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     Volume 5 Issue 108 | August 18, 2006 |

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MyTobii P10 Eye-Tracking PC
Swedish company Tobii is about to release its MyTobii P10, a PC that can be controlled by tracking your eye movements using its own proprietary hardware and software. Follow a calibrating dot on the screen with your eyes for 30 seconds, and that's all that's necessary to make it so you can control this PC without touching it at all. The remarkable thing is, the company has figured out how to make this work in almost any lighting conditions, and even if you wear glasses. This technology is not just for people who want to sit motionless for hours on end, it could prove to be a crucial technology for those less fortunate people with disabilities. An added convenience is its ability to mount to a desk, bed or wheelchair. Unfortunately, the first version of this PC will cost USD 17,000.

New supersonic business jet takes shape
Supersonic civilian airplanes could return to the air by 2013, if plans for a new 12-seater business jet come to fruition. The aviation industry publisher Jane's reports that a consortium called Supersonic Aerospace International (SAI), based in Nevada, US, has commissioned aerospace contractor Lockheed Martin to design a supersonic airplane, named the Quiet Supersonic Transport (QSST). SAI is confident it can raise the investment needed to develop the plane. The consortium estimates there is a market for 300 QSSTs worldwide and Lockheed Martin's vice president of research Frank Cappuccio believes there are no roadblocks ahead for the technology. He said the QSST has a "100% chance" of success. The consortium hopes to establish supersonic flights between the world's major financial centres. Executives could fly between New York and Los Angeles, for example, in just 2 hours and 15 minutes. The QSST will travel 1.6 times the speed of sound. Mach 1.6 is approximately 2000 kilometres (1200 miles) per hour.

To avoid being eaten, get smart
Being clever, it seems, is a good way to avoid being eaten. Predators such as chimpanzees and wild cats tend to hunt small-brained prey that are less able to think their way out of a tight corner. Robin Dunbar and Susanne Shultz of the University of Liverpool, UK, examined predator and prey relationships in five forest communities, and found that the most important factor determining which prey chimps and cats like to eat was the relative size of its brain. The explanation, say Dunbar and Shultz, is that while prey species implement a wide variety of defence strategies, each may work only against certain predators. Choosing the correct escape response is a function of brain size, they say, with bigger-brained animals being able to implement more effective anti-predator strategies. "If you're clever you can avoid more predators," says Shultz. That might also create a modest selection pressure to evolve bigger brains and hence become clever enough to avoid being hunted, says Shultz. "Not all species have evolved big brains because it can be very costly in terms of reproductive rates and speed of maturation." For those balancing behavioural flexibility with reproductive success, "there's a real advantage in terms of survival."

Robot teaches medical students
Wake Forest University School of Medicine students expecting a lecture on the brain and nervous system instead find themselves treating a robotic patient. The patient is known as SimMan -- a reproduction of an average-size adult that emits realistic heart, lung, and bowel sounds and which can simulate medical problems that students can treat. Students can also use SimMan to practice procedures such as giving injections and inserting urinary catheters. Many medical schools use such computerised simulated patients to teach clinical skills, but Wake Forest officials say their school is one of the first to use the technology in large group lecture settings to teach basic science principles. Using a 'live' clinical scenario to emphasise basic science learning allows students to understand the clinical relevance of the subjects they are studying, said Dr. Michael Fitch, an emergency medicine specialist who developed the teaching scenario. What I think is really great about the concept is to create a learning environment that engages the students actively -- as opposed to passively observing a lecture.

Radio-controlled robot
Japan's radio-controlled model maker Kyosho unveils two types of humanoid robots "Manoi AT01" (R) and "Manoi PF01" (L), which have 17 actuators and are controlled by wireless or with programming, at the company's showroom in Tokyo. Manoi AT01, 34cm in height and weighing 1,410 grams, can run at a fast pace, will go on sale in September with a price of 147,000 yen (1,300 USD). Manoi PF01, 40cm in tall and weighing 2,200g, is designed by Kyoto University's robotic designer Tomotaka Takahashi, and is expected to go on sale in November.

Ford, GM and Mazda Connect With iPods
The unstoppable iPod is taking over in the automotive world. Apple just signed deals with GM, Ford and Mazda to integrate the devices with their 2007 model vehicles. According to Apple, more than 70 percent of new cars will hook up with their devices. The iPods can be recharged and controlled while in the glove, compartment, keeping the players out of harms way. Now if only the iPods could legally download music that is being broadcast over satellite radio in the car. If you hear a song you like on XM, press a button and voila, it is on your iPod for use wherever. It would be a boost to both companies, and XM should have the bandwidth on their satellites for downstream only.

Armour For Your MP3 Player
With mobile devices getting smaller and more fragile, those of us who are tough on our toys need a little extra protection. YoTank is providing just that with MP3 player cases made from solid aluminium. These "virtually unbreakable" cases are targeted at skateboarders, snowboarders and other extreme sportsmen, but they could certainly be used by anyone who subjects their player to a beating. Currently the "tank" is available in four models: the iTank Nano, iTank Video, iTank Mini and the ZenTank Vision:M. YoTank is working on similar products for cell phones and other handheld devices.


Compiled by IMRAN H. KHAN

Source: NewScientist, Wired and Webindia123


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