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     Volume 4 Issue 12 | September 10, 2004 |

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The Teenager-only PC
This isn't your typical, humdrum, slate-coloured computer. Not only is the PC known as the hip-e almost all white but its screen and keyboard are framed in fuzzy pink fur. Or a leopard skin design. Or a graffiti-theme pattern. Sure, it's outlandish, but you won't see the hip-e in an office cubicle. The creators of the $1,699 hip-e claim this is the first PC specifically for teenagers. Last year, Digital Lifestyles' CEO Kent Savage got his son Cameron, 16, and seven of his friends together and polled them about how they interacted with computers and the Internet. Cameron and his friends were asked to draw up designs for their ideal PC. Two weeks later, the company came back with 20 product concepts and in a five-hour session, the teens honed in on one. The computer has a 120-gigabyte hard drive -- perfect for storing a huge digital music library -- plus Wi-Fi accessibility, a TV tuner and connections for video game consoles. Speakers attached to the bottom of the hip-e's display stand can be removed and turned into a portable "beatbox." Retooled to speak to teens in everyday terms, users can click on "paper" to launch Microsoft Word, "create a presentation" to launch PowerPoint, or "burn CD" to open a CD-copying program. The 17-inch desktop display -- which boots up to screaming black and white swirls and squiggles against a lime-green backdrop -- has a "hangout tuner," an on-screen dial that lets users jump to categories of desktop applications: music, movies, games, photos, news, communications, shopping and homework.

Implanted Power Source
The "biothermal battery" under development by Biophan Technologies of West Henrietta, will generate electricity using arrays of thousands of thermoelectric generators built into an implantable chip. These generators exploit the well-known thermocouple effect, in which a small voltage is generated when two of the junctions between two dissimilar materials are kept at different temperatures. But Biophan is going to need a large number of thermocouples to generate the power it needs. In the past, stacks of perhaps tens of thermocouples have been used in some temperature sensors but no-one has tried to build thousands of them into one device, as Biophan will need to. The company's chief executive Michael Wiener is confident his engineers can build thermocouples just tens of micrometres across to do the job, using unspecified microchip manufacturing technologies. Today's pacemaker batteries last for more than a decade before they need replacing. Biophan says the device it is aiming for will be able extend this to three decades by continuously trickle-charging pacemaker batteries. It might even be able to operate some low power pacemakers directly. Tim Bowker of the British Heart Foundation welcomes the prospect of such a technology. Anything that means patients need fewer surgical procedures, which are stressful and carry the risk of infection, will be more than welcome, he says.

Video Games Get Emotional
Penn State researchers have developed an automatic lighting system that can speed up the development of interactive stories and videogames, thereby enhancing players' experiences, by adding more tension and emotion to a scene. Expressive Lighting Engine (ELE), is an intelligent system that allows game developers to use lighting to direct attention to particular objects or characters, create mood and provide visual depth. As well as automatically placing lights to illumine a scene, ELE also selects their positions, colours and angles. "Lighting in game engines is static and restrictive, and it doesn't change with interaction. ELE draws on cinematic and theatric lighting design theory and enables game designers to fully use lighting's subtle but powerful effects," said Magy Seif El-Nasr, an assistant professor in the Penn State School of Information Sciences and Technology. ELE also helps game designers, responds very quickly as compared to current lighting design, which is time-consuming, often requiring weeks of tweaking. Because the system is dynamic, it can also be used to change the level of difficulty in a game. For instance, characters can be lit up to be obvious for beginners, whereas for more experienced players the lighting could include more shadows. "ELE allows artists to control its behaviour at a high level or a low level. Additionally, ELE supplies artists with a language to write rules for specific lighting changes or set up," she added.

Smart Glasses
A pair of sunglasses that can detect when someone is making eye contact with the wearer has been developed by Canadian researchers. Besides being useful in singles bars, its inventors say the system could play a key role in video blogging, a hi-tech form of diary keeping. Video bloggers record their lives from the point of view of a first person video narrative. "I think this is something that we will see over the next few years," says Roel Vertegaal, co-creator of the glasses at Queen's University's Human Media Lab, in Ontario, Canada. The main problem is the tedious process of editing out the dull bits where nothing much happens, says Vertegaal. So the glasses allow a video blogger to automatically detect and record interactions and conversations with other people. The glasses consist of a normal pair of shades with a small CCD camera attached on the bridge between the lenses. This is connected to a handheld computer, worn at the hip, which handles the image processing. Light emitting diodes, or LEDs, positioned around the lenses emit infrared light creating a kind of "red eye" effect in the eyes of anyone facing the camera. This is used to locate any eyes in the scene. The system then looks for the glint created by the light reflecting off the cornea of the eye to determine if that person is looking directly at the wearer's eyes, or elsewhere. If the glint appears right in the centre of the pupil then it means the person is making eye contact. Vertegaal admits that, given the current appearance of the glasses it is likely that everyone will be looking at the wearer. But he says that is part of the point - to attract people to interact. But the glasses have failed to impress one video blogger contacted by New Scientist, TV producer Steve Garfield. You would look like a crazy person and still end up having to do substantial editing of your footage, he says. "I would never use anything like this."

Source: Webindia123.com / Newscientist.com / Google



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