« November 8, 2006 | Main | November 10, 2006 »

November 9, 2006

Will the real Adrianne Curry please stand up?


Don Clark, in today's Wall Street Journal (WSJ), wrote about Nvidia's new graphics chip, the GeForce 8800, unveiled yesterday in San Jose, California to an audience of over a thousand gamers, high-tech executives, analysts and reporters.

Long story short: Look carefully at the image above: is it live — i.e., the real Adrianne Curry — or Invidia?

To all those who say "joe, computer graphics are just made-up stuff, they're no substitute for reality, " I say, "Really?"

Here's the WSJ article.

    Nvidia's Powerful Chip Moves Closer to 'Reality'

    Graphics Product Captures Moving Shoulder Blades, Adrianne's Authentic Pout

    Silicon Valley companies have long tried to make computerized creations look real. Nvidia Corp. thinks it's gotten so close that only a real woman could prove the point.

    The company, known for chips that manage graphics on personal computers and other gadgets, has a tradition of using simulated female characters to demonstrate the capabilities of each new technology generation. To show off its latest new graphics chip, Nvidia this time has enlisted Adrianne Curry, a reality-television star who agreed to have her body and movements scanned to create a three-dimensional model — one so lifelike, it seems like a camera rather than a computer generated it.

    Nvidia made this digital model of actress Adrianne Curry to show off its new chip.
    Ms. Curry, known from VH1's "The Surreal Life" and "My Fair Brady," is a logical draw for Nvidia's traditional audience — the largely male gamers who shell out hundreds of dollars on circuit boards to give their personal computers an edge in playing the latest games. But Nvidia has much broader ambitions for its eighth generation of technology, unveiled yesterday at an event in San Jose, Calif.

    The company spent $400 million and more than four years developing what it calls the GeForce 8800, an effort that required fundamental design changes. Where it once developed circuitry that handled just one task, such as drawing a pixel on a computer screen, Nvidia's new chip has 128 processors that can handle more varied jobs, along with features to help them work together in new ways.

    As a result, Nvidia expects its technology to be used in special-purpose computers and accelerator devices to help existing machines take on jobs such as weather forecasting, running financial simulations and rendering images from medical scanning equipment.

    "It will open up a whole new class of computing," says Jen-Hsun Huang, Nvidia's chief executive officer.

    Others have similar ideas. Some scientists have already experimented with building computers out of graphics chips. Longtime rival ATI Technologies Inc., a Canadian company recently purchased by Advanced Micro Devices Inc., in September announced similar plans to promote its chips for use in what it calls "stream computing."

    But most analysts believe Nvidia's GeForce 8800 puts it ahead of ATI, which isn't expected to announce its next generation of graphics until the first half of next year.

    "This is such a killer product," said Jon Peddie, an analyst in Tiburon, Calif., who specializes in the graphics market. "Nvidia has just done everything right."

    An ATI spokesman declined to comment, other than to say ATI is "very comfortable" with its position in the technology race.

    The two companies' plans are heavily influenced by Microsoft Corp., which sets standards in graphics that are followed by both hardware designers and programmers who create computer games. Nvidia says its new chip is the first tailored for DirectX 10, a new set of Microsoft programming instructions that work with its long-awaited Vista operating system.

    The combination of hardware and software shifts chores that once burdened a PC's microprocessor — its primary electronic brain — to the specialized circuitry of the graphics chip.

    In the future, game designers might use such technology to generate landscapes automatically rather than manually drawing up virtual worlds as they have done up to now.

    Nvidia's new chip has some 681 million transistors, more than double the number of a prior-generation chip announced in June 2005. By contrast, Intel Corp.'s heavily promoted Core 2 Duo microprocessors for high-end PCs have 291 million transistors. Nvidia plans to package the new chip in add-in cards for PCs for $599, with a lower-end version priced at $449.

    Kelt Reeves, president of the gaming PC company Falcon Northwest, said his company's tests have found that systems with two of the new Nvidia cards are 41% faster than systems with four of its existing cards. Computer game fans "will see an amazing visual difference," he said.

    The difference was demonstrated by Nvidia yesterday to more than a thousand gamers, high-tech executives, analysts and reporters in a series of huge tents erected in downtown San Jose. Besides demonstrations of a series of highly realistic shoot'em-up games, a highlight of the event was the first public showing of the virtual version of Ms. Curry, which strutted around on a huge display screen in a small, tight bathing suit.

    Capturing her image realistically required gluing reflective dots all over her body and taking hundreds of pictures over five hours, Ms. Curry said in an interview. The result shows such details as her shoulder blades moving under skin as she walks; a user can zoom in and see almost every pore in her face.

