Downtime: Keepon keeps on shaking his robotic yellow booty...

The wacky world of IT

Keepon keeps on shaking his robotic yellow booty...

Remember last month's story about RoCo, the robot computer that can read the mood of its user and mimic the person's posture to improve "rapport" between man and machine?

Well, hot on its heels is another "human computer" treat that sounds similarly annoying to Downtime's jaded ears.

In Japan, a team of boffins have developed a "robot blob" that can dance "soulfully" to different tunes, and the team is making similar claims that this crucial innovation will pave the way for machines that can interact more naturally with us humans.

The squishy yellow robot, called Keepon, has been programmed to pick out the beat in a piece of music and move in time. It is also able to track the rhythmic motion of a person or another object and move in time to that.

One of Keepon's developers, Marek Michalowski, said that "since rhythm and synchrony form the foundations of social interactions, for us to comfortably interact with a robot it needs to be capable of that".

Arms and legs are next on Michalowski's agenda, apparently, enabling Keepon to shake off its "blob" status.

This all sounds like a marginally better idea than the bobbing and weaving of RoCo at an overworked office worker's desk, but we are still more comfortable with gadgets that stay where they are and do what they are told.

... while talking sewing machines get the boot

Staying on the subject of computers that cosy up to us, when we asked you all last month for examples of annoying humanising technologies - and Microsoft Word's paperclip is still Exhibit A in our personal book of teeth-grinding innovations - there was one story in particular that struck a chord.

Sue Flower told us that when she was looking to buy a sewing machine a few years back, there was one model that insisted on speaking to you when you did something wrong. Quite understandably, she rejected it for fear of wanting to reprogram it with a large hammer.

You can picture the scene: "Please thread the needle" repeated over and over in an annoying electronic voice while your human wobbly hand fails to do just that. No thank you very much.

The shorter route to a very expensive phone

Our story last month on phones mysteriously changing hands for £100,000 a time on eBay prompted a whole hatful of you - dedicated eBayers each and every one - to write in.

You helpfully pointed out that there is an entirely easier way to look up items for sale on eBay than trying to type 138 hard-to-follow characters without slipping up.

The altogether less painful link weighs in at a cool 60 characters - yes, we did count them. So our crushingly long URL could have been rendered like this: .

Now that is progress! Thank you all for caring. The phone still costs £100,000, by the way.

I know my entire life is somewhere around here...

Once upon a time, computers took up whole rooms and it wasn't so easy to lose them. These days, of course, our gadgets are all tiny and losing them is an occupational hazard that businesses still have not quite got to grips with.

Security firm Pointsec says that there is now about a one in 20 chance of losing a portable gadget, which means there are a hell of a lot of smartphones and Blackberries washing around out there.

Downtime is thinking of setting up a sideline in cheap tracking devices for lost electronics. You know it makes sense.


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