This sequel won't bear a Hollywood logo, but the new, $199 Eyemodule2 from Blocks Products is an all-star improvement over the first Eyemodule, which was panned here several months back. The Eye module2, like its predecessor, is a still camera for the Handspring Visor platform, slipping into the expansion slot on the back of the personal digital assistant.
But the new product makes good on the promises of the first unit.
The module itself is smaller, but its image size is larger and the maximum resolution is higher. And you can capture very short video clips, although without sound. The product now allows you to create an address book that includes pictures of the people listed.
The most useful aspect of the Eyemodule--in concept, at least--is having a digital camera in your pocket that also doubles as a PDA. The concept and operation take some getting used to: The PDA display screen becomes your viewfinder, so you need to focus on that while aiming the camera. With practice, it's not a big hassle.
My chief complaint about the original Eyemodule was the relatively poor quality of the photos. The original highest color resolution was 320 by 240 pixels. That's good enough for a small-size image on a Web page or to e-mail friends and family, but it's not good for much else. In a pinch, it would do, but for posterity, you would want more detail in each picture.
Eyemodule2 delivers it. Resolution can go to 640 by 480 pixels, which can produce a 4-by-6-inch image of very good quality. Higher-quality digital cameras, which now boast resolutions of one, two or three megapixels, have long surpassed such resolution, but you are more likely to carry a PDA around than a digital camera--unless, of course, you're a photographer by trade.
The average Visor can hold a good number of pictures: A Prism with 6 megabytes of free memory can hold more than 50 full-size color images, or more than 20 seconds of color mini-movies. A black-and-white screen Visor with 6 MB of free memory can hold more than 50 full-size color images or more than 85 seconds of black-and-white mini-movies.
I like the Eyemodule2 a lot, and since testing the first Eyemodule (which is still being sold for $149), I've discovered how handy it can be to have a camera around. When I encountered a hazard in the neighborhood, photos from the Eyemodule helped get action from the city.
My only complaint about the Eyemodule2 is that some of the software--the photo-linked address book, for example--doesn't have a desktop computer counterpart. It'd be nice to see someone's face when that person calls the office. The only way I could do that would be to fire up the PDA when the phone rings.
However, the Eyemodule2, whose conduit software can transfer photos between either a Mac or a PC and the Visor, is a marvel for the clarity of its photos and its overall capabilities. If you need images on the fly or just want a neat toy, that toy has arrived.
Mark A. Kellner is editor at large for Government Computer News.