Bits & Bytes
LUCENT TURNS DATA INTO A VISUAL FEAST
SINCE BEING SPUN OFF FROM AT&T last year, Lucent Technologies Inc., the former Bell Labs, has been prolific. On Dec. 8, Lucent announced its fifth business venture. Called Visual Insights, the wholly owned company, headquartered in Naperville, Ill., plans to market software programs that transform vast amounts of data into visual displays for easy analysis.
The software draws on years of Bell research and patents in computer graphics, statistics, human factors, and computer science. The company's first product uses data-visualization techniques to help with complex Year 2000 projects. All of a company's software programs are represented graphically, with lines showing relationships and colors signifying how crucial each is to operations. From there, a manager can drill down and look at individual programs--up to 100,000 lines of programming code can be graphically displayed at once. Date-sensitive lines of code that need to be fixed are identified, speeding up project time. A visualization program aimed at managing networks is scheduled for release early next year.EDITED BY AMY CORTESEReturn to top
LONG DISTANCE VIA THE NET--WITHOUT A PC
NOTHING GIVES LONG-DISTANCE PHONE-SERVICE providers a headache like free Internet phone calls. So, Silicon Valley startup Aplio Inc. is sure to have them reaching for the aspirin. The company's new Aplio Phone lets callers place long-distance calls the conventional way, and then--by pressing a button--drop that connection and reconnect over the Internet. For anyone whose monthly bill exceeds the $20 for an Internet account, this could be a huge savings. And unlike other Net-calling approaches, it does not require a PC--just connect the small device to the phone, the way you would an answering machine.
There are trade-offs. It takes 45 seconds from the time the caller presses the button to the time the phone rings again at the other end. Plus, there's a half-second lag on conversation. However, unlike fuzzy-sounding programs from others, the Aplio phone has a dedicated microprocessor and custom digital-signal processor that improves quality.
Priced at $199 for one or $329 for two, the Aplio could soon pay for itself in long-distance savings. And, with an upgrade planned for this spring, the recipient won't need to have an Aplio device. The company also is talking to phonemakers such as Sony Corp. and Phillips Electronics about integrating the device into their handsets.EDITED BY AMY CORTESE Peter BurrowsReturn to top
THIS `JOYSTICK' FITS LIKE A GLOVE--BECAUSE IT IS
VIDEO GAMES ARE GETTING more sophisticated all the time--with splashy graphics, complex plots, and scary villains. But the real challenge has been to come up with a game controller that lets you easily move around the screen, whether to drop-kick your opponent or get out of his way.
Get ready for The Glove. Developed by Reality Quest in Longmont, Colo., The Glove is shaped like, well, a glove--but with one twist: The device includes a plastic casing cradle that straps onto the hand with Velcro and uses wrist-motion sensing technology to help scoot around a screen. That makes it a cinch to move anywhere on the screen with a flick of the wrist and perform tricky cyberfeats such as virtually steering a car or running uphill.
There are also arcade-style action buttons in the fingertips and on the side of The Glove for all the best gaming moves--kicking, punching, shooting, and flying. The $89.95 right-handed game controller is available at retail stores, including Best Buy, Babbage's, Toys `R' Us, Electronics Boutique, and Sony Stores. The Glove is designed for use with Sony Corp.'s PlayStation, but Reality Quest plans to introduce a version next year for PCs. No word yet on a model for lefties.EDITED BY AMY CORTESE Heather GreenReturn to top