What if you could have someone sing to you anything you could write? That would be pretty cool yeah? Well, here is your chance. Basically you type in what you want them to sing and they sing it for you instantly. The site reads your text and then finds clips of songs and puts them together into a really messed up but interesting song for you to listen to.

It gets a bit weird when you pick a word they don’t have in the database yet because it pieces together the words syllable by syllable. If you can pick words they have it does sound pretty cool. Of course the best part…it’s free.

Let them sing it for you


Subaru WRC Concept

Subaru has chosen September’s 62nd Frankfurt International Motor Show (IAA) for the biggest new model blitz in its history.

Key attractions include the European debut for the completely new Impreza, a striking World Rally Car Concept, facelifted Tribeca luxury SUV, totally new Justy supermini and the world’s first horizontally-opposed ‘boxer’ turbo-diesel engine – due to be progressively installed in various models from spring 2008.

Subaru WRC driver, Petter Solberg, will speak at the Subaru press conference (Tuesday, September 11, Hall 8 at 2 pm) when the new Impreza-based WRC Concept will be unveiled.

Described as an indication of future styling trends for a world rally car, the WRC Concept is sure to draw the crowds – and conjure up speculation among enthusiasts and the press alike.

Also presenting at the press conference is Mr Matsatsugu Nagato, Fuji Heavy Industries’ Executive Vice President in charge of European markets.

He will unveil the completely new Impreza five-door hatchback in its 1.5 and 2.0 litre naturally-aspirated formats – aimed at appealing to a wider audience while still retaining Subaru’s distinctive ‘boxer’ engines and symmetrical all-wheel drive. Both technologies offer outstanding handling and roadholding with ‘real world’ active safety.

On-sale late September in the UK, the new Impreza boasts substantially increased passenger space thanks to a new platform with new multi-link, double-wishbone rear suspension which gives agile handling combined with an exceptionally absorbent ride.

Other exhibits include a facelifted Tribeca with new front and rear styling plus a larger – but more efficient – 3.6 litre ‘boxer’ engine mated to a more responsive five-speed automatic gearbox. Other improvements include easier access to the optional third row of seats in the seven-seat versions.

A surprise appearance at the show is a completely new Justy 1.0 litre five-door supermini offering superb fuel economy coupled with low exhaust emissions. The front-wheel drive Justy will be supplied to Subaru for sale in Europe by Daihatsu Motor Co., Ltd.

Also guaranteed to generate intense interest is a display Subaru Boxer Turbo Diesel engine which will be fitted progressively to various models from spring 2008.

The world’s first horizontally-opposed diesel engine promises outstanding refinement, smoothness and low weight for excellent handling. In addition, fuel economy, performance and emissions will all be class-challenging.

Also underlying Subaru’s commitment to developing environmentally-friendly technologies is an example of its R1e electric city car – already in use in Japan.

The current exchange rates means British investors need to act fast to profit from the $2 pound.

Window of opportunity

It isn’t just the shoppers who are benefiting from the current exchange rates that get you $2 for every pound – the business world can benefit too. But economists are saying the window of opportunity may be short lived. If you are thinking about buying an investment property, or investing in American denominated assets, financial advisors are urging them to cash in on the current exchange rates that have seen the dollar plunge. The historic rise of the pound above $2 won’t last.

Exchange rates favourable for investors

The last time the exchange rates were so favourable for the British pound against the American dollar was back in 1992 thanks to a big hike in UK inflation. And now it’s back – the ‘buy one dollar, get one free’ which means American shares and property investments are cheaper than they have been in over 15 years.

The slide of the greenback

The slide of the greenback analysts are saying, won’t last – and so shoppers, consumers, investors and property investors need to act fast. Historically the exchange rates that have seen the pound rise above $2 are followed by a big drop. And even a drop of a few percent can have a big impact if you have major investments.

Snap up dollars

Economists are unanimous in saying it’s a good time to snap up dollars and make the most of the exchange rates now – even if you do not need dollars now, you can fix into the current high exchange rates using specialist currency exchange brokers for up to two years, giving you space and time to make the most of your dollars if for example you’re considering buying a property Stateside or going on a shopping spree later in the year.

