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Improving the iPod experience

Wearable displays
Myvu's new headset for video iPods makes you feel as if you are sitting in front of a large TV, in a darkened room, rather than staring at a tiny screen in the palm of your hand.

You wear the Solo Plus Edition (about $200 at myvu.com) as you would a pair of glasses, and plug its stereo headphones into each ear. The device's two tiny lenses are positioned to create the illusion of a single image in your field of view.

You can see the outside world around the image, through the Solo's darkened, translucent, wraparound lens.

It's not enough visibility to get you across Comm. Ave. in one piece, but at least you'll know if someone is approaching you on the T.

If you are nearsighted, Myvu will direct you to an optician that makes prescription lenses that fit inside the headset.

Two problems with the Solo: I noted a distinct moiré pattern while watching Scooby-Doo through a demo unit. (Myvu says it has fixed this problem.)

My oldest daughter and I also had trouble keeping the Solo's earbuds from popping out, which was frustrating.

Smartphones

Centro is cute and cheap

Palm's new Centro smartphone is among the smartest I've encountered. Not because it is a heavy-hitting productivity tool (it isn't), but because it is such a super-lightweight and affordable device (about $100 with a two-year contract from Sprint).

The smartphone has a customizable switch and volume controls on one side, and a "ringer off" button on top - all handy for keeping your call and message alerts under wraps in the classroom or office. The Centro's center navigation button and directional controls are much easier to use than the trackballs and buttons on many other smartphones.

The Centro weighs 4 ounces, about an ounce less than the Palm Treo models. Still, the device felt sturdy in my hands as I pecked out a few e-mail messages and sorted contacts last week. My daughter, Maeve, also demonstrated that the Centro can take a short bounce, without any apparent damage.

The Centro has a built-in camera and Bluetooth, and support for Sprint's multimedia channels.

Sprint's PowerVision services, however, can add up to $30 to your monthly calling and data plan charges.

You can sync your Centro contact lists with your Mac or PC, and the smartphone comes loaded with e-mail and IM applications.

The Centro, with its bright, sparkly finish and well-rounded edges, is a little too much of a cutie-pie for business. (The smartphone is available in black or red.) If you are an image-conscious corporate climber, look elsewhere. The Centro will make you look like an intern.

The Centro's battery will give you more than three hours of talk time, and up to 300 hours standby time, according to Palm and Sprint.

Threads

A T-shirt for campuses, not airport terminals

ThinkGeek.com's nifty new Wi-Fi Detector Shirt will turns heads on campus. But that's the only place you should wear it. I wouldn't sport one of these things around Logan Airport until state troopers grow accustomed to seeing clothes that come with batteries. At least this wacky shirt's batteries are hidden inside a small, inside pocket, so it doesn't have that "he's got something strapped to his chest" look that can get you shot.

The Wi-Fi Detector Shirt displays the WiFi signal strength in your vicinity, using the radio broadcast symbols familiar to wireless users. It joins that growing list of WiFi detecting items that already includes pocketbooks and tote bags. The glowing bars on the Detector Shirt (which costs only $30) change as WiFi signal strengths vary. This could be a great shirt for coffee shop baristas tired of answering the question, "Do you have WiFi here?" And ThinkGeek promises that geeky chicks "will swoon" when they see you in the shirt. You can remove the display to wash the T-shirt when it gets grungy.

Innovative last week

MySky makes sense of the firmament


My "man cave" quest has taken a detour outdoors, to the backyard, where I now spend nights observing the moon and the planets with a pair of binoculars. I have also been using Meade Instrument's new mySky guide device to sort through the stars I can still see in the night sky. The mySky (about $400) uses GPS and tilt sensors to determine your precise location on Earth and where in the sky you are pointing the device. The device looks like a ray gun, with a trigger you pull for a multimedia description of celestial bodies. You can also select objects that should be available to your location and time, and the mySky will point your computerized Meade telescope right at it.

TECH LAB Watch Mark Baard demonstrate some of the technology he reviews at boston.com/business.

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