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
The 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 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).
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.
NTT Aroma Advertising
This certainly stands out as the most unusual gadget of the month: a system from Japan's NTT and Air Aroma that wafts tempting smells into an underground shopping mall to lure people into a beer hall. The system, being tested this month, receives instructions over the internet and creates the aromas.
At lunchtime the smell of oranges and lemons is hoped to have a refreshing effect on people and get them in the mood for lunch while in the evening a woody smell is hoped to be the clincher in getting customers inside. At the centre of the system is an aroma generator that mixes a number of oils to create up to 80 scents.
If successful it could mean the start of a whole new advertising business - and a whole new way for advertisers to invade our bodies in their quest to sell products.
R&D: OLED televisions
The latest OLED (organic light emitting diode) TVs were on show by Samsung and Epson at the FPD Expo in Yokohama. Samsung won the bragging-right for biggest screen with a 14in prototype. That's not only larger than the Epson 8in panels but also the 11in TV that Sony will commercially launch in Japan in December. But despite the size the Samsung panels weren't perfect: a close look revealed pixels locked to a single colour.
That's evidence of the challenges companies face in making larger OLED panels. The smaller Epson screens didn't have any visible problems. Neither Samsung nor Epson would say when their larger TV screens might be ready for mass production. Sony's TV is due on sale in Japan on December 1. The XEL-1 comes with a price tag of ¥200,000 (£875) and Sony plans to produce about 2,000 of the sets per month. There are no plans to sell the TV outside of Japan.
NTT DoCoMo L705iX
Mobile-phone users in Tokyo will soon be able to get their hands on the L705iX, a new phone from Japanese operator NTT DoCoMo produced by South Korea's LG Electronics.
It's a local version of the 'Shine' handset and notable because it supports 7.2Mbps HSDPA data transmission. NTT DoCoMo plans to offer the service, which is double the speed of its current 3.6Mbps service, from April next year.
Also included are mobile digital TV reception and a 2 megapixel camera. It will be available in Japan from January next year and prices will depend on carrier subsidies and incentives.
For more mobile phone reviews, news and tutorials, see Mobile Advisor, brought to you in association with BlackBerry