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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 February, 2004, 09:14 GMT
Nokia brings pictures to FM radio
Nokia 7700 media player, Nokia
Funny and funky: The Nokia 7700
Soon you could be watching pictures as you listen to the FM radio built in to your Nokia handset.

The Finnish phone maker has come up with a system that lets radio stations interact with their audience via the phone network.

Dubbed Visual Radio, it uses sound and images to give listeners a real-time guide to what they are hearing.

The first trials of the technology will take place later this year and involve Helsinki's Kiss FM radio station.

Sight and sound

The first phone to have the Visual Radio technology built in is the Nokia 7700, which is due to go on sale during the summer. Future Nokia phones that sport an FM radio will also have the Visual Radio system onboard.

The 7700 is a dedicated media player that can handle video, stills and music. It has 64MB of memory onboard plus an expansion slot to allow people to play their own music collections.

Nokia said existing handsets with FM radios onboard, such as the 8310, would not be able to use Visual Radio.

The technology ties radio broadcasts together with specially created content that, for example, could tell people which band is playing and what they look like.

Web browser
Music and video player
Video and stills camera
65,000 colour screen
FM radio
Touch screen
Handwriting recognition
Contacts file
Reidar Wasenius, senior project manager at Nokia Multimedia, said the technology could also allow users to instantly buy ringtones of tunes they like or to take part in polls and competitions being run by radio stations.

Visual Radio would also let people set up alerts so they would be told if a favourite artist releases a new single or their music is being aired.

He said Nokia preferred to use the phone network to add the extras to existing radio stations to get around some of the licensing and copyright issues that would arise if music was streamed to phones.

The first trials of the technology will be taking place in Finland and will involve the Helsinki-based Kiss FM radio station.

He said Nokia preferred FM to digital radio because of its ubiquity.

"It is something that works everywhere for everyone today," he said.

Plus, he said, research showed that many people owning handsets with FM radios built-in were listening to them.

Mr Wasenius said the trial would establish the best ways to use the Visual Radio technology and would find out and what users like to do with it.

He said it could drive a change in the way that the music industry regards radio as the technology would mean it was no longer acting solely as a promotion medium. Instead it could generate some cash for artists and record labels.

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