    The system also captured some of her characteristic facial expressions, including pouts that were pronounced as authentic by Ms. Curry's real-life husband Christopher Knight, the former "Brady Bunch" star who co-stars with her on "My Fair Brady" and joined her at the event.

    Such technology could allow stars to create and license full-motion replicas of themselves for myriad commercial uses, without ever having to make a physical appearance. Nvidia and Ms. Curry haven't worked out how they plan to use the model, though she said she hopes to post a version on her Web site and perhaps show it on the TV show. Mr. Knight, who once worked in the computer-graphics industry, said he and Ms. Curry needed some reassurance that the model couldn't be misused for purposes such as creating animated pornography with her image.

    She also admitted to some misgivings about aiding technology advances that eventually replace actors and models. "In a few years when this is ultimately perfected, we start losing jobs," Ms. Curry said. "And I helped."


Just wait.



call your office: They're [nearly] ready for you....

November 9, 2006 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack



Sure hope my just-invented name for this nifty device doesn't bring the Cupertino lawyerbots swarming out of their hive to Charlottesville bandying cease-and-desist stinger orders.

From the website:

    Digital Photograph-to-iPod Transfer Device

    This simple portable device transfers digital photos from your SD memory card to your iPod without the use of a PC.

    About the size of a matchbook, the lightweight digital photo device fits unobtrusively in a pocket or backpack and does not require the use of cables, batteries or software.

    Transfer to 20 pictures in one minute using the iPod's control panel.

    Compatible with iPod Photo, Video, and Nano.

    2"H x 2"W x 1/4"-D.

    3-1/4 oz.


One could ask why there isn't an SD slot on iPods, thus incorporating this device — but I suppose questions like that are above my TechnoDolt™ pay grade.

White or Black.

$69.95 (alas, iPod and SD card not included).

November 9, 2006 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

How Best to Manipulate bookofjoe To Your Advantage — A User's Guide


Wait a minute, joe — isn't this just what you're not supposed to be broadcasting for all and sundry to view?

See within.

Now where was I?

Oh, yeah, a Loser's Guide.

No, wait a minute, that can't be right....


Here's how to do stuff on/with/to bookofjoe that I'm not down with:

1) Post your self-promoting/obscene/inappropriate/hateful comment between the hours of 12:15 a.m. and 10 a.m. Eastern time — I'll be sound asleep or reading, and the crack research team hasn't a clue even though they're paid to be on duty 24/7 to intercept and trash stuff like this.

2) Amuse me — almost everyone who asks me to promote/link to/feature their stuff/website/activity/what-have-you is DOA in terms of actually getting pride of place on bookofjoe. But the operational word is "almost."

3) The late, great British actor Terry-Thomas memorably remarked, about playing the lottery, "You know you won't win — but you might." Precisely. That's the working philosophy/guiding principle here. You can't win unless you buy a ticket, what?

So there you have it: how to spam bookofjoe in three easy lessons.


November 9, 2006 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Dog Tales — The Mailman DVD


A review in the Wall Street Journal said, "Features live-action dogs in front of cartoon background, accompanied by sounds of doorbells, bird calls and barking. For extra fee, owners can have their own voice recorded at the start of the video, which runs on a continuous loop."

From the product website:

    The Dog Tales — The Mailman DVD

    Let the precocious pups of Long Leash Lane become your dog's entertainment entourage!

    Your dog will never be bored again after meeting Collin, Whistler, McLendon and the gang.

    In this episode, hair stands on end when the dreaded Mailman pays a visit to Long Leash Lane!



As always, this product is accompanied by the ironclad bookofjoe Ferrous Guarantee™: If for any reason your dog is not delighted with it, return the DVD to me (along with the original packaging) and I will cheerfully refund every hard-earned red cent you paid for it.

Woof! (not w00t!).

November 9, 2006 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Handler Anti-Germ Hook


Stacy Weiner wrote about this new device in the "Claim Check" feature in yesterday's Washington Post Health section, as follows:

    Portable Germ Fighter?

    You scrub your hands thoroughly after using the airport bathroom but then — cue scary music — you turn off the faucet. Holy microbes! Now you've risked recontamination, say the makers of the Handler, a new palm-size product designed to keep your fingers off such germ-ridden surfaces as ATM keypads, light switches and, of course, the doors and faucets of public restrooms. Released at the press of a button, the Handler's two-inch hook pulls open doors weighing up to 60 pounds and pushes paper towel levers just like your own digits, according to its manufacturer, Maker Enterprises in Los Angeles. For $10.95, claims www.handlerusa.com, the device lets you avoid surfaces befouled by someone's "coughing, blowing their nose and touching their mouth and other more private parts." Yum.


