FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, July 29, 2005

[BREAKING NEWS] Sen. Frist Breaks with Bush on Stem Cell Research

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has announced his support for legistation expanding funding for embryonic stem cell research -- putting him at odds with President Bush and religious conservatives who oppose such funding.

Frist, a heart-lung surgeon, said of his decision, "It's not just a matter of faith, it's a matter of science." So far, the Bush administration has had little comment beyond respecting the right of Frist to take his own position on the issue. "I know that the president will listen to what Sen. Frist has had to say," said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who is sponsoring stem cell legislation and who is currently battling cancer. "I'm not saying he is going to agree with it but ... I think may bring us all together on this issue."

Predictably, Frist's position has sparked cheers from stem cell research advocates and outrage from pro-life conservatives. A more pertinent question, however, is whether this will help research funding to pass through Congress. If so, it will set Capitol Hill up for a major confrontation with the White House.

Taking a more long-term view, Frist's announcement might signal a sea change among politicians on the topic, emboldening liberal and conservative politicians alike to support stem cell research. Some have predicted that Frist's political future may have been sacrificed by his stand... and he may well have suffered permanent damage among pro-life voters. But it may have been a calculated risk, betting that the majority of voters support embryonic stem cell research.

In the near term, though, there's no sign of a stampede among Frist's conservative colleagues toward supporting embryonic stem cell research. Said House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), "Senator Frist is a good man, he's simply advocating a bad policy."

Hopefully, Frist's position will mark a step toward de-politicizing science, which can only help the US in the long term as it seeks to compete globally in science, technology and medicine.

UPDATE: At the risk of sounding cynical, Sen. Frist's change of heart on the matter might have something to do with popular support for stem cell research. According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Americans favor embryonic stem cell research by a 2-to-1 margin, with such support apparently growing within every demographic group except for evangelical Christians.

Source: AP (Excite)

Could IM Replace E-mail?

Judging by the way young people use the Internet, instant messaging may one day replace e-mail as the messaging technology of choice.

A recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that, unlike their elders, only 5% of young people aged 12 to 17 preferred e-mail over IM. This matters because, within a few years, these kids will enter the workforce and will help set their employers' technology strategies. Even now, they represent an important and lucrative market that is not going unnoticed by youth-oriented marketers such as Disney, which is dipping its toe into the cell phone business.

Already, enterprises are seeing the value of IM, including its immediately and ability to announce presence and availability to groups. As enterprise IM platforms offer more security and auditing features, they will surely become more popular over time.

E-mail remains popular, however, and won't go away entirely -- at least not for a long time. But with the rise of IM, it may well lose its dominance sooner than we realize.

Source: Forbes

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Mormons to Lose Dominance in Utah by 2030

Because just as many Mormons are leaving the church as are joining it, Mormons will cease to be the majority religious faith in the state of Utah within 30 years, according to state demographic figures.

Currently, members of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-Day Saints make up over 62% of the state's population, but statistics show the number of Mormons decreasing since 2000. This may in part be due to new converts leaving the faith soon after joining.

New, non-Mormon residents are also shifting Utah's religious mix. "Utah is essentially becoming more like the nation," said Robert Spendlove, the lead demographer for the state.

Source: AFP (Yahoo!)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Hybrids to Join NYC Taxi Fleet

The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission has approved the use of six hybrid vehicles to be used as taxicabs. The pilot project, which complies with a city mandate for hybrid taxis, is scheduled to begin this fall, despite concerns that even the largest hybrids currently on the market have significantly less legroom than traditional cabs.

For now, the Commission is testing the available hybrid models, and developing facilities for inspecting and servicing the hybrids, and drafting new rules that accommodate the vehicles.

Source: The New York Times

First Look at Windows Vista

A select group of testers who downloaded and installed the first beta of Windows Vista (formerly Longhorn) have finally gotten a peek at the new OS.

Microsoft will make Vista available to a wider pool of testers from its MSDN developer program in August, but about 10,000 testers have already begun exploring the system's new features. They also have access to version 7 of Internet Explorer, which offers tabbed browsing and RSS compatibility (features that Firefox has offered for some time), as well as stronger security.

Two of Vista's key features, the Avalon graphics engine (a.k.a. Windows Presentation Foundation) and the Indigo web services architecture, will be offered as add-ons for Windows XP, for those who like those features yet don't want to upgrade to Vista.

Source: ZDNet

Have You Hugged Your Robot Today?

It's good to know that the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Robots is getting out ahead of things. Sure, it sounds funny now, but if artificial intelligence emerges, robot rights could be an issue our children and grandchildren will be dealing with.

Future Franchises Catering to Boomers

Baby Boomers who are getting older, and have ample incomes but little time, represent a lucrative market for businesses over the next several years.

Home amenities and services are expected to be big business opportunities, as empty-nester Boomers refurbish homes or buy new ones. Also, business serving healthcare or eldercare needs will be in demand, as the Boomers age.

Source: CNN/Money

The Structured, Indoor Lives of Kids

Summer is supposed to be the time of year when kids spend as much time as possible outside. But that was then...

A somewhat depressing article in USA Today notes what most parents already know: kids are spending much more time indoors than they used to. One survey quoted found that bike riding among kids is down 31% since 1995, and that only 6% of kids who play baseball do so without any kind of adult-imposed structure. Sales of bikes and memberships at public pools are way down. Correspondingly, childhood obesity is way up.

TV, the Internet and video games occupy much of kids' time these days... and when they do go outside, it's in a structured environment such as a camp or club. Affluence provides for kids a home environment so comfortable that they have no reason to venture outside of it. Parents are understandably afraid to let kids wander in an age of fear of child abduction. Lower birthrates, moreover, mean that many of today's children are spending more time alone than did their Baby Boomer predecessors, who could always count on at least a few friends hanging around the neighborhood at any given time. Through the Internet, their friends may hail from all over the world, yet they are friends who have never met face-to-face.

When I was growing up, the fun of summer was its randomness, its chaos. Simply being able to goof off for hours on end tested the imagination and fostered creativity. Being outdoors provided a different perspective on the world.

Today, though, unstructured play is seen as either dangerous or a waste of time, and even the most overprotective parent of the past would be considered negligent by today's standards. How will all of this affect today's children as they grow older? It may be difficult for today's kids to move beyond the confines of the Net and video games into business and personal relationships, as well as engage in creative problem-solving that doesn't involve technology.

