May 192006

As the Blackberry craze grows and mobile phones have become more and more feature-rich, millions of fully–grown adults can be found hunched over miniscule screens tapping tiny keys in a frustratingly slow attempt to keep their mobile organisers up to date.

Most people over 25 have never developed a cracking thumb-speed from years of SMS use and so, they give up pretty quickly, using a computer keyboard and then Bluetooth or USB transfer to input anything more than a quick diary entry.

But imagine a fully-portable full-sized keyboard for your phone or PDA – wouldn’t it be useful for whipping off a few quick emails in the airport lounge or in a café between meetings!

The Virtual Laser Keyboard could well be the answer to every thumb-challenged exec’s prayers.  Using a combination of infrared and laser technology, it projects a full-size keyboard onto any surface which employs optical recognition so that when you tap the images of the keys, (making a “realistic tapping sound”) the characters appear on your PDA, mobile phone or laptop.

Weighing less than 60 grams, it’s about half the size of a standard pack of cards (90 x 34 x 24 mm) and is powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery which will run for between 2 and 3 hours.

The keyboard links to your PDA or phone using Bluetooth – so you must have a Bluetooth-compatible device – and a list of supported models appears on the manufacturers website.  Available in Australia through iTech for $170.

Bottom Line: So much more sensible than air guitar
How much: Au $170

May 122006

Have you morphed from a jovial party-animal to a cranky old party-pooper? Was it you that called the police at 2am to complain about the noise from your neighbour’s kid’s 18th? Or are you just tired of gangs of pimply youths hanging around outside your shop, wrestling and blocking the footpath?

Here’s a gadget to warm the hearts of the anti-teen brigade everywhere.

Welsh inventor and cranky old party-pooper Howard Stapleton solved the problem of rowdy teenagers for a local shopkeeper in 2005 with a device called The Mosquito which sends out a high-frequency sound that can be heard within a range of about 15 to 20 metres by most people under 20 and hardly anyone over 30.

Stapleton tested the device on his children before coming up with the perfect pitch – a pulsing tone broadcast at 75 decibels designed to irritate young people so much that they move away from the area after a few minutes.

The shopkeeper was delighted with the results on local troublesome teens and was quoted saying – “It’s very difficult to shoplift when you have your fingers in your ears.”

Now marketed by UK company Compound Security Devices, the device takes advantage of a phenomenon called ‘presbycusis’ – age related hearing loss. From the age of about 18, all humans slowly lose their ability to hear upper-frequency sounds.

Unfortunately the spread of the iPod may render the Mosquito ineffective – studies have shown that some 18 year olds have hearing loss equivalent to that of the average 60 year old following years of listening to personal stereos at too-high volumes.

Bottom Line: Unleash your inner party-pooper
Price: about Au $1350