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December 9, 2005, 7:54 am
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Digital Gear: Head Gear
IDG News Service
New wearable gear could bring video and music to the ski slopes. The
ATC-1000 camcorder from Oregon Scientific can be fitted on a helmet
for hands-free video recording. Though expensive, Oakley's Thump 2 is
an intriguing pair of sunglasses with an MP3 player and attached
Logitech's QuickCam Fusion Webcam comes with software that generates
3D-animated characters capable of mimicking human expressions during
chat sessions. Another new product, PG Tips' ReadyWhenUR electric
kettle, starts boiling water after receiving an SMS from a customer of
Orange cellular service in the UK.
Oregon Scientific Helmet-Cam
Snowboarders wanting to replay a downhill run may want to look at
Oregon Scientific's ATC-1000, a camcorder that can be fitted onto a
helmet for hands-free video recording. It comes with a Velcro clip
that can also clamp the video camera onto an arm strap or a mountain
bike, said Gabrielle Elmer, marketing communications manager at Oregon
The company has created a Web site featuring promotional action clips
shot using the ATC-1000:
The camera captures video at three resolutions: 640 by 480 pixels, 320
by 240 pixels, and 160 by 120 pixels. The device's 32MB of internal
memory can record between 20 to 25 minutes of video at 640 by 480
pixels, and you can add additional storage via a Secure Digital slot,
SD cards from SanDisk range in price according to capacity; visit our
Product Finder for the latest offerings:
The ATC-1000 can be programmed to shoot three still photos at
10-second intervals, Oregon Scientific says. It also comes with
video-editing software for PCs. The device runs on four AAA batteries.
The camcorder has undergone shatterproof testing so it can take a
knock or two, making it suitable for sports such as cycling, skating,
running, and skiing, Elmer said. Its 5-ounce weight shouldn't
interfere with stunts, though curious onlookers may wonder what a
video camera is doing on top of a snowboarder's helmet.
The ATC-1000's suggested retail price is $119, Elmer said.
For more on the ATC-1000, including a picture, go to the Oregon
Scientific Web site:
For reviews and pricing on more conventional camcorders, visit our
Digital Entertainment Info Center:
Oakley has redesigned and doubled the storage capabilities on its
Thump line of sunglasses, which have built-in MP3 players. Read
"Sunglasses, Meet MP3 Player" for a look at the first version:
Thump 2 boasts 1GB of storage and adjustable headphones on the
sunglasses' temples. The temples also have buttons to manage volume or
tracks, or to shut down the MP3 function.
Thump 2 is targeted at bikers, snowboarders, and hip young people,
among others, according to the company.
The MP3 player performed well in my tests; the sound was deep and the
bass was great. The headphones fit well into my ears, which seemed
impossible when I first saw the sunglasses. Getting familiar with the
function buttons was easy. The sunglasses have black iridium lenses
with ultraviolet filtering, according to the company.
Thump 2 isn't meant to be an IPod killer, so don't expect a
feature-packed portable audio player, but it works well as a
supplemental music player. However, you must recharge the player after
6 hours of use.
Thump 2 has a USB 2.0 port for receiving music files from a PC or Mac.
It can also store Windows Media Audio 10 music files purchased from
sites supporting Microsoft's digital rights management system,
including Napster, MusicNow, and Wal-Mart.
Oakley expects to ship Thump 2 by the end of November. It will be
available in three versions with different storage capacities: The
256MB model goes for $299, the 512MB model for $349, and the 1GB model
for $449. They will be available at consumer electronics retailers
across the U.S., says Oakley spokesperson Julie Crabill.
For more info, including a picture, go to the Oakley site:
Logitech's Videoconference Webcam
The folks at Logitech appear to believe that personalizing a
videoconference with cartoons adds color to a conversation: The
company has added some snazzy 3D animation features to its new
videoconferencing Web camera, the QuickCam Fusion, a 1.3-megapixel
video camera that comes with a phone headset.
The QuickCam Fusion includes Video Effects, software that can
interpret a person's facial expression, which it represents on 3D
animated characters, also known as avatars, said Karen Hoskins, a
Logitech spokesperson. "It's another way to add fun and
personalization to your video communications," she said. The Webcam
can map out 22 facial expressions and reflect them on an avatar, she
The Webcam uses RightLight technology, which Hoskins said optimizes
the brightness and color tones of low-light images. It also includes a
microphone for headset-free chats, she said. The Webcam function can
be disabled to use the device for Voice over IP conversations.
Major instant messaging software providers, including America Online,
Microsoft, and Yahoo support the Webcam, according to Hoskins.
I found the QuickCam Fusion inconvenient to use, because its holder
couldn't attach firmly to my desk's surface. The adjustable holders
are designed to sit on top of CRT or flat-screen monitors, Hoskins
says. The QuickCam Fusion lists for $99, but PC World's Product Finder
has it for less.
For more info on the Webcam, including pictures, visit Logitech's Web
A Peculiar Electric Kettle
Of all tea contraptions yet, the wackiest may be "ReadyWhenUR," an
electric kettle that starts boiling water when a cell phone user sends
it an SMS message with the words "SWITCH ON." The kettle has a
receiver containing a person's cell phone information, and when the
receiver gets the SMS, it starts heating water. British tea maker PG
Tips, a division of Unilever, came up with this product, inspired by
the animated characters Wallace and Gromit.
ReadyWhenUR could be ideal for lethargic folks like me. Sending an SMS
in the morning to get the kettle started would allow me to stay in bed
for a few extra minutes.
The kettle will become available in the UK in 2006 for the equivalent
of $174, a PG Tips spokesperson confirmed. Initially at least, it will
work only with SMS messages sent using the UK's Orange cell phone
This product will "revolutionize teatime," according to PG Tips. The
British tea industry has taken a battering, with tea bag sales falling
over 9 percent in the last two years, according to research from
Mintel Group. PG Tips is also offering a prize of 10,000 pounds (about
$17,360) to a UK resident who can discover a "fun and original way to
make or drink a cup of tea."
Have a question or comment? Write to Agam Shah:
Read Agam Shah's regularly published "Digital Gear" columns:
"I don't care (if I get booed). I don't know any of those people. As long
as my kids tell me that they love me, I'm fine. My motto is, when people talk
about me, I say, 'Who are they? They're not God.' If God was out there booing
me, I'd be upset."
-- Bonzi Wells, Sacramento Kings
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