Monday, July 23, 2007

$100 laptop' production begins

Story Highlights

Five years after the concept was first proposed, the so-called $100 laptop is poised to go into mass production. Previously, the organization behind the scheme said that it required orders for 3millon laptops to make production viable. The first machines should be ready to put into the hands of children in developing countries in October 2007.

Silencing Critics

Getting the $100 laptop to this stage has been a turbulent journey for the organization and its founder Nicholas Negroponte. Since the idea was first put forward in 2002, the low-cost laptop has been both lauded and ridiculed. Intel chairman Craig Barret famously described it as a "$100 gadget" whilst Microsoft founder Bill Gates questioned its design, particularly the lack of hard drive and its "tiny screen". Other critics asked whether there was a need for a laptop in countries which, they said, had more pressing needs such as sanitation, water and health care.

Professor Negroponte's response has always been the same: "It's an education project, not a laptop project."

Functional Design

Using open source software, OLPC have developed a stripped-down operating system which fits comfortably on the machine's 1GB of memory. The XO is built to cope with the harsh and remote conditions found in areas where it may be used, such as the deserts of Libya or the mountains of Peru. For example, it has a rugged, waterproof case and is as energy efficient as possible.

"The laptop needs an order of magnitude less power than a typical laptop," said Professor Bender. "That means you can power it by solar or human power."

Because it may be used in villages without access to a classroom, it has also been designed to work outside. In particular, the green and white machines feature a sunlight-readable display.

The XO will be produced in Taiwan by Quanta, the world's largest laptop manufacturer.

Field testing is being done in countries such as Nigeria and Brazil. However, the names of the governments that have purchased the first lots of machines have not been released.

The XO currently costs $176 although the eventual aim is to sell the machines to governments for $100.

BBC News
By Jonathan Fildes

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cyber Tracker - Rhinoceros or Natual Disasters?

South African conservation scientist Louis Liebenberg (and helped by former University of Cape Town computer scientist Justin Steventon) have developed a software for PDAs that assist Bushmen of the Kalahari Desert from being trackers to being cyber trackers. While most of the Bushmen cannot read or write, they are able to interpret the icons on their PDAs.

The PDA screen displays more than 40 animal species and plants. Anther set of icons cover activities such as drinking, feeding, running, fighting, mating and sleeping. Pressing an animal icon and than an activity icon records a sighting and or other finding. This digital recording which records time, date and exact location is than sent wirelessly to a computer server by satellite. That information is than processed on a base-station computer to create maps and charts of animal movements and feeding habits.

One tracker might record up to 300 observations in a day and has now been downloaded over 25,000 times in more than 50 countries. While not everyone may have the need to track the activities of a rhinoceros, the software can be used for other purposes than nature conservation. For example it can be applied to social surveys, organic farming or integrated pest management. In addition, the software allows a user to create unique icons to adapt it for tracking other kinds of things, such as monitoring disasters in local areas. All that is needed is a laptop or a PDA, a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver is said to be optional.

For more information, CyberTracker hardware and CyberTracker

Source: ZD Net - Roland Piquepaille
(Photo Credit: CyberTracker).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Underwater Merry Go Round

Manhattan's Battery Park will have the tourist attraction they wanted. But tourists, adults and children will be the ones that will get the most joy from the future under the sea carousel ride. Translucent dolphins, turtles, and other marine life will not only go round and round but will have an unobstructed 360-degree view inside a shell shaped structure featuring windows that darken during the three-minute ride to simulate the experience of diving to the ocean floor.

Architects at Weisz + Yoes is the firm behind Sea Glass, a high tech ride with an aquatic theme — a nod to the waterfront setting. Unlike a traditional carousel, which spreads out from a center column like an umbrella, these creatures will be supported from below on a turntable. As riders dive towards the ocean floors, multiple projectors will fill the interior with images of marine life that slowly change to match what you'd actually see during a descent.

Construction is set to start this year, with completion by summer 2008.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Annoy, fascinate or scare the wits out of guests that visit you at your home.

There are some geek stereotypes that are genuine -- such as ordering pizza instead of cooking and impatiently waiting for the next coolest gadget to arrive via FedEx. One of the new cool think outside the tower Think Geek gadgets is for those who have doorbells.

The Think Geek USB Doorbell connects to your computer via USB cable and will store thirty second MP3 sound clips. Even if your not a tech geek, you could have some fun playing mischievous Doorbell clips.

Doorbells have either being boring or annoying. The USB Doorbell is neither. It replaces your current wind chime bells with your favorite audio clip whether it's your favorite song or the theme music to one of the best sci fi films. Who wants to knock when they can hear "We will assimilate you"

To see the ring in action Think Geek created a cheezy promo using the Star Wars theme song.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Cyborg Technology

Israeli researchers Itay Baruchi and Eshel Ben-Jacob at Tel-Aviv University discovered and have demonstrated that it’s possible to store multiple simple memories in an artificial culture of live neurons – the first potential step towards cyborg-like integration.

While some people may be disturbed by the cyborg’s first baby step there are legitimate positive medical uses for artificial intelligence, which may be crucial to learning about memory formation in living organisms. An electrician who lost both his arms was the beneficiary of a 'bionic arm' created by scientists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. His unique experience may help other disabled individuals lead more active lives in the near future.

“Many believe that complex patterns of neuronal firing are templates for memory, which the brain uses when storing information. Imprinting such "memories" on artificial neural networks provides a potential way to develop cyborg chips,” says Ben-Jacob.