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Kristie and Frank Yu, of Microsoft China, with some of the gadgets on offer.

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Spark looks at some of the latest gadgets and gizmos.

October 2005

When Spark visited tech-savvy China, we found all sorts of neat gadgets. Here are our favorites.

Hear this
Mini speakers, from Shanghai's Xinjie Chao Electronic and Electrical Appliances Co. Ltd, retail for about $30. They have a metal finish, great sound thanks to a subwoofer system, plus plug and play for a laptop or MP3 player.

Extra space
The X2drive Pro external hard drive ($90) works as an MP3 player and casing to store up to 80GB of data.

Cheap and cheerful
There is a gadget for just about every use in China, and it is easy to find inexpensive, unbranded goods. Here are some of our best buys:
Storing stuff on-the-go: For just $8-12, attach any generic laptop hard drive to store up to 80GB of music, movies or files to this mobile sharing device.
Staying clean: We found a USB-powered vacuum cleaner ($3-4), which picks up dirt in hard to reach places -- including your keyboard!
Funky Web cams: These cost $6-7 and come in all form factors, with software to install driver.

August/September 2005

Game on
Sony's PlayStation Portable can already play games, music and movies -- and now, thanks to a free download, it can now also surf the Web, wirelessly. The PSP Web browser lacks support for Macromedia Flash and it can lag with image-heavy pages, but most sites look great on the small screen, and it even supports tabbed browsing. Click hereexternal link for more information.

No strings attached
NHJ's new Bluetooth headphones are also cutting the cord. The rechargeable headphones are lightweight and clip on to your ear, and the Bluetooth transmitter works with any device that has a headphone jack, from MP3 players to PCs. However, freedom from wires does come with a snag: we noticed an audible hiss in our tests. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Look, no hands
Here is a hands-free and tape-free way to capture action. The Samsung MPEG4 Sports Camcorder shoots digital video or stills, featuring a lens you can mount on your head or arm. It is lightweight and compact, well-suited for skiing, snowboarding or biking -- but the video quality is lacking, especially in low light. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Snap happy
One of the most famous names in photography meets the digital world with the Epson RD1. For the first time, you can mount a classic Leica M lens on a digital camera. It handles like a traditional 33mm, but is equipped with the latest technology. you'll get high-quality images, but you'll pay a price for them -- the RD1 retails for about $3,000. Click hereexternal link for more information.

July 2005

Disposable digi cam
Drugstore chain CVS has produced the world's first disposable digital video camera. The 2MP camera comes complete with a 1.4-in preview screen and the ability to delete lousy shots. Click hereexternal link for more information.

TV, anywhere
The SlingBox Personal Broadcaster from Sling Media lets you watch television any time, anywhere. It hooks up a little box to your TiVo or your cable box and connects it to your home Internet. When you are out and about you can pull up the software on your PDA and laptop. Eventually, once the broadband is there, it will work on your telephone too. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Just for kids
SunCom have come up with a cell phone, just for kids, in order to improve communication between them and their parents. The easy-to-use phone has a "911 emergency button," "Mom and Dad instant key calls," and optional inbound calling restrictions. Click hereexternal link for more information.

June 2005

Remote access
A new remote control from Logitech is every couch potato's dream -- it promises to end control clutter. The "Harmony" remote control is a universal Internet-based device that can control your TV, DVD, receiver, game console, VCR, satellite or cable through a USB cable. Click hereexternal link for more details.

Spinning around
The first offering from IBM since its personal computing division was acquired by China's Lenovo is the ThinkPad X41 Tablet. The ultra-light "twisting" tablet is reportedly popular with healthcare workers because the monitor spins around so doctors can show patients or other staff the information on screen. Click hereexternal link for more details.

Fast tracking
If you have a need for speed in your home network, the Wireless Pre-N Router from Belkin could be just the thing for you. It uses multiple antennas to double the speed and increase the range of wireless connections. That speed and range come with a catch -- it is based on a wireless standard that has yet to be ratified and could be incompatible with future gear. Click hereexternal link for more details.

In the palm of your hand
Palm One have super-sized the PDA by introducing their first model with a hard drive. The "Life Drive" allows you to carry 4GB of music, photos and data. The hefty PDA comes with a hefty price, though -- it retails for $500. Click hereexternal link for more information.

