'Ring tone therapy' sweeping mobile phone-mad Japan
By Roland Buerk
BBC News, Tokyo
Japan is well ahead of the rest of the world in mobile phone technology: handsets that can pick up TV channels have been standard for years and in many shops payments can be made by swiping a phone over a sensor.
But the latest craze is ring tones said to be therapeutic.
Across Japan the arrival of spring is bringing out the cherry blossom but it is also making people reach for their handkerchiefs as, at this time of year, hay fever is rife.
A company called the Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory has developed what it claims is a cure.
For relief, sufferers need only wait for a call on their mobile phone. The sound is supposed to dislodge pollen if the user holds the handset up to their nose.
'Unproven but popular'
Another of the so-called therapeutic ring tones is for those trying to lose weight.
The Japan Ringing Tone Laboratory is led by Matsumi Suzuki, an expert in voiceprint technology of the kind used to authenticate tapes of Osama Bin Laden.
Japan is well ahead of the rest of the world in mobile phone technology
He was behind a device for dog-owners called Bow-lingual which, it is claimed, can interpret the meaning of barking.
But now ring tones are his speciality.
There is a range specially tailored for the needs of people with different star signs, such as one for Taurus, the bull, complete with mooing.
Index, the mobile phone content provider which markets the therapeutic ring tones, admits the technology behind them is perhaps a little unproven but insists the number of downloads suggests they may be working.
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