Digital World: Fun with Bluetooth

If you can use Bluetooth to upload and download files, why not use that connection for other things?

By DAVID SHAMAH
December 18, 2007 12:04
Digital World: Fun with Bluetooth

bluetooth 88. (photo credit: )

 
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In a recent fit of iPhone envy - as in "why didn't I buy one when I had the chance" - I began playing with my trusty Sony Ericsson w710i (http://tinyurl.com/245fh) - and discovered that it could do a whole slew of tricks I hadn't bothered to try before. In fact, I discovered, it has just about everything the iPhone does, except for the screen touch thing and the wifi - and then some, with its built-in workout software and FM radio. It really is a versatile little thing - capable even of playing MP4 video files (not to mention MP3s). And then there's the remote control feature. The phone has a built in system for controlling PCs or Macs, either as a remote mouse for the desktop, or a controller for Powerpoint or iTunes (clicking to advance a presentation or starting/stopping a song). It's apparently a precursor to more advanced remote control technology Sony is working on for its cellphones (http://tinyurl.com/3bvaz. If you can use Bluetooth to upload and download files between cellphones and computers, why not use that connection for other things - like controlling software? Bluetooth, eh? Most people think of Bluetooth as a method of hands-free communication with their cellphones, allowing them to hold conversations via wireless headphones that are "paired" with their device. Heavy Bluetooth users are noticeable by the "bananas" in their ears, and often at first glance appear to be insane, talking to themselves and gesticulating wildly. The vast majority of cellphones in use today have Bluetooth built in, so theoretically there could be a lot more people using "bananas" than currently do so. As dedicated Bluetooth users know, it's sometimes not as easy as it looks; the really good sets are usually expensive, and the cheap ones tend to cheap out in the middle of conversations, losing their pairing with the phone or losing battery power just when you need it. Compared to its potential market, Bluetooth is underutilized by cellphone customers, perhaps because of those reasons (and the extra cost to buy the set, of course). But Bluetooth can be more - much more - than headsets and wireless conversations. That battery issue, for example, is a big turnoff for many people. It's a bit of a hassle to have to renew the banana's battery, since when it is plugged into the wall it is not plugged into your head - defeating the whole purpose of the thing, of course. For people who don't want to deal with the issue of recharging, there's the Iqua 603 Sun, "the world's first solar-powered Bluetooth set" (http://tinyurl.com/26mkbg), which takes care charging with no (except during cloudy spells, I suppose) help from you. Headsets aside, there are plenty of other ways you can speak with Bluetooth. How about a Bluetooth car/office speakerphone? This one by Sony (http://tinyurl.com/2ft8a) connects to a cigarette lighter in the car or electricity in the office, and allows automatic pairings with six different cellphones (access is through a code). It clips onto a car visor for portability. Ditto for this one by Blueant (http://tinyurl.com/2djbam), which does the same thing. And this one (http://tinyurl.com/23mu3h) effectively "hijacks" your phone via Bluetooth while you're driving; just turn the car on and all the Parrot Hands Free LCD kit's voice control comes on, ensuring that your hands stay on the steering wheel at all times (except for when you're gesticulating, of course). Talk is, of course, what you shlep around a cellphone for - or at least what you're supposed to be shlepping it around for. The truth is that the 3G cellphone crowd has long been effectively able to substitute for a host of devices like MP3 players and PDAs. Such convergence means that cellphone users aren't just interested in communication - they're interested in data storage, text messaging and, of course, entertainment. Most cellphones today can do the whole MP3 thing - including stereo output, playlists etc. And the music sounds great through stereo headphones, Bluetooth or wired. However, since cellphones generally don't have stereo headphones, you're restricted to your music listening through headphones - unless you get a Bluetooth stereo speaker set, like this one from iTech (http://tinyurl.com/yuc3g), made for quality stereo music output (using SRS WOW technology). Let's say, though, that despite your cellphone's advanced capabilities, you're still attached to your iPod. With the Jabra A125s, you can "mash up" your cellphone, iPod, and Bluetooth headphones (http://tinyurl.com/ywdj57). You attach the Jabra device to the iPod and pair up the headphones with the cellphone - and magically, the iPod's music gets streamed to the headphones, which pauses the music when a phone call comes in. It just works! Unfortunately, all the Bluetooth devices I found were able to remotely control only MP3 music on cellphones - I couldn't find one to control the radio function. But these are still among the more pedestrian uses of Bluetooth. To music and talk, add style and sight, with the Oakley Orokr Bluetooth Enabled Sunglasses; kid you not - these are Maxwell Smart-style sunglasses that feature a little speaker in the arm of the glasses, close to the ear and a microphone further up front. You can listen to music or talk wirelessly while protecting your vision with complete UVA/UVB protection. At $250, they're not cheap, but they're real cool! Helmets have been required gear for motorcyclists for many years and are becoming such for bicyclists in many places, as well. They're probably also a really good idea when skateboarding, skiing etc. Now, everyone knows you're not supposed to talk on a cellphone while riding a bike (motorized or not), because bikers need far more attention than automobile drivers do. So I'm not really sure who the Bluetooth helmets at http://tinyurl.com/ywsrg4 are meant for - why would you spend extra for a Bluetooth equipped helmet if you were going to pull over to the side of the road to speak on your phone anyway? And yet, there it is. On the other hand, I could see the usefulness of such a helmet for skiers (http://tinyurl.com/ytyq7d), especially first time skiers, who might be scared out there on the slopes - and need a calming voice to guide them on exactly what to do out in the snow! http://digital.newzgeek.com

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