Engadget alert: Chinese tech toys

Feng Jun shows me his book scanner

Engadget alert, this post is just for Ryan Block who runs the killer gadget blog: Engadget. Sometimes I love pretending I work for Engadget and am responsible for traveling the world finding killer gadgets. Hey, a guy has to have some dreams, doesn’t he? :-)

So, I was riding the train up to one of the closing parties in Davos when Tim Weber of the BBC introduced me to Feng Jun, CEO of Beijing Huaqi Information Digital Technology Company. I recorded the whole thing on my cell phone.

He pulled out of his pocket a book for the Olympics. Ahh, here the Chinese go again being proud of their Olympics, I thought.

Awesome Chinese scanner

But then he pulled out of his other pocket a gadget that he aimed at the book and it started talking about what he aimed at. Then he aimed it at some music and it played the song and he started singing along with it.

Damn, that was cool. How did it work? An infrared film over all the logos, pictures, etc that contained microdots that told the scanner what to play. Cost? $70. I want one just to keep on my coffee table.

But that was just the start. Then he pulled out of his pocket something that looked like a thick business card. Only it had 32 GB of memory on it and the damn thing had a tiny USB connector on it. I want one of those!

Finally he pulled out a digital camera. OK, I was getting bored there. But then he pulled out the SD card and unfolded a little USB connector that was on the SD card. Damn, I want one of those too for my little Nikon pocket camera.

Anyway, I got the whole thing on video. This is definitely a company to watch. The Chinese sure are doing some interesting things.

Comments

  1. It certainly is cool, but he is courting the wrong person.

    He should be talking to advertisers and trying to get them to experiment in a new medium that is proven in the eastern markets, but has yet to penetrate the western world.

    We’re actually arguing over this at one of the Nokia S60 blogs: http://blogs.s60.com/tommi/2008/01/current_state_and_future_of_2d.html

    “Cool” makes for a great tech demo and at CES I certainly saw some cool things, but I want to see it used by society. That is the hard part.

    Oh and by the way, if you want one of those SD cards for your Nikon then check out this from Sandisk, they’ve been on the market forever (2005 first shown off):

    http://www.dpreview.com/news/0501/05010606sandisksdflip.asp

    Link to product page: http://www.sandisk.com/Products/Catalog(1096)-SanDisk_Ultra_II_SD_Plus_Cards.aspx

  2. It certainly is cool, but he is courting the wrong person.

    He should be talking to advertisers and trying to get them to experiment in a new medium that is proven in the eastern markets, but has yet to penetrate the western world.

    We’re actually arguing over this at one of the Nokia S60 blogs: http://blogs.s60.com/tommi/2008/01/current_state_and_future_of_2d.html

    “Cool” makes for a great tech demo and at CES I certainly saw some cool things, but I want to see it used by society. That is the hard part.

    Oh and by the way, if you want one of those SD cards for your Nikon then check out this from Sandisk, they’ve been on the market forever (2005 first shown off):

    http://www.dpreview.com/news/0501/05010606sandisksdflip.asp

    Link to product page: http://www.sandisk.com/Products/Catalog(1096)-SanDisk_Ultra_II_SD_Plus_Cards.aspx

  3. Chinese goods… hmmm.

    THe Chinese have really begun to ramp up their tech sector, and while this is good for China, it doesn’t bode all that well for the US and EU. Almost all of our manugfacturing base is in China or the far east.

    While I’m a staunch believer in buying American goods whenever possible (cars, furniture), the US tech sector makes almost nothing here anymore except chips and a couple of other things.

    Chinese electronic goods don’t begin to approach the quality of the Japanese stuff. Since it’s impossible for me to buy “American” tech goodies, I buy Japanese.

    In my opinion, I think the manufacturing base having left the US will be part of our undoing. Globalization is reducing the US to a land of consumer-only workers.

    I worry about this all the time, and I’m hoping that we can reclaim some of our past glory. When a nation is 85% consumer based, the trouble is not far behind. Consumer-based societies begin to turn in on themselves and stagnate. Kids are not going to college for tech anymore. No one seems to care. Everyone preaches globalization and touts its glory, but it doesn’t help the American worker.