Second home abroad

Many Brits are looking for second homes or holiday lets abroad, and the countries that trade in the dollar are now property hotspots thanks to the exchange rates. If you have been thinking about purchasing a bolthole abroad, countries such as Dubai, where the currency is linked to the dollar, are golden opportunities, as well as countries such as the Bahamas and Caribbean where property can be purchased using US dollars.

Markets linked to the dollar

As well as property, the exchange rate mean it’s an opportunistic time to buy US shares or an American fund as the pound stretches the dollars further. Other emerging markets, economists say, such as Latin America and China, whose currencies are linked to the dollar are also good investment opportunities.

Now is certainly time to book your holiday to the States and travel agents have already reported a 30% rise in bookings thanks to the exchange rates and the strengthened pound.

China is launching an experimental summer camp for 40 youngsters to try to wean them off their internet addiction, state media said.

The 10-day programme would accept youngsters aged between 14 and 22 once they had undergone a psychological test and evaluation, the China Daily said.

About 2.6 million – or 13% – of China’s 20 million internet users under 18 are classed as addicts, state media have reported.

The youngsters at the summer camp would be treated for depression, fear, unwillingness to interact with others, panic and agitation.

It would appear to be offering a softer option than the Internet Addiction Treatment Centre near Beijing which uses a blend of therapy and military drills to treat children addicted to online games, internet pornography and cybersex.

Concerned by a number of high-profile Internet-related deaths and juvenile crime, the government is now taking steps to stem internet addictions by banning new Internet cafes and mulling restrictions on violent computer games.

According to government figures, there are currently 113,000 internet cafes and bars in China.

The newspaper cited the case of one student accepted to East China University of Science and Technology with high marks.

“He could not adjust to Shanghai campus life without burying himself in computer games,” the China Daily said. “He would play day and night, skipping classes and avoiding friends, until he was pulled out of the internet cafe by a supervisor.”

In a joint effort with the camp, Shanghai’s education commission has organised a volunteer group to patrol the city streets and stop minors entering internet cafes.

Digital photographers could soon be able to erase unwanted elements in photos by using tools that scan for similar images in online libraries.

Research teams have developed an algorithm that uses sites like Flickr to help discover light sources, camera position and composition in a photo.

Using this data the tools then search for objects, such as landscapes or cars, that match the original.

The teams aim to create image libraries that anyone can use to edit snaps.

James Hays and Alexei Efros from Carnegie Mellon University have developed an algorithm to help people who want to remove bits of photographs.

The parts being removed could be unsightly lorries in the snaps of the rural idyll where they took a holiday or even an old boyfriend or girlfriend they want to rub out from a photograph.

To find suitable matching elements, the research duo’s algorithm looks through a database of 2.3 million images culled from Flickr.

“We search for other scenes that share as closely as possible the same semantic scene data,” said Mr Hays, who has been showing off the project at the computer graphics conference Siggraph, in San Diego.

In this sense “semantic” means composition. So a snap of a lake in the foreground, hills in a band in the middle and sunset above has, as far as the algorithm is concerned, very different “semantics” to one of a city with a river running through it.

The broad-based analysis cuts out more than 99.9% of the images in the database, said Mr Hays. The algorithm then picks the closest 200 for further analysis.

Next the algorithm searches the 200 to see if they have elements, such as hillsides or even buildings, the right size and colours for the hole to be filled.

The useful parts of the 20 best scenes are then cropped, added to the image being edited so the best fit can be chosen.

Early tests of the algorithm show that only 30% of the images altered with it could be spotted, said Mr Hays.

The other approach aims to use net-based image libraries to create a clip-art of objects that, once inserted into a photograph, look convincing.

“We want to generate objects of high realism while keeping the ease of use of a clip art library,” said Jean-Francois Lalonde of Carnegie Mellon University who led the research.

To generate its clip art for photographs the team has drawn on the net’s Label Me library of images which has many objects, such as people, trees and cars, cut out and tagged by its users.

The challenge, said Mr Lalonde, was working out which images in the Label Me database will be useful and convincing when inserted into photographs.

The algorithm developed by Mr Lalonde and his colleagues at Carnegie Mellon and Microsoft Research analyses scenes to find out the orientation of objects and the sources of light in a scene.

