New Products

Editors: Maria Ebling n IBM T.J. Watson Research Center n ebling@us.ibm.com Mark Corner n University of Massachusetts Amherst n mcorner@cs.umass.edu

Virtual Learning, Decorating, and Skateboarding

EdIToRs’ InTRo
This issue we say farewell to Mark Corner, who’s served as coeditor of this department for nearly two years. Thank you, Mark. We also cover several virtual reality tools as well as a few new devices. We found a distance education application in second Life particularly intriguing, especially considering the impact this technology could have on future education. A new iPhone application will reduce the pain of moving heavy furniture only to discover that you don’t particularly like the new layout. Likewise, a new skateboarding game will take the pain out of falling, and could prevent numerous scars on elbows and knees, as well as broken bones. on the device front, we liked an upcoming device that will generate enough power to recharge a cell phone while you work out at the gym or walk to work. Finally, we highlight a robotic baby carriage that young parents with clingy infants might want to have a look at, though we must admit questioning the wisdom of this application of robotics. Please continue to send pointers to upcoming products with exciting possibilities, your feedback on existing products, and your personal experiences with them (your name will be included with your review). Email us at pvcproducts@ computer.org. —Mark Corner and Maria R. Ebling

Figure 1. Memorial University. This figure shows a screen shot of the Second Life island used in Memorial University’s Marine Production Management course.

Virtual reality

VIrtual DIStanCE lEarnIng
Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, has taken distance learning to a new level with major parts of courses being taught in Second Life. In May 2009, Memorial received an award for a course called Marine Production Management that uses Second Life to help students understand the process of designing and constructing a shipyard. According to Memorial University, using virtual worlds has helped keep the students engaged in the material, as well as enhancing their understanding of the scale of the systems they’re designing. Memorial uses Second Life in several

distance learning classes and is currently running its own “Island” campus where students can attend classes. Memorial provides several videos (www. distance.mun.ca/media/files/secondlife) that give a glimpse into the future of education.

VIrtual room DECor
Metaio Augmented Reality Solutions in Munich, Germany, has just produced an iPhone application to help furnish your house called iLiving (www.metaio.com/ design). The process is straightforward: take a photo of a room, then select from 25 pieces of furniture and place it in the photo. Don’t trust your own design skills? Just shake the phone and it will

Figure 2. iLiving. Virtual furniture makes redecorating a snap.

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Published by the IEEE CS n 1536-1268/09/$25.00 © 2009 IEEE

randomly lay your virtual furniture out in a new configuration. Seems a lot easier than moving that heavy bed around! The reviews in Apple’s Application Store reveal interesting new uses, like how would a sofa look on the subway?

VIrtual SkatEboarDIng
Hot on the heels of other specialized controllers for video games like Guitar Hero, Activision is poised to take the virtual world one step closer to reality. The new game Tony Hawk: Figure 3. Tony Hawk: Ride. Catching some virtual air. Ride, bearing the name of the most famous skateboarder of all time, will feature a you can recharge the typical device new skateboard controller. Details are to about 80 percent with only about still sketchy, but it looks like what one one hour of walking. The PEG weighs might expect—a big skateboard-like about 9 ounces, generates 4 watts, and platform. Robomodo is developing is expected to cost around US$150. the game with an expected release of sometime next year. What we’re won- baby robot dering is: shouldn’t kids just go outside The Bomo Baby Carriage (www.gitc21. with a real skateboard? net /co / kbae810 0 /G C 012724 46/ CA01272447/indoor_Robot_Baby_ Carriage.html) is the world’s DeVices first robotic baby carriage. Users can program the Bomo PErSonal, to follow a parent around the rEnEwablE EnErgy The nPower Personal Energy Gen- house, theoretically keeping erator (PEG) can supply you with a a clingy baby happily near green and completely renewable power mom while allowing mom to source for all your communication and get other things done. It also entertainment needs. Using this device, acts as a (horizontal) swing, you can generate power to charge your gently rocking the baby to cell phone or MP3 player using your and fro. As the baby grows, everyday motion. Just plug a device the baby can use it like a into the PEG and put them both in car, with a steering wheel your backpack, purse, or briefcase and and an accelerator pedal. go about your business. The up-and- The Bomo is smart enough to down motion of your walking creates avoid hitting obstacles no matkinetic energy that’s used to power your ter how poor the driver sitting behind handheld device. The system charges the wheel. Korea’s BMGK manufacdevices at about the same rate as a wall tures the Bomo, which retails for just charger. The company estimates that under US$800.

Figure 4. nPower Personal Energy Generator (PEG). The small device brings new meaning to “power walking.”

JULy–sEPTEMBER 2009

PERVASIVE computing

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