Saturday, May 12, 2007

iPod News with a Difference

MacNewsWorld threw up two interesting articles on that fashion icon this week.

Invasion of the Killer iPods?

First there is the question of health risk. A study from the Thoracic and Cardiovascular Institute at Michigan State University has raised concerns about the possibility that iPods could cause pacemakers to fail.

The study is questioned on several grounds but the headlines were rather scary and reminisant to those that questioned if mobile phones scrabbled ones brains and the more recent reports on the effect.

A presentation made Heart Rhythm Society's annual meeting in Denver this week heard that electrical interference of pacemakers was found about 50 percent of the time when an iPod was held within several inches of a patient's chest for five to ten seconds. Interfere with the implanted devices was even found when they were held 18 inches away and one pacemaker completely stopped functioning.

Many questions were raised about the study not testing other portable music players, or that the research failed to determined which pacemakers were most affected and of course the impact of all the other electromagnetic field disturbances that surround us.

One wonders whether in the near future we may see a health backlash against some of the technology we take for granted and use today or whether given commercial pressures and ownership we may never really know?

Show me the way to Amarillo

Welsh computer researchers at the University of Wales, Swansea have developed a hybrid MP3 player and sat-nav for pedestrians. Instead of urging listeners to "turn left in 100 yards," the device turns the volume down in one ear to prompt walkers in a particular direction until they reach their destination. The destination can either been preset, or be one that the device knows the user might like.

If the user is heading in the right direction, the music is clear and strong through both headphones. But if the user needs to change direction, the balance changes, with clarity and volume shifting to the left or right ear according to the direction to be taken.

Imagine your device knows that you like coffee, it can give a 'nudge' when they're in the vicinity of a coffee shop. If the user decides to follow the cues to see what the device thinks is of interest, the system will then guide them to the destination. If users ignore the hints, the device will stop nudging until it comes across something else of potential interest. Imagine walking down a busy high street, you may be nudged from pillar to post.

Swansea University's three-year project to look at the navigating MP3 player, which uses GPS (global positioning system) satellite technology, begins later this month.Funded with a grant from the UK's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the research is being undertaken in collaboration with Glasgow University in Scotland.