Electronic game to keep kids active

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    THROW out your Xbox, young couch potato! Active electronic games that can alter themselves to hold players interest are on the way from the University of Southern Denmark in Odense.

    To find out what makes a game fun, 56 children aged between 8 and 10 were asked to play Bug Smasher , a game in which they squashed lights that appeared on pressure-sensitive floor tiles. In different versions of the game, the bugs appeared at various rates and made different sounds.

    The children were asked which versions they preferred, and the researchers combined their answers with measurements of their heart rate and how actively they played the game to create a program that predicts how much fun it is. They are planning games that monitor interest in real time and vary if the player gets bored.

    BICYCLE and other sports helmets are designed to fit European heads, making them uncomfortable for many Chinese. Now a database of 3D scans could help to provide a better fit.

    The back of the Chinese head is a bit flatter, and from the top they are rounder, said Johan Molenbroek from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands,

    690million dollars. The fine Microsoft must pay for freezing out rival server and audio/video player software in Europe


    who advised on a project called SizeChina. This deters some Chinese people from wearing helmets for cycling or snowboarding, he says.

    Roger Ball of the Asian Ergonomics Lab at Hong Kong Polytechnic University scanned more than 2000 adults from six Chinese cities and constructed models of the five most common head shapes. He hopes manufacturers will use them to tailor helmet designs, glasses and headphones.

    If you speak a language that isnt very popular, such as Hungarian or Kurdish, searching for images online is a pain. As pictures can only be searched using the text that labels them, it can be difficult to find the ones you want. Now researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, have created PanImages , an image search engine that translates search terms into hundreds of languages and searches those terms too.

    A ping in the ear could improve the sound of your MP3 player. The unique shape of your ear canal affects what you hear, making bass notes, say, easier to hear than trebles. Nokia of Finland is patenting (http://tinyurl.com/ypjcar) an earpiece that sounds a test tone in each ear and uses the echo to calculate the frequencies that each ear hears best. The player then boosts the volume of the weaker frequencies.






    Approach and landing

    When accidents happen (1997-2006)


    On the ground & unknown

    En route

    DANGER IN THE AIROver the past decade, there were on average 60 fatal civil aircraft accidents per year worldwide

    Computer scientist Scott Fahlman of Carnegie Mellon University, proposing the smiley emoticon 25 years ago this week. Since Fahlman suggested it on an electronic bulletin board on 19 September 1982 it has dispelled many misunderstandings and silenced numerous online diatribes (http://tinyurl.com/eyqyf)

    I propose the following character sequence for joke markers :-)

    Ready to loop the loop





    CE: E




    T OF F





    CE: E






    TY A



    Smasher grabs kids attention

    The shape of helmets to come

    www.newscientist.com 22 September 2007 | NewScientist | 27

    As it glides sedately beneath the waves, the rays languid grace belies a stunning capacity for underwater manoeuvres. With a flap of its wings, Aqua ray can swim upside down, loop the loop, hover or turn on a dime.

    As agile as a real manta ray, the rubbery, robotic acrobat (pictured right) is the handiwork of Rudolf Bannasch and Leif Kniese of bio-inspiration firm EvoLogics in Berlin, Germany, and could kick-start a new generation of autonomous underwater vehicles.

    Over the last decade AUVs, which are mostly propeller-driven , have been probing the oceans vast depths without the need for human pilots. But although they can be customised for either fine manoeuvring or long-distance cruising, only rarely can they do both.

    Enter battery-powered Aqua Ray: its wingspan of 1.5 metres gives it both propulsion and fine-motion control. The key to the wings agility lies with Finray, a technology that mimics a fish tail. An avid fisherman, Kniese noticed that cartilage rods run along both sides of fish tails and meet at the tip. Strands of elastic tissue connect the rods so that when one is tugged, the tail curls up, causing the familiar waggling motion. Tugged by hydraulic actuators, not muscles, the robot wings have the same structure, curling as they flap just like a fish tail and thrusting the robot along at a clip of 9 kilometres an hour.

    Currently being commercialised by German company Festo, the robot might inspect ship hulls, find shipwrecks or map the ocean floor using sonar.

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