    Because I’m a techie too, I know that techies that have cushy jobs and nice places tend to only see the benefits of tech, and not the other side of the coin. While tech is empowering, it’s only empowering if everyone can take advantage. Some workers even in the US in low-paying service sector jobs cannot even afford a $300 computer, let alone the highspeed Internet connection that is required to make the Internet useful.

    I agree with one poster in another thread on this blog… the EU largely doesn’t have the economic divide the US has. It’s more of an egalitarian thing in the EU. Almost everyone has access to free, government-sponsored education, technology, and even better public transportation.

    Wake up, US, or we’ll all be cutting coupons for dollar stores.

  4. Chinese goods… hmmm.

    THe Chinese have really begun to ramp up their tech sector, and while this is good for China, it doesn’t bode all that well for the US and EU. Almost all of our manugfacturing base is in China or the far east.

    While I’m a staunch believer in buying American goods whenever possible (cars, furniture), the US tech sector makes almost nothing here anymore except chips and a couple of other things.

    Chinese electronic goods don’t begin to approach the quality of the Japanese stuff. Since it’s impossible for me to buy “American” tech goodies, I buy Japanese.

    In my opinion, I think the manufacturing base having left the US will be part of our undoing. Globalization is reducing the US to a land of consumer-only workers.

    I worry about this all the time, and I’m hoping that we can reclaim some of our past glory. When a nation is 85% consumer based, the trouble is not far behind. Consumer-based societies begin to turn in on themselves and stagnate. Kids are not going to college for tech anymore. No one seems to care. Everyone preaches globalization and touts its glory, but it doesn’t help the American worker.

    Because I’m a techie too, I know that techies that have cushy jobs and nice places tend to only see the benefits of tech, and not the other side of the coin. While tech is empowering, it’s only empowering if everyone can take advantage. Some workers even in the US in low-paying service sector jobs cannot even afford a $300 computer, let alone the highspeed Internet connection that is required to make the Internet useful.

    I agree with one poster in another thread on this blog… the EU largely doesn’t have the economic divide the US has. It’s more of an egalitarian thing in the EU. Almost everyone has access to free, government-sponsored education, technology, and even better public transportation.

    Wake up, US, or we’ll all be cutting coupons for dollar stores.

  5. Hate to rain on your parade, Robert, but I’ve had SD cards with USB connectors for years (Best Buy carries them), and Google sent out those credit-card USB storage things to all their AdWords/AdSense partners last year. :)

  6. Hate to rain on your parade, Robert, but I’ve had SD cards with USB connectors for years (Best Buy carries them), and Google sent out those credit-card USB storage things to all their AdWords/AdSense partners last year. :)

  7. Ha Ha – that IR scanner reminds me of that long dead (RIP!) CueCat. Except it works and it just might find the coo apps it’ll need to get real traction in the marketplace.

  8. Ha Ha – that IR scanner reminds me of that long dead (RIP!) CueCat. Except it works and it just might find the coo apps it’ll need to get real traction in the marketplace.

  9. Never, ever underestimate the power of the Chinese. They have the numbers completely on their side. Imagine some prescribed % of a population as “innovative” and some prescribed % as “execution” and some prescribed % as “consumer”… Once their economic purchasing power for their own consumer electronics goods passes a critical threshold (much speculation as to where that line really is)… The US will absolutely have to compete on new terms NOT dictated by their own innovations.

    Mr. Scoble, you haven’t really focused much on China’s impact on the Seagates and Suns of The Valley. Wonder if you might slip that into your upcoming interviews? Imagining Davos put a whole new perspective on the tone your new program.

  10. Never, ever underestimate the power of the Chinese. They have the numbers completely on their side. Imagine some prescribed % of a population as “innovative” and some prescribed % as “execution” and some prescribed % as “consumer”… Once their economic purchasing power for their own consumer electronics goods passes a critical threshold (much speculation as to where that line really is)… The US will absolutely have to compete on new terms NOT dictated by their own innovations.

    Mr. Scoble, you haven’t really focused much on China’s impact on the Seagates and Suns of The Valley. Wonder if you might slip that into your upcoming interviews? Imagining Davos put a whole new perspective on the tone your new program.

