Can you see me?
The videophone is an important milestone in the history of telecommunications, but the challenge has long been to make a personal system that is cheap enough to tempt those early converts who drive widespread technological change. At the moment, the state-of-the-art model for personal and working purposes is the Motion Media mm225 videophone. This little beauty not only lets you speak to your callers you can also watch them do all those other things they do while talking on the phone-or, rather, it does if they have the same $1700 device as you do. Failing that, or until others catch up with you at the forefront of technological innovation, this videophone is hardly a white elephant. If connected to an ISDN line, it can be used to watch television programmes, films and sporting events, wherever you happen to be in the world.
Lights! Camera! Action!
Casio will give a whole new meaning to the word "watch" when it launches the next generation of wrist technology in July. The device includes a digital camera, allowing the wearer to store up to 100 images, display them on its 20mm x 20mm screen, or download them onto PC by infrared. Enough already? In just a decade, adds Casio, we'll be wearing simultaneous conference and fingerprint recognition watches for security control. Oh, and for telling the time. $260 only.
Night time is the right time
If you want night vision goggles (and frankly it is becoming increasingly difficult to think of a legal reason why you might), then you want the best. ITT Industries has supplied more than 70 percent of current US military stock and also provides the light-amplifying device of choice to the US police forces. Its NightQuest 260 is matchless when it comes to tracking wildlife-as it should be, at $2,700. It uses light amplification rather than thermal technology and claims to boost vision on nights with just a sliver of moonlight from 50 yards of visibility to 850 yards-albeit bathed in an eerie greenish glow. But be warned-you'll need an export licence to comply with an international traffic in US arms regulation. Which, of course, only makes it more appealing.
The shape of phones to come might just look like the new Trium Mondo, released across Europe earlier this year. Actually a lightweight combination of mobile phone and Personal Digital Assistant (PDA), the Mondo weighs just 200g and offers 200 hours stand-by and up to three hours talking courtesy of a rechargeable lithium battery. The PDA uses the familiar Windows CE operating system and offers a watch and alarm clock as well as calculator, currency converter and three address books. The phone has a T9 directory for the fast composing of SMS messages and is pre-set for the upcoming GPRS technology.
GPRS is this year's incomprehensible acronym from the mobile communications world. Ti is a non-voice service which enables information transfer up to 10 times faster than previously available on GSM (three times as quick as a standard land-line connection). The data is transmitted in separate "packets" and reassembled at the other end.
Internet users will benefit from instant connections (no dial-up is necessary), giving the impression of always being connected. Users will require both a network and a device that supports GPRS (not ordinary GSM phones). The price depends on the contract and the supplier.
(and now for something completely different....) Eye in the sky
Before remote planes become the norm, tiny spy ships are likely to lead the way in unmanned surveillance. The latest prototype measures just 15 cm across and weighs less than 60 g. The Black Widow surveillance device still manages a sprightly 70 kmph and has a flying time of around 15 minutes. Built by the Californian contractor AeroVironment, the disc-shaped micro-air vehicle (MAV) flies with the aid of battery-operated propellers.on board is a video camera weighing two gm. Controlled by remote, developers are close to devising a way for MAVs to operate autonomously. They also plan to fit them with navigation systems or sensors to sniff out radioactive materials, body heat or biological weapons. Price on demand.