tech news

BBC NEWS | Technology | Virtual worlds to test telepathy
A virtual world designed to test human telepathy has been demonstrated at the University of Manchester, UK.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Viruses leap to smart radio tags
Security researchers have infected a Radio Frequency ID tag with a computer virus to show how the technology is vulnerable to malicious hackers.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Congress ‘made Wikipedia changes’

Online reference site Wikipedia blames US Congress staff for partisan changes to a number of political biographies. The article on President Bush has been altered so many times - not just from within Congress - that Wikipedia’s volunteer monitors have had to block further “editing”

Computers traced to Capitol Hill removed unpalatable facts from articles on senators, while other entries were “vandalised”, the site said. An inquiry was launched after staff for Democratic representative Marty Meehan admitted polishing his biography.

Wikipedia is produced by readers who add entries and edit any page, and has become a widely-used reference tool.

BBC NEWS | Technology | The year of the digital citizen

2005 was arguably the year citizens really started to do it for themselves. Raising mobiles aloft, they did not just talk and text, they snapped, shared and reported the world around them.

Crucially, what 2005 proved was that far from these techno tools being purely dumb funnels for the same paid-for content from mainstream media, they had the chance to become powerful tools for political expression and reportage.

The consumer was turning into the citizen with a meaningful role to play. Media started to look more participatory and inclusive.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Wordsmiths hail podcast success

Podcasting has been crowned as the phenomenon of 2005.

The term ‘podcast’ has been declared as Word of the Year by the New Oxford American Dictionary.

The term is defined as “a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the internet for downloading to a personal audio player”.

It will be added to the online version of the dictionary during the next update early next year.

This Laser Trick’s a Quantum Leap

Physicists in Australia have slowed a speeding laser pulse and captured it in a crystal, a feat that could be instrumental in creating quantum computers.

The scientists slowed the laser light pulse from 300,000 kilometers per second to just several hundred meters per second, allowing them to capture the pulse for about a second.

The accomplishment marks a new world record, but the scientists are more thrilled that they were able to store and recall light, an important step toward quantum computing.

“What we’ve done here is create a quantum memory,” said Dr. Matthew Sellars of the Laser Physics Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.

Slowing down light allows scientists to map information onto it. The information is then transferred from the light to the crystal, Sellars said. Then when the scientists release the light, the information is transferred back onto the beam.

“Digital information can be expressed with pulses of light,” Sellars said. “If we can store the light pulses for a very long time, we have a memory that operates on a quantum scale.”

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Microgrids as peer-to-peer energy

Small networks of power generators in “microgrids” could transform the electricity network in the way that the net changed distributed communication.

That is one of the conclusions of a Southampton University project scoping out the feasibility of microgrids for power generation and distribution.

Microgrids are small community networks that supply electricity and heat.

They could make substantial savings, and emissions cuts with no major changes to lifestyles, researchers say.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Broadband to rule the TV waves

IPTV (internet protocol TV), as it is known, is a budding area that is exciting telecoms and media companies.

Within a decade, says the report from Lovelace Consulting and informitv, TV delivered to sets over the net will be an established way to receive content.

TV will be much more web-like, with millions of shows to download.

Within five years, the authors predict, many households will have their TV piped through a satellite dish, rooftop aerial or cable network, and through a broadband phone line.

TVs will be hooked up to set-top boxes which are in turn hooked up to the broadband pipe too. The broadcast and on-demand programmes it will be able to receive will be in standard as well as high-definition formats.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Vloggers get political in Norway

A video-blogger from Bergen in Norway is turning his camcorder on politicians, ahead of Norwegian parliamentary elections on Monday.

Twenty-seven-year-old Raymond Kristiansen weaves quickly in and out of the crowds of locals and tourists on the streets of Bergen. He carries with him a small, hand-held camcorder that seems like a natural extension of his arm.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Synthesiser pioneer Dr Moog dies

Synthesiser pioneer Dr Robert Moog has died at his North Carolina home aged 71, four months after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

Dr Moog built his first electronic instrument - a theremin - aged 14 and made the MiniMoog, “the first compact, easy-to-use synthesiser”, in 1964.

He won the Polar prize, Sweden’s “music Nobel prize”, in 2001.

