Pupils given preview of tomorrow's world
The Strathspey & Badenoch Herald
25th May 2006

SCHOOL pupils from across Badenoch and Strathspey enjoyed a glimpse of tomorrow's world as some of the 21st Century's latest inventions went on show in Aviemore.

The day-long Digital Future conference saw around 400 of the newest revolutionary products showcased and tested by local school children at the Macdonald Aviemore Highland Resort.

The recent event was organised by Highlands and Islands Enterprise as a platform for some of the region's brightest minds to get their inventions into the public eye.

The exhibition was also a chance for HIE to demonstrate how some of the products being developed through its association with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will work in daily life.

A number of business tools, healthcare aids and personal toys that are likely to be available in the shops over the coming years and even decades were available for a test run.

By sponsoring the research, enterprise chiefs hope businesses in the Highlands and Islands will be able to take advantage of having access to some of the most up-todate technology and thinking in the world.

Around 250 local children aged between three and 15 were able to explore a huge range of tools and toys currently being developed for the market.

Some youngsters had the chance to make their own Tshirts, while others put the latest computer games through their paces.

One sports game, called Breakout for Two, allowed two opponents to have a football match from the comfort of their own homes.

Participants had to throw or kick a real ball at a wall to break through a virtual projection of blocks that partially obscure a live video image of the other player.

Visitors were also wowed by a prototype teddy bear called the Huggable that moved and interacted with the user thanks to a 'skin' packed with temperature, electrical and force sensors.

The Huggable responded to touch and voice and was able to recognise the user when he or she approached before nuzzling in for a cuddle.

The bear was one of many items healthcare professionals were keen to explore at the event. It is currently being earmarked for use in nursing homes and hospitals, where the friendly companion will be able to monitor and record the patient's activity.

Other pieces of new software on show at the event included a tool to allow budding Mozarts to experience the life of a talented composer without having the musical training with the help of the latest camera technology.

A fashion show with a difference brought the technological extravaganza to a close, featuring creative and digital clothing both from MIT and Highlands and Islands designers.

Highlights on the catwalk included a snowy-white scarf called the whiSpiral which contained short audio messages recorded by friends or loved ones.

The scarf came to life when touch and motion sensors detected a soft caress or wrapping movement with the secret messages then being whispered to the wearer.

Walter Bender, president of One Laptop per Child, spoke about the campaign to produce a robust, wind-up computer for $100 to be distributed through sponsorship to some of the world's poorest children, enabling them to communicate across the globe.

Dave Chatting, BT facial communications researcher, said the event had been a chance for consumers of all ages to have a sneak preview into the world of tomorrow.

Mr Chatting was demonstrating a Moving Portraits creation at the event - an interactive painting that responds to your attention.

He said: "The concept could lead us towards the point when we can power up our computers just by looking at them, or it powering down and going to sleep as soon as you move on to something else.

"Imagine car dashboards where the dials and controls only light up when you look at them, or advertising hoardings that are just bare walls until someone looks up.

"Moving Portraits is a spellbinding device in its own right, but is simply a demonstration of the concept of our gadgets giving us more feedback if we give them more attention.

"When you walk in front of the picture and look at it, a digital camera registers exactly where you're looking and the picture animates. In this case, a girl takes her hands away from her face and smiles at you.

"If you keep looking, she starts giggling and gets more excited, rewarding you for paying her more attention."