Quick Hits – November 26, 2004

Have cell, will peek

A new add-on for Vodafone handsets, meant to be used as a night filter for taking photos with camera phones in the dark, has an unexpected side effect. When all the conditions are right, the device’s infrared filter can also see through people’s clothes, said Japanese developer Yamada Denshi. According to recent media reports, the degree of visibility depends on how easily infrared can penetrate the fabric being photographed. Apparently the devices work really well on dark bikinis. However the Vodafone V602-SH, the handset customers use most often with the filter, is only available in Japan.

MP3 player gets in the pool

Livermore, Calif.-based Finis Inc. recently introduced the SwiMP3, a waterproof MP3 player. It uses bone conduction — sound transfer directly from the cheek bone to the inner ear — to play music and holds 128MB of music. A company representative said SwiMP3 is compatible with all versions of Mac OS X and uses a USB 1.1 interface. Suggested retail pricing is US$249.99. The SwiMP3 comes with a pair of Lane 4 goggles, ear plugs, a carrying case and MusicMatch software, which does not work on the Mac. Finis does not have a product page on its Web site.

Phone astronomer

Beginning stargazers who sometimes have to ask “Is that Orion’s belt or the Big Dipper?” now have mobile help to call on. This winter, cell phone software maker Digital Chocolate Inc. will roll out StarGazer 2Go, which will be available from leading wireless carriers. Punch in your area code and StarGazer 2Go can render the night sky on your cell phone display, allowing you to look up and identify the names of the stars and constellations above. The firm also recently released two mobile games: Bubble Ducky and Baseball Heroes of the MLBPAA.

A room that knows you

You think your new car is festooned with information-seeking sensors? Imagine this: sensor modules, each the size of a speck of dust, networked together wirelessly to relay information. In this array, the tiny “Smart Dust” devices can sense your presence when you enter your office, for example, and will adjust the light, heat, and other comforts to your preferences. Kris Pister, founder and CTO of Dust Networks, has already shown working sensors in an academic lab. His company’s deck of card-size devices, which run on AA batteries, are now being used in separate trials to keep track of electricity consumption in grocery stores and to monitor building security.