TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: New Tech Toys Displayed at DEMOfall Show


New Tech Toys Displayed at DEMOfall Show


May Wong, AP (ap@telecom-digest.org)
Wed, 27 Sep 2006 18:33:12 -0500

By MAY WONG, AP Technology Writer

The best technology is often invisible because it's working
efficiently in the background. Fun technology, however, is usually the
stuff you can touch and feel. And when it talks and twirls, that's
even better.

The quirkiest product appearing at this week's DEMOfall 2006
conference, a springboard for tech startups, had rabbit ears and
not the kind for televisions.

Violet, a small French company, showed off a plastic white bunny named
Nabaztag that connects wirelessly to a home's computer network.

Its ears can twirl or point up or down to notify you of incoming
e-mail or the rise and fall of stocks. It can read e-mails or news
headlines aloud, converting the text to speech. It can announce the
time or play songs from your digital music collection. Color lights
that glow from inside its belly can issue a weather report. All
yellow, for instance, can mean sunny; all blue can mean snow.

The 9-inch-tall rabbit performs according to preferences set up by the
user on Violet's Web site. For instance, you could assign different
light signals for e-mails that come from different people or contain
certain keywords in the subject line.

Nabaztag can even marry another rabbit, and the two can link up over
the Internet. The owners of the pair can instigate some bunny love, or
"ear play," by getting their bunnies to mimic each other's ear
movements.

Nabaztag -- the Armenian word for rabbit -- is dubbed as the first
wireless rabbit, but it's not the first home information appliance. A
handful of other companies have introduced -- with mixed success -- an odd
assortment of similar items, from smart clock radios to the spherical
Orb lamp by Ambient Devices.

The smart bunny is available for $150 from select online retailers. A
new version that adds a built-in microphone so the owner can give the
rabbit orders will be available in November for $170.

Several other cool gadgets hitting the DEMOfall stage, where nearly 70
companies each had six minutes to show off their products, aimed to
offer relief for road warriors.

Dash Navigation Inc. unveiled the first car navigation device designed
to constantly stay connected to the Internet. The always-connected
feature lets Dash Express do more than the current crop of
satellite-navigation products.

"We can't help you get rid of traffic, but we can tell you where it is
and how to get around it," said Dash Chief Executive Officer Paul Lego.

The gadget taps cellular and public wireless, or Wi-Fi, signals to
stay linked to the Web, getting the freshest available data on traffic
conditions. It can also do Web searches for locations or products, the
cheapest gas around, or movie times and then direct you to the
destination.

The device also comes preprogrammed with historical traffic data for
major roads for every time and day of the year, arming visitors then
with a bit of the knowledge of local residents.

But the most powerful feature of Dash Express will happen only if many
of them are out there. Each device sends data back to the Internet to
report the flow of traffic at that point, allowing Dash to gather,
calculate and dispense traffic conditions and alternate routes based
on real-time traffic flow.

Robert Acker, Dash's senior vice president of marketing, said roughly
3,000 units in a metropolitan region will be enough to provide
accurate real-time traffic data for major arteries.

Dash Express is slated to ship early next year. Exact pricing has not
been disclosed, but Acker said the price will be about $600 for the
device with an optional additional monthly service fee for the
Internet-based features.

Another company, Mvox Technologies Inc., showed off its Mvox Duo, a
wearable all-in-one type communicator that is a wireless Bluetooth
headset and speakerphone for cell phones or PCs.

Dressed in a "Star Trek" outfit, Mvox's vice president of marketing,
Sally Li, offered one of the more entertaining presentations at
DEMOfall. She clipped the small headset to her uniform and conducted
several phone calls to "Spock" to highlight its handsfree features.

The gadget, which will be available for $199 in November, allows for
voice dialing and can announce the caller, eliminating the need for
drivers to peek at their cell phones to see who's calling.

At the office, the headset could be plugged into a Bluetooth-enabled
computer or a USB port to support Internet-based phone calls.

The Mvox Duo also has 8-megabytes of built-in memory to store
contacts, so users can retain the information even if they switch to
another Bluetooth cell phone.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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