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Toshiba: hand as a keyboard

Toshiba's latest gadget: a laptop that lets you issue DVD commands with your own hand - without touching the keyboard.

The "SpursEngine" processor, using Cell Broadband Engine technology jointly developed by Toshiba Corp., IBM Corp. and Sony Corp., allows viewers to stop, skip ahead and give other commands in real time by pointing their thumbs at the screen.

The screen senses the movement of the user's hand signals and responds accordingly.

"It uses `SpursEngine' to recognize your fingers," said Akio Sakai, a Toshiba specialist manning the display where the company's prototype was unveiled on Tuesday at the CEATEC electronics show outside Tokyo.

Sakai said the processor can pick up the hand motions from 3.3 meters (10 feet) away. The technology isn't on the market yet, and Sakai said Toshiba still hadn't set a release date.

The core of the new gadget is the Cell/B.E. technology, the brains in Sony's upcoming PlayStation 3 game console. The technology - which combines nine separate processors in one chip for hyper-realistic graphics and other advanced computational functions - is expected to run a range of hardware from IBM and other companies.

Besides the more practical remote command function, Toshiba is having a little fun with its new product, which uses four of the Cell/B.E.'s nine processors.

The processor, demonstrated Tuesday on Toshiba's Qosmio laptops, also can manipulate 3D images - an ability that would come in handy if you want get a full view of what you'd look like with a new hairstyle.

The laptop camera puts your face on the screen, and then you choose hairstyles and types of makeup. The computer makes those changes in your image in 3D, and you can turn your head to check out the new look from different angles.

The processor includes hardware to decode and encode MPEG-2 video. The prototype operates at a clock frequency of 1.5 GHz and consumes power at 10 to 20 watts.

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