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Wednesday, Sep. 12, 2012

TECH_JAPAN

TOYS

Smart notes, perfect rice and panoramic snaps


By JESS MANTELL

With the most brutal of summer's heat now behind us, you may be due for a little revitalization. Here are some neat tools to help get your thoughts in order, your body nourished, and to provide you with a little fun. Enjoy!

Evernote Smart Notebook, in collaboration with Moleskine

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With a new school term just starting up, it's a great time to think about ways to boost your efficiency and keep organized. The super-useful digital notebook Web-app, Evernote, and the ever-famous analog ledger, Moleskine, have teamed up to release the Evernote Smart Notebook to be used in conjunction with the iOS app, Page Camera. The specially designed Moleskine comes with either dotted ruled or dotted grid pages. The page design aids in the app's ability to scan your notes and sketches accurately even if captured at a bit of an angle, and once digitized, the dots vanish. Your notes are uploaded directly to your Evernote account and by using the color-coded icon stickers that are included, the app also sorts your files for you. The notebook comes with a 3-month premium membership to Evernote, allowing you to take full advantage of your spiffy smart Moleskine, but it is also listed as a limited-edition product, so, enjoy it while it lasts. I'm sure I won't be the first or last to point out the gimmickiness of this release, but I am willing to overlook this sketchy collaborative effort to increase users because I love both Evernote and Moleskine so much that I am definitely game to give it a shot. It comes in a pocket and a larger size, retailing for $24.95 and $29.95 respectively.

Sharp HEALSIO rice cooker

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Next up, from Sharp, is a take on the bastion of all Japanese kitchens: the rice cooker. There are already variations to suit any budget and kitchen decor, with high-tech features such as digitized keypads and pots made of special materials, but the HEALSIO model (KS-PX10A / KS-GX10A) is the first of its kind. What makes this rice cooker so special are the rotating prongs that are modeled after the wings of a penguin that swirl the rice around to rinse and cook it. The resulting synchronized movement of the grains of rice is said by Sharp to resemble "a school of fish." To use the machine, you add rice and water as usual and let the HEALSIO do the gentle rinsing. After you have rinsed and dumped the water twice, it is ready for cooking. Add the correct amount of water and sit back as your rice is spun and cooked to perfection. With the gently curved "penguin wings" creating the "school of fish" action, the grains all travel in the same direction and do not bump into the sides of the pot, which would be abrasive and damaging to the rice. Sharp claims that this type of gentle rinsing and cooking results in cooked rice that is tastier (with 32 percent more of the savory flavor known as umami) and is 20 percent more nutritious. It may seem unnecessary, but could be of great use to those without the time or patience to properly, and gently, rinse their rice. The HEALSIO comes in red/black or white and will go on sale on Sept. 20. It is currently priced between ¥76,000 and ¥89,000 on online shopping sites.

Bubblescope for iPhone

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Now that your work is in order and your belly's full, it's time to get outside and have a little fun. Whatever your off-time pleasure may be, these days you'll probably be capturing it with your smartphone to make sure that all your friends on Facebook and Twitter know about it. In the not so distant past, when regular, unfiltered images became boring, the app fairies gave us Instagram. Now, there's no need to settle for flat, single-viewpoint shots. BubbleScope is a smartphone attachment and application combination that takes 360-degree panoramic photos in a single shot, and is also capable of panoramic video. Existing panorama applications require the user to take several shots that are then stiched together by the application, but you can do it all in a single click thanks to the miniature reflective "bubble" attachment that mimics much larger and more expensive professional photography gear. BubbleScope retails for £69.99 (¥10,000) and can be preordered at www.bubblescope.com.

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Jess Mantell conducts research on social media in urban spaces. Follow tweets about design, technology, and urbanism @jessmantell


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