Japan: Wowing The West

Gadgets are almost synonymous with Japanese culture. Pippa Considine rounds up the latest must-haves.

SONY S-MASTER PRO 9.1 CHANNEL

This is the ultimate for the Japanese audiophile with more than US$5,600 to spend on a digital amplifier. This device runs ten speakers and uses advanced signal processing. Hook it up to Sony's newest high-end DVD player, the SCD-XA3000ES, for the best audio or home-theatre experience. And you will just have to part with the extra $2,700 or so to link it to the new Fujitsu 42-inch Plasma Display Panel.

ADVANCED AIBO (ERS-7)

The Aibo (ERS-7) might sound as catchy as a small aircraft component, but the latest version of Sony's robot dog is state of the art. Aibo offers 24-hour in-home entertainment at your heels around the house, getting to know your face and voice and showing his own canine "emotions" (happiness, sadness, fear, dislike, surprise and anger) through a coloured LED panel. He will also do doggy tricks, including taking photos with his nose-mounted camera (and sending them to your mobile telephone), playing with his own ball and bone toys and even recharging himself when all his doggy doings wear him out.

SHARP AQUOS TV

Revealed in January, but yet to go on sale, this is where liquid-crystal display plays catch-up with plasma. The latest in small-screen experience, the flat-panel Aquos series is high-definition-TV friendly and has stretched to 45 inches. The LC 45G1U - the world's largest HDTV LCD TV - has the requisite titanium finish, with top-notch audio amplifier and removable speakers built in under the screen. It also has a PC slot for viewing digital stills and Mpeg4 video. The downside is that you'll have to wait till the summer before you can get your hands on one.

HI-TECH LOO

Japan is a country that takes personal hygiene to an altogether higher level, make no mistake. So brace your bums for the ultimate in lavatory technology in the form of Toto's Neorest. This remarkable invention has a built-in warm-water bidet, heated seat, automatic lid open/close function, auto flush, water massager, a catalytic deodoriser and a warm air drier. It even has a self-cleaning mode. A portaloo at Glastonbury, this isn't. Future models will be able to test your weight, body fat and blood pressure. Newbold Warden, the director of marketing for the all-singing all-dancing lav, says: "This revolutionary toilet and Washlet unit streamlines personal hygiene rituals, while creating a sense of serenity and luxuriousness in a comforting, relaxing and stress-relieving atmosphere."

CALORIE WALK SHOES

Don't have enough time for exercise? Want to burn more calories effectively? Don't object to feeling a little spooky as you walk to the office? Then, these "Calorie Walk" shoes may be the footwear for you. The sole has low repulsion force and high shock absorption, which apparently gives you the feeling of walking on air. It claims to double the energy consumption, as you need to use more muscle, and helps you to inhale 13 per cent more oxygen.

MINI ALARM

Might sound a little itchy, but this ultra-mini timer "Anshin-kun" is an earring-sized alarm that clips into your ear so that you can snooze with the assurance that when you're woken up, the rest of the room doesn't wake with you. The obvious use is on the 6.40am to Tokyo, but it's also recommended to people caring for children, for reminders to take medicine or when studying. And just in case you do want others to know, there's a little LED screen on the side.

NTT DOCOMO 3G VIDEOPHONE

While the rest of the world is still in awe of camera phones and mobile web access, NTT DoCoMo has released its new 3G videophone. OK, so it's not teleportation, but we're getting closer. The phone has two LCD colour screens, two cameras and you can choose to take high-resolution stills, or up to 270 seconds of video. It allows transmission of video by i-motion, an extension of its i-mode (mobile internet access) service. Subscribers can make video calls to each other, as well as use it to access the web. It even has a feature for scanning URLs and e-mail addresses.

SONY PSX-DESR-7000

Hybrids are creating a lot of buzz in the world of electronics. Although the word suggests undesirable transmogrifications, hybrids are in fact all about the newest fusion of coveted technologies - offering two, three, four-in-one. The PSX-DESR-7000 is a leading-edge entertainment hybrid. It's not just the new Sony PlayStation, but as one of the new breed of HDD and DVD players it can record up to 350 hours, burn DVDs and display Lara Croft in all her splendour.

TOYOTA PRIUS

Another A-list hybrid, this new half-petrol, half-electric car is the hip Japanese urbanite's latest transport of choice. Move over Smart car, the Prius isn't just neat and groovy, it's got an armoury of hi-tech whistles and bells to keep the technophiles happy. At around US$24,000, it doesn't come cheap, but it's great for people who need to keep their eye on fuel costs, and for followers of technological fashion, who can help the environment into the bargain. The Prius features a keyless smart entry and start system and a Bluetooth link between its navigation system and your mobile.

TAKARA MEOWLINGUAL

The Japanese love affair with cute pets goes electronic with the Meowlingual, which claims to translate the noise a cat makes into Japanese. Following on from the success of its canine counterpart, the Bowlingual, which sold 300,000 units, the Meowlingual comes in a choice of three colours. Should your neko-chan (moggie) choose not to say anything, the Meowlingual can provide your cat's horoscope and other information. There are rumours that the Meowlingual will be coming to Japanese cellphones soon.

SONY VAIO SUB-NOTEBOOK

The slimline Vaio PCG-U101 Sub-notebook is a jet-set executive's dream. The so-called "constant-carry" mini computer is only 34mm thick and weighs just 0.8kg. This new version is smaller and lighter than the original, but has a larger 7.1-inch screen, and remote LAN connectivity. They're designed to use on the move, so you can fettle with the keypad while sitting, lying down or even standing.

- Campaign would like to thank MindShare's Martin Hadley and Wieden & Kennedy's John Jay for their help compiling this feature.

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