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FUTURE TECHNOLOGY
Sound Bug
 
The desks are alive with the sound of music at the CeBIT show in Hannover, as Olympia launches a cheap device that will turn any flat surface into the biggest speaker on the block.

It may be more famous for making typewriters, but Olympia has just revealed what some observers are calling one of the sexiest gadgets of this year's CeBIT -- a small device that can turn pretty much any flat surface into a soundboard.
The Soundbug can be plugged into the headphone socket of, for example, an MP3 player or a walkman, and then fixed by suction to the flat surface -- effectively turning a desk or window into a speaker.

Set to go on sale in the UK for 29.99, the Soundbug -- which is roughly the same size as a computer mouse -- will be targeted at the youth market, but it is likely to appeal to a much wider range of technology users. "We spoke to plenty of children when we were designing the Soundbug, and they all really wanted to know when they'd be able to buy one," Richard May, Olympia's president, told ZDNet UK.

The sound quality achieved by Soundbug is impressive, especially when the device is attached to a thick piece of a dense material -- such as a desk. It's even possible to daisy-chain two Soundbugs together to achieve stereo sound, even when both are stuck to the same surface.
The Soundbug was developed in partnership with Newlands Scientific, a commercial research company that was spun off from Hull University. The Soundbug transmits the sound to the flat surface by way of a small piece of Terfenol, which is a mixture of rare earth metals and iron. This substance is placed within an aluminium case, around which is wrapped a coil.
Passing electricity through the coil causes the piece of Terfonal to slightly expand, resulting in a force of 400 pounds, explained Newlands Scientific managing director Brian Smith. Once attached to a flat surface, Soundbug will transmit electronic signals into mechanical energy -- causing the flat surface to vibrate and broadcast the sound.

Smith told ZDNet UK that there are many exciting applications for this technology, which is called magnetostriction. In theory, it could create noise-insulating windows that could block out the sound of traffic. Olympia also demonstrated a mobile phone version of Soundbug, that will be aimed at business workers. The device can be stuck to a car windscreen, meaning that drivers can have a hands-free conversation without having to wear a headset. It could be on sale by the end of this summer, and May is aiming for a price of 49.99. A high-end conference phone version is also being developed that would mean everyone seated around a table would be able to hear the phone conversation equally clearly.
For now, though, the focus is on the launch of Soundbug next month. "We're hoping that Soundbug will be the number one product on childrens' Christmas present list," said May. If Olympia is that successful, the Soundbug could even become a bit of a pest. "Just imagine what the school bus could be like," grinned May.

Source: ZDNet UK

 

Arapahoe: 3G input/output bus
 
"Today's multigigahertz chips demand a constant stream of data, and the aging PCI and AGP bus standards won't be fast enough at shuttling data between your PC's components. That's why Intel is developing a third-generation input/output interconnect specification, code-named Arapahoe, that's up to ten times quicker than today's fast PCI-X bus. PCI-X moves data in parallel along 64 wires, reaching a top speed of about 1GB per second. Arapahoe can employ from 1 to 32 lanes; each lane consists of a pair of wires and can shuffle more than 200MB of data per second between the CPU and add-in cards or integrated parts. Arapahoe can also prioritize data, so that, for example, real-time streaming data is processed faster.
When's it coming? Early 2004.
What's the catch? PC makers will have to support both standards as systems make the transition to Arapahoe, which may increase PC costs."

Source: SAT & www.cnn.com
 

AFC hard drives
 
"What is it? Antiferromagnetically coupled media, a new way to coat hard drives... By sprinkling disks with the element ruthenium -- impishly termed "pixie dust" by IBM -- drive manufacturers can pack more data onto each hard drive platter. Today most drives fit about 20 gigabits per square inch; AFC hard drives will ultimately fit five times as much -- which means a 400GB drive will soon cost about the same as today's 80GB models.
When's it coming? Pixie dust and other high-density storage technologies are already here, but drives won't hit 400GB before 2003.
What's the catch? Like CPU speeds, today's hard drive capacities already exceed most users' needs."

Source: SAT & www.cnn.com
 

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