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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Gadgets 2

Aired January 2, 2000 - 1:35 p.m. ET


JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR: Sweat cutting your grass? This hour we look ahead, yes, to the future of lawn care.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exclamation point, new paragraph -- Forget all those typing skills you had to learn in high school -- period. I am currently using speech recognition to talk to my computer -- period. By talking to your computer -- comma -- you can generate documents -- comma -- create e-mail -- comma -- and get your work done simply by talking into your computer -- period, new paragraph.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: We'll check out the very latest in computer advances for the new millennium.

The times they are a'changing.

Hello again, everyone. We're back in our new techno set with Ed Curran, our "Gadget Guy," who's going to amaze us again today.

Hi, Ed.

ED CURRAN, "GADGET GUY": Thank you, hi.

Joel works well with his computer there, doesn't he?

ALLEN: He sure does. So much for all the typing classes we took in high school.

CURRAN: That's right, absolutely.

There are all kinds of new ways of computing, and here's an exciting new way that was just introduced at Comdex. This is a tablet computer. Everything you need is right here in this tablet. It is the access Qbe, and, you know, a little bit of glare there, but you can see I have Windows set up just like you do on your computer.

Here's Windows. And you can hold the tablet, you can take it wirelessly with you, you can lay it on your desk and just compute by using a stylus, you can write into it -- it has handwriting recognition. It will be out a few months down the road here. It will sell for about $3,500. But it's really amazing because it's all contained right in here. As a matter of fact, let me turn it sideways for you so you can see just how narrow this thing is. Look, that's the whole computer, folks.

ALLEN: So you don't have to worry about going into the family computer room and away from everyone, you can use the computer anywhere. It's nice.

CURRAN: Yes, you can take it with you anywhere. You can, you know, sit down in your favorite easy chair and use wireless access or something like that. Kind of like a notebook computer, but it's all in one.


CURRAN: ... screen or anything. Really neat, Access Qbe -- that's Q-B-E -- and out in a few months, about $3,500 -- really neat.

Now when you use something like this computer, you have to enter data into it. And it has handwriting recognition, where you can write on it with a stylus. And it has a touch screen, so you touch it -- it's like a giant Palm Pilot that we saw yesterday. So you can do all that, but what you can do with this is you can use speech recognition software in there and talk to your computer.

Now as Joel showed us, Dragon Systems is one of the finest systems out there for putting voice into your computer and having your computer understand you and convert your voice to text. And he's going show to show us just how amazing it is to make that work. As he sits here and talks, his...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Memo to all employees -- new paragraph.

CURRAN: He's bringing up the program right now, Microsoft Word.

Now as he starts to talk, the computer understands his speech and changes it into text and then prints it. That's why it prints a block at a time. Now the more he talks to his computer, the more his computer learns how he talks. If he says a certain word -- if you say a certain word kind of funny, a little bit different than the computer is used to, you tell the computer, no, when I said that word, I meant document. Now the computer learned, oh, OK, when you say that, you mean document. Now next time you say document, it understand you.

ALLEN: That's amazing.

CURRAN: Listen to what he's doing. Now watch, it's entirely be voice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... colon, new paragraph. You can dictate as fast as you can speak -- comma, new line -- and you can also format your documents simply by talking to the computer. Select you can dictate. Make two lines a bulletted list. Select "memo to all employees." Make paragraph a title. Make that a lot bigger. Make that red. Insert after tens of years -- period, new paragraph.

CURRAN: I didn't think that without doing a live demonstration of this could we convince people that this kind of technology is ready for prime-time. ALLEN: How long before we're all using this type of system, Ed?

CURRAN: You got a computer store near your house? Go out there and plunk down your money and buy the system and put it into your computer. I mean, there's nothing to it. The software is relatively You put it on your computer, you wear a headset, sit at your computer and type your next memo, You type just the way Joel just did. It's phenomenal and it's available today and it's Dragon Systems. And, as you can see, it works just great.

