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Gadget News and Notes!

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News and Notes

Being in the business of finding and researching gadgets we come across a lot of neat news and notes about products in development and already in use. We make an effort to keep this page as up to date as possible to give you the information you want.

October 25th, 2007

Perusing a universal remote

by Robert Cravotta, Technical Editor -- EDN, 10/25/2007

During the 1950s, Zenith Radio Corp introduced the first remote control for television. The Lazy Bones device used wires between the remote and the TV. Wireless remote controls appeared shortly thereafter, and the industry has been evolving and improving them ever since. As home-entertainment systems started to include more types of devices, such as DVD players, cable or satellite set-top boxes, and audio systems, the demand has grown to combine the separate remote controls for each of these devices into a single device.

An industrywide remote-control standard would be ideal, but such a solution seems unlikely in the immediate future. The URC (universal remote control) is an approach to help reduce the frustration of using multiple and incompatible remotes to control home-entertainment systems. This Philips Prestige SRU8015 includes many of the components that you typically find in URCs.

A URC employs one or two key capabilities to support the myriad devices available today. The ability to directly learn and mimic the signals of a device is one of these capabilities. For this approach, the user must manually control and coordinate between the device, to mimic, and the URC, to "teach," the URC each of the device’s command signals. This process can be time-consuming and leaves plenty of room for operator error

Read full story here.

October 23rd, 2007

Runco Adds Outdoor LCD TV

by Greg Tarr -- TWICE, 10/23/2007 1:36:00 PM

Beaverton, Ore. — Planar Systems introduced under its Runco brand its first flat-panel LCD display designed specifically for outdoor use.

The 42-inch WP-42HD is part of the Runco Climate Portfolio of weatherproof displays. It is said to marry Runco’s “luxury video heritage and Planar’s history of ruggedized, reliable display technology, bringing stellar video quality and performance to the first luxury display series intended for the outdoors.”

“The Runco WP-42HD is the first product that illustrates the synergy between Planar’s engineering and display history and Runco’s dedication to superior video,” stated Scott Hix, Planar Systems Home Theater Business Unit general manager/VP. “From the beginning we said that Runco and its dealers would benefit from Planar Systems’ unique capabilities in specialty display engineering. Runco’s Climate Portfolio affords its dealers a competitive edge and accelerates Planar Systems’ vision of becoming the worldwide leader in specialty video displays, including the outdoor display category.”

Read full story here.

October 21st, 2007

LG 32PC5RV is World's Smallest Plasma TV

LG announces the 32 inch Plasma TV in Brasil for all places.

LG tries to serve a curve ball with the LG 32PC5RV Plasma TV and try to get some share from the fastest growing size segment for flat screen TVs. Of course all 32 inch HDTVs sold right now are LCDs.

It’s about carving out a new niche for a growing demand,” said Simon Kang, president and CEO of LG Electronics Digital Display Company.

In November the new LG 32PC5RV plasma TV will also be released in 27 nations worldwide by November, including countries in Central/South and North America, Europe, CIS region, North and Southwest Asia and the Middle East.

The retail price of the 32PC5RV will range from $1,000 to $1,100 depending on the market. Via the LG Electronics site.

Read full story here.

October 18th, 2007

Teaching plasma to follow LCD's lead

story by Erica Ogg Staff Writer, CNET

In the last several years, the display known for excellent picture quality has given ground to the exploding popularity of LCD (liquid crystal display) in the high-definition TV market. Though plasma TVs were first to reach consumers a decade ago, LCD TV manufacturers were able to bring the costs below their plasma counterparts with an efficient panel manufacturing process.

Now researchers are looking at ways to improve plasma's brightness levels, power consumption and cost, and developers hope that will help plasma regain some of the ground it's lost. Of course, LCD technology will also improve, but the closer pricing appears between the two, the more viable an alternative plasma becomes.

Read full story here.

October 16th, 2007

Open-Source Hardware

story by Erica Naone

Software has become easier to customize in the past decade, but hardware, for the most part, remains closed: Apple's battle to keep people from hacking the iPhone is a case in point. Although most consumer electronics are collections of smaller devices--cell phones typically include cameras and voice recorders, for example--users can't swap out the devices or modify the way they work. Bug Labs, a startup based in New York City, is hoping to change that with its new device, the Bug, scheduled to start shipping late this year.

