National | Technology

Issue: "What is art?," March 20, 2004

Your life, 21.6 seconds at a time…

Microsoft researchers developed a camera that constantly records the user's day-to-day events. Dubbed the SenseCam, this automated gizmo fits around the owner's neck and snaps up to 2,000 pictures in a 12-hour period. SenseCam takes low-resolution photos with a wide-angle lens and snaps photos without the user's intervention. A device known as an accelerometer helps prevent motion blurs.

Microsoft compares it to the black boxes used to track airplane flights. The camera reacts to environmental changes, such as movement, light level, and temperature, and collects images. Besides security and safety, possible personal uses range from logging a vacation to helping find lost items.

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The company's researchers say the SenseCam could one day record sound, connect to a facial-recognition system (which would spot colleagues and acquaintances), and detect changes in users' heart rates. It could also post pictures to the web wirelessly.

Yet the SenseCam isn't headed to electronics shops, at least not right away. The invention exists only as a prototype built to give software developers an idea of what technology lies ahead. (As an idea, it looks like a logical next step beyond the increasingly common cameras hidden inside cell phones.)

ITT probe looks at federal aid

ITT Technical Institute faces lawsuits and a federal investigation of alleged fraud charges. Many ITT students are eligible for financial aid, which is where some controversy brews. About 68 percent of the company's 2003 revenue of nearly $523 million came from federal programs.

Authorities raided 10 ITT campuses late last month, serving warrants and grand jury subpoenas. While federal prosecutors did not disclose why they ordered such drastic measures, at least three lawsuits accuse the company of falsifying data that affects the schools' qualifications for federal financial aid.

Classes remain open during the probe, which ITT CEO Rene Champagne said might not end speedily. (He also said his company will cooperate with investigators.)

The school is like a community college that focuses on technical fields, except it is for-profit and trades on the New York Stock Exchange. The Indiana-based company-which started in 1969 and broke off from the former ITT Corporation 30 years later-enrolls 37,000 students in 30 states. It offers assorted classes and online education, plus associate and bachelor's degree programs.

ITT is probably the most well-known name among trade schools. A scandal would mean another challenge to these outfits, which are still smarting from the economic slowdown and the rise of international outsourcing.

Ask Jeeves is buying a group of web search sites, including Excite, iWon.com, and MyWay.com, further consolidating the portal business. The combined company will boast more than 36 million visitors, according to the market researchers at comScore, and leap over Amazon.com as the internet's eighth most popular property.

New York, California, and at least 18 other states included on this year's income tax forms a line that orders taxpayers to declare what they owe on out-of-state purchases, including products from online stores. Legally, residents must pay the sales tax, yet many ignore the rule. Now budget crunches force regulators to press harder for payment; by adding the line, they imply that officials may investigate unpaid sales tax data during audits.

Microsoft faces a penalty from the European Union that could dwarf its historic settlement with the U.S. Justice Department. Eurocrat regulators want to force the software giant to offer a stripped-down version of Windows without multimedia features, which means no Media Player software. Microsoft claims it wants to negotiate an "amicable settlement" but is sure to fight any ordered changes in its flagship product.

Cincinnati-area utility Cinergy plans to offer internet access over power lines, tossing aside critics' claims that the concept is technologically shaky. This year, the venture hopes to attract 55,000 subscribers, who will go online by simply plugging a modem into their existing electrical outlets. Cinergy will provide the modem gratis and charge $29.95 or $39.95 per month.


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