I had a wonderful story that Dragon Systems told me when this thing could only do about 35 words a minute. And that was of an attorney, and he had an illness that caused his speech to be slurred -- I don't recall if he had cerebral palsy -- but he spoke to the computer, and the computer learned his way of speaking and learned to understand him when people couldn't always understand him. And he became the most productive attorney in his department, because he never used the secretarial pool, he just spoke to his computer.

Well how far we've come since that time. And now we're all doing the same thing, using our computers.

MANN: Really remarkable.

CURRAN: We have another system here, which is when you're using some of these little computers that might go on your belt -- little, tiny computers, how do you see what's in the computer? Believe it or not, this is a computer monitor. You can wear a computer on your belt -- a little, tiny computer. This monitor can go on your glasses, and it hovers in front of your eye, Inside this monitor, I'm looking at a still picture that's being generated by a DVD player I have here next to me, and it can be a computer output, it can be video output, it could be anything.

But here, put that right up to your eye, as though you were wearing glasses, and you'll see in there the image. Unfortunately, it's so difficult to get as tight -- we tried; we can't show you on camera how it looks, but it really is marvelous.

MANN: Tell people at home, though, can you read? Can you read text? Could you see a picture and make out who's in it?

CURRAN: If we had it set up for that, you could.

MANN: This is amazing.

CURRAN: Isn't that remarkable? And they have another system. This from MicroOptical Corp. They have another system where it goes on the side of your glasses and actually projects it into the glass, and then beams it into your eye, much like a Teleprompter on television beams it in, and then into your eye.

So, really neat, and this is they way we'll be able to have little portable computers with us that we can wear on our glasses -- that we can wear on our belts and have -- you can see a little bit of video showing up there greatly magnified. MicroOptical Corporation. This is really cool.

MANN: Could you watch a movie that way at the beach?

CURRAN: You could. I wouldn't. But you could if you wanted to.

MANN: You're a gadget guy; that's the kind of thing you'd want to do.

CURRAN: That's right. In one eye. That's right.

This, from Bestell (ph), is an Internet terminal. And these terminals will come out as -- called the MSN Companion -- Microsoft Network Companion. Microsoft is working with Bestell to put these out, and Bestell's computer sits here.

Now this is not a computer like you use a computer at home. This is an Internet terminal. This is it, folks. It's this monitor, it's this keyboard, it's your phone line and plug it in the wall and you're on the Internet. Turn it on, it instantly comes on; there's no warming up or anything. Go right in here, choose what you want on the Internet, surf to that site -- and we're actually hooked up to a phone line here, and there's

These kind of Internet appliances, these types of easy ways to get on the Internet, are really our future. No longer do you have to access the Internet with this big, putty-colored machine that you can design the next space shuttle on. Instead, just have something simple like this in your kitchen, in your family room, anywhere in the house, and easily, quickly, inexpensively -- for maybe a couple hundred bucks -- get on the Internet.

ALLEN: Well, a lot of folks who don't use computers a lot this might be too farfetched for them, but everybody can relate to a lawnmower, can't they?

CURRAN: That's right.

ALLEN: And coming up in a moment, you will see the new thing in lawnmowers. And you don't ride this one. Stay with us.

ANNOUNCER: Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted that microchip capacity would double about every 18 months. His prediction, made back in 1965, still holds true.


MANN: We are back with bad news for burly high school students across America. Every neighborhood is likely to find a new unemployment level. The automotive lawnmower is here -- Ed Curran.

CURRAN: That's right. From Huskvarna -- they just introduced this at the hardware store back a few months ago. It's amazing. This'll be a lawnmower that you can put on your lawn, and there's a little perimeter cable that you put in the lawn, so it knows where the edges of the lawn are, and then it randomly cuts back and forth. Now, you can set this thing to start mowing at 3:00 in the morning. It's electric; it's very quiet. It'll go around. You'll never see it cut your lawn, you'll never see your lawn grow again, and that's it, it'll all be done.

ALLEN: That's unreal.

CURRAN: And when it starts to run low on it's charge, it parks in its docking station and starts recharging itself automatically.

MANN: You're actually listening to the lawnmower now, I am told, That's how quiet it is. There's none of the roar you associate with your Saturday morning.