“We use the height of the people in the image to estimate the height of the camera used to take the picture,” he said.

The light sources in a scene are worked out by looking at the distribution of colour shades within three broad regions, ground, vertical planes and sky, in the image.

With knowledge about the position, pitch and height of the camera and light sources the algorithm then looks for images in the clip art database that were taken from similar positions and with similar pixel heights.

The group has created an interface for the database of photo clipart so people can pick which elements they want to add to a scene.


The car went off course at the rally
The car went off the course at the Lurgan Park rally
Seven people have been injured, one seriously, after a rally car crashed off the course and into a group of spectators in County Armagh.

Three ambulance crews attended the accident which happened on Saturday at about 1642 BST at Lurgan Park rally.

A number of people are in hospital with chest and back injuries. A 12-year-old boy suffered a head injury.

It is understood the accident happened in heavy rain at the last stage of the race.

Some countries are refusing to accept NI meat and dairy produce
The message that NI produce is free from foot-and-mouth disease is getting across to the rest of the world, the deputy first minister has said.

Martin McGuinness was speaking to reassure local firms which experienced problems exporting to Japan, Germany and south America.

Northern Ireland is exempt from the export ban imposed in the rest of the UK after the Surrey outbreak.

But there has been confusion and some importers are wary.

“Whilst there may have been some initial confusion in many different parts of the world over the use of the words ‘United Kingdom’ and ‘Great Britain’, I think we are now making it clear to people that the island of Ireland is totally and absolutely free of foot-and-mouth,” Mr McGuinness said.

MEP Jim Allister has said any attempt by Germany to refuse NI exports of dairy and pork products, would be an unacceptable breach of EU rules.


He contacted the office of the internal market commissioner, Charlie McCreevy, after shipments of sausage meat to Germany had been cancelled.

“I’m saying to Commissioner McCreevy, who’s in charge of the internal market, that it’s up to him to stop this defiance of EU rules,” Mr Allister said.

“It really is quite appalling that when success is obtained in securing exemption for Northern Ireland, which puts us in the category of any other part of Europe with the exception of GB, that there should be a member state who would seek to defy that.”

Meanwhile, First Minister Ian Paisley has spoken to the Foreign Office about the difficulties encountered by some NI firms shipping meat and dairy products abroad.

Precautions are being taken at Fermanagh County show
Disinfectant mats are being used as a precaution againt the disease

A shipment of pork from County Tyrone was stopped from entering Japan and a local dairy company claimed Germany had refused its produce.

Mr Paisley said he would stress that NI had not been affected by the outbreak.

Dale Farm said orders were at risk after what it claimed was Germany’s decision to ban all UK milk products.

Difficulties were also being encountered in shipping dairy products to South American markets.

The pork stopped in Japan was sent from Grampian Foods in Cookstown.

Hugh McReynolds, the firm’s managing director, said it was not good news for Northern Ireland’s pig farmers.

Grampian said it was also experiencing difficulties in shipping its products to the US and Germany.

On Monday, Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew’s confirmed that Northern Ireland was to be allowed to continue to export meat and dairy products.

Doctors are turning to graphic artists to help patients better understand their illness and course of treatment.

The artists turn medical images from 3D anatomical scans into less formidable forms, suitable for patients.

Trials of the system have shown it can aid understanding and deepen dialogue between patients and their care givers.

The system is also being used as part of a project to raise awareness among diabetics of some of the most serious side-effects of their condition.

“Doctors talk shop, which can be difficult for patients to penetrate,” said John McGhee, a PhD student and 3D computer artist from the University of Dundee, who helped to direct the visualisation project.

The tools and methods used to pass on information about illnesses and cures were as various as the doctors themselves, Mr McGhee said.

“None are that great,” he said.

But, by producing simplified images from detailed MRI scans, for example, patients can get a far better grasp of what is happening inside them, how it came about, and what is being done about it, he said.

Knowledge base

The effect of the images has been used in a study of 18 patients suffering from arteriosclerosis, an illness that causes hardening of the arteries which can, over time, lead to heart attacks and stroke.

Computer image of cancer cell
Cancer cells can also be imaged using the technique

Initially, Mr McGhee said, the trial was all about whether the patients – average age 71 – could understand what the images depicted.

