The home, household goods & services

There's something in my shoe

We've written quite a lot about smart clothes and wearable computers. The latest batch of products includes the 'Hoodio' from Gap which is a hooded fleece top with built in radio (the speakers are in the hood obviously) and a running shoe from Adidas with a 20-Meg computer in the heel. Why do you need a computer in your sneakers? Well apparently it measures your running or walking style and then adjusts the stiffness of each heel. You can even programme the shoes for various comfort or performance levels. Other ideas, which are still at the development stage, include clothes that can be programmed to change colour and 'electronic underwear' from Philips research, which can warn the wearer of imminent health problems.

Ref: Time 29 November 2004 - Inventions of the year., The Times (UK) The Next Big Thing: Tech-Enhanced Fashion. 4 December 2004.

Mirror mirror on the wall

What do you get if you cross a television with a mirror? The answer is a product called Miravision from Philips. When you switch the flat screen television off the screen becomes a normal looking mirror in a fairly normal looking frame. Bright idea.

Ref: Fortune (US) The Best Products of the year 13 December 2004.

Search me

Here's an idea that's sure to appeal to the TiVo crowd - a DVD recorder with a search function. Put the name of your favourite TV show or favourite actor into the black and silver box and the machine searches for any listings. All you then need to do is select which shows you want to record and the machine does the rest. The Sony HDD DVD-R can even adjust the recording time if the time of a show is delayed.

Ref: Japan Today (Japan) 4 January 2005.

Video games for three-year-olds

According to the NPD Group the video games market in the US will have grown by 7% in 2004 reaching somewhere in the region of US $12 billion. Other research reported in the New York Times claims that 50% of 4-6 year-olds have used video games and 25% play games on at least a weekly basis. Not surprisingly this is music to the ears of game and toy makers who are re-designing hardware with lavender coloured cartridges and bright purple joysticks to appeal to tiny tots. Currently gamers tend to be aged 18-34 and males predominate although there is also a growing market amongst women and people aged 55+ (17% of Sony PlayStation users in the US are aged over 50).

Ref: New York Times (US) The Teeming Crowd in Video Games 5 December 2004

Is there light at the end of the HD-TV tunnel?

Despite a price tag US $1,000 above a normal TV (and which can go as high as US $19,999) High Definition (HD) televisions look set to become the must have home accessory of the decade. HD TV has been around for ten years or more but until recently there was no agreement on basic (industry) standards. Now everyone from TV makers to programme makers are pushing the technology not least because it enables companies like Sky to promote premium digital services. From a consumer point of view HD is expensive but it does potentially offer a different viewing experience especially when combined with other home cinema options. In the US analysts and research firms like Yankee Group say that the technology has already hit the 'tipping point' and that 25-30% of US households will own HD TV within 10 years. However, for HD TV to really succeed someone will first have to solve a transmission problem. HD images require large amounts of data to be sent along wires, cables or other networks and unless there are developments in data compression technology there could be a data bottleneck looming.

Ref: Financial Times (UK) 18 October 2004 - Consumers switching on to HD-TV.