  11. @10 Gerald,

    While I appreciate your comments on Chinese goods, I still feel that their products are substandard when compared to, say, the Japanese.

    Mass production of something somewhat requires cutting down on QC. I have been let down by Chinese-made electronics before. Korea, too, still has a bit to go with regards to QC. I bought an LG front-loading washer and dryer set because the salesman wouldn’t stop on just how good they were. I went in wanting to buy American, but it’s all made overseas now. After just over a year, the washer started giving me trouble. I traded it in for a Kenmore (still made overseas). I miss my American-made Maytag stuff I left in the house I sold. Rock-solid dependable even after ten years of hard service.

    The Japanses have impeccable QC standards, and while it’s not American, the quality is usually great. Too bad the Japanese are starting to fall prey to competition from Korea and China. China does stuff in vast numbers the Japanese cannot compete with. THe quality can only be mediocre when this occurs.

  12. @10 Gerald,

    While I appreciate your comments on Chinese goods, I still feel that their products are substandard when compared to, say, the Japanese.

    Mass production of something somewhat requires cutting down on QC. I have been let down by Chinese-made electronics before. Korea, too, still has a bit to go with regards to QC. I bought an LG front-loading washer and dryer set because the salesman wouldn’t stop on just how good they were. I went in wanting to buy American, but it’s all made overseas now. After just over a year, the washer started giving me trouble. I traded it in for a Kenmore (still made overseas). I miss my American-made Maytag stuff I left in the house I sold. Rock-solid dependable even after ten years of hard service.

    The Japanses have impeccable QC standards, and while it’s not American, the quality is usually great. Too bad the Japanese are starting to fall prey to competition from Korea and China. China does stuff in vast numbers the Japanese cannot compete with. THe quality can only be mediocre when this occurs.

  13. Amazing how few people read the labels on Japanese consumer goods.

    Take a closer look guys. You’ll be hard pressed to find Made In Japan on Japanese electronics without paying a premium for it.

    Many of them are Designed In Japan, Assembled In China. or Designed In Japan, Made In China…or many times just straight up Made In China.

    Take apart your iPhones, iTouch, ipods. Made In China.

    Many times from the same factories as no name Chinese electronics. It’s just a matter of branded vs. non-branded.

    Would be interested in knowing if Wreck has ever visited China. Be more than happy to set him up on a few factory tours. He’d be surprised.

  14. Amazing how few people read the labels on Japanese consumer goods.

    Take a closer look guys. You’ll be hard pressed to find Made In Japan on Japanese electronics without paying a premium for it.

    Many of them are Designed In Japan, Assembled In China. or Designed In Japan, Made In China…or many times just straight up Made In China.

    Take apart your iPhones, iTouch, ipods. Made In China.

    Many times from the same factories as no name Chinese electronics. It’s just a matter of branded vs. non-branded.

    Would be interested in knowing if Wreck has ever visited China. Be more than happy to set him up on a few factory tours. He’d be surprised.

  15. By the way Scoble and followers of Scoble.

    We’ll be putting together a series of webinars this year to (finally) bridge the East West tech divide. Beginning with the first one featuring Baidu fittingly called “Baidu Basics” I’ll be moderating from China. It’ll be the first of many China 101 lessons to help take the guess work out of just how far ahead the Chinese are in regards to the tech sector.

    There’s a reason why Baidu owns 70% of China’s search market. Wouldn’t it be nice if people understood why and how. Drop me a line if you’re interested in the invite codes to this session with Baidu (yes, in English) on March 5th at 10:30pm EST. Thanks! :o)

  16. By the way Scoble and followers of Scoble.

    We’ll be putting together a series of webinars this year to (finally) bridge the East West tech divide. Beginning with the first one featuring Baidu fittingly called “Baidu Basics” I’ll be moderating from China. It’ll be the first of many China 101 lessons to help take the guess work out of just how far ahead the Chinese are in regards to the tech sector.

