Do humans have a fundamental right to the internet? In July, Finland was the first country to declare access to faster broadband internet a legal right. Then in September, the UN's International Unit of Telecommunications supported a broader adoption of the idea, suggesting that governments ought to encourage access by making broadband service development easier and keeping taxes on broadband moderate. Now Brazil's senate is considering a bill that would declare that access to broadband is a social right under the country's constitution. Finland already had substantial infrastructure in place when its bill passed, but should Brazil's measure succeed, the country would need to make a serious investment in infrastructure and education.
Such a declaration may seem extreme. And yet, the idea is gaining traction. Around the world, the internet's ability to promote free speech and foster social change is a hot topic: The recent uprisings in Libya, Egypt, and Tunisia, for instance, were fostered partially by citizens connecting through social networking tools. And China has come under fire for severely restricting its citizens' access to the internet. As everything from education to communication becomes increasingly web-based around the world, access to the internet will likely continue to be an important issue to policy makers.
If you've played a game on your phone lately, chances are good it was Angry Birds. Created by Finland-based technology company Rovio, the puzzle game-which involves launching birds with a slingshot and trying to hit pigs positioned within various structures-sold 50 million copies across various platforms (such as Android and iPhone) since it was first released in December 2009. It's also spawned T-shirts, plush toys, and an upcoming board game, and the company released special editions for Christmas and Halloween.
Angry Birds is moving well beyond the phone, and recently the company announced that fans of the game will soon be able to while away even more time flinging those angry birds, because it is coming to Facebook in May. But Angry Birds will face some fierce competition from other games. One competitor, CityVille, was released in January and gained 100 million active users within a month, and its predecessor FarmVille still has 50 million active users. Time to build a bigger slingshot.
Legendary critic Roger Ebert lost his lower jaw to cancer in 2006, and with it, the ability to eat or talk. He and a Scottish company called Cereproc have been working on creating a digitized voice for him, using audio from his many hours of recorded movie commentary. A preliminary version of the new voice (dubbed "Roger, Jr.") was unveiled on the Oprah Winfrey Show last year, but it wasn't completely ready for the recent TED conference in Long Beach, Calif., where Ebert shared stories about his struggles. He did use another synthesized voice to tell a joke, and when the audience laughed at the punch line-never a given with mechanized voices, since so much of humor is based on delivery and timing-Ebert proposed the "Ebert test" to measure the humanness of a synthesized voice: Can it tell a joke?