April/May 2005

2020 vision
The Vision Ball, from Singapore Technologies Kinetics Ltd (ST Kinetics), is a portable, remote-controlled surveillance ball that can be equipped with a camera, microphones and other sensor payloads to allow the operator to make quick decisions. It wirelessly transmits data through concrete walls and is ideal in hostage situations or for surveillance. Click hereexternal link for more details.

Eye spy
Spark recently visited professional spy shop Spymaster, in central London. Among the ultra-efficient listening devices we found posing as ordinary objects were the Bearcam teddy bear, a voice changer and a keyboard that can monitor every key that has been typed in your absence. Click hereexternal link for more details.

March 2005

When the Spark team visited South Korea's high-tech capital, Seoul, they found all sorts of cutting-edge telephones at the city's largest electronics market, Yeongsan.

Music to your ears
The Cyon Dica 300 MP3 phone, from LG Electronics, is all the rage in South Korea. Storing up to 200 songs, all you have to do is press play and listen -- in stereo sound -- to what comes out of the phone's two speakers. It costs about $700.

Snappy phones
Samsung's Anycall S250 phone is also a 5MP camera. Effectively replacing your digital camera, it comes with a price tag of $1,000. The 3.2MP Anycall S230, also by Samsung, is slightly cheaper at $800, and has an optical zoom lens so you can take close-up snaps.

On the box
Samsung's Anycall B100 DMB, or digital media broadcast, telephone allows you to watch television from your telephone. The phones do not play downloads -- the broadcasts happen in real time, but at the moment, just three of South Korea's many television stations can be played on the phone.

February 2005

Be prepared
The Swiss Army knife has been the boy scout's tool of choice for more than 100 years -- now, it looks set to be the savior of businessmen, too. SwissMemory, the latest offering from the makers of the knives, Victorinox, includes a 128MB USB storage device to keep you that bit ahead. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Smart safety helmet
A new heads up display from SportVue brings video gaming to life and makes the road safer for motorcyclists. The device displays riders' traveling speeds, revolutions per minute (RPM) and gear positions, via a wireless link in the wearer's helmet. The racing version also shows lap split times and performance data. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Revealing clothing
Clothing company Nyx has developed a jacket which has a built-in flexible display screen. All you do is hook it up to a PDA or smart phone and the jacket displays the message of your choice. It also has a microphone-based sound-to-light feature that allows scrolling messages to pulse in time to music. Nyx does not have a public Web site yet.

Ambient information
British Telecom has developed a futuristic wireless technology for the home, which notifies users of personalized news and information, such as e-mails or weather reports, using ambient light sequences and sound alerts. The "ambient interface" technology alerts users with animated light patterns and sounds. If they want more information, they wave their hand over the device. Click hereexternal link for more information.

December 2004/January 2005

Wired without the wires
Cables are a thing of the past with Apple's latest iMac computer. It houses the entire computer in the display, with an option for wireless connection to your keyboard, mouse and the Internet. Click hereexternal link for more information.

TV-B-Gone
Are those pesky children watching TV when they should be doing their homework? The Universal Remote, from Cornfield Electronics, will solve that. It turns off virtually any television set within 17 meters, at the push of a button. Click hereexternal link for more information.

E-time
Looking for a timepiece that is unusual in shape? The world's first electronic paper -- or e-paper -- watch could be just the thing for your wrist. It can be bent or twisted into any shape or style. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Masked Vader
A new mask in the shape of Darth Vader has voice recognition software with a difference. Your dulcet tones are transformed to the instantly recognizable voice of the Star Wars villain. Click hereexternal link for more information.

November 2004

Music to your eyes
Your ears are on your head, so why should your music machine hang on your waist? Oakley Thump is the world's first digital music eyewear for the street smart -- delivering four hours of music directly to your ears without wires. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Feeling flush
Not only will the Neorest 600 Toilet lift its seat as you approach, it will flush for you and clean itself, as well as ... well, you can imagine the rest. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Fingerprint security
Your security is in your own hands, or fingertips with IBM. The latest Thinkpad has an integrated finger scanner to deter would be information thieves and allows you to log in even when your memory has logged out. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Pumped up to surf
Traveling with a surfboard can be difficult, -- until now. The Uli Surfboard deflates for stress-free travel and can be pumped up to allow the search for the ultimate ride. Click hereexternal link for more information.

