Checking on your pet puppy -- or foiling a possible burglar -- while across town from your home can be as easy as calling up Fujitsu's new robot, a machine on wheels that looks like a short R2-D2.
Maron-1, displayed at a recent robot conference in Japan, is not just experimental whimsy. Fujitsu plans to market the robot in the next year for under $1,600, targeting computer-savvy bachelors and young couples who tend to be away from home a lot. Overseas sales plans aren't decided.
"I think Japanese like robots," researcher Shinji Kanda said while showing off his scurrying robot at Fujitsu's research center in Kawasaki, a Tokyo suburb. "Our robot is different from pet robots. It's useful."
The robot, which is slightly shorter than knee-high and weighs 11 pounds, has a transparent, curvaceous covering to protect two digital cameras that protrude from the top like frog eyes.
Put it on watchdog mode, and when it detects someone or something moving in front of it, the machine blurts out in an electronic voice, "An intruder found," and immediately calls your mobile phone to warn you.
Database on veterans
More than 18,500 naval personnel who enlisted in Missouri during World War I have been added to an online database run by the secretary of state's office, a project touted as the only one of its kind in the nation.
In the works since 1986, the Missouri State Archives has cataloged index cards for Missourians in the Navy, Marines and Army, including President Harry Truman and Gen. John Pershing. The database already contains the records of 145,000 soldiers and Marines who served in the war.
The database can be searched by typing in information such as a person's last name or address. Details in the records include length of service, location of service and rank. The cards also contain information about injuries and deaths.
On a fast track
Despite the meltdown in the telecommunications industry, a phone company led a list of the nation's 500 fastest-growing technology companies.
ITXC Corp., a Princeton, N.J.-based company that connects international long-distance calls over the Internet, took the honor by increasing its revenue from $59,000 in 1997 to $173 million in 2001, according to Deloitte & Touche, the consulting firm that compiled the list.
Second was Extreme Networks Inc., a Silicon Valley-based maker of networking switches. Third was Cray Inc., a descendant of the company that pioneered supercomputer technology, followed by wireless software supplier Openwave Systems Inc. and Univeral Access Global Holdings Inc., which connects different telecom networks.
No rebound yet
U.S. companies have nearly run out of ways to slash their technology spending, but don't expect a rebound in 2003, according to a new study.
The spending cuts have come in the form of layoffs, the consolidation of high-end computers and renegotiation of contracts with tech vendors to get lower prices.
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