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Sharp to release electronic dictionary with a twist

?Brain PW-A7300?

Not one to let bad news stand in their way, (soon to be bankrupt?) Sharp is releasing a new “lifestyle oriented” electronic dictionary on November 22nd. Dubbed the “Brain PW-A7300”, the device is expected to be released with a price of around 35,000 Yen (~$440).

At first glance, the Brain PW-A7300 looks just like any other e-dictionary. But it packs a secret weapon.  In an attempt to ride the health boom currently sweeping the aging society in Japan, this dictionary is chock full of health tips. That’s right. Health tips, in a dictionary. Bet you didn’t see that one coming! Sharp is just full of surprises lately.

Although it may sound strange, technically it makes sense. The dictionary’s health almanac is pulled from an electronic version of the “Complete Course on Household Health: Revision 6”, which has previously been released on the Android market. So technically it is a dictionary. Sort of. Anyway, this health encyclopedia has over 2,600 entries about illnesses, wounds, symptoms, and so on. Think of it as a pocket version of WebMD.

The home screen of the device makes no attempts to hide the fact that it is going for the ‘iPhone for old folks’ angle, and consists of 6 icons: “Health”, “Brain Training”, “Travel”, “Dictionary”, “Color Picture-book Movie”, and “Accessories”.

Especially interesting is the “Brain Training” application, as the popular “Brain Age” game on Nintendo DS is actually called “Brain Training” in Japan, and just happens to be one of the best selling DS games amongst the elderly in Japan. It looks like Sharp are trying extremely hard to conquer that market, but whether they can do it or not by copying competitors is another matter. What’s more, the device itself is no Nintendo DS, and shoving unrelated software on a device like a dictionary is a bizarre move to say the least. By the way, did I mention the dictionary comes with a touch pen?

Despite the dubious nature of some of the bonus apps, we should give Sharp some credit for thinking outside the box here, as most electronic dictionaries tend to be boring grayscale with the same 2 or 3 dictionaries and not too many extra features. It just feels like maybe the makers of this device are stretching themselves too thin trying to please a bigger audience, and in the end it is doubtful whether they can find any market for such a device, in a world of smartphones and portable games consoles. I guess that's why they’re trying so hard to appeal to old people, since they are the one target group who don't necessarily all carry cell phones.

It looks cool I guess but can it play Angry Birds? Didn't think so…

While adding a lot of extraneous features, Sharp did the right thing and made sure not to drop the ball when designing the core features of the device: the dictionary software itself. The device carries a whopping 100 dictionaries including “Kanji-gen 5th Revision”, “Meikyou Japanese Dictionary”, “Historical Encylopedia of Japan”, “Genius English-Japanese Dictionary”, and some other bizarre entries such as “Understanding Medicine Your Doctor Gave You 2013”. Well, it is a health-oriented dictionary, after all.

Spec wise, the unit is no iPhone 5, but it still beats the pants off of earlier models with its 5in 480×320 dot LCD display, and continuous display time of approx. 130hrs. The Brain PW also packs a microSD card, which is usually used to add new dictionaries in devices like this, but maybe Sharp will offer new apps to install via SD card if it sells enough units. The device’s dimensions are 149×110.2×16.8mm, and it has a weight of 205g. It comes in gold, pink, black and green, so you’ll have no problem finding a model that matches your grandma’s shoes if you’re buying one as a Christmas gift.

The dictionary doesn't promise to cure all ailments of the elderly, but here’s hoping that it can cure some of Sharp’s recent aches and pains.

Press Release: http://www.sharp.co.jp/corporate/news/121108-a.html



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