Lost Packets: Networking news and trivia

Send a cyberhug with new wireless teddy

In this day and age, working parents are so busy that they have little time to give their children a hug. To solve this problem, Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University has developed a jacket that will allow children to receive “cyberhugs” from parents, even those thousands of miles away. Teddy bears equipped with sensors are used to record parental hugs and transmit them wirelessly over the Internet. The jacket will convert the embraces using mobile phone-style vibrations and heated copper threads. The makers said the jacket should be available in June. As well, Asian inventors have come up with a garment that is also a gadget. The garment uses nanotechnology with solar panels on the shoulders that can harness enough energy to recharge a cellphone.

Hollywood voices will drive you there

“I pity the fool” who has to take directions from Mr. T, Burt Reynolds or Dennis Hopper to get to their favourite restaurants. But, it’s true. Calfornia-based NavTones has contracted the actors to give driving directions some personality. Besides directions, each voice offers a few extra phrases here and there. For example, instead of Mr. T saying, “You have reached your destination,” he would say, “What is that? That’s where you were going? Oh, man. You wasted my time!” Another company, TomTom, has John Cleese and fictional characters like a New York City cab driver. Currently, the voices for NavTones will work only on portable navigation devices that can be connected to a computer. NavTone says its users can download voices at www.navtones.com and promises more are on the way. Voices for TomTom navigation devices are also currently available.

Amateur DJs hit the clubs with iPods

Beware professional DJs — the iPod may one day take away your job. It’s already starting to happen at some popular nightspots in the United States. The trend sees people bringing in their iPods or other portable music devices and sharing their music library with the club crowd. One bar in Boston has “mp3j nights” that allow patrons to play 15-minute sets. Experts say the trend is not surprising, adding that it’s a way for technology to encourage people to socialize. The only thing these amateur DJs need is a basic iPod and a link to the bar’s sound system. Professional DJs aren’t going to be left out in the cold by this portable trend, though. They’re waiting for technology that will allow them to perform creative mixing on a single portable player, as well as the “scratching” they do with vinyl albums.

Seeing through dangerous situations

A camera the size of a baseball will soon be available to help law enforcement officials in the United States during hostage or other dangerous situations. Called the EyeBall, it weighs less than a pound and is protected by a rugged rubber and polyurethane housing that allows it to be thrown through windows or bounced off walls. When thrown, the ball will stabilize, then wirelessly relay video and audio for two hours up to 200 yards away. The EyeBall was created by an Israeli company for the Israeli army and recently won approval from the Federal Communications Commission for use in the United States. Two EyeBalls will cost police US$4,800 and replacements will cost US$1,700 apiece.

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