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     Volume 4 Issue 14 | September 24, 2004 |

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'Talking' Washing Machine for the Visually Impaired
Engineering students belonging to the Michigan State University have developed a washing machine that 'talks' to make it more accessible to people with visual impairments. Students who were asked to develop a prototype of a machine that would be accessible to anyone with sight problems, created a circuit board that would give a speech output from all of the machine's settings. "We asked Whirlpool if they'd be willing to donate a device and they gave us one of their most up to date machines to work on," Prof Goodman, who oversaw the whole project, was quoted by the BBC as saying. The machine is currently being tested by a blind couple, Michael and Carla Hudson. "I'm so excited about the technology that it's brought a whole lot of energy, from my perspective, to doing the laundry! My wife loves it, partly because it's a really good machine and technologically because it gives her the confidence to know that she has all the settings right," the report quoted Mr. Hudson as saying.

Feel the Clothes On-line Before Buying
You could soon experience how the dress that you bought over the internet feels like, thanks to a fashion student at Nottingham Trent University. According to the BBC, Nicola Davison has designed a programme, called Click 2 Touch, a software that uses a series of interactive virtual reality animations to provide realistic sensations for 10 feelings including softness, fullness, smoothness, hairiness, prickliness, drape, thickness, elasticity, rigidity and warmth that are conveyed using 3D animations. For example, hairiness shows a close-up image of the garment's surface. By moving the mouse up and down it, the user can "stroke" the fibres and watch them ripple. To test thickness a shopper can lift up the edge of a garment and drop it back down. Elasticity is simulated by "stretching" the garment and watching it return to its original shape. Using the mouse the images can be rotated and the user can zoom in to get a closer look at necklines, patterns and seams. She said: "The internet only appeals to two of our five senses - sight and sound - but clothing requires the sense of touch. Almost half of all garments bought online are returned but less than 3 percent of items such as CDs, DVDs and books are sent back," Davison said.

Neanderthals and Eskimos
A Ohio State University sponsored study has suggested that Neanderthals that struggled throughout Europe during the last Ice Age, faced challenges no tougher than those confronted by the modern day Eskimos. Debbie Guatelli-Steinberg, an assistant professor of anthropology and evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University investigated tiny defects -- linear enamel hypoplasia -- in tooth enamel from primates, modern and early humans.

These defects serve as markers of periods during early childhood when food was scarce and nutrition was low. They form in tooth enamel when the body faces either a systemic illness or a severely deficient diet. "The evidence shows that Neanderthals were no worse off than the Inuit who lived in equally harsh environmental conditions. It is somewhat startling that Neanderthals weren't suffering as badly as people had thought, relative to a modern human group (the Inuits)," she said. Perikymata are even tinier horizontal lines on the teeth surface and each of them represents about eight days of enamel growth, so by counting their number, researchers can gauge the speed of tooth development. The perikymata showed that periods of up to three months of starvation for both the Neanderthals and the Inuit were not uncommon. Inuit teeth showed significantly more perikymata than did the Neanderthals, suggesting that the Inuit experienced stress episodes that lasted slightly longer than did those of the Neanderthals.

The Bad Side of a Driving License
An American researcher has revealed that students are more likely to drink, and smoke cigarettes and marijuana after obtaining a driving license and their drinking and driving behaviour become riskier as they gain further experience. "The increase in substance use in all three categories after getting a license supports the notion that new drivers have more opportunities for use," said Denis McCarthy, assistant psychology professor at University of Missouri-Columbia. During the course of study, McCarthy measured views of 2,865 high school students on alcohol, cigarette and marijuana use, alcohol use by peers, and attitudes toward drinking and driving. The results showed that when students initially obtained a license, they were more likely to be involved in substance use. However, their attitudes toward drinking and driving reflected an increased awareness of the dangers related to such behaviour for new drivers, indicating that they would drive to another location to use the substances, but, knowing the dangers of drinking and driving, not use them while in a vehicle. "For drinking and driving, it may be that newly licensed drivers have a period of protection or perceived vulnerability, but that their drinking and driving behaviour become riskier with more driving experience," said McCarthy.

3D Ads
Three-dimensional foaming glasses of beer could soon leap out of TV screens and on to bars, to try to tempt customers into buying drinks. The system, from X3D Techno-logies in New York City, allows the virtual drinks to jump up to a metre in front of the screen. They can be viewed with the naked eye from anything up to a 120 degree angle. "People stand in their tracks, they are stunned by what they see," claims Myles Owens, chief executive officer of X3D. 3D displays that can be viewed without special goggles have been used to enhance high-end laptop computers and television sets, mainly in Japan. But now X3D Technologies is marketing its product to advertisers in Europe and the US as a new way to tantalise customers. To create an artificial perception of depth using a two-dimensional screen each eye must see a slightly different image. The brain processes the discrepancies between the images and fuses them to provide the 3D view. "We continue to strive for broadcasting 3D content. That is the future of advertising," he says.

Source: Webindia123.com / Google / Newscientist.com



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