Shiina Sogabe enjoys toying with a pair of robo-kittens in Osaka, Japan, where the computing felines were recently featured in the run-up to next year’s Robo Festa Kansai robotics conference. Known as Jaretto, each mechanical pussy cat is equipped with optical sensors to detect a range of motions. Jaretto responds to Shiina’s prodding by moving towards the stimulus and taking swipes with a paw. Can a robo-mouse be far off?
Vancouver-based Eyeball.com Network Inc. bills its Eyeball Chat software as “the world’s first Web-based video chat service to deliver optimized video quality over any Internet connection.” Essentially, the company offers software to transform a desktop computer into a video phone. By next week, Eyeball.com plans to launch a free version of its software, offering one-onone chats. The company intends to charge an as yet undisclosed monthly fee for an expanded software package, available in October, which will allow for video messaging and chat groups of up to six people. Picture and sound quality vary, according to a company spokesperson, depending on the speed of Net access. Video chats are conducted through an ordinary Web browser but require a computer equipped with a PC video camera.
MP3s at home
The ability to play MP3 music files has for the most part been limited to portable players and desktop computers. But what if you want to listen to your collection of downloaded digital music in a part of the house where there is no computer? The Rio Digital Audio Receiver by Vancouver, Wash.-based S3 Inc. provides an elegant solution. S3 acquired Diamond Multimedia Systems Ltd., maker of the wildly successful line of Rio MP3 portable players, in 1998. The $450 audio receiver, available in October, will be one of the first outcomes of the corporate union. The receiver works this way: users plug their home computer into a telephone jack
via a special computer card, then connect the receiver to another phone jack in the room of their choice. The receiver is wired to the users own speaker system. Through the units display screen, digital-music lovers can access MP3 files on their computer through what amounts to a local-area network— without missing a phone call. Additional receivers can be installed in other rooms, each able to play different music from the same computer.
Been meaning to learn a little Spanish, maybe some German? A useful place to start is wiuw. transparent, com, a commercial site which allows you to practise about two dozen “survival phrases” in 31 languages found in the site’s section on language and culture. Each phrase is linked to helpful audio clips to improve pronunciation. There are also words of the day and puzzles.
The Web for all
Compaq Computer Corp. joined with Microsoft Corp. to unveil the iPaq Elome Internet Appliance, designed to offer consumers an inexpensive way to access the Web and e-mail. Industry analysts expect such pared-down terminals to cut into sales of more expensive and complicated desktop computers. The appliance retails for $599 (U.S.) in the United States, but Microsoft is offering a $400 rebate if consumers sign on to its Internet service for three years at $22 a month. Microsoft Canada expects to market the device north of the border sometime next year.
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