Jun 28, 2005 | Category: News
Burglars beware, robot guards are here. In an idea straight out of science fiction, robots could soon begin patrolling Japanese offices, shopping malls and banks to keep them safe from intruders.
Equipped with a camera and sensors, the Guardrobo D1, developed by Japanese security firm Sohgo Security Services Co, is designed to patrol along pre-programmed paths and keep an eye out for signs of trouble.
The 109cm tall robot will alert human guards via radio and by sending camera footage if it detects intruders, fires, or even water leaks.
Such robots are vital from a business standpoint when considering Japan’s ageing population, Sohgo Security said.
“In the near future, it is certain that securing young and capable manpower will become even more difficult…and the security industry will feel the full brunt of the impact,” the company said in a statement.
Around one in five Japanese are now 65 or over and the proportion is expected to rise to one in three in 2040, according to government data.
Sohgo Security is negotiating with several clients, and after an initial trial run hopes to begin offering a robot-assisted security system within a year, the company said.
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Jun 28, 2005 | Category: News
Apple Computer has switched to color screens for all its standard iPods, leaving only black and white screens on iPod minis.
“We think this continues to add heat to our lineup,” said Greg Joswiak, vice president of iPod product marketing. Joswiak declined to comment on reports that the iPod inventory had begun to swell ahead of Tuesday’s announcement, saying that the company is in a quiet period ahead of its earnings report next month.
The simplified lineup features a new 20GB color screen model for $299 (the same price as the older monochrome version), a 60GB model for $399 ($50 cheaper), and an updated iPod U2 Special Edition with a color screen for $329 ($20 cheaper). The company has dropped the 30GB iPod photo model, which sold for $349.
Apple also said that starting today iPods will offer “an easy to use Podcast menu, including bookmarking within a Podcast and the ability to display Podcast artwork in color” to coincide with the release of iTunes 4.9.
The iPods also include a podcast menu that allows users to bookmark spots within a downloaded recording and display color artwork associated with the program. Podcasts, or downloadable audio files, are offered by radio stations ranging from BBC to Clear Channel. Newsweek, ESPN and a host of amateur disc jockeys also offer the downloadable shows.
Apple said the iTunes podcast director includes more than 3,000 audio programs. The company has not said whether it plans to eventually offer paid podcasts through the service.
Unsurprisingly, all of the new full-size iPod models support the photo and album artwork features of the previous iPod photo models, allowing users to view their photo libraries on the iPod’s screen or on a TV. Apple said the new 20GB iPod holds up to 20,000 photos, compared to the 60GB version which holds up to 25,000. Both can import photos from a digital camera with the optional iPod Camera Connector.
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While the 7MP Nikon Coolpix 7900 is a great compact camera, it isn’t for everybody. Beginning and intermediate users will love the creative possibilities of the 7900’s scene modes, but the compact camera lacks the manual settings that experienced shooters will want for more control.
One of the more practical features of the 7900 is the Face Priority AF mode, a portrait-focusing feature included in the portrait scene assist mode. The feature was introduced at this year’s PMA show, and it works well, though it won’t work in every portrait situation, such as capturing someone in profile. With just a few improvements, though, this technology would really be worth using in the future.
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The Nikon D50 is a very good entry-level digital SLR that performs just as well as the more expensive D70s, though you’ll lose a few features along the way. Even so, many people will be happy to ditch those features to get an affordable D-SLR that performs very well.
The D50 is the “Mini Me” version of the D70s, with very minor cosmetic differences. It’s a little smaller and lighter, as well, but it wasn’t too small like the Digital Rebel XT is (in my opinion). Build quality is excellent and it does not feel “cheap” at all. The camera fits well in your hand with a substantial right hand grip, and all the important controls are easy-to-reach. One thing missing on the D50 is a backlight for the LCD info display — one of the few features from the D70s that I really miss.
Camera performance is superb: just flip the power switch and the D50 is ready to go. The camera focuses quickly and takes pictures without any noticeable shutter lag. Autofocus speeds were impressive, even in low light. While battery life isn’t as good as the D70s, it’s still excellent (and you can buy a higher capacity battery if you need to). Transferring photos is actually faster on the “cheap model” because it supports USB 2.0 High Speed, unlike the D70s.
Photo quality is very good overall, though the camera almost always overexposed the photos I took. The good news it that this is very easy to fix by adjusting the exposure compensation. Noise levels were low — perhaps even better than the D70s — and purple fringing was not a problem. Something else that wasn’t a problem on the D50 was redeye. Finally, images were a bit sharper than on most D-SLRs.
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The Canon PowerShot A75 is the 2004 update to Canon’s wildly popular PowerShot A70 model from 2003. Changes from the earlier PowerShot A70 are evolutionary rather than revolutionary, but there are plenty of them nonetheless. There’s a larger LCD (1.8 inches, up from 1.5), more Special modes, and a faster, more efficient DIGIC processor. The PowerShot A75 also debuts at $50 cheaper than its predecessor. Featuring a full 13 shooting modes, the Canon A75 offers not only manual and full-auto exposure control, but five preset capture modes, and six Scene modes to boot. The A75 has a maximum shutter speed of 1/2,000 second, and includes a Custom white balance setting. Best of all, the camera accommodates a wide range of users with its variable level of exposure control. Experienced shooters will appreciate the Manual, Aperture Priority, and Shutter Priority modes, while novices will find the Auto, Program AE, and Scene modes useful. Plus, the PowerShot A75 has a 9-point AF system (up from the A70’s 5-point AF), and the benefit of Canon optics with its 3x zoom lens. Advanced features continue with an orientation sensor, date imprint mode, manual focus, and the new Print/Share button that is appearing on all new Canon PowerShots. Will the A75 enjoy the same exceptional popularity as did the A70 and A40? I suspect that that honor will fall more to the PowerShot A80, but the A75 has plenty going for it, regardless.
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