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     Volume 4 Issue 72 | November 25, 2005 |

   News Notes
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GPS to Go
A new portable GPS player enables one to keep a trip's progress well in hand. The iWay 350c from Lowrance Electronics has a small (3.5") TFT touch screen which tells and shows the way based on NAVTEQ mapping data. The device has an MP3 player and will display photos loaded through MMC or SD cards. The audio can be broadcast to the vehicle's speakers, and it will automatically remap the directions if one makes a wrong turn. It comes at a hefty price of $500 and seems unnecessary as smartphones, handhelds or a dedicated GPS have the same function. But then again, one is more likely to lose or abuse a mobile phone or handheld that can be carried everywhere, as opposed to keeping this safe for car use.

Wastewater: Energy of the future?
PROFESSOR Jurg Keller at Australia's University of Queensland said he and his colleagues have discovered how to turn wastewater into electricity. "We're very excited about it," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "It has never been achieved before and there is really massive potential in this application." Keller said the complex process involves extracting the chemical energy from pollutants in wastewater and converting it to electricity using microbial fuel cells. It's all happening in a thin biofilm, a sort of slime layer on the electrode where bacteria are growing and directly producing an electrical current, Keller told the newspaper, saying electricity was generated from the slime in much the same way energy is released when wood is burned. Though it is unlikely wastewater will provide power on a large scale, the most obvious application is powering wastewater treatment plants, particularly in developing countries or areas with an unreliable power supply. This is not a solution to any energy crisis, Keller added. It is primarily a wastewater treatment operation, but energy is being generated as opposed to using up a lot of energy.

The Most Expensive Cell Phone
A luxury accessories maker in Austria is designing the most expensive mobile phone that will cost more than 500,000 pounds. Designed by Peter Aloisson, it will have sections of pure gold as well as 2,950 blue diamonds embedded on to its cover. The new phone is being designed on a special order from a German manufacturer. For the past few years, Aloisson has been customising existing mobiles with jewels and precious metals. The manufacturer currently produces about three phones per year, depending on orders from his celebrity clients, mostly retailing for about 20,000 pounds. Although the phone is being made for marketing purposes, it will eventually be sold off. "I knew that mobile phones would become part of daily life and as with all things that are part of daily life, such as watches or tie pins, there should be luxury versions of them," said a company official.

Einstein Resurrected
ALBERT Hubo," a robot topped with a head modelled after Albert Einstein, welcomes delegates to the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Busan, South Korea, this November. The Asia-Pacific summit offers South Korea a chance to showcase its humming economy, high-tech innovations and vibrant democracy. It also highlights the gulf with its poor, isolated neighbour: North Korea.

A nod is as good as a click
COMPUTER scientists are developing ways of operating gadgets using "body talk" such as the nod of a head. Joggers may soon be able to change tracks on digital music players without touching a button and SMS texters will no longer run the risk of an accident as they can send a message walking down a busy street, say researchers at Glasgow University. The scientists are currently developing the "audioclouds" technology in a bid to allow safe communication with any hand-held device - such as a mobile phone, MP3 players and hand-held computers - while on the move. Instead of fiddling with tiny buttons as is done now, the breakthrough will allow the devices to be activated by body gestures through surround-sound headphones. The headphones will create "audio windows" where streams of speech, data or music appear to come from different directions. The user will simply nod at whatever sound they want to listen to and the movement will be picked up by small sensors. A composed message will be read back through the headphones.
Professor Stephen Brewster, who is leading the project, said: "The technology will allow users to concentrate on the real world while interacting with their mobile device as naturally as if they were talking to a friend while walking. It will become possible to create a text by head movements or hand gestures without having to look at a screen. It could be possible to have music playing in the foreground, with news in the background. If you hear a breaking newsflash, you would simply nod at it and the sound stream would be brought to the foreground." Phone giants Nokia, Motorola and Samsung have already expressed an interest in the three-year project funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. According to Brewster: "We hope that by using surround-sound technology, a mobile phone user will never need to take their eyes off the road ahead."

Implantable heart pumps help some patients
DUKE University cardiologists say pumps implanted in the chest to maintain circulation can significantly extend lives of patients in end-stage heart failure. The implantable pumps can help the sickest patients who are not candidates for heart transplantation, according to the results of a clinical trial led by Duke University Medical Center cardiologist Dr. Joseph Rogers. The pumps, known as left ventricular assistant devices, are employed when the heart's left ventricle is too weak to pump enough blood to nourish the body's tissues. LVADs have been used as successful short-term bridges to heart transplant and are increasingly being considered as a long-term heart failure destination therapy. Researchers found patients receiving LVADs had an average survival time of 10.3 months, compared with 3.1 months for those not receiving the device. The patients who received the devices not only had a lengthened quantity of life, but they appeared to have an improved quality of life, said Rogers. We had patients who were doing the normal activities of life, such as driving cars, fishing and golfing.


Source: Wired, I4U News, AFP and Webindia123

Compiled by IMRAN H. KHAN


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