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Rock-star fantasies play out on paper and plastic

(Wowwee via Associated Press)
By Mark Baard
May 31, 2010

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ELECTRONIC TOYS
Are you still hoping to compose an ode to Dio, but have no talent, no money, and no instruments?

No problem. WowWee Group Ltd. (www.wowwee.com) recently announced the US availability of its wireless Paper Jamz guitars, drum kits, and amps, which are made of paper embedded with touch sensors and other electronics.

Paper Jamz guitars simulate the workings of actual guitars, putting the WowWee gadgets on a spectrum that has the air guitar on one end and the Stratocaster on the other.

Each of the Paper Jamz guitars and drum kits, which cost about $25 (the amp is $15), is about an inch thick.

The Paper Jamz guitar has a built-in speaker and volume control. It also has a jack, which you can use to plug the guitar into the Paper Jamz amp or a pair of headphones. You can also plug the Paper Jamz amp into an MP3 player.

Guitars and drum kits come loaded with a handful of rock songs you can play karaoke-style — that is, you can selectively turn off other instrument and vocal tracks while playing yours.

“Mississippi Queen,’’ “Smoke on the Water,’’ and “Sweet Home Alabama’’ are three of the songs WowWee has licensed for the toys. Paper Jamz guitars and drum kits work in three modes, two of which will have you strumming along without effort. In Freestyle mode, you can play your own chords.

I am already lobbying my friends Jay and Julie Ritchie, who own Toy Box in Hanover (www.thetoyboxhanover.com), to stock the Paper Jamz toys. But Jay said he’d like to see them first. Besides, he and Julie still have a lot of Silly Bandz to sell this summer.

WATCHES

Round Trip color-codes the passage of time

A Milton neighbor, Jenn, last week noted how often I write about timepieces, such as Northeastern’s prototype alarm clock, DPAC, which calculates your wake-up time using morning routine and traffic conditions.

“Are you obsessed with time, or something?’’ Jenn asked. It was a great question. My answer was yes. I only said that to sound cool, and I should have added that timepieces track something more profound than any Twitter feed — like our journey through the universe.

But the truth is that I like looking at watches. I also like the way some watches make time look.

Tokyoflash (www.tokyoflash.com/en), which could just as easily be making gadgets for the next screen adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel, has a new Kisai Round Trip Pocket Watch. It has a wonderful, classic-looking stainless steel case and a multicolor LED screen that displays the time in the funky Kisai style.

Telling the time means learning the Round Trip’s language. Orange LEDs on the screen give the hour; blue and green display the minutes. The battery in the Round Trip (about $74) is recharged in a PC’s USB port, with a cable that comes with the watch.