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Japan Launches New Advanced, Unique Tech Gadgets

Japan Launches New Advanced, Unique Tech Gadgets

Wednesday, 7 March, 2018 - 07:00
Pedestrians walk past a logo of Panasonic Corp outside Panasonic Center in Tokyo. Photo: Reuters
London - Asharq Al-Awsat

Clova Friends and Wave are the brand names of smart speakers from Line, the app that is to Japan what Facebook is to the US.

Line is the No. 1 social network in Japan, one that differentiates itself from others with really cute characters as mascots that get used as chat stickers.

Smart Assistants

So the Clova Friends speaker is in the shape of a yellow or a brown bear. It's battery powered, which makes it portable, and Bluetooth-enabled, so it will play music from your phone. It sells for around $60.

Clova Friends and Wave, a larger speaker selling for around $140, are Line's answer to Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple's soon-to-launch HomePod speaker, using Line's own Clova personal assistant, the equivalent of Siri, Alexa and the Google Assistant. The smart speaker comes in the guise of a bright yellow chicken or a brown bear and seems just as smart as Alexa, but it's far cuter.

The functionality is pretty much the same as an Echo or Home, in that Clova will play music, set your alarm, tell you about your calendar and let you make and accept free phone calls. It also tells your fortune.

Yet, it only speaks in Japanese and can only connect to the Japanese version of the Line app.

Distinguished Laptop

The Panasonic Lets Note series is Japan’s answer to the popularity of Apple MacBooks and MacBook Air laptops in the US. These are a premium, more expensive line of computers that are displayed as Made in Japan, a signal to local consumers that differentiates them from Chinese-made Lenovo, Asus, Acer, Apple, Dell and other computers.

For some reason Panasonic, best known in the US for TVs and cameras, has chosen not to sell the Lets Note line in the US. But oh, if we could have these specs. Most computers have been getting smaller, as companies take away things like DVD drives and ethernet ports.

But the Lets Note line offers more on one machine than I've ever seen before. Many of the models on display at the Yodobashi store in Osaka had every port we could dream of: USB C, three regular USBs, an SD card slot, options to plug into projectors, monitors and TVs, and a slot for a SIM card, so if you’re not in a Wi-Fi zone, you can go online via your wireless cell network. And the screen pulls out and becomes a fully functioning tablet as well.

The products start at around $1,300 and go up to $2000.

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