March 25, 2003

Newsworthy Gadgets I like gadgets.

Newsworthy Gadgets

I like gadgets. Gadgets are fun. Just looking around my desk right now I see a pen with a miniature massager on one end, a tiny MP3 player that provides music when I run, and a calculator which I use for calculating things.

A cellular phone is one gadget I do not own, and I will resist owning one until that Verizon guy tackles me, forces a phone into my ear, and asks "can you hear me now." Then, and only then, will I surrender to the world of the cellular phone. Why do I distrust cellular phones so much? Because they kill people, specifically Kenyans.

According to a March 14 Reuters news report out of Nairobi, Kenya, three Kenyans died trying to retrieve a mobile phone that slipped down an open-pit latrine while its owner answered a call of nature.

Now, I'm just guessing here, but if I were to own a cellular phone, and it fell into a latrine, I'd more than likely just give it up for lost. There are certain things I won't do, and talking into a phone that I know was once laying at the bottom of a latrine is top among them.

Anxious to recover her phone, the owner in the coastal town of Mombasa offered 1,000 shillings ($13.09) to anyone who would recover it. Well over half the Kenyan population of 30 million people lives on less than $1 a day.

Okay, everything has been set up here. We have a cellular phone at the bottom of a latrine, and we have 15 million Kenyans who view 1,000 shillings as a small fortune. Let the Mayhem ensue!

The first to try -- a 30-year-old radio technician -- failed to resurface after disappearing down a ladder into the latrine. His friend went after him but slipped and fell. The third casualty, trying to rescue the others, was hauled out of the pit by neighbors after he inhaled the fumes and lost consciousness. The man was rushed to a hospital but died on the way.

All of this is pretty incredible by itself, but what's even more incredible is that a fourth man, also wishing to retrieve the phone, had to be restrained by police before the search for the phone was finally abandoned. Therefore, I am steadfast in my resolve to resist buying a cellular phone. If for no other reason, I do so for the Kenyans.

But human to human interaction gadgets are old news. When it comes to human conversation, we pretty much have things covered. What we need is a good gadget for communicating with dogs. And, as luck would have it, such a gadget actually exists.

According to a March 22 Reuters news report out of Atlanta, Ga., a Japanese toy maker claims to have developed a gadget that translates dog barks into human language and plans to begin selling the product -- under the name Bowlingual -- in U.S. pet stores, gift shops and retail outlets this summer.

I don't know about you, but whenever I encounter a dog barking ferociously at me from behind a fence, I don't necessarily want to know what that dog is saying to me. I'm pretty sure that most dogs, when they bark, are actually firing our some pretty awful insults.

AVERAGE DOG: Bark, bark, woof, bark, barkity bark bark, woofity bark barkity bark!

TRANSLATION: Hey you! Yeah, you, you bipedal, clothes wearing freak! Come over here! I dare you! You see these teeth?! Yeah, you see them?! These teeth want a piece of your leg! No, they want your WHOLE leg! Bring it on, human boy! Rover's in da house!

Bowlingual consists of a 3-inch long wireless microphone that attaches to a dog collar and transmits sounds to a palm-sized console that is linked to a database. The console classifies each woof, yip or whine into six emotional categories -- happiness, sadness, frustration, anger, assertion and desire -- and displays common phrases, such as 'You're ticking me off,' that fit the dog's emotional state.

Imagine, if you will: you're walking down a street at night, when suddenly a large dog comes out of nowhere and starts running directly at you. Mixed in with the dog's menacing barks and growls, you hear a computerized voice stating "you're ticking me off" over and over and over again. That would scare the bejeezers out of me.

Other linguistic gems programmed into Bowlingual include "I've had enough" and "I'm a little bored, let's play." The product is reportedly going to be enhanced later on so that, and I swear this is true, owners can get e-mails from their dogs. What would a dog have to say via e-mail?

DOG E-MAIL: Dear Master. This is just Rex checking in to say "hey." I don't have much to tell you right now, except that I accidently pushed your cellular phone into a latrine. I wouldn't go get it if I were you. Send a Kenyan instead.

And get Jennifer Garner naked. And get Jennifer Garner nude. And get Jennifer Garner naked. And get Jennifer Garner naked. Jennifer Garner in a bikini. Jennifer Garner is hot. Jennifer Garner nipple slip. Jennifer Garner.

Posted by Ryan at March 25, 2003 01:19 PM
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