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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

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FEBRUARY 25, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 7

PULSE
Robots do battle, watches gain functions, China bids down and the Web mouths off
Compiled by STUART WHITMORE


Asiaweek Pictures

Ouch, My Diodes!
Robots have always been great on-screen draws. So has violence. Put the two together and what have you got? Crash, bang, wallop entertainment where not one drop of blood is spilt. Just don't ask about the oil. Last month BattleBots hit U.S. pay-per-view TV. In a "modernistic boxing ring" (read: a gladiatorial arena with metal spikes at the edges and a 6 meter-high clear plastic wall to protect the audience from shrapnel), home-made, radio-controlled robots duel to the death and engage in mass, free-for-all rumbles. The smallest (like drill-wielding Dr. Inferno, below middle) are as light as 11 kilograms. The biggest can weigh up to 228 kilos and cost thousands of dollars to make. Consider it an investment - there's a $25,000 prize for the winner. The aim is simple: inflict maximum damage. The rules are strict: no lifting, pinning or flying; no stun guns, cattle prods, explosives or lasers over 5 milliwatts. Robo-wrestling could be coming to a TV near you. A similar concept, Robot Wars, is already a hit show for Britain's BBC. Let battle commence.

    ALSO IN ASIAWEEK
ASIAWEEK.com
VOL.2 NO.1

Cover: A Good Tech Employee Is Hard To Find

In Fashion: Cecilia Pagkalinawan Adds Style To New York's Silicon Alley

On the Road: Business Or Pleasure, It's Getting Easier To Travel And Stay Connected

Pulse: Battling Robots, Multimedia Wristwatches, Chinese Auctions and Websites That Have Something To Say

Toolbox: How To Install Linux On Your Pc

Politics.com: A Malaysian Website Makes An End Run Around Media Restrictions

Net Index: Asia's Tech Stock Bubble Has More Room To Rise

E-vesting: Online Pundit David Webb Uncovers Hong Kong Corporate Horror Stories

Assif Online: Singapore's Financial Portals Gear-Up For Online Trading

B2B: Global Traders Try To Beat The Boat

Wired Exec: Acer Whiz Goes Unplugged By Night

REGULAR ISSUE
Business Buzz: Japan -- Land of the rising Internet ad spend

Cutting Edge: If you like Apple's iBook laptop, but think its candy-colored case clashes with your macho image, then how about one in gun-metal gray?
    RELATED STORIES

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ALLTALK You jack into the Internet by unplugging your phone, so why not start using your voice to communicate with your PC instead of the keyboard? As long as your PC has speakers, a soundcard and a microphone, there are plenty of ways to make yourself heard on the Net. Register with either ICQ or Yahoo!'s instant messaging service and you can send other users short soundbites. AOL will join in soon. If you want something more than a virtual walkie-talkie, try www.hearme.com, where the chat rooms actually mean chat. HearMe offers everything from smalltalk to foreign language exchange and karaoke. If you can put up with the poor sound quality, time lags and occasional Net congestion, then try making international calls by downloading free software like Net2Phone or Phone Free. You can call any PC with the same software for nothing and even place a call to a friend's phone at rock-bottom rates. You may never need your keyboard - or telephone - again.


WATCH, LOOK, LISTEN If palmtop computers aren't handy enough for you, how about strapping some processing power to your wrist? Digital watches are leaving their Seventies roots behind and piling on features to make your PC jealous. Samsung and NTT DoCoMo have both developed wristwatch phones, while Casio's latest models (pictured) include a $99 personal digital assistant, a digital camera with black and white LCD screen (price unavailable) and a waterproof MP3 music player ($249). All three devices can share data with your PC using infrared and USB connections. In case you're interested, they also tell the time.

COLLECTIVE BARGAINING Who says culture doesn't count on the Web? Not the folks at Coolbid.com, an auction website with a difference. Launched just over a year ago by two Taiwan entrepreneurs, Coolbid's main attraction is "downbidding." Unlike traditional auctions, where the biggest checkbook takes all, on Coolbid the price starts high and comes down as more people join in the bidding for items like cameras and consumer electronics. "E-commerce is not just transactions. It should also provide communications and community," says Heidi Hsueh Shao-feng of pAsia, the firm behind Coolbid. She thinks downbidding appeals to the Chinese sense of communal participation - and maybe a love of having a little gamble. Part of the appeal of Coolbid is deciding when to jump in. The price might go lower, but then the item could also sell out. Coolbid also offers another type of auction more suited to casinos, where the price of items fluctuates randomly by the second. "We provide a traditional auction, but it's not so popular!" says Hsueh. Downbidding has been used by some U.S. websites, but usually a drop in price is only triggered when several hundred people have placed their bids. On Coolbid, every punter helps force the price a little lower. With the Taiwan site already raking in $250,000 a month, in December pAsia launched Coolbid in mainland China. Downbidding: it's collectivism and capitalism in perfect harmony.

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