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Personal Tech

Sharp images, not looks, in 'cinema' headset

By Mark Baard
December 15, 2008
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Mobile entertainment
Manufacturers of personal viewing headsets are hitting a wall: They can make their gear only so small before they sacrifice picture quality. (One admitted as much to me earlier this year.) And then there is the hardware you need to connect your headset to the PCs and other toys around the house.

The 2D and 3D Headplay Visor (prices at www.headplay.com start at about $500) relies on the ironically named Liberator, a box that connects the headset to your PC, iPod, or video game console.

Headplay Canada Inc. has just released a USB Bluetooth adapter that cuts the cord between the Liberator and the PC, at least. The wireless adapter (about $80, but less if you buy it with the Visor) requires software that is not available for the Mac OS.

You can also get a better picture, in some cases, with Headplay's new HD component video adapter (about $50). The adapter can yield a 720p HD picture when you connect the new cable to the HD-out on your PS3 console or your cable box, for example.

Of course, this all adds to what you are carrying around, if you hope to keep your "personal cinema" setup mobile.

One excellent feature that the Visor has, which I have not seen in similar devices, is a set of sliders you can use to sharpen the image. No need here for prescription inserts. Instead, you act as your own optometrist, fine-tuning the position of the image projected before each eye.

You also pay for the Visor's brilliant images with its ugly outward appearance: The headset is actually capped with a visor, a real early bird special, covered in white dots.

Gifts under $100

No trouble with these ThinkGeek tribbles

I've seen the trailer for J.J. Abrams's upcoming "Star Trek" prequel about 30 times. I've picked through the high-definition video, checking the battle scenes against the starship-size reference charts in my office, and confirming that the license plate on the Kirk family car is from Iowa.

Sadly, I have seen no mention that Finnegan, Kirk's tormentor at Star Fleet Academy, will be in the new movie. The original series' famed tribbles, those cooing guinea pigs that love grain and hate Klingons, are rumored to be in the new "Star Trek" picture, however.

I've still got the tribbles I bought at the Federation Trading Post in Manhattan back in the 1970s. Their white fur has faded, however, and they never make a sound.

Your Trekkie might appreciate the born-to-be stocking stuffers at ThinkGeek.com. The new tribbles, which come in sizes large and small and in black, brown, or gray (you get to choose your sizes, not your colors), quiver and vocalize when you hold them.

ThinkGeek's tribbles are also priced for those of us who are a bit low on credits: about $15 for a six-inch critter, and $20 for a 12-inch mama tribble.

ThinkGeek also sells other Trekkie toys, including a phaser, a communicator kit (about $50), and red T-shirts (about $20) marked "expendable."

Boomer tech

A wrist-worn fitness monitor

It looks a bit chunky for the fashion-conscious, but who cares? Cambridge Consultant's wrist-worn gadget can save your life.

The company, co-located in Cambridge, Mass., as well as in the Cambridge across the pond, is developing wearable health monitors so doctors can get a more complete picture of our everyday health and fitness.

Its MiBand device, for example, tracks a wearer's activity and relays the data via Bluetooth to a PC.

Cambridge has also created a platform that manufacturers can use to incorporate its health information-gathering technology for about $10 per device.

The company says we will soon be wearing its data-gathering systems and antennae inside our bodies, where they will not displace the Rolex.

Its spooky-sounding Implantable Antenna Laboratory is also working on antennas that can overcome the barriers human tissue presents to implanted blood pressure and metabolite monitoring devices. The company last week predicted significant growth in the market for devices using the Medical Implant Communication Service RF band.

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