    There’s a reason why Baidu owns 70% of China’s search market. Wouldn’t it be nice if people understood why and how. Drop me a line if you’re interested in the invite codes to this session with Baidu (yes, in English) on March 5th at 10:30pm EST. Thanks! :o)

  17. Christine…

    I’ve lived in Japan, never been to China.

    I pay the premium for Japanese-made laptops. It’s worth it. I’ve gotten Panasonic laptops fully made in Japan save the chipsets made by Intel in the US. Made in Japan, assembled in Japan. The quality is impeccable.

    I’m not saying the Chinese cannot make good stuff. I’ve just not encountered it that much. I had two Toshiba laptops in the past made in China. They were both junk in comparison to the Pansaonic, and the Pansaonic costed less. I’m sticking with Japanese.

    Besides electronics, I don’t like the way the Chinese government firewalls its people. So buying American or Japanese is one way of boycotting that nonsense.

  18. Christine…

    I’ve lived in Japan, never been to China.

    I pay the premium for Japanese-made laptops. It’s worth it. I’ve gotten Panasonic laptops fully made in Japan save the chipsets made by Intel in the US. Made in Japan, assembled in Japan. The quality is impeccable.

    I’m not saying the Chinese cannot make good stuff. I’ve just not encountered it that much. I had two Toshiba laptops in the past made in China. They were both junk in comparison to the Pansaonic, and the Pansaonic costed less. I’m sticking with Japanese.

    Besides electronics, I don’t like the way the Chinese government firewalls its people. So buying American or Japanese is one way of boycotting that nonsense.

  19. Scoble, thanks for sharing the video of this new reader. It reminded me of my CueCat mated to the short lived Digimarc consumer watermarking technology. The problem with additional content driven from watermarks is that there is no visual or marketing cue to let consumers know about the extra “information inside.” Thats why I used a unique slanted barcode and :C logo next to my codes in Forbes/Wired, etc. Ask if this branding is ugly and I will point to Intel fighting AMD every day with “Intel inside” – Same difference.

    Robertinseattle, my CueCat worked, in fact it read more barcode symbologies than any other reader produced at the time. I never wanted us to be in the hardware business but in the days of 1999, cameras were not on cell phones, in fact US phones had no IR ports in an effort to save USD$0.50 a phone!

    That being said, I wanted to be in the “linking business” to connect the physical world (Bar code, RFID, ORC) to the virtual (web/database) world. For this, the CueCat worked. Now my technology is a trivial software play, with cameras on phones reading the codes, sending them over 3G connections and rendering output on built-in browsers. All this just 10 years after we brought the Cat to market; back then WiFi was only on Apple G3 laptops, PC’s ran Windows 98, and 50% broadband penetration was a dream.

    Let me know if this technology ahead of its time interests you in the wireless world we live in today.

    -Dave Mathews – inventor of the first consumer bar code reader and the concept of an audio/visual augmented input device for computing.

  20. Scoble, thanks for sharing the video of this new reader. It reminded me of my CueCat mated to the short lived Digimarc consumer watermarking technology. The problem with additional content driven from watermarks is that there is no visual or marketing cue to let consumers know about the extra “information inside.” Thats why I used a unique slanted barcode and :C logo next to my codes in Forbes/Wired, etc. Ask if this branding is ugly and I will point to Intel fighting AMD every day with “Intel inside” – Same difference.

    Robertinseattle, my CueCat worked, in fact it read more barcode symbologies than any other reader produced at the time. I never wanted us to be in the hardware business but in the days of 1999, cameras were not on cell phones, in fact US phones had no IR ports in an effort to save USD$0.50 a phone!

    That being said, I wanted to be in the “linking business” to connect the physical world (Bar code, RFID, ORC) to the virtual (web/database) world. For this, the CueCat worked. Now my technology is a trivial software play, with cameras on phones reading the codes, sending them over 3G connections and rendering output on built-in browsers. All this just 10 years after we brought the Cat to market; back then WiFi was only on Apple G3 laptops, PC’s ran Windows 98, and 50% broadband penetration was a dream.

    Let me know if this technology ahead of its time interests you in the wireless world we live in today.

    -Dave Mathews – inventor of the first consumer bar code reader and the concept of an audio/visual augmented input device for computing.