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An Olympian Odyssey
Perky vibrating peripherals, video displays on a microchip, and an auction for dead dotcoms
Compiled by JIM ERICKSON

Coming to the wee screen
Think the display on your cellphone is too small? Video screens smaller than a fingernail will appear on the market before the end of the year, a technological feat that will make watching "Little Women" even more unbearable. Two U.S. companies, inViso and eMagin, plan to mount silicon-chip-based microdisplays on special glasses that magnify images to viewable proportions. Among applications: Data-display goggles for scuba and sky divers, and totally private computer screens.

Photo illustration by Manodh Premaratne.
Final Clearance
Mainland China plans to use an old-economy sales gimmick to clean up a new-economy mess by putting more than 100 failing Chinese websites on the auction block. The fire sale, set for Sept. 29, is being organized by the International Trade Promotion Committee, a group with close ties to the Trade Ministry. Almost everything must go. Of the estimated 100,000 websites that were started on the mainland during the country's Internet boom, more than 90,000 are expected to run out of cash and go bust. The planned auction will include not only entire companies, but also assets including domain names, technology, web content and hardware. Foreign bidders are reportedly welcome, but China's laws on offshore ownership in the Internet sector remain murky. Better stick to eBay.

Here's a critter that has had far too much caffeine. The VMouse, made by U.S.-based AVB, doesn't just click. It vibrates whenever you receive an e-mail or to the beat of an MP3 tune. AVB officials say it also makes an excellent massager during long stints at the keyboard. Don't even think about it.
Maybe you are enjoying the spectacle of the XXVII Olympiad, but some of us are a little put off by the modern improvements — the drag-reducing bodysuits, the bicycles that look like something out of Tron. Oh, to witness the Olympic games of old, when muscular young athletes faced each other the way nature intended, not in bodysuits, but in the buff. Curators at Sydney's Powerhouse Museum ( may have been thinking along these lines when they created "1000 Years of the Olympic Games — Treasures of ancient Greece." The website is an interactive online exhibit of Greek art, architecture and artifacts from the time of the I Olympiad. Featured are virtual-reality tours of first-century Olympia and a panoramic 3D statue of Zeus, patron deity of the competitions. Bells and whistles such as a zooming function and downloadable 3D glasses abound. But to fully experience the glory of the games, you'll need a Pentium III processor (Intel sponsored the elaborate site), a broadband Web connection, four browser "plug-ins" and the stamina of a marathon runner. Back to the tube.

Santa, is that you?
For many fast-dissipating dotcoms, the holiday shopping season this year represents a last chance at survival — and customers are not in a generous mood. A recent survey by Cognitiative, a San Francisco market research firm, concluded e-commerce sales this year will come mainly from experienced online shoppers, and they will be less forgiving of software glitches, shipping delays, and other B2C irritants. "Web sites that don't meet performance expectations of savvy customers will be abandoned," warns Cognitiative's chief executive Laurie Windham. To keep the Grim Reaper from sliding down the chimney, shopping sites should heed the following holiday wish list. Customers want:

1) Web pages that load fast
2) One-click shopping process
3) Real-time information on whether a product is in stock and when it will ship
4) Realistic estimates on when a product will arrive
5) Prompt response to e-mail enquiries and telephone backup

Trash talk
Multiplayer gaming on the Internet made Quake a less-solitary pursuit. Now it no longer need be a silent one. The Microsoft Game Voice opens a communications link to online opponents and team members so participants can fire insults at each other along with the nuclear warheads. The gadget also utilizes voice-recognition technology allowing players to control game actions with spoken commands. We hope it understands "retreat."

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