October 2004

Portable Zen
The Zen portable media center, from Creative Labs, is about the size of a paperback novel and plays television that has been recorded on a PC, digital music and movies, and you can also view your digital photos on it. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Fresh fridge
LG Electronics has developed an Internet-enabled refrigerator that has a built-in monitor so you can check your e-mail, do video conferencing with its built-in microphone and Web cam, and you can listen to the radio. It's also a nutritional database that keeps a record of the food you have bought. Based on their barcodes, you'll be able to check on freshness and expiry dates. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Surround sound
Apple's Airport Express allows you to stream music from the company's iTunes Web site to a home entertainment system, so you can enjoy the music you download from your Mac or PC in your living room. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Clean machine
An automatic robotic vacuum cleaner promises to clean areas previously ignored. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Sneakers for the sedentary
If a sedentary lifestyle is to your liking you may need a pair of anti-cellulite sneakers, which claim to tone muscles and improve posture. Click hereexternal link for more information.

September 2004

Delete, download dispatch
The world's first disposable digital camera comes from American pharmacy chain CVS Corporation. You can take, view and delete or download images before dispatching the camera to the bin. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Call of the wild
Motorcyclists will soon be able to make phone calls using a wireless device inside their bike helmet. Motorola has teamed up with MOMOdesign to create the Bluetooth-enabled motorcycle helmet, using the Motorola HS810 wireless headset. It will go on sale early 2005. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Shallow water music
Oregon Scientific has developed an MP3 player just for sports. The MP120 is also waterproof -- but only to a depth of one meter. It includes 128MB or 256MB flash memory, five preset equalizer modes and ultra-fast USB 2.0 file transfers. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Short cut for gardeners
You never need worry about mowing your lawn again with the robotic Robomow. Once programmed, it cuts your lawn at the time you set it, before recharging itself. It also has navigation and sensor systems so it won't run over your toes or accidentally run into your pets. Click hereexternal link for more information.

August 2004

Virtual typing
An invention by Israeli scientists may put an end to sore fingers from using tiny PDA keyboards. The Virtual Keyboard uses infrared and laser technology to project a full-size keyboard on to any flat surface. Great if lugging a normal keyboard around is not practical, but CNN's testers found hitting the right key a bit tricky sometimes. Click hereexternal link for more information.

E-books for your e-library?
The jury is still out as to whether computers will ever replace paper, but Philips, E-Ink Corporation and Sony have come up with display technology designed to replace printed words on paper -- so-called electronic ink. Sony's new LIBRI'e EBR-100EP electronic book reader doesn't quite equal ink on a page for clarity, but it comes close. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Pen-sized scanner
Planon System Solutions has launched the DocuPen, a portable scanner the size of a pen that can read a page of text and graphics in just four seconds. It stores up to 100 pages in its two megabytes of flash memory and is 20 centimeters long. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Making a spectacle
The latest trend in eyewear comes in the form of a pair of glasses with a built-in screen that you can plug into a digital camera, camcorder or portable DVD player. They incorporate a half-inch LCD screen in the right lens which displays an image roughly the same as what you'd see on a 14-inch (35 centimeters) screen from a meter away. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Hungry eyes
A German company has invented a pair of glasses that comes apart to double as chopsticks. Sushi Specs designer Ralph Anderl says they are perfect for people who eat on the run. Click hereexternal link for more information.

July 2004

Swim like a fish
Speedo has launched a high-tech swimsuit that mimics the movements of sharks to help swimmers move faster. Developed by Sri Lankan company Linea Aqua, the Fastskin FSII outfits were used by some athletes at the Athens Olympics. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Surf while you surf
A British designer has given Internet surfing a new meaning with his surfboard, which has a built-in wireless laptop. Jools Matthews has worked with Intel to make his idea become a commercial reality. It is powered by solar panels with waterproofed circuitry. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Flexible keyboard
If you are always spilling coffee in your keyboard or filling it with cookie crumbs, the Virtually Indestructible Keyboard, by Grandtec, could be just the thing for you. Made of transparent silicone, it is washable and can even be rolled up. Click hereexternal link for more information.

Mid-air text messaging
Nokia has a new device for its 3220 phone that allows you to write text messages in mid-air. The clip-on cover, covered with LED lights, houses a motion sensor that lets you type a short message and, as you wave the phone from side to side, it can be read across a room. Our testers found that it takes a lot of shaking to get the message across. Click hereexternal link for more information.

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