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Newsletter August 06, 2001

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2001: an automobile odyssey ?

It is the year 2001 but we are not living on the moon and robots are still not as intelligent as humans. The vision of 1980s sci-fi movies is far off – in theory, we should be living in glass-walled houses and travelling in flying cars. This type of vehicle doesn’t yet exist. But developments in technology and embarked electronics are opening the way for vehicles that will be both surprising and practical.

In today’s vision, the car of the future no longer floats on a magnetic field. Instead, it is a cocktail of technologies that make it possible to be connected to the Internet, send and receive messages, watch movies during the journey and get directions from an electronic map. Top of the range models already offer all these functions.

True innovation will come from the field of artificial intelligence. IBM for example is currently developing an artificial passenger to ensure long solo journeys are less dangerous and more enjoyable. This is neither a robot nor a blow-up model in the passenger seat: thanks to built-in speech recognition programs, it can put on your favorite music, monitor your driving and warn if your concentration wavers. Such a companion could prove very useful, as it would suggest taking a short break when tiredness starts to set in and vigilance drops.

In the perpetual search for more comfort and security, OnStar (General Motors’ mobile communication division) is planning to install voice synthesis software in its vehicles that will be able to read aloud e-mails, stock prices, news headlines and sports results, without the driver having to take their eyes off the road.

These innovations will transform our cars into vehicles of the future. But isn’t there a risk that in the long run drivers will become over-confident? What happens when the electronics breaks down? We can never say it often enough, take care on the road!

Everything about smart cars:


> C4U : The Web watchman
C4U is an intelligent monitoring agent that will notify you each time there is a change in the text, images, links etc. in the designated pages.

> KaZaA : the Swiss Army Knife of peer-to-peer agents
Heard the latest hit on the radio? It was only a minute ago, but already it's impossible for you to live without it? You must have it! Don't panic…take the KaZaA route to satisfying your thirst for music and multimedia.

> Alexa makes Web sites talk
Alexa is a browsing agent that works with your Web browser, providing it with some interesting new options. Want to have more information about the site you are currently visiting ? Then Alexa is the agent that you need.

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A G E N T   U P D A T E S

>> MP3 <<

> WinMP3Locator
WinMP3Locator, the MP3 search agent, has been updated. There are no banners in this new version 4.0 and the search engine list has been updated. WinMP3Locator can now pass the links to Windows Clipboard or export all located links to a simple TXT or HTML-file, so you can send it to a friend!. WinMP3Locator deletes broken and duplicate links. Also, it checks if file-hosting servers can resume interrupted transfers, so you can choose the best server to download from.


> Talking E-mail
Talking E-mail is a highly customizable E-mail notifier that enables you to listen to your messages as they arrive, via animated cartoon characters. Without interfering with your other work, Talking E-mail lets you know who is trying to contact you, and what they have to say.


> The smart house by IBM
Imagine being paged with word that the milk in the refrigerator has spoiled. Imagine turning off the porch light at home while vacationing at the beach. In the future, when the words "home computer" take on new meaning, it might be possible. That future is on display now at an IBM lab, where researchers are testing new technology in a fully furnished living room, kitchen and garage.

> A Droid for the International Space Station
Inspired by science fiction classics, NASA scientists are building a talking, thinking and flying robot to help astronauts with their chores in space. It's a computerized personal assistant with artificial intelligence.
The design was actually inspired by the small floating sphere that Luke Skywalker sparred against in the original "Star Wars". Soon these little robots, called "Personal Satellite Assistants" (PSAs), may be flying on board the space shuttle and living in the International Space Station (ISS). They will help the crew save valuable time by assisting with routine tasks. And they could be lifesavers when emergencies arise.

> The first mass-market wearable computer
The Wearable Internet Appliance (WIA) consists of a 11 ounce palm-top-sized computer and a head-mounted screen. The display is manufactured by a Japanese company called Shimadzu and fits over one eye like half a pair of sunglasses.
The viewable screen is then equivalent to a 13 inch monitor, according to Shimadzu. A small handheld controller allows the user to scroll around the screen and make selections.
The "WIA" will be on sale Christmas 2001 for around $2000, depending on the configuration.

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> Active Vision Laboratory
Research into the Active Vision Laboratory at the University of Oxford (United Kingdom) is concerned with devising, implementing and testing methods which allow machine vision systems to determine where they should view a scene from but also how they should view it. Application areas include visual surveillance, autonomous navigation, and telerobotics.

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