And for those kids who master the real world enough to find a mate and start a family, will their children be even more thoroughly "coccooned"? Or will a backlash movement emerge that provides kids with more outdoor, free-form, non-technological activity?

A Distributed Network to Fight Terrorism

Can distributed mobile technology help groups fight terrorism? Two researchers who study group dynamics believe it can.

"Global Neighborhood Watch," a concept developed by Bill McKelvey of UCLA and Max Boisot of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, operates on the premise that groups carrying mobile sensing devices can detect threats such as explosives more readily than central access points. It also relies on groups' innate ability to process and filter abstract information. A distributed, "socio-computational" approach can "connect the dots" to help authorities better see patterns of an attack.

"Our 'distributed' socio-computational approach gets around silo thinking," McKelvey and Boisot wrote. Silos extract information and meaning from data and then pass it up to the next level. "That is, dots [data] collected at the base get 'joined' or linked . . . by intelligence analysts in the middle of the hierarchy before being 'assessed' " at the top, they wrote.

By contrast, the distributed neighborhood watch, and its attendant computing power, focuses less on collecting many dots and more on establishing meaningful relationships and patterns from them. "Assessment does not thereby disappear, but it now operates across different levels," the professors wrote. The watch members help find the most promising patterns, and the intelligence center and government officials select the ones upon which to act.

One example given is of two individuals standing adjacent to an unattended backpack. Both carry mobile phones that can sense trace amounts of explosives; both devices react to the pack, and send signals to alert a central authority.

The clear downside to the plan is that it creates a Big Brother environment, with neighbors effectively spying on neighbors. To that end, and in light of the recent London bombings, communities will have to make a choice between respect for privacy and greater security.

McKelvey and Boisot have submitted their idea to the CIA.

Sources: GovExec.com, Futurismic

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

IBM's Blue Gene to Simulate a Mammal Brain

IBM is teaming up with Switzerland's Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) to simulate the workings of a mammal brain on IBM's Blue Gene, currently the world's most powerful supercomputer. The machine being used has a peak speed of 22.8 teraflops (trillion calculations per second); the fastest Blue Gene version runs at nearly 137 teraflops.

Under the "Blue Brain" project, every function of the brain will be modeled, down to the molecular level. The project will focus on the neo-cortex, the portion of the brain that governs higher levels of reasoning.

Blue Brain, which will take from two to three years to complete, promises multiple benefits. Aside from testing the limits of Blue Gene, it will hopefully increase understanding of how the mammal brain works, provide insights into artificial intelligence, and reduce the need for live animals in neuro-research.

The researchers had better watch their backs, though. The Japanese government plans to develop a supercomputer that they claim will be 73 times more powerful than Blue Gene by 2011, and that will supposedly be able to calculate at 10 petaflops (quadrillion calculations per second) -- believed by some to be the minimum computing speed of the human brain.
Source: Taipei Times (The Guardian), KurzweilAI.net

Tech for Executives, At a Glance

CIOs and other executives who feel overwhelmed by the amount of information on the technology they're expected to deliver and manage might find BusinessWeek's CEO Tech Toolbox handy. Though there's little here that would surprise the average techie, the article provides a handy overview of technologies that are either hot now or are likely to be in the coming years.

Source: KurzweilAI.net

Good News for IT Pros

According to Gartner, job prospects look good for IT professionals all-around this year, with many companies planning to beef up their tech staffs and offer raises to retain current employees.

Two-thirds of the firms Gartner surveyed in the spring planned at least moderate IT hiring. Project managers, Web developers, database administrators, security specialists, and programmers are all reportedly in demand. The firms surveyed have also increased salaries by 3.5%, and many are adding bonuses to their recruiting and retention packages.

Source: CNET

Red Herring Ends Its "Future" Blog

Red Herring has ended what it calls its "experiment" with blogging, and is shutting down its "Future" blog. Its farewell note states:

After a year, the Red Herring leadership has decided to wrap up its experiment with blogging. Mitch Ratliffe's blog "The Now" stopped when he took his new job; now, the editors have decided to rethink some of the Web site, and to move away from blogging and into other territory.

At one level, I'm surprised the experiment has been allowed to run as long as it has: I was brought aboard a couple editors-in-chief ago, and in my experience, new editors often like to bring their own people in. But all editors and publishers are trying to figure out how blogging can fit into a more traditional structure borrowed from the print world. No one has it quite right yet, and Red Herring can't be faulted for wanting to experiment with something else.

Fans of the "Future" blog can continue to read related posts at Future Now.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Bank Goes Beyond Passwords to Tighten Security

Mindful of phishing scams and other high-profile security breaches, Bank of America is instituting SiteKey, a second security layer that will require more than just a customer's password for online access.

When logging in, customers will see a secret image and challenge phrase from SiteKey that they selected earlier. The challenge question would involve something only the customer would know. If the SiteKey information is missing or incorrect, they might not be at a legitimate Bank of America website.

Security strategies such a SiteKey will surely become more common as financial institutions increase their awareness of security -- and as their customers demand it.

Source: CNN.com

eBay as a Career

The online auction site eBay has announced that 724,000 of its users rely on the system for their primary or secondary source of income, up 68% from 2004. Aside from these professional eBayers, a survey by ACNielsen found that another 1.5 million supplement their incomes through trading on eBay. Compare these figures with those of Wal-Mart, America's official largest employer, which as of 2004 had 1.1 million employees.

If eBay's figures continue to rise, it will force us to start thinking differently about the nature of employment. Can a nation of consumers support vast numbers of online auctioneers to the point where they can make a career out of their sales? Will we begin buying and selling professional services in the same way (though sites such as Guru.com have been around for some time)? More fundamentally, eBay seems to be pushing us in the direction of mass individual entrepreneurship, and away from the traditional employee-employer paradigm. This will affect how we think about the very nature of work, including benefits, pay, and long-term career goals (including retirement). Certainly, not everyone will work this way in the future, but many will choose to.

Tor and the Anonymous Internet

Internet users concerned about identity theft may now have a new tool to help them go online more securely. Tor, developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, uses so-called "onion routers" to obscure source and destination IPs, making it difficult if not impossible to track somebody online.

