AVATAR TRASH TALK
A new application at espn.com lets fans record opinionated messages and create talking avatars to speak the words. The Flash-based application, called Voice of the Fan, has created a special gallery of posts dedicated to the NCAA basketball tournament. By Tuesday 1,796 characters had been posted. Postings at the site are spoken by an eccentric collection of avatars that appear to be culled from some animated combination of MSNBC anchors and MTV VJs. Creating a character is free but requires registration at ESPN s SportsNation site. Users can record an audio message by dialing a toll-free number or by using a microphone attached to the computer.
If the tedium of being placed on hold has you drumming your fingers on your desk, you can put the time to more creative use with the new Trigger Finger, a 16-pad drum control surface from M-Audio. With its four-by-four grid of input buttons and the included Ableton Live Lite music composition software, the Trigger Finger ($200) can immortalize nervous digital tics and stabs forever on your computer. The Trigger Finger hooks up as a controller to either a Mac (OS X 10.2.8), a PC (Windows XP) or an array of MIDI devices through a USB connection.
HOTEL CLOCK, UPDATED
The Hilton hotel chain, which includes Doubletree and Embassy Suites, offers a higher-tech clock. Its patented clock has easy-to-set alarm and station presets, built-in stereo speakers and a jack to connect an MP3 or CD player. These clocks automatically adjust for Daylight Savings Time and leap year. Hilton will install 250,000 new clocks in 975 hotels across six of its brands from March through July.
Doctors will be able to monitor patients through a new wireless device from Nordic telecommunications operator TeliaSonera AB. The BodyKom system connects wirelessly to sensors on the patient. If critical changes are detected, the hospital or health care services are automatically alerted over a secure mobile network connection. GPS technology will identify the patient s location. TeliaSonera is launching the service with Hewlett Packard and Swedish technology company Kiwok. It will be tested this spring at a university hospital. TeliaSonera aims to sell BodyKom mainly to hospitals, where a similar service is currently used to monitor heart rates.
The fastest-growing tech companies plan to keep hiring and growing despite an uncertain economic and political climate, a study finds. The vast majority of the chief executives at those companies say they plan to expand their work force. About two in five say they plan to add 25 percent or more employees in the next 12 months. About one in five say they plan to add more than 50 percent. Deloitte & Touche LLP conducted the survey earlier this year based on its annual ranking of the 500 fastest-growing tech companies in North America. In all, 150 CEOs, or 30 percent, responded to the survey that was released Tuesday.
Microsoft has launched a $19.95-a-year service that lets people download certain TV shows to portable devices such as media players and advanced cell phones. With the new service, MSN Video Downloads, customers will have access to more content sports highlights and some shows from Fox Sports, news and business headlines from MSNBC.com and children s programming from Cookie Jar Entertainment. Users simply log onto a Web site using a traditional laptop or desktop computer. They can download the shows and transfer them to portables.
VIRTUAL TO REAL
A player in the online fantasy game Legend of Mir III has been charged with killing a competitor in a dispute over the sale of a virtual weapon, a newspaper reported. Qiu Chengwei, 41, who went on trial Tuesday in a Shanghai, China court, could face a death sentence if convicted, the China Daily newspaper said. According to the report, Qiu confronted Zhu Caoyuan after learning that he sold to another player a virtual weapon that Qiu had lent him. It said Qiu reported the loss of the Dragon Saber to police but was told it wasn t real property protected by the law. Prosecutors said Zhu promised to hand over the $870 that he received but Qiu grew impatient and attacked Zhu at his home, stabbing him repeatedly in the chest. Qiu surrendered to police and claimed he didn t mean to kill Zhu, China Daily said. Online fantasy games are hugely popular in China, attracting tens of millions of players.
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