Thursday, September 27, 2007

Tech News Bits

•Speaking your "Mind."

It is quite literally mind-boggling. Twenty-four-year-old entrepreneur Michael Callahan was not visibly speaking. But you could listen to his "speech" through remarkable emerging technology called the Audeo. Using specialized sensors, Audeo translates neurological signals from the brain into speech. Callahan describes the process as a "step above thinking, and a step below speaking." The first commercial products, about a year away and likely priced around $8,000, will be developed for people with severe speech disabilities. But the technology can eventually be used for such mainstream purposes as video games. Callahan's Champaign, Ill.-based start-up is called Ambient.

•Language learning.

Call it the Web 2.0 approach to learning a foreign language. To master English, French, German, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese and Hindi, the LiveMocha site combines games, reading and writing exercises, chat and live video. And it lets you tap into an online global community of native language speakers. The site helps keep you on track with reminders when you are behind in lessons. LiveMocha is free during its beta-testing phase; the company plans to eventually charge for advanced courses.

•Expert how-to.

Want to install a dimmer light switch, cook Tandoori chicken or house-train a puppy? You can access neatly organized instructional videos at, posted by ordinary folks. You can bookmark and add text notes to a video as you watch it to return to that point at any time. For now, Graspr requires the Apple Safari or Mozilla Firefox browsers; the site is not yet compatible with Internet Explorer.

•Better video.

Lots of people shoot poor-quality videos on cellphones and digital cameras and webcams. MotionDSP of San Mateo, Calif., hopes its newly available consumer video-sharing site will live up to its name.

After uploading video to the site, FixMyMovie processes 10 seconds of the file to improve dark, grainy and low-resolution scenes. If you're satisfied, FixMyMovie will finish the job. You can also grab an enhanced still image from your video. The service is free for now.

Keep your expectations in check. Some poorly shot videos cannot be improved at all, much less approach HD-quality. At Demo, the company took really lousy videos and made them, frankly, just a little less-lousy.

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