In the area of telecommunications one probably cannot envision what more can be done by manufacturers to the cell phone. Although the global handset market is saturated by even a village idiots definition, new things are brewing to both avoid and create bubble, bubble, toil and trouble. For one thing, believe it or not, recharging a cellphone may be as easy as giving it a shot of tequila. (My cellphone drinks for medicinal purposes only. AA stand guard!) There is a new breed of battery fueled by alcohol that may soon become the power source of choice for portable electronics. Any alcohol can be used, although the battery does not care for carbonated beer or wine. (Fussy little devil, isnt it?) Liquor can be poured straight from the bottle without so much as a single toast or a clink of glass. "All it takes is a few drops to power a cellphone for a month at a time," claims one of the researchers on the project. Well, Cheers!
Vendors have done away with voice only phones and are betting that consumers will pay a little extra to have a digital camera built into their wireless handsets. In particular, cell phone makers are banking on consumer demand for short messaging service, known as SMS, and for the ability to snap and swap pictures wirelessly. John Koo, chairman of South Korean LG Electronics, said that he expects the industry to sell thirty-seven million camera/cellphone combos this year which is twice as many as last year according to market research firm Strategy Analytics. "Im pretty sure," said Koo, "that soon people will say: How did I ever live without that?
Other changes in cellphone production might make even the likes of jewelry mogul, Harry Winston, smile. Michael Mou of DB Tel Inc, Taiwans largest handset producer, has developed a new strategy for survival; turning the mobile phone into a luxury fashion item. His company has launched a series of hand-made diamond phones, including one that Mou claims is the most expensive in the world. This golden gizmo with a sparkling diamond encrusted flip cover and a three carat centerpiece costs a mere $28,736, or about as much as a family car in Taiwan! I wonder who will be the next smarty-pants to design matching earrings, and necklaces that double as extension cords! (Dont stop there. How about diamond studded bras and jockey briefs for the couple who has everything!)
But cellphones, despite luxurious wrappings, are still utilitarian doodads of the highest order. A telephone might check a persons pulse or glucose levels and as far as senior citizens are concerned, a wireless phone based system can help them navigate public transportation systems using artificial intelligence. (Where is the real stuff these days? Perhaps theres a gadget or gizmo somewhere that can locate it?) Mobility For All, a project at The University of Colorado, has developed a technology that will put cognitively impaired people on the right bus by combining wireless technology with Java enabled smart phones that have high resolution displays. New navigation systems, with only a few buttons and commands, may help senior citizens stay on course, even though they cant guarantee results for the driver of the bus.
In the area of comfort/ convenience, the Roomba dancing robot vacuum cleaner has to get at least a door prize. Not the sensual dance of its homonym from a balmy tropical isle, this gizmo vacuums automatically even when the owner is out of town or asleep. (Attention all you inventors out there looking for an idea! Can you think up something that can help one lose weight and pay bills the same way?) This cordless rechargeable floor cleaner dances as it cleans up dirt and dust in the good old American way. It works especially well on carpets, hardwood floors and kitchen tile. Roomba navigates around obstacles like children and pets, protected by its non-marring bumper and guided by infrared sensors. An infrared "virtual wall" unit keeps Roomba from crossing open areas as wide as twenty feet. And its all yours for $199.95!
If we cant sell you a vacuum, how about an exceptional toy for your child or grandchild? The economy has been of no help to the American toy industry, which recently took a three percent sales dip. Action figures, traditionally big sellers, slumped 7.4 percent compared to the same period last year. But toy manufacturers hope to turn these grim statistics around by carefully mixing favorites of the past with futuristic technology. This year, Mattels Barbie takes the leap to interactive TV in the B-Anything Inspiration Station from Oregon Scientific. The toy plugs into a computer monitor and can be used as a learning lab, a video drawing terminal or a karaoke machine. Tiger Electronics GoGo, My So Real Walking Pup is the latest generation of robotic pets. Shaped like a white terrier pup, this realistic dogbot has stereo hearing and touch sensors around its body. When it name is called, it will "awaken" and move towards the callers voice in a puppyish sequence of moves. Petting the dogs fur brings forth happy puppy sounds and tail wagging.
As you have probably already guessed, the list of new gadgets and gizmos, like the beat of Sonny and Cher, goes on. Making a selection appears to be the biggest problem as there is no slowing down of a million ideas whose time has come (or something like that anyway). Its all for the common good, I know, but still it makes me a little bit afraid. What if my new gizmos dont like my house or me? What if I cant stop them once they get started? What if I grow tired of them and want something else? Will they know and worse, will they be mad? Who can say in this crazy world? Id stay and chat a bit more but my flying can-opener just banged into one of my cats and the vacuum is dancing to a tune I no longer recognize. Enjoy all these new contraptions, but if you have a minute, could you come over and help me please?
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