WorldChanging: Another World Is Here: Remote Control

It’s long been known that certain kind of electrical stimulation can trigger changes to body perceptions of its location and where various limbs are (and aren’t) — a kind of awareness known scientifically as “proprioception.” The body area so stimulated is the “vestibular” system, which controls balance. Electric stimulations of the vestibular system are used in research on the body perceives itself (PDF), and as a way to control balance disorders. But it turns out that Galvanic Vestibular Stimulation (GVS) can do much more. Researchers at Japan’s Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) have found that it’s possible to use GVS to the mastoid region (just behind and below the ear) in order to “steer” a walking person. Moreover, they are already planning on commercializing this technology.

NTT’s version of GVS was unveiled at the recent SIGGRAPH conference. The fact sheet for the demo gives a few details:

There is no feeling of enforced action. Because users are navigated very naturally and almost unconsciously, they are not distracted by the stimulation and are aware that their behavior was an effect of the stimulation only afterward.The device provides a virtual sense of acceleration without an expensive mechanical platform synchronized to the flow of movies. When the stimulation is synchronized to musical rhythms, the device provides a very amazing experience. Especially when stimulation is at a high frequency (more than 1~2 Hz), users feel as if their visual fields and bodies are tremblingly along with the rhythm.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Student held over online mugging

Police in Japan have arrested a Chinese student over the use of a network of software “bots” to steal items in an online role playing game (RPG).

Players were attacked in the game, Lineage II, and their items were then sold for cash on auction sites.

The attacks were carried out using automated bots, which are difficult for human game players to defeat.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Scientists make nerve stem cells

The world’s first pure batch of nerve stem cells made from human stem cells has been created in Edinburgh, scientists have reported.

It is hoped the newly-created cells will eventually help scientists find new treatments for diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

BBC science correspondent Pallab Ghosh says the cells should help researchers test the effectiveness of new drugs.

Stem cells are “master” cells that can become many kinds of tissue.

Nerve stem cells are those which help build the brain and central nervous system.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Thin skin will help robots ‘feel’

Japanese researchers have developed a flexible artificial skin that could give robots a humanlike sense of touch.
The team manufactured a type of “skin” capable of sensing pressure and another capable of sensing temperature.

These are supple enough to wrap around robot fingers and relatively cheap to make, the researchers have claimed.

BBC NEWS | Technology | CCTV video mixes maps and images

Smart software is taking CCTV into the domain of 3D gaming by combining graphics, map data, and different camera views in one composite image.

The system automatically tracks and stitches 3D images with CCTV video, maps and other real-time information.

It automatically alerts operators to intruders, unusual behaviour, left objects or anything it is told to spot.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Total recall boosts PDA writing

The idea of remembering word patterns and connecting the dots might not sound like an easy way to write an e-mail.

But IBM researchers are betting that tracing letters on a touch screen will become the way to write on a handheld device like a PDA or mobile phone.

They have developed software that works by recognising the patterns of words.

“In the long run this will be one of the major interaction methods for mobile devices,” said IBM researcher Shumin Zhai.

Dubbed Shark (Shorthand-Aided Rapid Keyboarding), the team say the software is ready to go into commercial development and could be bundled with PDAs in the coming months.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Digital Citizens: The DIY DJs

It transformed the way they enjoyed music as individuals, but the pair, who run a research firm together, realised that MP3 players could also transform music in the public arena.

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Digital Citizens: The blogger

From blogging to podcasting, millions of ordinary people are becoming writers, journalists, broadcasters and film-makers thanks to increasingly affordable and accessible tools.

BBC NEWS | Health | ‘Thoughts read’ via brain scans

Scientists say they have been able to monitor people’s thoughts via scans of their brains.

Teams at University College London and University of California in LA could tell what images people were looking at or what sounds they were listening to.

The US team say their study proves brain scans do relate to brain cell electrical activity.

The UK team say such research might help paralysed people communicate, using a “thought-reading” computer.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Reports of Vista virus rebutted

Microsoft has hit back at reports of the first virus for its new version of Windows, dubbed Vista.

Last week an Austrian programmer published examples of malicious code that exploits a Microsoft command shell technology currently under development.

But the software giant has said the technology targeted will not be part of the next version of Windows.

“These reports pose no risk for Microsoft customers,” said the firm’s Stephen Toulouse in a blog posting.

Vista, previously codenamed Longhorn, is due for release towards the end of 2006, half a decade after Windows XP.

BBC NEWS | Technology | Arthur C Clarke sees e-mail for all

There are few people alive who can claim to have contributed more to the world of science than Sir Arthur C Clarke. He has just celebrated his 85th birthday. In a rare interview with the BBC, he shared his vision of a future when everyone would be hooked up to the internet.