World Bank Picture Library

In the Sub-Saharan African Community school in Macaci, Cote D’Ivoire, in a suburb of Abidjan there is the ‘Centre d’Action Communautaire’. This is one of 60 photographs, ten from each of six areas of the world, each illustrating the theme of Delevopment. The World Bank commissioned 1,800 images from photographers in sixteen countries and the best of them are now on show at www.worldbank.org/illuminate/. I really do recommend it.
The picture of the community centre pupil is by Ami Vitale. (c) World Bank Photo Library, 2002.
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Are You a Sitcom?

We’ve all heard of “Yuppies” and most of us have heard of “DINKIs” – a pair of Yuppies, this stands for Dual Income, No KIds. I did hear a couple of new descriptions recently though. “SITCOMs” are what DINKIs turn into when they have children and one of them stops working to stay home with the kids. It stands for Single Income, Two Children, Oppressive Mortgage. Then there’s “SILKIs” – What SITCOMs turn into when they have more children which stands for Single Income, Lots of KIds. And finally there’s the “LOMBARD”, (the name of a well-known UK financial institution) a derisive description generally applied to a single Yuppie, it stands for “Loads Of Money But A Right D*ck”!

Pino Hits the UK

Regular readers will know all about my love of gadgets. This one walks, talks gibberish, sings, dances, plays games and needs a fair bit of attention otherwise he’ll get into a mood! I’m describing “Pino”. Irresistably cute and already a Megastar in Japan, Pino is set to be one of this year’s (and Christmas’) hottest gadgets.

Depending on the amount of tender loving care/mild disinterest/active hostility, etc., you subject him to, Pino develops one of three personalities: Friendly, Shy or Naughty, which affects the way he responds to commands. Pino has a head sensor, two hand sensors, a sound sensor, infra red visor and a nose-mounted light sensor (not true vision though, like Aibo). Interacting with Pino through these sensors advances him through three stages of growth.

Age 1 – Pino displays basic emotions, sings songs and talks with other Pinos. Age 2 – Pino displays a full range of emotions, walks, plays games and responds to sound, light and infra red. Age 3 – Pino now has a fully developed personality (either Friendly, Shy or Naughty). You can also place two Pinos facing each other and they’ll interact.

The look is very much like a smaller version of Sony’s prototype SDR-4X. I mentioned the SDR-4X a few months back, it can recognise faces, voices and names, hold simple conversations, it has a 60,000 word vocabulary and can pick itself up when it is pushed over. It will also sing with others in four-part harmony, can walk on uneven surfaces and so on. However, Sony say their humanoid robot will cost “as much as a luxury car”! (There’s a BBC video you can watch HERE – you’ll need Real Player installed.)

There’s clearly a market for those who don’t have that sort of money, and let’s remember, even Aibo costs well over £1,000 by the time you’ve added the necessary software. Technically, Pino’s not a patch on Aibo (and especially not on June‘s Maxwell :-). Pino has no non-volatile memory and progress is lost when the batteries are changed (there’s a ‘cheat’ to step him through his ages though) and he’s not rechargeable either, but what do you expect for fifty quid? However (and this is the point) it’s an amazingly low price for its complexity and capabilties. If you’re a parent, watch for Pino to appear in this year’s letter to Santa! Frankly, when compared to a shoot-em-up game for the same price or more, Pino will at least teach your children to see how their moods and actions affect others; you could do a lot worse for a gift. You can buy Pino online, right now. I’d recommend Firebox.com as usual. If the Japanese experience is anything to go by, it might pay you to get in quickly. :-)

The Dog Watch

Seen My Dog?

I’m talking about the dog in the top left hand corner of the screen! In this context, the DOG referred to, is the ‘Digitally Originated Graphics’ – that annoying little superimposed symbol that reminds you “to which channel you are tuned to” (sic – Kenny Everett). Have you noticed how frequently it ends up across some important detail?

The BBC seems to have woken up to the fact that viewers would like its DOGs to bog off and has done something about it, at least in Wales. BBC Wales, keen to gauge viewer response, must have been a little shocked to find that viewers weren’t too impressed with the logo that had been slapped on their screens. But they were quick to do the decent thing – the DOG was gone after only a week. Now, if we can only get rid of all the rest of the so-called ‘ScreenJunk’! Would you believe it, there’s a whole Web Site devoted to Logo Free British TV. They say viewer power has already managed to get the DOGs dropped from Channel 4, BBC One, BBC Two and, in their latest victory, Channel 5.

Dossier on Saddam

I don’t often get political here, and in truth I’m not really doing so now, but so much has been made of the UK Government’s Dossier on Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction, it’s publication has become quite an event. For any of you who wish to examine it, you’ll find it’s genuinely frightening stuff. I thought I’d read a couple of pages, but once you start, you find you have to read on. You can pick up a copy online right here.