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Newsletter September 17, 2001

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Humanity on the edge between the real and the virtual

Able to speak, express feelings and move like real humans, they offer the advantage of being able to work 24/7 without complaining or needing a star's salary. They are called Eve, Ananova or Jackie Strike. They are stars on the Internet, but don't try to go and meet them at their workplace: these "people" do not exist! Nevertheless, virtual humans are everywhere: cinema, Internet, video games, politics… Nothing can hold them back!

Take Eve for example, a 22 year old lady who likes dancing and chatting, happily tells her life story and even has her own identity papers. Born in France, she lives just outside Paris and is driven to achieve her goal: to become a showbiz star. And what about Jackie Strike, the virtual candidate at last year's presidential election in the USA? Her web site details her electoral program and has a wealth of other information relating to her campaign trail.

At the cinema, Columbia Pictures latest movie heralds the arrival of a new era which could have some actors worried that they might be replaced one day by their virtual colleagues. Because in "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within", all the actors are virtual. Sometimes it works in the opposite direction, when the virtual becomes real as in the case of Lara Croft, played by a flesh and blood actress in the recent movie.

It could be argued that it is necessary to use virtual humans for safety reasons (in the place of stuntmen), to satisfy the imagination (for characters that would be impossible to recreate in real life) or for the sheer fun of it (in fairy tales, for example). For now, let's just point out that their presence is becoming less and less discreet, and their appearance is developing in leaps and bounds. Is the era of "real" coming to an end?

Ananova :
Jackie strike :

Virtual humans on AgentLand:


> Atomica, encyclopaedic knowledge is within one click's reach
Atomica is an agent which provides the information you want in a click of the mouse. From your computer or any other application, search for any term or expression and get immediate answers.

> WebZIP : the site retrieval toolbox
With its user-friendly interface and original features, WebZIP combines business with pleasure. It's not only a site retriever, but also a real content management tool because it is able to capture, update, compress and export the retrieved information.


> AudioGalaxy
AudioGalaxy, one of the most popular peer-to-peer systems on the Internet at the moment, has just launched a paid subscription service, "AudioGalaxy Gold". Although still far from an all-pay model, such as the one adopted by Napster, AudioGalaxy Gold would seem to mark a new phase in the development of this particular file-sharing system. The service offers an improved version of AudioGalaxy Satellite, servers dedicated to subscribers and is free from advertising. Subscriptions can be taken for 2, 6 or 12 months. The big unknown is the interest it will create among a public that is used to getting music on-line without having to pay anything at all.

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> Alexa
Alexa is an advertising-supported Web navigation service. It works with your browser and accompanies you as you surf, providing useful information about the sites you are viewing and suggesting related sites.


> What's up Doc?,1282,46552,00.html
No need to worry any longer about the surgeon's hand shaking during delicate brain surgery -- intelligent robots are set to take over.
The surgeon instructs the robot by marking a target and an approach path on the patient's scan. The robot carries a camera that automatically matches the scanner image to the position of the patient's head on the operating table. "PathFinder is the first robot with the intelligence to map-read a patient's skull from a scanner image," said Patrick Finlay, Armstrong's managing director.

> The .comMouse
It searches the Internet and collects the automatically updated information : it is the .comMouse.
Developed by the German company comMouse AG, the .comMouse brings you auction offers, shopping bargains, stock prices or the latest news - you just have to tell it what you want to know. Information is permanently sent to the Mouse's display screen. Without any delay you can access the complete Internet content with one click on the @-button.

> Lucy's personal website
Lucy, the orang-utan robot baby, has now its own "personal" web site. Lucy was conceived in May 2000 by Cyberlife Research, and researchers are now ready to start building the very large neural network that will tie its vision, hearing, voice, muscles and proprioceptors together to make Lucy into a complete organism.
Don't be fooled by its cute looks and stunning personality, though. Under its skin lies some pretty neat technology, and the primary objective - the design of its brain - is serious scientific and technological research.


> 2001 P2P Networking Overview: The Emergent P2P Platform of Presence, Identity, and Edge Resources
This book from O'Reilly Research has been written by Clay Shirky, Kelly Truelov, Rael Dornfest & Lucas Gonze. It is a comprehensive look at peer-to-peer from business and technical perspectives. The authors describes the state of the industry and offers their opinions about where it's going to go next, with hard data to back us up.
2001 P2P Networking Overview contains company profiles, estimates of community size, describes present and future of P2P services, etc.

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