera with image stabiliser. The phone is already available in Europe.

LG Viewty

NEXT PAGE: Sony expands its Alpha digital SLR camera range and Japanese scientists succeed in controlling a humanoid robot

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.