Computing Applications News track

News Track

  1. Concerts To Go
  2. No Foul
  3. Press This!
  4. Littlest Champ
  5. Truth Be Told
  6. Think Green
  7. Author

Great concerts will soon produce more lasting memories when clubs and concert halls are equipped with digital kiosks enabling concertgoers to download a recording of the show to a small USB drive almost immediately after the performance. San Diego-based eMusic Live, one of a growing number of music distributors pioneering instant digital recordings, has opened several beta test sites and plans to equip 23 clubs throughout the U.S. with operating kiosks by year’s end. The New York Times reports eMusic kiosks will give users several options for copying a show: for $10, nonmembers can download a concert in about 30 seconds by entering an email address, or swiping a credit card and then inserting a 128MB USB drive. Don’t have a drive on you? No problem. You can buy one ($20) from a dispenser attached to the kiosk. eMusic members will have more sophisticated options, including selecting individual songs from the concert and having the charge deducted automatically from their monthly plan.

Back to Top

No Foul

Basketball referees are finding technology a winning asset rather than a threat to their livelihoods. The National Basketball Association is incorporating digital technology and enhanced performance monitoring into its refereeing process, and the refs have adopted it readily, reports the Wall Street Journal. The NBA’s approach includes reliance on the Internet where refs can log into a special Web site to warm up with test questions and sample online video clips of recent games. Laptops are used to read and record game reports. BlackBerries buzz with messages and notes between team refs and league officials. Locker rooms are equipped with digital video players to run plays and check calls, doubling the amount of game footage viewing the league has mandated since the 1980s. Flip discs quickly access any part of a game without the need to rewind. And an evaluation system implemented this season (consisting of independent observers who attend every game and review tape afterward to check ref performance) compares notes with the refs’ self-evaluations of each game. The result: call accuracy up to 96% from 94% last season.

Back to Top

Press This!

Those frustrating automated phone systems that lose many a customer in menu madness may soon disconnect. Researchers at the University of Southern California are working on software that switches from automated telephony to a live operator by sensing when a caller is angry. USC professor Shrikanth Narayanan told the Financial Times that a great deal of emotional information is communicated within the speech signal of spoken language. "The energy of the signal is one cue, the speech rate is another cue, and there’s also lexical information, such as swear words, and the patterns of interaction that deviate from the norm," he explains. The USC team used 1,400 recorded conversations from an airline’s call center to teach the system to sniff out phone rage, and, though still in its infancy, the system responded with 80% to 85% accuracy. Narayanan thinks the software will be ready for commercialization in about two years; still to tackle are the differences in dialects and regional accents, as well as how to prevent callers from berating the system with obscenities at the get-go just to get a human on the line.

Back to Top

Littlest Champ

Toshiba Corp. won a spot in Guinness World Records last month when its postage stamp-sized hard disk drives were certified as the smallest in the world. The 0.85-inch drive, unveiled earlier this year and slated for production by the end of 2004, has a storage capacity of up to 4GB and will be used in such products as cell phones and camcorders.

Back to Top

Truth Be Told

Honesty is the best (email) policy, according to a recent Cornell University study that had participating students track their lies for a week. The students reported telling lies in more than 33% of their phone calls, in 25% of their face-to-face conversations, and in about 20% of their instant messaging chats. When it came to a week’s worth of email messages, however, the students reported telling lies in less than 15% of the messages. Lead researcher Jeffrey T. Hancock told the New York Times (via email messages) the reasons for email honest may be twofold: Email leaves a record, perhaps encouraging caution, and email conversations tend to unfold slowly. "Previous research suggests that most lies are quite spontaneous and tend to emerge from conversations," Hancock contends. "Lies are not bad, but we sure do a lot of them over the phone."

Back to Top

Think Green

A recent study by researchers at United Nations University in Tokyo illustrates how the average PC requires 10 times its own weight in chemicals and fossil fuels. Not only are many of the chemicals toxic, but the use of fossil fuels contributes to global warming. The short lifetimes of current IT equipment leads to disposal of waste in landfills or recycling in often poorly managed facilities, especially in developing countries, along with significant health risks. The researchers told BBC News that manufacturers and computer users around the world should be given greater incentives for upgrading or reusing hardware instead of discarding it. The pieces of the puzzle include:

  1. Lead in cathode ray tubes and solder.
  2. Arsenic in older cathode ray tubes.
  3. Selenium in circuit boards as power supply rectifiers.
  4. Polybrominated flame retardant in plastic casings, cables, and circuit boards.
  5. Antimony trioxide as flame retardant.
  6. Cadmium in circuit boards and semiconductors.
  7. Chromium in steel as corrosion protection.
  8. Cobalt in steel for structure and magnetism.
  9. Mercury in switches and housing.

Back to Top

Join the Discussion (0)

Become a Member or Sign In to Post a Comment

The Latest from CACM

Shape the Future of Computing

ACM encourages its members to take a direct hand in shaping the future of the association. There are more ways than ever to get involved.

Get Involved

Communications of the ACM (CACM) is now a fully Open Access publication.

By opening CACM to the world, we hope to increase engagement among the broader computer science community and encourage non-members to discover the rich resources ACM has to offer.

Learn More