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Variety Is Spice Of RetailVision

ORLANDO, FLA. — Hardware introductions at RetailVision ran the gamut from digital cameras and CD-RW drives to a device designed to help people monitor their health.

SportBrain, Sunnyvale, Calif., will ship a wearable computer the size of a walnut that clips onto a belt to track a person’s exercise activity and then docks in a cradle for downloading the information to a PC.

The SportBrain device has a built-in accelerometer that can track the number of steps a person takes during the day. The “Brain” is then placed into a mini modem-equipped docking station.

The docking station plugs into a RJ-11 jack, and the day’s activity is downloaded to the users’ Web page on the SportBrain website. Here the person can view data such as the number of steps taken that day and how many calories were burned.

The unit can also be used to monitor a person’s heart rate via a wireless connection with a heart-rate measuring strap. Estimated street price is $99, with the product to ship in October.

Monitored exercise can deliver more than just a healthier body, the company said, as users can gain points toward gift certificates and discounts at local stores for their level of activity.

SportBrain also expects to offer a digital scale with a body-fat readout that is compatible with the SportBrain to analyze weight changes vs. daily activity. In addition, it plans to offer a version with an LCD readout of activity directly on the unit.

TDK displayed a 4x dual-well CD recorder expected to carry a $549 street price. According to the company, the DA-3826 accepts CD-R and CD-RW discs and has 60-second disc finalization.

Also new from TDK is its first entry into the PC speaker market with a three-piece flat-panel satellite with subwoofer system. The flat-panel speakers feature omnidirectional sound that allows the user to listen anywhere in a room.

Two models are expected to ship in January, with a 60-watt version at $200 and a 100-watt system at $249.

The USB Implementers Forum (USBIF) has begun a standardized testing program to assure USB peripheral products meet USBIF standards.

Any company wishing to use the new USB logo must submit its products to USBIF tests at designated labs around the country for authorization, said a spokesman, who noted that testing has already begun.

The USBIF claimed that 500 million USB peripherals will ship worldwide by 2003, up from less than 100 million in 1999, according to PC Data, Reston, Va. In addition, peripherals will soon ship with USB 2.0, offering 40 times faster performance at 480 Mbps than the current standard at 12 Mbps.

To help educate retail salespeople on the benefits of USB, USBIF is offering a training quiz through its website at Floor salespeople will be offered prizes, including the Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC, Sony MP3 Digital Walkman and Intel Pocket PC Camera. The training promotion kicks off this month and run through December.

Alpha Vision Tech, Berkeley, Calif., showed the Alpha Cam, a 640 x 480 VGA PC camera that the company claims delivers superior images at a $69 price point.

The Alpha Cam captures video at 30 frames per second, features a snap button that is similar to traditional cameras, and comes with a headset microphone.

The unit’s extensive bundle of software include a security feature that will automatically take photos of anyone entering the camera’s line of sight once the user’s computer monitor is shut off. The photos will then be e-mailed to the user to see if someone was tampering with the cubicle or office.

Another product from Alpha Vision Tech, the KoalaCam — estimated street price $49 — has 640 x 480 resolution, includes a USB cable, and is bundled with software including Sticky Pictures, for creating stickers out of photos.

Celestix debuted the Aries MicroServer, an all-in-one network appliance that features e-mail, file and print sharing, a Virtual Private Network and a firewall out of the box, at an estimated retail price of $1,299. The front of the unit has four buttons for easy setup, and the Aries Server works with Windows, Mac, Linux and Unix.

EI Corp showed a next-generation version of its “Thumb Driver” now called “Q.” The thumb-sized portable drive plugs into a USB port and is instantly recognized as a separate drive. It is compatible with Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Windows 98 with Mac drivers to be available shortly.

The Q drive starts shipping Oct. 15 at $69 for the 16MB version, $129 for 32MB and 64MB at $199. EI Corp expects to offer a version of the Q that will ship early next year with a preloaded e-mail client so users can plug the drive into any PC with a modem and log onto their e-mail without disrupting the settings of the PC.

Sensory Science, Scottsdale, Ariz., formerly Go Video, exhibited a new combination DVD/VCR. Called the DVR5000, it includes a DVD player with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound decoder and DTS Digital Output as well as a four-head Hi-Fi VCR.

Go Video is aiming the product to owners of older VCRs with large libraries of VHS tapes, who want upgrade to a DVD player. The DVR5000 began shipping in August at an estimated price of $399. It is joined by the first portable MP3 player to support the Iomega Clik drive.

The unit doubles as an Iomega backup drive or an MP3 player. It accepts 40MB Clik drive disks that cost only $10, which Sensory Science claims is 90 percent less than other flash memory formats. The unit has a USB interface and offers voice record capability at a suggested retail price of $299.

First International Digital, a Motorola spinoff based in Schaumburg, Ill., showed its iRock Line of MP3 players. This series includes the 400, which the company claims to be the thinnest and lightest in the market.

The unit has 32MB of onboard flash memory and comes in 15 colors at a suggested retail price of $99. It will be joined by the iRock! 500, which adds a slot for a removable multimedia card, while retaining the 32MB of internal flash memory offered in the 400. The 500 sports a USB interface and an FM radio. A 16MB version will be available in October at $99.

The top-of-the-line iRock will add karaoke capability with an LCD that allows users to see synchronized lyrics, as well as listen to audio and record their voice at the same time. Also, a website will be offered for downloading songs. It ships with MMC removable memory in late October at a suggested retail price of $199 for a 32MB version and $269 for 64MB.

Largen, Phoenix, will start shipping a new EZ Shot low-priced dual digital and PC camera in October. Aimed to the teenage market, the camera has a resolution of 322 x 288. It can store 20 photos or capture video at 30 frames per second. Estimated street price is $79.99.

Largen will introduce a 1.5-megapixel camera with a 2.5 optical zoom and LCD late in the fourth quarter. The company also completely revamped its retail packaging for the current Chameleon and Easy 800 digital cameras.

Alcatel, a supplier of DSL solutions, used the Fall RetailVision event to introduce Speed Touch ADSL modems, routers and IADs.

The company – which helps service providers deploy an expanded range of revenue-producing offerings and applications such as high-speed Internet access, voice-over DSL and video services – is offering a full line of customer premises equipment.

The offering includes: Speed Touch USB for surfing; Speed Touch Home, the home office bandwidth builder; Speed Touch PC, an ADSL modem; Speed Touch Pro, a router for business; Speed Touch IAD, for multiple voice line and data integrated access; and Speed Touch Wireless, with simultaneous Internet connection by multiple PCs and other home appliances.

Alcatel’s Speed Touch PC with an internal ADSL modem is a cost-effective solution for an end user to buy into broadband access infrastructure without additional hardware, the company said.

The Speed Touch USB, with a USB-connected external ADSL modem, connects to the USB interface of a desktop or laptop computer and offers plug-and-play installation.

With the Speed Touch Home, with external ADSL modem, users connect a PC or laptop to a modem over an Ethernet or ATMF interface and are ready to go.

Suggested retails for the Alcatel products range from $180 to $450.