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     Volume 5 Issue 96 | May 26, 2006 |

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The intelligent toilet
Neorest, the company that manufacture these high-tech looking loos, describe them as "an experience beyond words" and having read the specifications, I don't think they're exaggerating! The lid automatically opens as you walk up to the throne. The seat's heated of course, and as you get down to business, a catalytic air purifier kicks in to remove any "unwanted odours", with a manual power override for those particularly unpleasant visits. There's a warm-water massage spray and a hot air dryer, and you can control the temperature and intensity of both using the LCD panel.
Once you've finished and left the "sensor zone" the toilet automatically closes the lid and starts a three stage "Cyclone" flush; the strength of which depends on how long you've been busy on the toilet and previous patterns of usage. The only thing missing from the toilet are speakers. You could install audio sensors and program the toilet to play a light Vivaldi number to help you wind down, safe in the knowledge that it would be ready to switch over to the 1812 Overture should your bowels become more active.

We see more than we think we do
University of California-Riverside scientists say humans perceive more than they think they do -- even reading unheard speech from the movement of dots. Volunteers in Psychology Professor Lawrence Rosenblum's listening lab have demonstrated they can also recognise people's voices just from seeing their faces. We get people ready for a test and tell them what we want them to do, and a lot of them think there's absolutely no way they'll be able to do that, said Rosenblum. Some are very surprised when it turns out that they can. In another experiment, undergraduates were shown three shapes -- a triangle, a disc and a square cut from sound-insulating foam board. They also saw an array of eight horn-style loudspeakers that the shapes would block and were told the speakers would make a white-noise sound. Blindfolded, they were asked to identify which shape was positioned in front of the loudspeakers. Our results show that listeners can identify the shape of sound-occluding objects at better than chance levels, with some listeners displaying near-perfect performance.

Hide and Seek Alarm Clock
What's fluffy, has two wheels and likes to play hide and seek? A clocky, but what exactly is a clocky? A clocky is a new and irritating way to be woken up in the morning. Like most alarm clocks you can press snooze to get an extra 9 minutes of shuteye, however when the clocky snooze button is pressed it rolls away and tries to hard. So when your 9 minutes is up you'll have to play your part in the hide and seek game in order to turn it off. The clocky is only at the prototype stage at the moment but there is an entertaining video of it in action on the Discovery Channel. It seems somewhat of a cross between a hamster and toilet brush.

Rules for the modern robot
Is there a way to ensure robotic fighter planes do not mistake civilians for enemy soldiers and kill innocent people? Is "system malfunction" a justifiable defence for contravening the Geneva Convention? Should robotic sex dolls resembling children be allowed? Such are the concerns of a group of leading roboticists, who met this week in Palermo, Sicily, to discuss measures to prevent robots unnecessarily harming people. "Security, safety and sex are the big concerns," says Henrik Christensen, chairman of the European Robotics Network (EURON). In the next few years robots will begin entering our homes and workplaces, making guidelines to govern their use increasingly important. With the US military already using armed robotic spy planes in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is a pressing need for safeguards to ensure they are reliable. Animatronic sex dolls are also already on the market, raising questions over whether and how their use should be regulated. There are safety risks even with domestic or service robots, because it is impossible for designers and manufacturers to fully predict how they will behave. Modelling itself on the Pugwash Conferences, an international organisation founded in 1957 that encouraged the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the new group will next month release a roadmap detailing the main areas requiring new guidelines or legislation and begin lobbying governments.

Coughing Ashtray
Do you have the desire to quit smoking? Would you like a friend a family member to give up this nasty habit? On the other hand, maybe you enjoy playing practical jokes all others. No matter what your reason this coughing ashtray is sure to be blast. Just put the coughing ashtray on the table or hand it to a friend the next time they light up in your house. As soon as they use the ashtray, it will begin coughing very loudly. Maybe they will soon get the hint that your home is a smoke free environment. This would also be a great ashtray to take to work and place in the smoking area, if you have one, or outside where smoking is permitted. Then every time someone uses the ashtray, the coughing and laughter will begin.

Arm Pillows
It's a pillow available in Japan that is designed for people (mostly women) who like to nestle up to an armpit when going to sleep. Basically its a pillow shaped in a half body one arm kind of way, and lets the sleeper snuggle and cuddle when trying to get to sleep.

Dutch design glasses with hearing aid
Dutch scientists say they have designed eye glasses that also double as a hearing aid. The researchers at the Delft University of Technology say these hearing-glasses offer an alternative to the technologically limited traditional hearing aids. Varibel has developed these glasses into a consumer product in partnership with Philips, Frame Holland, and the design agencies MMID and Verhoeven. Experts say traditional hearing aids intensify sounds from all directions, causing wearers to hear noise but not the people to whom they are talking. They say the Varibel features four tiny, interconnected microphones in each of the legs of the glasses frame, which selectively intensify the sounds that come from the direction the person is looking, while dampening the surrounding noise. An ENT specialist involved in the clinical tests for Varibel said: Practical experience with the hearing-glasses supports the theoretical claims that the ability to understand speech is much better. There is a significant improvement in the sound quality.


Compiled by IMRAN H. KHAN


Source: New Scientist, Wired and Coolest-gadgets.com


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