However, Tor raises some critical ethical questions, especially in these days of concern over terrorism. Should people be allowed to surf anonymously, especially if they're engaged in criminal activity? Where do privacy concerns end and public safety concerns begin? Moreover, does Tor provide true anonymity?

The debate won't begin or end with Tor, and has no easy answers. User tracking, and ways to thwart it, will remain controversial as long as people are worried about both privacy and law enforcement.

Source: TechRepublic

Friday, July 22, 2005

Longhorn = Windows Vista

Microsoft's long-awaited new version of Windows has taken another step toward reality now that it has a real name. The new Windows version, which had until now been known by the code name Longhorn, is now called "Windows Vista." Microsoft has been promising that the new OS will have significantly improved security and file management features (though not the promised WinFS file system), IPv6 support, and more sophisticated graphics.

Microsoft plans to release a beta version on August 3, and will offer further details about Vista in September. A commercial release is scheduled for the latter half of 2006... creating the longest time lag ever between release of Windows versions. The server version will be available in 2007.

For more on Windows Vista, visit ZDNet's Q&A on the topic.

Source: Reuters (Excite)

Environmentally Friendly, Safer Concrete

Who knew that the manufacture of concrete contributed so much to greenhouse gases, and was such an inefficient process? Scientists at Australia's CSIRO Novel Materials & Processes did... because they invented a process for making concrete that uses less energy and generates fewer pollutants.

The HySSIL (High-Strength, Structural, Insulative, Lightweight) panels are made without curing equipment, which require high levels of energy. The are also lightweight enough to be moved without the use of specialized lifting equipment.

The downside of this technology is that it will likely be more expensive than traditional methods of making concrete, at least in the near term.

And if that's not impressive enough, concrete is also getting more flexible, literally. Bendable concrete resists brittling, making it safer. The type developed by the University of Michigan is, like HySSIL, lightweight, and its manufacture is less harmful to the environment.

Source: WorldChanging

Video Game Backlash?

In the wake of revelations that the popular video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas contained sexually explicit content, several major retailers, including Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Circuit City, have yanked the game from their shelves. Wal-Mart and Best Buy have said that they aren't sure whether they would restock the game, even if the offensive content were removed.

The mod (or modification) content was not something ordinary gamers were meant to see. Rather, it was intended for tinkerers, and accessible only through a downloadable file called "Hot Coffee." The odds that a child could have accessed that content were almost nil.

The controversy raises several key questions about the state of today's video game industry. Clearly, video games now show up high enough on politicians' radar screens for them to make a fuss (and, in Sen. Hillary Clinton's case, to build some conservative street cred). But where was the uproar earlier? Grand Theft Auto is notorious for its violent content, including cop killing. Will we see further crackdowns on violent video games, or will outrage be reserved purely for sex?

Also, what will this incident do to the video game industry? It's never good to have your product kicked out of Wal-Mart, after all. Is this just the latest outrage du jour, or just the beginning of a wide, ongoing government crackdown? Will it serve to drive developers of the most controversial games underground?

UPDATE: The GTA backlash is not limited to the States. Australia has reportedly banned the game outright, claiming that its content exceeds its most restrictive rating for adult material.

Sources: Wired, The New York Times

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Digital Photography Disrupting Film, Photo Paper Sales

More than ever, consumers' preference for digital photography is putting the squeeze on sales of traditional photo supplies, namely film. No better evidence was offered for this shift than yesterday's announcement by Eastman Kodak that it will shed up to 10,000 jobs.

It's not just Kodak that's feeling the pain. Specialty photo stores are selling fewer film cameras and related supplied, and are having difficulty competing with electronics and discount stores for sales of digital cameras. Photo-printing kiosks may help photo stores offset some losses, but even those may not be enough, especially as photo printers become less expensive and easier to use. Plus, since many digital camera owners share and store their photos electronically, not all of them want or need to print them.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Googling the Moon

In honor of the anniversary of the first manned moon landing, Google introduces its Moon Map, so you can pinpoint the location of your favorite crater.

HINT: Be sure to zoom in to the maximum (tightest) level...

Mobile Phones on ICE

ICE (In Case of Emergency) is a UK mobile phone service that allows emergency responders to quickly contact the next-of-kin of someone in distress. In the wake of the London bombings earlier this month, ICE generated considerable interest in the UK.

The ICE website takes pains to note that it is not a hoax or a virus, as was mistakenly reported recently.

As mobile phones become the most common electronic device on the planet -- and as concern grows over both man-made and natural catastrophes -- services like ICE will become ever more valuable and common. After all, many people originally bought cell phones did so with the idea of using them for emergency communication.

Source: Smart Mobs

The Tattle-Tale Toilet

UK designer Malcolm Kimberley has created a urinal that can analyze urine and let the user know via Bluetooth cell phone if he has an STD.

And if that's not creepy enough, one can easily imagine similar toilets that could scan urine for traces of drugs and who knows what else. Employers, police and parents could all be notified in real time, and the guilty party could be apprehended before he/she leaves the rest room.

Source: Gizmodo

Ten-Second Gamma Ray Burst Could Cause Mass Extinctions

One more thing to add to your list of Things to Worry About: a burst of gamma rays, ten seconds of which could wipe out most all life on earth.

Scientists at NASA and the University of Kansas have concluded that such a blast, caused by the explosion of a nearby star (within 6,000 light years), could destroy half of the earth's ozone layer, letting in ultraviolet rays that would kill most life on land and near the surfaces of oceans and lakes.

A gamma-ray burst may have been the cause of the Ordovician extinction 450 million years ago. Long before the dinosaurs, life during that period was largely confined to the seas... and 60% of that life was wiped out in that event. Additionally, the burst likely caused the earth's temperature to drop, ushering in an ice age.

Source: NASA

Who Is John Roberts?

It's not yet been 24 hours since President Bush nominated John Roberts to the Supreme Court. But who is he?

Rex Hammock has posted several useful links on RexBlog.com to help us figure that out, including JudgeRoberts.com (created by the conservative group Progress for America, and containing a resume and some positive quotes by politicians and business leaders), and the somewhat more meaty "Campaign for the Court" blog hosted by the Washington Post.

UPDATE: Beltway Blogroll has lists of (mostly liberal) blogs and commentary on the nomination in this post, as well as this one.

