Where the Interaction is
NTN Communications, a producer of interactive TV programming for hotels and bars, tells us it is now offering its shows to cable and satellite. That means for about $10 a month you'll be able to wield a remote control and challenge other cable viewers to games tied to sporting events such as die World Series and the Super Bowl. You may soon also pit your skills against fellow watchers of Jeopardy! or Wheel of Fortune and play games tied to special broadcasts such as the Academy Awards. Aside from being a lot of fun, there's incentive to play: As you score points, you'll qualify for prizes, including cars, trucks and Caribbean cruises. In some states, you can even place bets on horse races. Also in the works is programming for new wide-screen TVs, and we hear you may eventually be able to access CD entertainment by Sega, 3DO, Pioneer and others, without the special hardware.
In some cities, auto theft and carjacking have become epidemic, but the latest security devices make these crimes a lot tougher to get away with. Several companies, including Peripheral, Hofco and KTK, have created $250 to $400 blackbox systems that, when activated by a secret button or time delay, trigger a series of loud blasts after a carjacker has commandeered your vehicle and driven a certain distance. Some even kill the car's ignition and prevent the motor from restarting. There are also $600 to $1200 "smart" cellular phones from Pioneer, Alpine and others that call you at a pre-programmed number when someone breaks into your car and drives off. (Some phones require a separate security system to operate.) But the most lethal weapon we know of is coming down the pike. Secure Products International is marketing a Hot Seat system that uses voice-synthesis circuitry to warn thieves to abandon your vehicle. If they don't, Hot Seat will zap front-seat occupants with a nonlethal, 50,000-volt jolt and then set off a concealed canister of colored smoke. Our choice: shocking pink.
The Celcom Solution
Good news for business travelers: Electronics companies are starting to understand the way you think. Celcom, a new device from Command Communications, allows you to send and receive voice, data and faxes by linking a laptop computer to a cellular phone. Why not just use a modem? Because airports, hotels, automobiles and other places where we frequently do business don't always have the appropriate phone lines. With Celcom you avoid the connection problem by using cellular lines instead. Here's how the product works: A Celcom cable hooks your IBM-compatible computer to one of 50 brands of cellular phones. Using special software, you can pull up a directory of phone numbers, select an entry and hit a command key to send the chosen material. Receiving information is equally simple—you just give out your cellular-phone number. The price: about $280. We're told Mac and personal-digital-assistant users can expect their own versions soon.
Ideal for previewing camcorder footage at home or on the road, the 8"x3" Fujix P401, pictured below, is the world's first video projector to combine a 40mm f/2.4 lens (for projecting images up to 40 inches) with a three-inch monitor screen. Powered by either an AC adapter or a standard camcorder battery, the P401 also features built-in stereo speakers with volume control. Price: $800. • Panasonic recently introduced an IQ-Series of pint-sized VHS and VHS-C camcorders. Yes, IQ stands for intelligence quotient, and that means all those confusing buttons that control functions such as focus, iris, shutter speed and white balance are gone. The technology is still there, but it's invisible to the user. All you need to do to get great footage is point and shoot. Prices range from $800 to $1100. • On the car-stereo front, Pioneer just released the world's smallest 12-disc magazine-style CD changer, the $500 CDX-M12. In addition to a built-in preamplifier and antivibration technology, the Ml2 has programming capabilities that allow you to store up to 32 track selections for 16 different magazines.
Where & How to Buy on page 171