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Ideas 2003: Beyond Pokémon

Ideas 2003: Beyond Pokémon

Wouldn't it be nice to outfit the sales department in wearable PCs? Or, on your next business trip, remember your watch and leave the cell phone at home?

If it's on the kids in Japan now, it'll be in the mall in Sheboygan soon enough. Japanese kids are the earliest of early adopters of tech gadgetry that goes beyond the merely playful. Wouldn't it be nice to outfit the sales department in wearable PCs? Or, on your next business trip, remember your watch and leave the cell phone at home? Here's a selection of what the Japanese kids are using--and what you'll be hearing more about in 2003.

CAMERA PHONE. Single-handedly helping to stop Japan's mobile phone popularity slide is the appearance of a phone that can take a picture too. Now it's come to these shores. Sanyo Corp. has teamed up with Sprint Corp. to offer the first U.S. phone with a built-in camera that can take 640x480 photos, zoom up to 16x, and control brightness, balance and tone. Oh, yeah, it's got voice dialing, an electronic organizer and a built-in answering machine too. The perfect thing for those who've run out of anything to say.

WEARABLE PC. The hard drive, a mere 11 ounces, slips into a pocket. The mouse fits into the palm of the hand. And as long as you don't mind being mistaken for a Star Trek villain, the headband-mounted display (a single bulging eye socket) makes you feel like the monitor is a comfortable 2 feet in front of you. The Xybernaut Corp. Poma isn't exactly wireless, but it beats looking at a puny PDA screen or lugging around a laptop all day. It's got 32MB of memory, a Windows CE operating system and a Compact Flash slot. Early user reviews suggest giving the Poma a year to mature, which should make it ripe in 2003.

MD PLAYER. In Japan, the MD, or MiniDisc, rules when it comes to music. Why? The MD is a magneto-optical recording on a cartridge-enclosed 64-millimeter disc; that is, it's sort of a cross between a cassette and a CD, offering the endless rerecording capabilities of the former and the quality sound of the latter. This portable player runs on a chargeable NiMH battery and one AA-size battery, which, together, provide 193 hours of playing.

WATCH + PHONE. Dick Tracy, phone home. You can too with this under-50-gram "wireless terminal." And just like the detective's 1946 original, the unit is voice-activated. Its battery delivers 90 minutes of talk time, comes with headphones and an easy-to-read LCD display for the menu. Perfect for keeping in touch with your own Tess Trueheart or battling your version of archenemy Pruneface.

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