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Video: BlackBerry outage, Siri and Ceatec


Apple's iPhone 4S goes on sale today. Many of the improvements to the phone are under the hood like a fast dual core processor, dual radios for CDMA and GSM networks and a higher def camera among other things. Our colleague Jason Snell at Macworld called it a sure thing in his review. Let's take a look at his hands on with the phone's Siri voice recognition.

Blackberry users were hit with a major service outage this week that affected parts of Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and North America. The problems were caused by a core switch failure in RIM's infrastructure. The new crisis comes as RIM is fighting off agitated investors that are asking the company to explore strategic options and a new leadership. RIM reported late Wednesday that email was operating and BlackBerry Messenger traffic was online and passing successfully in all affected regions.

Last week I was in Japan at the Ceatec electronics show and I want to share with you some of the really cool products and prototypes that I saw there. One that shows the most promise is solar window film from 3M. It both cuts infrared light transmission and collects solar power from indoor and outdoor lightsources. A square meter of the film can generate enough electricity to charge an iPhone under peak sunlight.

Yasuhiro Aoyagi

Construction Markets Division, 3M

This film has two strong energy conservation traits. The first is that it generates electricity. The second is that it blocks heat. The film generates electricity, so it can be used to power things like LED lights. As for blocking heat, this can help conserve energy, because if heat is blocked then the air conditioning of a building can be lowered, saving electricity. Those are the two main advantages for energy conservation.

The film comes in flexible sheets and can be glued onto windows. There’s a greenish tint to the film, but 3M plans to make it clear by the time it plans to commercialize it sometime in 2012.

Alps electric showed a new sensor that the company hopes can be used in medical, security and other applications that could benefit from detection of slight movements. Called an RF motion sensor Alps demonstrated the chip by analyzing heart beats and counting respirations. One of the benefits of this new chip is that it doesn’t need direct contact with a person in order to detect movement. For example, reading a heartbeat can be done through clothing, unlike some medical equipment that needs direct contact with the skin. Alps said it is working on way to compensate those movements. It plans to make the sensor available in spring 2012.

How about an app that'll tell you if you're fat and need to jump on a treadmill. That's what mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo presented at Ceatec. Users blow into the analyzer through a straw and within a few seconds a percentage appears, which represents your level of hunger. It will also advise you if you’re burning fat or if you need to exercise more. The project may need a little work. Even though I hadn’t eaten since the night before and was starving I apparently was only 36% hungry. Another user after me scored 150% hungry.

Murata's self balancing robot was at it again at Ceatec. This time with a new trick: ascending a curved balancing beam. In past years it attempted each task individually, one year climbing a straight incline, another year navigating a flat S turn. This year combined the two. The robot has slant detection gyro sensors which helps it maintain its balance by controlling the rotation of the wheel for forward and backward motion. The sensor also controls the rotation of the fly wheel built into the robot’s chest for side to side balance. There’s also a gyro sensor for direction detection when riding around a curve.

Cyberdyne showed a robo arm that helps the weak be strong. Users had electrodes strapped to their bicepts and then had their arms secured to the machine. The platform of water jugs weighs about 10 kilograms or about 22 pounds and was difficult from some users to lift with one arm. But once the assistance was turned on most people were able to lift the weight with one or two fingers.

Masahiro Shingu

Researcher, Cyberdyne

This system uses a signal from the human when I move the limb the brain sends a signal through the nerve and appears around the muscle so we use this signal and the outside actuator assists the motion

The Cyberdyne system is still in the prototype phase and is aimed at helping the weak, disabled and elderly. It’s not the only company working on the technology though. Raytheon has something similar, but it’s designed for use on the battlefield.

Well that's our show for this week. Thanks for joining us here on World Tech Update. To find out what's coming up on every week's show be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter. As we head out this week we'll leave you with some sights from Ceatec. I'm Nick Barber and for all of us here at the IDG News Service thanks for watching and we hope to see you next week.

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