But, he said, it proved its effectiveness in other ways too.

“It was about imparting information but more importantly about getting a dialogue going on to help to get the patient discussing what is going on,” he said.

Exposure to the images also helped in subsequent discussions, said Mr McGhee.

“When they talk to health professionals and go armed with better questions and knowledge of their anatomy,” he said.

Early warning

In a related project, computer graphics derived from medical images are being used in a bid to prompt diabetics to keep an eye on their health.

Computer generated image of an eye
Diabetes-induced blindness goes through several distinct stages

Run by PhD student Emma Fyfe, also from the University of Dundee, the project has produced a five minute film that explores the effect diabetes has on the retina.

In some cases diabetes can cause abnormalities in the blood vessels serving the retina and make sight deteriorate.

It was important for diabetics to have regular scans to catch the side effects of diabetes at the earliest opportunity, she said.

“If they catch it early they can stop it,” said Ms Fyfe. “But they cannot go backwards; they cannot cure it.”

The film has been shown to the Scottish Diabetes Group and there are plans to show it to other groups around the UK.

The research was shown off at the Siggraph computer graphics convention being held in San Diego, US from 5-9 August.

Games like Crysis are hoping to push the boundaries of realism

More than good looks are needed to make a great video game, according to Glenn Entis, chief technical officer at games giant Electronic Arts.

Mr Entis told the Siggraph conference that games makers had to use much more than graphics to make their creations believable, engaging and fun.

Game worlds must not just look lifelike, he said, they must also react in a realistic manner too.

Tools that let players create content were also becoming important, he said.

Siggraph, held in San Diego, is the world’s leading computer graphics conference.

During his speech, Mr Entis warned against assuming that games which look lifelike automatically take on the characteristics of the real world.

He said this problem was most acute when creating believable human video game characters.

Exquisitely sensitive

Humans were so exquisitely sensitive to how other people move and behave, said Mr Entis, that the smallest differences undermine the almost perfect physical representations of people becoming possible on next-generation consoles such as the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3.

“When a character’s visual appearance creates the expectation of life and it falls short your brain is going to reject that,” he said.

Improvements in graphics would not boost believability, he said. “Just adding polygons makes it worse.”

He said that to add authenticity EA had made extensive use of motion capture to catalogue how stance, gait and the tiny movements of facial muscles combine when people display different emotions.

Every part of nature that can respond will respond
Glenn Entis, EA

Using this, he said, the game maker had created a movement system for characters that unites these gross and fine-grained changes.

“It gives us alertness and empathy that we have never really had in our games before,” he said.

“Model and motion are what gives fidelity for non-interactive characters,” said Mr Entis, “but it is responsiveness and intelligence that really brings them alive.”

“Players have to relate to the characters they are holding in the palm of their hand,” he said.

Movement matching

The emotion and movement matching system was going to get its first airing in the next release of EA’s basketball game, NBA Live.

Similar demands held true for game worlds as well as the characters that inhabit them, said Mr Entis.

Game worlds must also react in a lifelike manner to whatever people do, he said. Often this can be done via good physics that dictates how scenery reacts when blown up or how liquids or gases move to produce an engaging, thrilling game.

“Every part of nature that can respond will respond,” he said.

Mr Entis said the forthcoming Crysis title was a good example of a game in which the responsiveness of the world made it more fun to play.

“It’s about worlds that look beautiful but behave beautifully as well,” said Mr Entis.

Finally, he said, easy to use tools for players were growing in importance and in some cases had become as important as the gameplay itself.

EA research

For example, he said, EA research had revealed that more than half the people that played The Sims spent more than half the time they play it just making stuff – be it characters or game extras such as furniture.

“They love making the stuff so much that it becomes the game,” he said.

EA was now working on a European Xbox 360 title called Virtual Me that gives players unprecedented control over the looks and wardrobe of the character they create. The game will be released alongside a TV programme put together by Big Brother creator Endemol.

The move by the games industry to give players more tools, such as the much-anticipated Spore game by Sim City creator Will Wright, was like the trend towards user-generated content seen on the web, said Mr Entis.

“It’s an exploding area,” he said.


August 2007
« Jul   Jan »