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In the News 01-05-11

This week in the News…

December 29, 2010.

3-feet high eggs could be South Korea’s wave of the future.

Well, not eggs, exactly. Twenty-nine egg-shaped bots (named Engkey) have started teaching English to South Korean children as part of a pilot program aimed at supporting the blossoming robot industry.

The 3.3ft high bots have a TV panel (which shows a female Caucasian face) that that can speak to the students while wheeling around the classroom. They are able to read books and dance by moving their arms and heads. The kids love the robots, especially the shy kids, who feel more comfortable talking to a robot than a real person.

However, the robots are not as they appear. In actuality, the robots are run by well-educated teachers in the Philippines, who can see and hear the children via a remote control system.

As one South Korean administrator put it: “They won’t complain about health insurance, sick leave and severance package, or leave in three months for a better-paying job in Japan… all you need is a repair and upgrade every once in a while.’ The South Korean Government shelled out 1.37 million dollars for the pilot program.

Repair, upgrades and no health insurance, indeed.

December 30, 2010.

Come see the movie side of Sears.

Not to be outdone by, well, everyone else, Sears and Kmart have launched a new online video rental service called Alphaline Entertainment [1] owned by Sonic Solutions [2].

Alphaline Entertainment lets people watch movies and TV shows “the same day they are released on DVD and Blu-ray,” Sears said in a news release. You do not have to have a membership to rent movies, either; one at a time is just fine. The videos are viewable on computers, televisions and mobile phones that run a video viewer called Divx [3].

Sears and Kmart are apparently trying to edge their way into digital media. However, is it really competing with the likes of, say, Netflix, when the movies cost the same as any typical rental service? Then again, Sears and Kmart have had real success with heavily discounted DVDs and CDs; maybe that will be enough to bring in the digital media crowd.

Users can’t burn any of the movies to DVD, but they can watch movies on a TV screen connected via an S-video jack to their PC. So you rent a movie for the same amount of money that you always do (some incentive there), and you have to go out and buy a special jack so that when you rent your television episodes, you can watch them on…television?

I think I’ll stick with cable.

A final tidbit…

New Scientist has come out with a list of their top videos of 2010 [4]. While all of them were wonderful, the number one slot belongs to what seems to defy at least one law of physics.

The impossible Motion [5]” illusion by Sugiahara Kokichi shows how wooden balls seemingly run up the slopes, contrary to the definition of gravity.

Take a look at first prize for “Best Illusion of the Year [6]” (world-wide).

Sugiahara Kokichi is Specially Appointed Professor and Doctor of Engineering at Meiji Institute for Advanced Study of Mathematical Sciences in Kawasaki, Japan. The 7th Annual contest was located in Naples, Florida, at the Philharmonic Center for the Arts.

“The contest is a celebration of the ingenuity and creativity of the world’s premier visual illusion research community. Visual illusions are those perceptual experiences that do not match the physical reality.” Neuralcorrelate.com [7].

Have a great week!

~ Lori Cline