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Talk of the day

By Times Staff Writer
Published December 12, 2007


Robot servants ready to take your order

As if the idea of having one robot to serve you wasn't unusual enough, Honda says its humanoids are now ready to work in pairs - and they can even serve drinks. At a demonstration Tuesday at its Tokyo headquarters, the automaker showed off two of the child-sized Asimo robots serving tea and performing other tasks in coordination with one another. Honda said it has developed a system to link its robots together so they can share information about where each one is and what each is doing. Asimo - which stands for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility and is play on the Japanese word for "legs" - first became available for rental in 2000. It's considered one of the world's most advanced humanoids. It can walk, even jog, wave, avoid obstacles and carry on simple conversations.

Sony: Time is now to bring back wow

Flat-panel TVs, a music player with robotics technology and planned networking services for the PlayStation 3 video game console are a key part of Sony's growth following a nearly three-year restructuring effort, chief executive Howard Stringer said Tuesday. Such products "bring back some of the wow factor" and show the electronics and entertainment company has recovered from its past financial problems, Stringer told reporters at Sony's Tokyo headquarters. "The next cycle is actual innovation," he said. Sony's network service, now used to pipe video games to the PlayStation 3, will be expanded to offer other kinds of content, including movies and musical performances. He did not give details or a timetable. Such entertainment content will likely be offered as downloads for the PlayStation 3 in Sony's effort to catch up with U.S. companies like Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp.

Ask.com launches privacy function

Hoping to establish itself as the Internet's least intrusive search engine, Ask.com, owned by Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp, is empowering people to prevent their search requests from being deposited in data banks. The new privacy control, called "AskEraser," was unveiled Tuesday. When it's turned on, the safeguard purges a user's search requests from Ask.com's computers within a few hours. Industry leader Google Inc. stores personal information for 18 months, as does Microsoft Corp.'s search engine. Yahoo Inc. and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL retain search requests for 13 months. "We definitely want to stand out from the other guys," said Doug Leeds, Ask.com's senior vice president of product management. "This level of control is unprecedented and unmatched."

Stop blocking texts, groups say

Several consumer groups asked U.S. regulators to ban mobile phone carriers such as Verizon Wireless from interfering with customers' text messages. Wireless providers have "arbitrarily" blocked messages from competitors and from organizations they find controversial, the groups said Tuesday in a petition to the Federal Communications Commission.