A Pill Bottle That Calls Your Cell

The SIMpill medicine bottle uses SMS technology to communicate with both patient and physician, sending a text message to a patient's cell phone if they miss a dose. When a prescription is filled, the pharmacist programs the bottle.

The SIMpill, developed and marketed by a South African company, could be a potential lifesaver for a forgetful patient on a critical medication.

Source: Iconoculture

Employee Turnover May Accelerate This Summer

With the US unemployment rate at the lowest level in four years, workers are in a strong position to seek new job opportunities if they are not happy in their current position.

“With more jobs out there, employees are analyzing their current situation and sometimes think they can find a better opportunity elsewhere,” said Denise Gians, Motivation Product Manager for Sunrise, Florida-based G.Neil, a human resource support company. “Employees who choose to leave impact a company’s morale as well as the budget.” G.Neil estimates that hiring and training a new employee can cost a company anywhere from a few thousand dollars to $100,000.

Moreover, a recent survey by London-based Video Arts has found that 34% of workers aged 18 to 24 planned to change jobs in 2005. The survey also found that 14% of those interested in leaving will do so after a summer vacation, when they feel refreshed and have a renewed perspective on their lives, and that 11% plan to leave in the fall so they can be settled in a new job before the holiday season.

Source: Hermann Trend Alert

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Pranking Local TV News

If you think you'll poke your eyes out if you see one more house fire or minor traffic accident on your local TV news broadcast, you're not alone. A pranskter group called Newsbreakers.org has been "hacking" live news reports with bizarre disruptions. Their slogan: "When news breaks, we bust it!"

One of the group's favorite tactics is to dress up as wacky characters and disrupt live TV reports. Aside from being funny and irreverent (they often disrupt news stories involving murders and other serious topics), the group believes it is making an important statement about the irrelevance of modern TV news.

"Television news today is a voyeur's fantasy," says Newsbreakers founder Chris Landon. "It has shifted from the role of challenging those in power to exploiting the weak, or those involved in personal tragedy... TV defines reality for a lot of people ... We just want to startle them enough to disrupt that view of reality."

Until the Newsbreakers come to your town, you can watch video clips of their exploits on their website.

Sources: The Observer, post.thing.net

Divorce, Marriage Decline; Living Together More Common

Fewer US couples are getting divorced... but that may be because more couples are living together instead of getting married.

A report based on US census figures by the National Marriage Project has found that divorces have fallen from 22 in 1,000 married women in 1980 to 10 per 1,000 in 2004 -- a drop of more than half in 25 years. However, marriage rates have also fallen, from 77 out of 1,000 single women in 1976 to 40 per 1,000 in 2004. Meanwhile, 5 million opposite-sex couples are now estimated to be living together out of wedlock.

Family experts worry about the fate of children of unmarried couples who separate, as they are less likely to have legal protections than children of married couples who divorce. One upside of the lower marriage rates may be that those who choose to marry are happier in their relationships; the number of married couples who say they are "very happy" is up for the first time in 25 years.

Source: AP (Newsday)

Computer Science Majors at Lowest Level in 30 Years

Overseas outsourcing -- or at least the fear of it -- has discouraged today's college students from majoring in computer science. As a result, enrollment in computer science programs in the US has dropped to its lowest level since the early 1970s.

Concern about outsourcing and downsizing, as well as the cooling of the late 1990s tech boom, led to a 23% drop in computer science undergraduate and graduate programs in 2004. This does not mean, however, that today's college students aren't considering IT careers, which many predict will remain attractive. Instead, they are more likely to pursue broader majors such as business, which will ultimately make them more marketable in a volatile business climate. "Now the IT professional needs a full suite of skills," says Matthew Moran, author of The IT Career Builder's Toolkit. "There probably are a lot more students getting minors in computer science."

Source: Internetnews.com

Tattooing Your Fruit

Tired of picking those little stickers off of the apples and pears you buy from the grocery store? They may become a thing of the past if laser tattooing of fruits and vegetables becomes commonplace.

The etchings are part of a broader effort to track foods throughout the distribution cycle. Aside from helping stores better manage their produce, they can aid in efforts to ensure the safety of the food supply. Despite concerns about a backlash from organic-minded consumers, the tattooing is already being adopted by large grocery chains such as Publix and Wal-Mart.

Source: The New York Times

Monday, July 18, 2005

A Blog Is a Blog Is a Blog...

A recent Nielsen/Netratings survey of Internet users found that the vast majority of those surveyed either don't read blogs or don't know what they are. On the surface, that's not good news for bloggers, though some believe the survey reveals that semantics may be more of an issue than many realize.

In the survey, a sample of the general population was asked if they:

a) Read blogs every day
b) Read blogs occasionally
c) Know what a blog is but don't really read them
d) Have heard of a blog but don't really know what it is
e) Never heard of a blog til right now

Only 6% responded with answers (a) or (b). Sixty percent said they had never heard of a blog.

However, the survey didn't stop there. Respondents were also asked to visit their favorite websites. Turns out that many of the sites visited by the participants -- even those who said they had no idea what a blog is -- were blogs!

The main takeaway from the survey is that most Internet users don't distinguish between blogs and other websites. Because most blogs don't identify themselves as such, it's easy to see how this can happen. How netizens identify (or don't identify) blogs will color future surveys and studies of blog use, at least in the near term. If a majority say they don't read blogs and don't know what one is, it could be simply because that word is not in their vocabulary.

Source: BuzzMetrics

Video iPods?

Apple's iPods have set the standard for personalizing sound and still-image collections. Now, Apple may be adding video to the iPod's repertoire.

Apple is reportedly in talks with several commercial music video distributors for licensing deals for iTunes and a possible video version of the iPod. Details are sketchy, by analysts believed that Apple is preparing a release of a video iPod sometime around September.

If successful, such deals would allow both Apple and video distributors to offer custom content for video iPods, and lessen (though not eliminate) the impact of P2P video file swapping. The device could also potentially create entirely new markets for video shorts and video-based podcasts, as well as for longer content.

RELATED: Not to be outdone, Microsoft has been in talks with AOL Time Warner (with whom it recently settled a lawsuit related to the Netscape browser) and Disney to negotiate digital rights to video content. Microsoft is banking that Windows-based PCs will become the nerve centers of home entertainment systems in the coming years.

Source: AP (Yahoo!)

