Originally created 06/13/05

Techbits: Mobile TV, Disposable camcorders and more



TiVo extends portable video service

DALLAS - A new extension to TiVo Inc.'s portable video service will let mobile subscribers watch pre-recorded television shows on Windows-based handheld devices.

Until now, owners of the TiVo Series2 digital video recorder with the company's $12.95 monthly service could transfer their TiVo shows to Windows-based computers including laptops.

With the change, they can watch recordings on Windows Mobile-based Portable Media Centers, smart phones and Pocket PCs as well.

"By extending the TiVoToGo service to support multiple Windows Mobile-based devices, TiVo is enabling our subscribers to watch their favorite TV shows whenever and wherever they want," said Matt Wisk, TiVo senior vice president and chief marketing officer.

TiVoToGo is still incompatible with portable devices running PalmOS or Linux, said Jim Denney, TiVo's director of product marketing. He said the company may make those systems compatible at some point.

TiVo has more than 3.3 million subscribers using its machines, which unlike VCRs allow viewers to pause live TV and begin watching shows before recording ends.

-Matt Slagle, AP Technology Writer.

B>Video cameras go disposable

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - For years, disposable cameras have been a magnet for last-minute photographic whimsy, encouraging all manner of embarrassing pictures from weddings and other social events.

Watch out: There's now a disposable video camera.

The $29.99 pocket-sized digital video cameras are able to capture up to 20 minutes of video and sound.

CVS Corp. stores, which has exclusive rights to sell them, will process the camera for $12.99 and return a DVD; users also can e-mail video and video greeting cards.

Pure Digital Technologies Inc. developed and designed the camera with just three buttons. One starts and stops recording, another is used to play back video and the third deletes recorded segments.

Grant Pill, director of photography and imaging at CVS, said the camera is ideal for people who don't want to spend hundreds of dollars or fuss with too many controls.

Available now in the Northeast and elsewhere by the end of the month, the video camera looks similar to a point-and-shoot disposable camera, except it's held vertically to film.

The camcorder weighs 5.5 ounces, Pill said, and is about the size of an MP3 player.

Users watch what they're filming through a rectangular, 1.4-inch wide color display. There are no zoom features. After filming a segment, the user can review what's been recorded and choose to delete the segment at any time during playback.

Pill called the film good VHS quality, but acknowledged it isn't on par with that produced by some personal camcorders.

"George Lucas isn't going to use this to shoot Star Wars IV," he said, "but a budding George Lucas may use this to shoot something in his backyard."

-Richard C. Lewis, AP Writer.

UN humanitarian game is a hit

UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations says it has a surprise hit with a video game meant to show just how cool humanitarian aid work can be.

"Food Force" puts gamers in command of a crack team from the World Food Program out to help the people of the fictitious island of Sheylan. Over six missions, gamers pilot a helicopter, negotiate a dangerous road and distribute nutritious food rations.

"The story we want people to go away with is that there are hungry people in the world and feeding them is more than a full-time job, and it's groups like WFP that do it," WFP spokesman Justin Roche said.

The free game, which cost about $300,000 and took three years to make, has been downloaded more than 1 million times in the six weeks since it first appeared in mid-April at food-force.com, the World Food Program said.

"Not one shot was fired - unusual in games these days," said John Powell, WFP deputy executive director for fund-raising and communications. "We've struck the right balance between entertainment, game play and communicating a global issue like hunger."

U.N. officials eventually hope to translate the English game into some of the U.N.'s five other official languages. They say the game has reached 40 countries so far.

The idea for the game came from WFP employee Paola Biocca, who died in a plane crash in 1999 in Kosovo.

-Nick Wadhams, AP Writer.

Language spoken by 35,000 has Google

BERN, Switzerland - Not many people have heard of Romansch. But in the future, those looking for Web sites in Switzerland may find themselves trying to decipher this Latin-linked language.

That's because Google Inc., the Internet's leading search engine provider, is now offering its service in Romansch, a language spoken by just 35,000 people in the mountains of southeastern Switzerland, the company said Wednesday.

The Swiss government has passed laws to protect the minority Romansch language, such as requiring its use in schools and on bank notes, but speakers will now have the opportunity to "tschertgar il web" - or search the Web - in their native language.

Though the interface is in Romansch, results aren't limited to the language. Nonetheless, the initiative has been welcomed by Romansch groups, who have been seeking ways to keep their dwindling language alive.

Romansch, a direct descendant of Latin and one of Switzerland's four official languages, has struggled to cope with encroachment of German.