The Next New Thing

Published: Tuesday, January 6, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 5, 2004 at 10:05 p.m.
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Two-foot-high RoboScout will record a 15-second memo and bring you drinks.

A slowdown in file sharing The music industry's legal threats appear to be working to slow Internet file sharing.
A new survey shows that Americans are downloading and swapping far fewer music files on the Internet since the Recording Industry Association of America started suing illegal file traders in September.
Just 14 percent of 1,358 Internet users polled said they downloaded files in December, down from 29 percent who downloaded in March, according to a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Traffic to file swapping Web sites Kazaa, WinMX, BearShare and Grokster also dropped by as much as 59 percent in the last year.
"The numbers are pretty striking," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew project. "We've never seen an online activity that has declined this dramatically."
Lotsa robots Robots are big these days at Sharper Image.
There's the bright red and blue Boxing Robots that pummel each other with hooks, jabs, crosses and uppercuts, as lights flash to tally the hits - all for just $39.95.
There's the latest model of iRobot's Roomba floor vacuum cleaner, listed at $249.95, complete with remote control, motion sensors, spot cleaner, and two "virtual wall" units that emit infrared beams to contain the Roomba to a specific area.
Then there's RoboScout, a 2-foot-high, egg-shaped robot with bulging pink eyes. The $399.95 robot will record a 15-second memo and bring you drinks.
Elsewhere, Media Lab's Robotic Life Group is creating Kismet, a robotic head that changes expressions in response to human visual and voice cues; and, Leonardo, a fuzzy-eared robot that makes eye contact and twitches when his ears are tickled.
Super cheap You may have noticed over the holidays that it's now possible to buy a DVD player for under $40.
These ultra-inexpensive machines from no-name importers such as AMW, Apex, Coby, CyberHome, Mintek and Norcent are surprisingly solid, according to computer columnist Mike Langberg, who calls them "virtually as good as models costing twice as much."
For perspective, consider that DVD players cost $500 to $800 when the format was introduced in March 1997, and last year's door-buster pricing for no-name DVD players didn't get below $49.
Next year, predicts Langberg, DVD recorders - now mostly $299 and above - could sell for as little as $149.

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