UAE Under the Sea

Incredible as it may sound, Dubai is planning an underwater hotel that will cost up to half a billion to build. With about 220 rooms, the Hydropolis Hotel will entertain guests with underwater views, a half-submerged concert hall, snorkeling and of course a plastic surgery clinic. Oh yeah, and they’re going to have some sort of marine biology lab too. Guests will get to the hotel by way of a train travelling through a 1/3-mile long plexiglass tube. Living with the fishes won’t come cheap: rooms will cost up to $5500 a night. Reserve now for the planned 2006 opening.

Robo-Exoskeleton (Attn: Christopher Reeve!)

A consortium of 30 Japanese companies are planning on working together (yeah, like that ever happens) to produce a robot exoskeleton that can be worn by the infirm, elderly or handicapped people. A prototype of HAL-3 (Hybrid Assistive Legs) has been developed by Yoshiyuki Sankai, professor and engineer at Tsukuba University. Developers hope that by the time these devices come to market, they will be "thin enough to be worn like underwear and will allow users to run and move…freely."

Via Protein Feed

File Swappers Pardoned

From BusinessWeek:

RIAA turns down some heat on file sharers
The Recording Industry Association of America offers an amnesty program to some individuals involved in the illegal sharing of copyrighted music files online, reports say.

The Recording Industry Association of America will extend an amnesty program to some individuals involved in illegal sharing of copyrighted music files online, according to numerous published reports.

Traders of illegal music will be asked to erase all existing HD copies, destroy all cd-r versions, and fill out and submit and official subpoena form along with a photocopy of their driver’s license. In addition, customers are required to shave their heads, register with the local RIAA compliance office, surrender all firearms and wear a large pink triangle sewn to their clothing.

Universal Price Reductions: Rewarding P2P?

Universal Music Group, the company that controls about 30% of the legitimate music business in the United States, has announced that they are reducing the price of their CDs by as much as 30%. With similar moves expected by other labels and retailers, CDs may cost as little as 50% of their current price in just a short time. Expect similar price cuts from pay-per-song retailers like iTunes and BuyMusic.

Universal dropped the price in response to the overwhelming pressure from peer-to-peer file-swapping networks that the company says are responsible for the flagging sales of their artists’ albums.

Some commentators have speculated that this is the beginning of the end for not just music labels like Universal, but for music as we know it. Without profit, they argue, there is no incentive to produce music, and with little profit nothing but bad music will be created. Others counter by saying that there is little in the way of good music being produced anyway, and that P2P systems have acted as a sort of “corporate disobedience” that forced record companies to drop price-fixing schemes. With the reduction in price, perhaps more people will be willing to pay for higher quality recordings and extras on a CD, and not P2P as much. And perhaps the reduction in price will actually encourage more artists to self-publish and reduce the role of record labels in deciding who will be tomorrow’s “american idol.” Of course, some think there’s no room at all for music labels in the traditional sense, now that the cat is out of the bag with P2P file sharing, and that the demise of the record companies is only a few years away.

What do you think? Is this the first sign that record companies are going under, or will they survive in some mutated form? Is the price drop going to change your music buying/downloading habits? Will the end of record companies mean “good” music like Justin Timberlake will get lost in the quagmire of independant artists? Or is all this just a temporary fix until the record companies force Congress to enact even tougher standards to combat music piracy? Leave a comment about what you think the future of music is…

New Tiny MP3 Players

Creative has anounced two new MP3 players with the same shape but different internal tech. The Muvo2 units are both 2.6″ x 2.6″ x 0.8″ and weigh just over 3 oz. Both play MP3s or WMA, can be used as external hard-drives for file storage, and use fast USB 2.0 for transfering songs or files. The X-Trainer has 512 megs of flash memory, and designed more for sports use, while the Muvo2 1.5GB is, as the name suggests, a hard-drive based player with 1.5 gigs of storage capacity. The X-Trainer retails for $270, while the larger capacity 1.5GB model goes for just $230.

P2P: Watching Them Watching You

If you’re still swapping files on P2P networks but you’re getting nervous about the RIAA coming after you, check out Peer Guardian. This free software logs all IP addresses of those accessing your computer, and blocks addresses known to be RIAA. The software reportedly works, but unfortunately relies on a human element to figure out which IP addresses are the baddies: users who get “infringement letters” from the RIAA update the database based on the date and time of the alleged infringement. While this is a fine first step, I can imagine that the corporate muckety-mucks are going to find a way to mask their IP and avoid this program altogether. A better solution might be to come up with some way to punish computers that access yours in an unauthorized manner…

Wrist-top GPS For Less than $200

Garmin has posted a sneak peak of an upcoming wrist-mounted GPS unit designed specifically for runners. The Forerunner 201 is tiny compared to dash-mounted units, but large by comparison to units from Casio or Suunto. In exchange for the size, the Forerunner offers a large graphical display that can show speeds and directions, chart waypoints and guide you to specific locations on a map. It has features specifically for runners, such as calorie tracking and lap times, as well as a “virtual running buddy” you can pace yourself against. The Forerunner is significanly cheaper than other wrist-mounted GPS’s too — around $160 compared to $500 to $700 for others. Release expected for x-mas 2003.

Wireless Gaming On the Cheap

Linksys has a set of new wireless routers designed specifically for console gamers. The new Wireless Gaming Adapters (WGA) plug into any console with an ethernet connection (i.e. Playstation2, X-Box or GameCube) and link to your home wireless network. Previous DIY versions involved using a “wireless bridge” but these dedicated products are about half the price, and are designed for easy, driver-less configuration for consoles. Plus they can be used without an internet connection for direct head-to-head gaming with another console with an adapter. Price ranges from around $60 for the 802.11b version (pictured) to $100 for the faster 802.11g version.