    But does it really work? To a degree. Common colds and intestinal ailments can result from touching the microorganisms found on surfaces. That's because it's a short ride from our fingers to our eyes, nose or mouth and into our bodies, where the microbes disrupt normal cellular functioning. But what about germs that accumulate on the Handler itself? Paul Metzger, one of the company's founders, says the product's microscopic silver particles kill most germs — including 98 percent of one of the hardiest strains of staphylococcus — almost immediately. That's possible, concedes William Schaffner, chairman of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Still, Schaffner doubts that the Handler can shield you from most germ-borne ills.


    All washed up. Inanimate surfaces such as toilet seats play only a minor role in disease transmission, explains Schaffner. He estimates they account for no more than 10 percent of common illnesses. "It's not a highway of transmission," he says. "It's a little byway in the woods." The best defense is washing your hands or using an alcohol-based hand gel. Adds Schaffner: The greatest risk of catching something comes from person-to-person contact, such as a handshake, because germs love the warm, humid climate humans offer. And no Handler, it seems, can handle that problem.


The way I see it, the main determinant of how vulnerable you are to infection is how much of your own hand-to-face — be it eye, nose, or mouth — transmission occurs.

All three sensory end-organs — for sight, smell and taste — are up front and out there for a reason — namely, to give their respective brain inputs maximum information.

With signal comes noise, in the form of potential disease transmission.

Wash your hands, keep the signal, dampen — as it were — the noise.

But if you insist, hey, it's your money.

In White/Grey (above) or Black/Silver (below).



November 9, 2006 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (7) | TrackBack

Anti-Nightmare Saran Wrap Dispenser


If you're anything like me you wince just a wee bit each time you take out the Saran Wrap, knowing what a pain in the batty awaits as you

1) Attempt to find the end, then

2) Try to evenly draw it out over the cutting edge without shearing it along its length.

Perhaps this device will help.

Or perhaps it will only make things worse.

There's only one way to find out.

From the website:

    Roll Dispenser

    Offering neat storage and easy cutting, this sturdy dispenser holds a roll of plastic wrap, foil, or wax paper — eliminating the struggle with flimsy packaging, tangled contents and a dull cutting edge.

    13-3/8" long x 2-1/8" diameter overall; holds rolls up to 11-5/8" long x 1-5/8" diameter.

    Dishwasher-safe plastic.


$4.99 (Saran Wrap not included).

November 9, 2006 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

'Just like music and the cinema, video games should be supported by the state' — Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, France's Minister of Culture


He was quoted in this past Tuesday's (November 8, 2006) New York Times story about how France is seeking to have video games recognized as a cultural industry eligible for tax breaks, similar to French cinema.

Here's Thomas Crampton's article.

    For France, Video Games Are as Artful as Cinema

    France is proud of its contribution to culture in such forms as existentialism, Impressionism and auteur films. Now the French culture minister wants to add Donkey Kong to his country’s pantheon of high art.

    “Call me the minister of video games if you want — I am proud of this,” the minister, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, said in an interview last month. “People have looked down on video games for far too long, overlooking their great creativity and cultural value.”

    Mr. Donnedieu de Vabres is seeking to have video games recognized as a cultural industry eligible for tax breaks, similar to French cinema.

    In March, he pinned medals from the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres — a prize awarded to acknowledge cultural accomplishments — on three prominent video game designers, including Shigeru Miyamoto [top, receiving his medal from Donnedieu de Vabres], the Japanese creator of Donkey Kong. The game, popularized in the 1980s, stars an Italian plumber called Mario.

    Video game creators should receive a tax break of 20 percent, up to a ceiling of 500,000 euros, Mr. Donnedieu de Vabres says.

    “Video games are not a mere commercial product,” he insisted. “They are a form of artistic expression involving creation from script writers, designers and directors.”

    An increase in game players and game sales relative to other cultural goods underscores the need for video games to be recognized as a part of the broader culture, he said.

    For instance, the best-selling video game for 2005 in France, Pro Evolution Soccer 5, had better sales than the Harry Potter books or the DVD of “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” according to the market research firm GfK France.

    But economic interests may also play a role in pushing the tax break. France is home to Vivendi Games, Ubisoft Entertainment and Infogrames Entertainment, which owns Atari. All three companies were among the top 10 video game companies in the world by revenue in 2005.

