27, 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 42 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK
Your Own Robot
by Emilio Rivera III.
truth about e-pets, Asian women snub the Net, and a first look at finger
Compiled by YASMIN GHAHREMANI
It was cute when people programmed their Palms to change TV channels and
hotwire the electronic door locks on luxury automobiles. But this incessant
tinkering with a perfectly utilitarian personal digital assistant, or PDA,
is getting out of, er, hand. Palm fetishists at Carnegie Mellon University
have created the world's first PDA-powered robot and posted step-by-step
instructions on the Internet so that anyone with a soldering iron and $250
to blow on parts at the local hardware store can do likewise (Cs.cmu.edu).
Mind you, an army of kitchen-table-built PDA-bots is unlikely to destroy
Silicon Valley. By mating a Palm with three tiny wheels, optical sensors
and servo motors from model airplanes, the university's Robotics Institute
that can do little but whir around a room without bumping into walls. But
researchers hope the exercise will help other developers build bots for
real chores like dusting hurrah! Another suggestion: Palms that wander
conference rooms gathering virtual business cards. Anyone who has ever lost
a pricey PDA should think twice before giving it instructions to run out
and fetch a latte from the neighborhood coffee bar.
by Asiaweek Pictures.
From the editors of Asiaweek.
Mod bod phone
NTT DoCoMo's prototype Whisper phone reminds us of a trip to the Ouija
board. First you feel the vibrations. Then you hear the voice traveling
through your body. Only this time it's not your deceased Uncle Walter
(R.I.P.), it's a real live caller and you're listening to him through
your finger. The wrist-mounted phone consists of a speaker pressed against
your skin, a microphone facing outward that you talk into, and a device
that converts audio signals into vibrations. Those vibrations travel through
your bone and cartilage and into your ear via your finger. To answer the
phone you just tap your thumb and index finger together. Eventually, dialing
will also be a snap. Yeah, well, they laughed at the first "wrist clocks"
The net's female
by Sonya O.Wu.
It's a man's cyberworld, according to WomenAsia.com, a business-to-business
website linking Asian and North American businesswomen. It says only 22%
of the Internet users in the region are female compared to the U.S.,
where more than half of all Netizens are women. Actually, some individual
Asian nations are approaching that balance. Korean women represent 42% of
the the Net users there. But in poorer countries, the figure is far smaller.
Only 12% of the 15,000 members of Indonesia's largest businesswomen's association
even have e-mail addresses. Given that Asia's workforce is close to 50%
female, the gender divide could seriously hamper the region's productivity.
And it's not necessarily the lowest-ranking workers who know the least.
"Management-level women may sport fancy computers on their desks, but are
often not comfortable or knowledgeable enough to use them," says Rosemary
Brisco, CEO of WomenAsia. "If she's lucky, she has a secretary who prints
out her e-mail so she can dictate a response." Brisco's solution: employer
incentives and publicly-subsidized corporate training for women.
Aibo, left, until now the alpha male of the virtual pet pack, has met his
match. Sony's new upgrade, named Aibo ERS-210 ("Sparky" was taken), has
a bigger motion range and more touch sensors so it can express "intimate
interaction with people." We hope that doesn't mean we'll be prying it off
of our legs. The souped-up successor also can recognize up to 50 spoken
words and imitate the intonation of human speech. And it has a digital camera
in its nose. All those new tricks make Aibo Sr. look like one old dog. Perhaps
it's time to take the ol' feller out back and you know. Thing is,
this new hotdog isn't even canine. It's modeled after a lion cub in an effort
to make Aibo a unique creature. At $1,500 Sony is also trying to make the
robot more affordable (the first model was $2,300). It reckons at that price
folks will be lapping them up. Orders begin in Japan in November.
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November 30, 2000