Lost Packets: Networking news and trivia

Getting more than just a vowel

Online players of “Wheel of Fortune” will get an opportunity only their television counterparts up to now have had: winning cash, trips and other prizes. Existing video game versions of the game show only let players compete against computerized opponents but as of this month players can compete online versus real people. Newton, Mass-based WorldWinner Inc. teamed up with Sony Pictures Digital to set up the new online game. There will be some free versions offered but if players want to win money they will have to pay. The cost per game is about US$1 but can go as high as US$10. Progressive tournaments are planned with higher jackpots dependent on the number of players. Later in the year, the company plans on adding “Jeopardy!” to its line-up.

Don’t talk and drive

If you live in the province of Manitoba, you better not get caught talking on your cellphone while driving because you could be breaking the law. Before enacting such a law the province’s Transportation Minister Ron Lemieux said there are numerous things to consider such as whether a ban would be effective in reducing collisions and how the law should be enforced. Manitoba will also consider either a full ban on cellphone use in cars or a partial one by allowing the use of hands-free devices. The Tory justice critic suggested the government should start by banning cellphone use by novice drivers. A recent report from the British Medical Journal said the use of any type of cellphone while driving quadruples the risk of getting in a crash with serious injuries. Newfoundland is the only province to ban cellphone use while driving, but does allow hands-free phones.

From the Earth to the Moon

First Google introduced Google Earth that lets users search the planet for addresses using satellite imagery. Now Google wants to take its users to the moon. Debuting last month, Google Moon won’t give you driving directions to businesses on the moon but will give you the location of all six Apollo lunar landings. The site jokes that by July 20th, 2069, the 100th anniversary of the first moon landing, Google will integrate a search engine so visitors can look up lunar businesses and other moon-related information. And if you zoom in close enough you will discover that the moon is indeed made of cheese.

Rise of the machines

Sony, Honda and others have developed robots that can sing, dance, run, tell jokes and even play instruments. Now these big name manufacturers are turning their attention to the next evolution of robots from a form of entertainment to the role of caregiver. What is driving this robotic evolution is concern over the world’s aging population. In Japan these personal robots are becoming the rage as they can vacuum the house and even play with the kids. This year alone, Japanese consumers are expected to spend almost US$4 billion on first generation domestic robots and by 2025 that spending could increase to US$40 billion. The only hindrance to widespread acceptance is negative public perception of these machines, which critics blame on Hollywood for portraying robots bent on world domination.

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