    With a total of roughly 100 video game companies, France, along with Britain, has long produced more video games than the rest of Europe combined, according to the market research firm Idate, of Montpellier, France.

    Of late, however, the French companies have been facing tough times. Infogrames has been struggling against high debt, and an American rival, Electronic Arts, bought 19 percent of Ubisoft’s shares in 2004. And Vivendi Games earns most of its revenue from one best-selling game, World of Warcraft, said Laurent Michaud, head of the video games division at Idate.

    “It is true that the French video game sector is fragile,” Mr. Michaud said. “But this is true for companies in all markets due to the quick-changing nature of industry.”

    The minister’s push to have video games characterized as cultural goods faces challenges from the European Union and the video game industry itself.

    Since a tax break could constitute state aid to an industry, Mr. Donnedieu de Vabres went to Brussels in mid-October to argue his case with the European Union competition commissioner, Neelie Kroes. He said that the tax break would protect cultural goods and did not go against the European Union’s subsidy reduction policies.

    The Interactive Software Federation of Europe, a group of international video game companies, however, is opposed to enshrining video games as a part of cultural heritage for fear of government interference, and has resisted the tax breaks.

    “The French concept of culture is that the government knows better than consumers,” said Patrice Chazerand, secretary general of the group, based in Brussels. “It is unhealthy to have the French government using discriminatory subsidies to influence video games.”

    Those producing video games outside of France warn that financial assistance would make French game producers lose touch with their audience.

    “Similar to what happened with the French film industry, these plans will prove bad for the industry and for consumers,” said Gerhard Florin, the executive vice president in Switzerland for international publishing at Electronic Arts, which would not directly benefit from French government support. “French cinema’s financial assistance supports only a few well-connected producers who no longer need to pay attention to consumers.”

    In 2004, French cinema received support equivalent to 523 million euros, or $665 million, according to a study released in May by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

    To Yves Guillemot, chief executive of the French video game giant Ubisoft, tax breaks are necessary to keep French salaries internationally competitive. Partly because of high French salaries, only 600 of the 3,500 employees at Ubisoft are in France, Guillemot said. About 1,500 employees work in Canada, where most production occurs, with the rest spread among China, the United States, Romania and Spain.

    “Without production in France, we lose the creativity and diversity that this country offers,” Mr. Guillemot said. “When we create games in a country — if it is China or France — we put our way of life into that game.”

    Arguments for cultural diversity echo strongly with Mr. Donnedieu de Vabres, who wants to ensure France’s continued role in the video game industry. “We need a public policy to help stop this sector from outsourcing,” he said. “Just like music and the cinema, video games should be supported by the state.”

    But not all video games would receive support. Funds would go only to those that have creative input from France and are deemed to have artistic merit.

    “Video game characters will not be required to wear a beret and carry a liter of wine under their arm,” Mr. Donnedieu de Vabres said. “But we do need to protect what is different in video games produced by each nation.”


I dunno, it seems to me that video games should be at least slightly subversive, like art, music and movies: once government gets mixed up with creativity, nothing good can come of it.


Donnedieu de Vabres does seem to have a knack for publicity: he popped up again yesterday in the Financial Times, where Peter Aspden interviewed him in conjunction with a new exhibition, part of "Paris Calling: A Season of Contemporary Art from France," which opened this past summer and by the time it ends next month will have featured more than 30 exhibitions and events in England.

By the way, his full title is "Minister of Culture and Communication."

Talk about babblespeak — George Orwell couldn't have done better.

November 9, 2006 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

iCush Immersive Audio Sync Seat


Say what?

From the website:

HoMedics iCush Immersive Audio Sync Seat

The iCush Immersive Audio Seat provides an audio sync massage with the beat of music, a game or movie.

Compatible with all MP3 players, computers and portable entertainment systems.

Includes adjustable aluminum cone speakers for a truly customized audio and massage experience.



• Audio sync — Feel the beat of the music, game or movie with the touch of a button

• Adjustable aluminum cone speakers for a customized audio experience

• Wired programmable electronic control with three pre-set programs

• Adjustable intensity, speed and personalized body zone control

• Control the volume through your audio source

• Music plays with or without massage feature

• Portable cushion measures 32" x 20" x 6".



Terrible name, in fact, so bad that Steve Jobs might not even bother sending out his lawyerbots with a cease-and-desist order.

But that's just my opinion.



[via Meaghan Wolff and the Washington Post]

November 9, 2006 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

« November 8, 2006 | Main | November 10, 2006 »