The Bug would allow users to design their own electronics and customize them however they want. CEO Peter Semmelhack explains that the foundation of the device is the Bugbase, a minicomputer running Linux that users can program. It has ports for up to four device modules, which snap in and out of place. Among the first modules the company expects to offer will be a GPS system, a camera, a motion sensor, and an LCD screen. But it also plans to offer new modules at a rate of about four per quarter, and it's encouraging other manufacturers to follow suit. "We think we're an enabler company," says Jeremy Toeman, who handles marketing for Bug Labs. He says that he sees the company serving as manufacturer and resource for many smaller companies that could grow up around it.

Read full story here.

October 15th, 2007

Panasonic Putting 5.1 Sound into Wireless Headphones

story by

Who says you need a bunch of speakers to create 5.1 sound? Panasonic wants to strap on the surround experience via the RP-WF5500 headphones.

Using 2.4GHz, these headphones boast a 20 to 22,000Hz frequency band, 40mm drivers and a 30-meter operating range. All of those features pale in comparison to the ability to neglect everyone you know by drowning them out with surround sound that follows wherever you go; the battery provides a six full hours of solitude on a single charge. Weighing in at just a little over half a pound, it looks like the battery might give out before you do.

Read full story here.

October 14th, 2007

Sonic Revamps i-F3 Speakers

story by Peter Cohen, IDG News Service

Sonic Impact Technologies has introduced the i-F3 portable speakers for iPod.

The $169.99 speakers are encased in a zip-up portable shell and work from a rechargeable lithium battery.

The speakers features a dock station to play and recharge all dock connector equipped iPod models including the iPod mini. It also sports a built-in alarm clock function that wakes up your iPod, and can play iPod shuffles and other devices through a 3.5mm jack input.

Read full story here.

October 11th, 2007

Motorola announces new cell phones

story by AP

LIBERTYVILLE, Ill. — Motorola Inc., badly in need of hit products to spark a turnaround, announced nine new cell phone handsets Thursday to be available this quarter.

Among them is a luxury version of the Razr2, the latest successor to its once top-selling model. The Razr2 V8 is being touted as a potential holiday gift with gold-plated accents, snakeskin texture, ultra-slim design and storage of up to 1,000 songs, among other features. It costs $250 to $300.

The company said four of the seven new W-series phones — the W160, W180, W213 and W377 — feature FM radio, which requires headphones. Six of the handsets contain Motorola's proprietary CrystalTalk technology, which automatically adjusts audio for clear calls in noisy environments.

Read full story here.

October 10th, 2007

Samsung releases Blu-ray firmware upgrade for BD+

story by

Starting this Friday, Samsung owners will be able to upgrade players to increase functionality, including enhanced playability of advanced copyright protection technology BD+.

The firmware will be offered for Samsung’s first- and second-generation models, the BD-P1000 and BD-P1200, respectively. For both models, BD+ will be fully playable.

Read full story here.

October 9th, 2007

Last Gasp Of The Physical Formats

story by

The format war between Sony's Blu-Ray and Toshiba's HD DVD has been a self-defeating mess, confusing consumers and slowing acceptance of DVDs boasting high-definition picture quality.

But the next-generation discs will still play a key role in restarting growth in the sluggish U.S. home-video market, research firm SNL Kagan says in a new report. At the same time, the firm's projections suggest that sales growth in physical formats for home video will peter out by 2015 amid growing consumer interest in on-demand services.

After miniscule U.S. sales of just $29 million last year, consumers are expected to buy a more impressive $749 million worth of high-definition DVDs in 2007, SNL Kagan analyst Wade Holden says in an annual report on the home-video market. (Holden doesn't provide a breakdown of Blu-Ray vs. HD DVD sales.)

Read full story here.

October 8th, 2007

New JVC TV Likes Hand Gestures

Product News | October 08, 2007 | by Rachel Cericola
Some hand gestures could get you killed. Flash gang signs, the finger or give a standing-O to JVC’s “handclap & gesture recognition TV.” It likes it.

In fact, this new technology wants to rid you of the remote control. Gizmodo says that the unit has a set-top camera, which tracks all of your hand movements. A clapping sequence could get you the main menu or be programmed for favorite channels, for example.

Very cool and sort of a neat solution for having to track down the remote. However, it also sounds like you’ll need to choreograph an entire cheerleading routine just to get the volume cranked up—which you probably wouldn’t need that if weren’t clapping like a mental patient.

Don’t start flapping your arms wildly just yet; there’s no word on when JVC will incorporate this technology into any actual units.