Touchscreens That "Touch Back"

Touch pads for kiosks and other electronic devices have many advantages and are becoming more common. However, as two-dimensional surfaces, they lack the haptic confirming feedback that comes with a more mechanical interface such as a traditional keyboard. When we press a button, we can feel it press in, a physical response that makes the device easier and more satisfying to use.

San Jose-based Immersion Corporation has developed tactile touchscreens that simulate the feel of a button depressing, a lever moving or a scroll wheel scrolling.

In a similar vein, the TactaPad allows a user to draw and move objects with his/her fingers, "feeling" the objects along the way.

The USB-compatible TactaPad, developed by Tactiva (also based in San Jose) is not yet available for purchase. Plans are to develop versions for both Windows and Mac OS, which would market for about $1,000.

Source: Future Feeder

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Muslims Less Likely to Support Terrorism, Bin Laden

In a survey taken before the recent terrorist bombings in London, Muslims worldwide expressed waning support for Islamic extremism and Osama bin Laden.

Of the six Muslim nations represented in the Pew Global Attitudes Project survey, only Jordan had a majority (57%) who believed terrorist acts were justified. Except in Jordan and Pakistan, support for Bin Laden has fallen as well. However, substantial numbers continued to support suicide bombings against Americans in Iraq.

Muslims in predominantly Muslim countries generally support moves toward democracy and greater freedoms, yet at the same time acknowledge -- and welcome -- the fact that Islam is playing a greater role in daily life in their countries. Those in Europe and North America, meanwhile, have a generally favorable view of Muslims, while Muslims have mixed opinions of Christians and highly unfavorable views of Jews.

Clearly, rejection of terrorist tactics in the Muslim world is welcome news, and a vital step in winning the war on terror. Equally important, however, is finding ways to further encourage these attitudes.

NYC Gets Solar-Powered Train Terminal

A newly renovated subway station on Brooklyn's Stillwell Avenue is New York City's first solar-powered train station. The station receives power from a 76,000-square-foot solar roof, which will generate about 250,000 kilowatt hours a year.

The solar cells are 5' x 20' glass plates with strips of thin silicon film. Rather than being afterthoughts, the solar panels are an integral part of the station's architecture. They were also designed for easy maintenance and durability.

"For the first time, the city's subway system will have a clean and efficient source of energy, an environmentally sound way to keep this terminal up and running round the clock, year round," says Donald Press, General Manager, Advanced Materials. "The MTA has surely set an example for the rest of nation." The solar roof was manufactured by RWE SCHOTT Solar.

Source: SustainableBusiness.com

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Ray Kurzweil on Living Forever

Noted futurist Ray Kurzweil believes that bioengineering and nanotechnology will one day allow humans to "reprogram" their bodies to prevent illness and heal injuries... thereby keeping the human body alive indefinitely.

Much of Kurzweil's thinking in this area was inspired by his own experiences with diabetes. He believes that one of the body's fundamental weaknesses is its slow response in fighting disease and healing wounds. Nanobots, he suggests, could do the job much more quickly, as well as enhance normal bodily functions like digestion.

Kurzweil foresees a day when people can heal -- or even improve -- their bodies by downloading patches and upgrades, just as we update our computer software over the Internet today. Much of his thinking is outlined in his recent book Fantastic Voyage : Live Long Enough to Live Forever, coauthored with Terry Grossman.

Intelligent Video for Security Systems

General Electric is developing Intelligent Video Verification for security systems that can help police better respond to break-ins and other crimes, while reducing false alarms.

Under the system, small video cameras are installed in strategic locations in a building or site. The cameras can distinguish people from animals or moving objects that can trigger a convention motion sensor, and once they do so, they notify the police. The system can even transmit live images to patrol cars. Meanwhile, the cameras record the intruder(s), collecting evidence and giving officers a heads-up as to what they're up against.

For privacy reasons, the cameras only activate when the alarm is triggered. GE expects to roll out Intelligent Video Verification sometime in 2006.

Source: Herman Trend Alert

Bloggers as "Estate 4.5"

Many journalists hate bloggers... or at least see them as a threat to their own profession. But are bloggers journalists? Do they want to be?

K. Daniel Glover of the Beltway Blogroll doesn't think so. Rather, he suggests that bloggers represent something else entirely:

Instead of being part of the Fourth Estate, [bloggers] are part of something new. I call it Estate 4.5 -- a nod both to the profession whose excesses galvanized many bloggers and to the medium they use. Bloggers are like inspectors general, the independent watchdogs of government. Just as IGs are not part of the agencies they oversee, bloggers are neither part of government nor journalism, but they keep a wary and watchful eye on both. And in so doing they provide a valuable check against the arrogance, inadequacies and abuses of all four estates.

Others have suggested that bloggers represent a "fifth estate" that's supposedly disrupting mainstream media, but hairsplitting aside, Glover's assessment might be somewhat more accurate.

But can bloggers and journalists be allies, or at least learn to live together without driving each other crazy? Glover believes that journalists and bloggers will best serve the public and each other by doing what each does best, though they don't necessarily have to hold hands while doing so. "Journalists and bloggers are entirely different creatures occupying the same universe the Constitution calls 'the press,' and they are adversaries," he concludes. "But journalists, bloggers, the government and 'we, the people,' have benefited greatly from that adversarial relationship -- and hopefully we will continue to do so."

Source: WorldChanging

[BREAKING NEWS] Space Shuttle Launch Scrubbed

NASA scrubbed today's scheduled launch of the space shuttle Discovery after detecting a faulty fuel sensor. A new launch date has not yet been announced. Details here.

Hacking for Homeland Security

Ever since 9/11, "freelance counterterrorists" have been scouring the Net, searching for websites run by Islamic extremists and attempting to knock them offline. Some, like Aaron Weisburd, who was profiled in a recent Newsweek article on the subject, have been highly successful. Weisburd claims to have taken down more than 700 such sites over the past four years.

In general, authorities frown on such vigilante actions, fearing that they will disrupt ongoing investigations, and noting (correctly) that law enforcement is the job of law enforcement agencies. But the problem is that extremists and terrorists -- like the group allied with Iraqi insurgent Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which posted video of the beheading of Nicholas Berg in early 2004 -- are becoming ever more sophisticated in their use of the Net.

