New Twists on Media Convergence Will They Fly?
Weve all heard about fax to e-mail and vice versa, but e-mail to answering
machines or by microwave? These new areas of convergence defy ordinary imagination and are
models of "out-of-the-box" product design.
Casio PhoneMate, Inc., has started shipping the IT-380 E-Mail
Link, a telephone answering machine that also lets users check their
electronic-mail. The device is available now in North America for $149.95, a spokesman for
the company said.
Besides working like a conventional answering machine, the IT-380 has a three-line,
18-character liquid-crystal display that can show the header information for as many as 40
messages, including the sender, subject line, and date and time received. It can be set to
retrieve e-mail when the user presses a button or at pre-set intervals.
While the IT-380 cannot display the full content of an e-mail message, Casio is
offering it in a bundle with Mail Call, a text-to-speech remote e-mail service from Mail
Call, Inc., that allows subscribers to retrieve their e-mail with a phone call. Mail Call
also lets the recipient of a message send one of three pre-programmed e-mail responses to
the sender automatically, or enter a phone number to which a pre-programmed voice response
will be sent or use the phone to record an individual message.
Casio said the IT-380 works with all Internet service providers (ISPs) that support the
POP-3 standard for e-mail, and does not have to be connected to a computer.
(Contact: Ken Greenberg, Edge Communications for Casio PhoneMate, 818-591-1173,
Stuck for what to cook for dinner? Use the kitchen microwaves touch screen door
to hunt up recipes on the Internet and maybe do some banking during the same session. This
is not science fiction. NCR Corp.s London, England-based Knowledge
Lab has developed an all-in-one, microwave-operated appliance for users who want to shop,
cook and bank from their kitchen.
The firm says its Microwave Bank, now in prototype, will become
available in the next couple of years and will cost about the same as a normal, high-end
A spokesperson said, "This appliance is now being tested in England. It uses
microwaves to send and receive signals by modem. It melds together a common kitchen
appliance with LCD (liquid crystal display) display that is touch- and voice-activated.
The appliance door is the screen. The device needs no keyboard."
He said, "The appliance includes a Web-enabled modem linked to the Internet so
that you can bank, shop or send and receive e-mail as you would on a PC."
The spokesperson said NCR plans to include several additional features in the device. A
touch screen display can access pre-programmed recipe suggestions for stymied cooks or
those with special dietary needs. A user can speak to the system to order groceries for
the week while washing dishes or cooking. Users who want to check a bank balance or a bill
can touch a symbol on the screen to get the balance, transfer money between accounts, and
Potential security problems are covered by including biometric security which may
include voice recognition, iris scanning or fingerprint identification, plus password
A planned bar code reader will let users keep track of the pantry. Swipe an empty
container across the reader to add the item to a shopping list. When the shopping list is
complete, the device will search the Internet for the best price and arrange to have the
People with special dietary needs, or who just want to lose weight, can use an included
"intelligent agent" with information about each persons lifestyle, food
preferences and other culinary particulars.
Stephen Emmott, director of the Knowledge Lab, said,
"If youre one of the 70 percent of the population who have never used a PC and
keyboard in your life, or if youd rather watch Frasier than bank, the
microwaves ideal. It combines a host of Internet services in one unit so you
can shop and bank from your kitchen, as well as e-mail your kids."
NCR has a site on the World Wide Web at http://www.ncr.com.
(Contact: Mark McCall, Edelman Public Relations Worldwide, 312-240-2640, e-mail Mmccall@edelman.com)