Honda humanoid wins award

Alameda, Calif.-based Wind River Systems Inc. last month announced that it was awarding Honda Motor Co. Ltd. with its ‘Cool Customer Design Award’ for its ASIMO humanoid robot. Launched in Tokyo in November 2000, an improved version of ASIMO was also released in November 2001. ASIMO features Honda’s “advanced flexible walking technology,” which the company says will enable it to be used in public areas. The robot is able to climb and descend stairs and slopes, and is also capable of receiving voice input and guiding customers, according to Honda. ASIMO also features independent movement along a prescribed course. The user simply sets a rough point of departure, termination point and relay points to prevent ASIMO from straying off course, and the robot is able to correct its own foot placement and body direction one step at a time. The robot stands four feet high, weighs approximately 115 pounds and gains its power from nickel-zinc batteries. ASIMO uses the VxWorks Operating System from Wind River, a software and services provider. Wind River says ASIMO is not the first robot to use its operating system, as it has been used in industrial robots before. The ASIMO model is available for rent in Japan, but no information was available at press time about the robot’s availability in North America.

Beam it up

Australian scientists last month announced that they had successfully completed the “teleportation” of a laser beam to a different location, one yard away. The laser beam was encoded with data, broken up and was reconstructed at the “arrival” site, according to reports. The scientists – from the Australian National University – noted that their technique will primarily be used as a method to encrypt data as well as for a new generation of speedy computers. The scientists have reached the point where they are only able to teleport light by totally destroying the existing beam and recreating a copy at the other end from photons, which are light particles. As of right now, there are no current plans to work on the teleportation of a human being or living thing, as it would be virtually impossible, according to the scientists. The complexities involved in that type of endeavour are so enormous, that no one is really thinking of it yet.

Canuck company moves along the pay process

A Toronto-based company has developed the ability to use e-mail to conduct money transfers, and last month announced that users can now send and receive them. CertaPay Inc., a producer of real-time payment offerings, said CIBC, ScotiaBank, Bank of Montreal and TD Canada Trust are all starting to offer the Email Money Transfers. Desjardins Group of Quebec recently announced that it would be joining the network as well. The service works like this: customers are able to use Email Money Transfers as an alternative to paper cheques and cash, as a form of pre-authorized payment. People who bank online with any of the participating institutions will see the feature added to their online banking service. According to the company, all a user will need is an online banking password, the recipient’s e-mail address, and a security question known by both the senders and recipients. The senders simply follow the prompts offered through their bank’s Web site. The recipients will soon after receive a notification e-mail, which will instruct them to click onto a link which takes them to their bank online. The recipients can then log in and deposit the funds to whichever account they desire. The company also said that a recipient who does not bank at any of the listed institutions is still able to receive Email Money Transfers via the CertaPay Transfer Site.

A picture is worth a thousand words

A newly discovered e-mail virus is currently nor wreaking havoc, but experts are warning that its discovery could mean that no files are safe. The W32/Perrun virus is the first ever reported JPEG infector, according to security firm According to the company’s Web site, “It is multi-component in nature, requiring an extractor file to extract (and execute) the virus body from infected JPEG files. Infected JPEGs are unable to replicate on non-infected machines – ie. machines without the extractor component installed (hooked in the Registry).” The virus has not yet been found in action, as the virus’s creator sent it to the security firm. McAfee said Perrun’s author has released a second variant, which targets text files with the filename extension of .TXT.