The use of the Internet by digital jihadists represents a vicious cycle: as one website of theirs gets hacked, another site emerges, more elusive to attackers than before. And because terrorists can host sites almost anywhere in the world, move them at will, and use a collection of open source security features, pinning them down is very difficult.

The result is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the Internet provides extremists and terrorists with all the benefits the rest of us enjoy -- cheap, easy-to-use global communication and information sharing. But on the other, their websites provide a wealth of "open source intelligence" that can be a treasure trove for people who know what to look for.

Instead of trying to put the hackers out of business, the Feds should partner more closely with them to leverage their experience and patriotism. And for the rest of us, the Department of Homeland Security should urge vigilance, perhaps providing a place to report suspicious activity online. Just as we are told to be aware of our surroundings while out in public, we should also be alert to suspicious websites, chatrooms, blogs and discussion groups we might stumble across. Treating the "freelance counterterrorist" community as an open source weapon rather than a nuisance would expand the government's reach in the War on Terror exponentially.

Channeling Light Through Nanowires

Nanoscale fiber optics could one day speed up computer chips by transmitting data with light instead of electricity. Nanowires could also make possible the development of tiny scientific and medical equipment.

Nanowire technology is presently in the research stage, being led by the University of California at Berkeley, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and NASA. The research has shown that "nanoribbons" can transmit light in different wavelengths, and navigate tight turns and folds -- important characteristics if nanowires are to become a commercial reality.

Researchers have created nanowires as thin as 65,000 nanometers (a human hair is about 75,000 nanometers thick). The hope is to develop nanowires as thin as 1,000 nanometers within five to 10 years.

Source: Technology Research News

Post Office to Launch Barcode Tracking

The next time you tell someone "the check is in the mail," they might be able to check whether it actually is, thanks to a new letter tracking system the US Postal Service is ramping up.

This month, the USPS is piloting a barcode tracking system for first-class letters. The Postal Service has used barcodes for years, but they are not standardized; the new system will provide a single barcoding standard. Among the most eager customers for this service are businesses, who can add barcodes to the return envelopes that come with your monthly bills. The USPS hopes to barcode all letter mail by the end of the year.

Currently, mail is tracked only at its beginning and end points. But with the new tracking system, mail can be tracked at multiple points along its journey, and customers will be able to check the status of mail through the USPS portal.

Source: Baseline

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Kid-Powered Water Pump

The "Playpump" is being used to pump fresh water in some remote African villages. What makes the pump special is its unique power source: kids at play.

When children spin on a roundabout, they drive a pump that fills a water tower. Able to pump 1400 liters (nearly 370 gallons) per hour, the Playpump is far more efficient than traditional hand pumps. It's also proof that, in thinking about the future, ingenuity often trumps high technology.

Source: Boing Boing

CBS to Create Internet-Based News "Network"

CBS plans to develop a 24-hour, on-demand online news service that will provide video streaming over the Internet. According to Larry Kramer, president of CBS Digital Media, CBSNews.com will become the primary platform of CBS News, possibly eclipsing its radio and even television presence.

"This major expansion of CBSNews.com is designed to capture an audience that is increasingly looking for news and information at all times of the day, not just during scheduled periods, and using the Internet for that purpose," said Kramer in a press release. "Every component of this re-launch -- including greatly enhanced video streaming capabilities, more on-demand features and greater participation from the CBS News correspondents and producers who will also be reporting directly for the Web -- will dramatically improve the content, delivery and navigation of the Web site."

Source: Raw Story

Robots and RFID... A Natural Fit?

RFID tags could be the new way to control robots, if a new product from the Japanese security firm Secom is successful.

Secom's Robot X uses RFID technology to help guard schoolchildren. The children, who wear RFID tags, are continually monitored by the robotic guard, which is instantly alerted if a child wanders out of its "safe" range. Robot X also monitors its charges through a video camera, and can even thwart a suspected intruder.

RFID-guided robots have a variety of applications, from souped-up versions of the Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner to robotic casino workers and librarians that can keep track of RFID-tagged casino chips and books respectively. In a warehouse filled with tagged stock, robots could take inventory and pick items. Wal-Mart is even rumored to be testing a robot that can guide visually impaired shoppers through its stores (though Wal-Mart denies this).

Source: CNET

A "Big Screen" View for Cell Phones

Content providers have big plans for offering video -- including full-length movies -- over cell phones. But how can you watch a big movie on a tiny cell phone screen?

The answer: you don't. Instead, watch video on your mobile device through microdisplay eyewear that simulates a "big screen" effect. By attaching the 2.5 oz. Kopin CyberDisplay 230K to a cell phone, a user can view movies, TV and Web as if on a 12-inch screen. The eyewear comes complete with built-in stereo earpieces.

The CyberDisplay has already been adopted by Orange SA, France Telecom's wireless division.

Source: Tomorrow's Trends

Monday, July 11, 2005

Mobile Devices Get Their Own Top-Level Domain

ICANN has designated ".mobi" as the top-level domain suffix for websites developed especially for web-enabled cell phones and other mobile devices. Site sporting the .mobi suffix will be formatted for small screens and will make conservative use of memory and bandwidth.

Mobile phone manufacturers and cell carriers campaigned for the special designation, which they hope will encourage web access through mobile devices.

Source: CNN.com

TV Viewing Up in 2005

Contrary to the conventional wisdom that has Americans watching less TV as we spend more time on the Internet and playing video games, a new Nielsen survey finds that Americans are watching more TV in 2005 than they were the previous year.

Viewership was up across all gender, age and ethnic categories (except for Hispanic adult males, whose viewing held steady). Even teenagers, who are supposedly preoccupied with the Net and video games, watch 18 minutes more per day on average than they did in 2004. In fact, teenagers has the largest jump in viewing (up by 18 minutes per day) among all the demographic groups.

Overall, the average American watches 4 hours and 22 minutes of TV a day, 10 minutes more than last year.

The survey, however, sheds little light on exactly what Americans were watching that was so compelling. It also doesn't say how many Americans were giving TV their undivided attention or were multitasking while watching. It also doesn't distinguish broadcasting from the "big three" networks from smaller cable and satellite channels, which other studies indicate are increasing their market share.

Source: Broadcasting & Cable

Google as Villain

Is Google evil? Adam Penenberg of Wired seems to think so. In a June 23 column, he describes the ubiquitous search engine as “a collective Rorschach test, which shapes our worldview and affects who we are and what we will become.”

