Daily News Brief: Tech News from Around the World, and Beyond. Literally.

Daily News Brief: Tech News from Around the World, and Beyond. Literally.


Modern Day Pinocchio

Remember the TV show Small Wonder, a 1980s sitcom about a robotic child named Vickie that a family tries to pass off as a human? Two decades later, it's still a fantastical concept, just don't tell that to David Hanson and company, the group responsible for Zeno, the 17 inch robot that looks like a child. Sort of. Sporting a resemblance of a cross between CGI animation and a Yu Gi Oh character (he was built to look like Astro boy), students from grades 3-12 will get a chance to see Zeno in action at the Wired NextFest technology conference in LA. As of now, Zeno doesn't talk or walk, with motion limited to blinking eyes capable of tracking people and a wide range of facial expressions. Within the next three years, Hanson hopes to sell little Zenos for $200 to $300.

Cell Phones Deemed Even Safer

Last week we went over conflicting reports from the Mayo Clinic and research by the University of Amsterdam on whether or not cell phone use could interfere with medical equipment. Continuing the investigation of these potentially dangerous devices, a UK study concludes there's no link between cell phone use and brain cancer. At least in the short term. The Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research Programme (MTRH) conducted studies on volunteers over a six year period, and found no evidence that cell phone signals adversely affect brain function. However, the committee is recommending further research into any potential long term effects.

Online Reputation

Savvy internet shoppers know all about the importance of their online reputation, as graded by others. EBay, the online auction site, has in place a system of leaving feedback based on your username, as does Craigslist, which uses your email address. So too does Heatware, the popular rating system for anyone familiar with For Sale forums. The systems in place are great for each individual service, but for the end user, it means rebuilding their reputation should they decide to take their established business from one site to another. Shawn Broderick from TrustPlus Inc., a Boston based startup working to build a community of collaborative trust, would like to change the way online reputations are viewed. Their service links together several sources of rating a person's online reputation, which can translate to dating services too. Keep that in mind the next time you stand up your blind date or make the decision to go Dutch.

Could Windows Update without your Permission?

According to ZDNet blogger Adrian Kingsley-Hughs, consider the accusation confirmed. Adrian suspected that Windows Update was stealithy altering system files without any user consent, so he set up a series of physical and virtual machines configured to ignore updates, and then monitored for any changes. And changes he found. The specific files altered depend on which OS was running, but Adrian notes several changes, with screenshots of the event viewer showing when they took place.

PCI-E Gets Creative

The PCI-E revolution brought dual graphics cards to the gamer's desktop by way of SLI and Crossfire, along with the promise of better busses for other add-in cards. But while the newer spec debuted a few motherboard generations ago, we've yet to see any common PCI cards being ported to the new standard. Of course, few of today's add-in peripherals need the additional bandwidth, but despite the lack of necessity, standard PCI slots are being sacrificed to make room for PCI-E, so what's the hold up in releasing cards that fit in the new slots? It's not simply the lack of necessity for the additional bandwidth, at least not for Creative, who plans to finally bring the X-Fi Extreme Audio to PCI-E. In an interview with Darragh O'Toole, Senior Brand Manager for Audio with Creative Labs Europe, he states that they "had always planned to port the range to PCI-E, but there were some initial design challenges involved which had to be overcome."

Google Space Race: First to Land on Moon Wins $20 Million

Having conquered the online landscape on Earth, Google's now looking to extend their name to the moon. Dubbed the Lunag X Prize, Google's offering a whopping $20 million purse to the first team to soft land a craft on the Moon. The craft must also roam for at least 500 meters and transmit a Mooncast back to Earth. The deadline for doing so is set at December 31, 2012, at which point the bounty drops to $15 million, with the contest ending altogether on December 31, 2014. To ensure competition stays interested, Google will also reward $5 million to the second place team, along with various bonuses for accomplishing certain tasks, like roving and finding water. In total, Google could potentially reward up to $30 million. Let the gMoon race begin...

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