The technology community is prone to bouts of paranoia in which any entity that gets "too big" is automatically judged to be bad. Perhaps that's because many of us techies, bristling under the "nerd" stereotype, naturally champion the underdog. Nothing wrong with that, but that doesn't mean that bigger is badder. Plus, let's not forget the ways in which Google empowers the "little" researcher, webmaster or blogger, or how it poses a healthy challenge to that other "evil empire," Microsoft.

Not to say that Penenberg doesn't make any valid points. He bring up legitimate concerns about how Google might behave as it evolves:

Will [Google] cave every time the government comes bearing a subpoena? Can it be trusted to safeguard our personal information? All Google will promise is that it "will provide notice before any personally identifying information is transferred and becomes subject to a different privacy policy."

The Technology Liberation Front has an artful deconstruction of Penenberg's article here.

US Now Has More Cellphone Connections Than Landlines

In the second half of 2004, mobile phone connections in the US overtook conventional phone landlines. The US now officially joins India, Norway, China, Sweden and 18 Arab countries as places where mobile lines outnumber landlines. Sweden, in fact, has more mobile connections than inhabitants!

One of the factors driving the expansion of mobile phones -- and explaining why Sweden has more cell phones than Swedes -- is that many people have separate mobile phones for work and personal use.

Source: Smart Mobs

Friday, July 08, 2005

Media Moguls Ponder Emerging Technology

At a retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho this week, a who's-who of media and entertainment executives gathered to consider how to come to terms with the Internet. In an era of rampant file-sharing and disruptive practices like blogging, they sought ways in which they could leverage emerging technologies and still make money.

The elite audience heard from Microsoft's Bill Gates, Google CEO Eric Schmidt and representatives from Intel on their respective companies' offerings, and how technologies such as search engines, online communities, mobile devices, computer gaming and Internet distribution will affect the media and entertainment industries in the years to come.

The fact that these heavy hitters are taking technology seriously, instead of fighting it or just wishing it would go away, is progress. Whether or not they truly "get it" and will be able to create new high-tech products and services that consumers will actually want, however, remains to be seen.

Source: AP (Excite)

FutureWire Turns One

One year ago today, FutureWire made its inauspicious debut as my personal project for trying to figure out the wild world of blogging. Since then, FutureWire's readership has grown slowly but steadily, with visitors from all over the world. It's been an incredible and eye-opening learning experience.

As you prepare for your weekend, I would like to thank you, the reader, for making this project worthwhile over the past year. And a special thank-you to those who read FutureWire regularly and subscribe to the feed. I look forward to sharing continued news of emerging trends and technologies with you in the year ahead.

Around the World on Two Gallons

With the price of gas heading ever upward, the Swiss-developed Pac-Car might become an attractive automotive option.

Using hydrogen cell technology and extreme lightweight construction, the Pac-Car can theoretically drive around the earth using only eight liters (or a little more than two gallons) of fuel. Cars featuring Pac-Car technology could be ready for mass production within a couple of years.

Sources: Ananova

Nano-Levers for Data Storage

Could the future of data storage lie in billions of tiny levers, each only a few microns long? A Dutch technology company thinks it might.

Cavendish Kinetics is exploring the use of "nanomech" memory, which stores data in an array of electro-mechanical switches. Toggling these switches up or down represents a 0 or 1 bit setting.

In a sense, it sounds like a throwback to the days when electronic devices were controlled by mechanical relay switches. But Cavendish believes that nanomech memory could operate 1,000 times faster than conventional memory with 100 times less power, and be more resistant to temperature and radiation fluxes. Nanotechnologists believe that nanomech memory would be ideal for small consumer devices such as digital cameras and MP3 players.

Cavendish has developed a nanomech chip with 256 KB of memory, and hopes to have its chips commercially available by next year.

Sources: New Scientist, AiKnowledge

Blogging the London Bombings

Unmediated has an excellent summary of blogs and other online resources covering yesterday's tragic terror bombings in London. Wikipedia also has an entry that's frequently updated.

In the true British tradition of resolve and resiliency, the photoblog We're Not Afraid accepts e-mailed defiant images... many of which are even humorous. And you don't have to be British to participate.

And, because so much of the immediate aftermath was captured on camera phones and video phones, the London bombings may have become the first global event to be documented primarily through personal digital media:

Because tight security prevented news crews from quickly reaching the bombing sites, the cellphone footage was all that was immediately available from underground. Its instant embrace by traditional news networks underscored how an evolving technology can take on new and unexpected roles.

"You forget how many people have these phones now and how much more of the first minutes of an event you're going to see," said Chuck Lustig, director of foreign news coverage for ABC.

"It's a harbinger of what's to come in terms of citizen journalism," said Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S. "These days, you just have to be in the wrong place at the right time, and you too can cover the news."

Thursday's attacks marked the first time cellphone video played a significant role in the coverage of a major breaking news event, a technique that could transform television news, analysts said.

"With more and more people carrying cellphones with that kind of function, you're probably going to see a lot more of that amateur news video," [media analyst Neil] Strother said. "It potentially makes everybody a pod-casting journalist."

Also noted:

Thursday, July 07, 2005

FutureWire Now Podcast Enabled

Using Talkr podcasting technology, FutureWire posts are now sound-enabled. When viewing posts on the website, you will notice a "Listen to this article" link at the bottom of each post. Click on it, and you'll download an MP3 audio version of the post.

You can also subscribe to a podcast feed that you can add to a podcast-friendly feed reader.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Life, Death and iPods

The recent wave of iPod thefts in urban areas reached a new and tragic low last week when 15-year-old New Yorker Christopher Rose was stabbed to death when he refused to give up his iPod to a gang of teenagers. In response, Apple CEO Steve Jobs called the grieving family to offer his condolences.

Jobs' call was welcomed by the boy's father, Errol Rose. "He told me that he understood my pain," Rose told the New York Times. "He told me that if there is anything -- anything -- anything he can do, to not be afraid to call him. It really lightened me a bit."

What's striking about this story is the fact that Jobs didn't have to make that call, and the way that, by doing so, Jobs chose to accept a degree of responsibility for a tragedy that was in no way his fault... yet centered around a device and a mystique that he was instrumental in creating and has profited from greatly. How many other executives would have reached out to one of their consumers in this manner, except when prodded to for legal or PR reasons?

The problem, as with our response to all material objects, is the value our society places on them. Reasonable people know that no gadget is worth a human life. But there are plenty of other people who feel otherwise. For that, perhaps we're all a little guilty, especially those of us who embrace and promote the use of technology, and who anoint gadgets like the iPod with titles such as "cool," "trendy," and "must-have." If you don't have one, you're a loser. And to what lenghts will someone go to not be a loser? Sadly, we now know.

In his grief, Error Rose summed it all up best. "We have the technology that can give us the iPod and everything else, but it's not all these things. We have to work on the minds and the hearts... We're failing these kids. We're not loving them the way we're supposed to."

Source: CNN Money

Spyware Changing Net Users' Habits

The prevalence of spyware is changing the way nine out of 10 netizens use the Internet, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

The Pew survey found that nearly half of those questioned no longer visit certain websites they suspect of deploying spyware. The majority also said they no longer open questionable e-mail attachments. A quarter of the respondents also said they have quit using file-sharing services to swap movies and music (good news for the entertainment industry there). Eighteen percent have switched browser types in an attempt to avoid spyware.

Like teaching a child not to talk to strangers, this wariness shows the adoption of good and necessary habits, but comes tempered with a loss of innocence. It's encouraging that Internet users are taking the spyware threat seriously and are taking action against it. Yet it's a shame that we have to worry about it at all.

Source: CNN.com

Portable Wi-Fi Hotspot

Want to bring Wi-Fi connectivity to the masses, or simply set up a hotspot for a remote group? Popular Science features a how-to article for turning a backpack into a portable, solar-powered hotspot.

The pack taps into cellular services' ultrafast EVDO broadband access. Parts for the project will set you back about $1065, minus the backpack itself.

Perhaps the most intriguing use for a mobile hotspot would be for a highly mobile team such as a group of emergency relief personnel, working in an area where EVDO is available but Wi-Fi is not. Mobile hotspots could also be built onto vehicles and other large pieces of equipment.

Sources: Wi-Fi Toys, Boing Boing

Has Natural Gas Production Peaked?

Natural gas from North America, which supplies over 20% of US energy needs, might have peaked, according to an announcement made at a recent Reuters Energy Summit. Unlike petroleum, natural gas is not easy to import from overseas unless it's liquified natural gas (LNG), cooled to -260°F. Currently, only 1% of the US natural gas supply is from LNG, and the construction of new LNG facilities is highly controversial in many communities.

If the assessment is correct and natural gas production has begun a decline, the US will have to make some difficult decisions; either embrace LNG and endorse the construction of LNG facilities (possibly over the objections of affected communities) or begin the transition to other energy sources.

Source: TechnologyReview.com

Microsoft Embraces RFID

Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has taken another big step forward as Microsoft announced steps to integrate RFID applications with Windows.

In a partnership with RFID hardware manufacturer Alien Technology, Microsoft will provide plug-and-play capability to Alien's RFID readers and tags. Microsoft has yet to determine which versions of Windows will have RFID compatibility, or when it will be released.

Source: Silicon.com

Pre- and Post-Filters

Chris Anderson's Long Tail blog considers blogs, search engines recommendation technologies and even top-ten lists to be "filters" that help us navigate the new marketplace, "where distribution is cheap and shelf space is plentiful." In the past, Anderson says, producers and retailers served as filters because they had to make careful decisions about what to manufacture and stock on store shelves. Now, though, the role of filter has shifted to the consumer.

Anderson divides filters into two types: Pre-filters, where manufacturers and content creators still have their say, and post-filters, where the consumer rules.

"Rather than predicting taste," Anderson says, "post-filters such as Google measure it. Rather than lumping consumer into pre-determined demographic and psychographic categories, post-filters such as Amazon's custom recommendations treat them like individuals who reveal their likes and dislikes through their behavior. Rather than keeping things off the market, post-filters such as MP3 blogs create a market for things that are already available by stimulating demand for them."

Both pre- and post-filters are hugely important in today's marketplace. But which will become more important in the future? Will post-filters end up being the primary drivers of markets, or will pre-filters reclaim their role as tastemakers?

Friday, July 01, 2005

Supreme Battle

As we prepare for the July Fourth weekend, fireworks of a different kind are going off in Washington. This morning, the Beltway agenda was turned on its ear when Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor announced her retirement.

President Bush has said that he'd like to have a new justice nominated and approved before the Supreme Court reconvenes in the fall. So expect interest groups from both the left and the right to pull out all the stops during the nomination process. Unlike Chief Justice Rehnquist, a dependable conservative whose resignation has been widely anticipated, O'Connor has been a critical "swing vote" on the bench, making her highly influential and, in many cases, a challenge to an otherwise conservative court.

If any Washington partisans were planning to take a long summer vacation, they are probably now cancelling their plans. This nomination process could prove to be an epic battle that will exacerbate the current culture wars, and the end result will have implications for years to come.

The blog Judging the Future is tracking events at the Supreme Court, largely from a moderate/liberal perspective. They link to a "mass immediate response" tool hosted by People for the American Way, which sends text messages about crucial events to cell phone users. On the right, Tech Central Station is covering events from a conservative perspective.

TheFeature Goes Offline

Smart Mobs reports that TheFeature, an emerging technology essay blog that's been a source of both news and inspiration for this site, is shutting down. A modest farewell message to its readers stated: "With the dramatic changes in the Internet publishing landscape since [its founding in 2000], and the rise of blogs in particular, TheFeature's role as a leader in the community perhaps isn't as necessary as it once was, with many quality sites discussing relevant topics and providing outlets for the vibrant community that's sprouted up around the mobile industry." That's debatable, though, as TheFeature offered a quality of both writing and insight that set it apart from many other like-minded resources. TheFeature will be truly missed by the futurist and technology communities.

As of this afternoon (7/1), neither TheFeature's website nor its RSS feed was available.

Robots May Soon Protect Japanese Offices and Stores

A Japanese security company plans to deploy guard robots that can patrol stores, offices and other facilities along pre-programmed routes, watching for intruders, fires and water leaks.

The Guardrobo D1 is equipped with a video camera to send images back to a home base, as well as a fire extinguisher to put out small fires on the spot.

The company, Sohgo Security Services, is negotiating with potential clients as it prepares a trial run.

Source: Reuters (Yahoo!)