CURRAN: Yes, it's fantastic. It'll be about $1,800 when it comes out.

ALLEN: Well, what about somebody just walking into your yard and stealing your little lawnmower in the middle of the night?

CURRAN: That's a very good point. If you pick it up to try to take off with it, a screaming siren goes off, so that you know somebody's trying to take your lawnmower. So that's it.

MANN: And what about your cat running into the lawnmower in the middle of the night?

CURRAN: Not a pretty picture, is it? It has a little thing you bump into and it'll stop. So it will stop for obstacles.

There are some other high-tech things out there. That's how to mow your lawn, but we also have a way to do your carpeting as well. Eureka has been showing a prototype of a vacuum cleaner that scoots around on the rug, goes around obstacles and will vacuum your floor. Really amazing stuff.

We have all kinds of smart appliances. Look at this thing. It just goes around what's on the rug there. All kinds of smart, including a way to cook. We have a smart microwave, as well. This is from Samsung. Imagine this: you take out your Lean Cuisine beef stroganoff, you wave it in front of the oven, and it knows that it's Lean Cuisine beef stroganoff, and it knows how to make it. You don't have to do anything; it makes it automatically, and then tells you when it's done. It scans the bar code and knows what you've bought. That's a real neat oven.

There's also other ways to cook as well. Here's a way to cook with light. Really cool stuff.


CURRAN (voice-over): This oven of the future cooks with light.

(on camera): There are eight 1,000-watt halogen lamps inside of here that are cooking our food. A baked potato in about 30 minutes; much faster than your conventional oven, a little bit slower than your microwave, but without the problems associated with microwave cooking. Kind of a grown-up version of your Easy Bake oven,


CURRAN: Now your Easy Bake oven cooked just with a lightbulb and used the heat. This uses infrared light from the bulbs as well as heat, as well as other light waves, to cook. It's real neat.

ALLEN: Are these going to be replacing conventional ovens?

CURRAN: You know, these guys came out with that oven. Somebody else has now come out with another light oven. So there are a couple out there, and they're, kind of, between conventional and microwave, but they're very cool in the way that they work.

Another thing that's gone high-tech is our refrigerator.

ALLEN: I like it.

CURRAN: A refrigerator combined with computer.


CURRAN (on camera): This isn't my desktop computer, it's my refrigerator computer. Look at this: I'm online with this refrigerator. Sit in the kitchen, look at my e-mail, surf the Internet, do whatever I normally would do on the computer, but right here on the face of the refrigerator. And if I run out of something, for instance, I'm down to my last bottle of Coke here, all I have to do is turn on the built-in scanner, wave the little UPC code in fronts of it, it scans it, and it adds it to our shopping list.


ALLEN: I love that.

CURRAN: Isn't that wonderful? Both those items we saw down at Innoventions at Epcot Center, down at Disney World. And they have a high-tech home there set up.

You know, we're all getting -- we all keep hearing how we're all getting older, right? And so we need to monitor our health and stuff like that. Look at this. This has just been given the go-ahead from the FDA, and this is a glucose-monitoring watch for people who are diabetic. They can monitor their glucose level, their blood-sugar level, just by wearing this on the wrist. Normally you have to do a finger stick and draw a drop of blood to monitor your blood-sugar level. In this case, you'll be able to wear a watch, and this glucose watch-monitor -- actually, it's just a prototype; the real thing won't look like this or act like this. But it's able to -- you take a finger stick, you calibrate the watch according to what your blood level says, and then it will monitor your level every 20 minutes.

And here I brought up the low level -- it'll show us the high level within a period of time, and show your current level. Really remarkable technology. Again the -- it just got the go-ahead from the FDA. Very, very exciting stuff to do that kind of monitoring from your wrist.

ALLEN: That will be available this year?

CURRAN: Hopefully. I think we may see it later this year. Yes.

This is one of the greatest cameras. This is an Olympus camera that's brand-new. It's a 20/20 (ph) zoom camera is what it's called. And it is the latest in digital cameras. We've come so long with this technology and this technology has done so well. This particular camera takes very high-resolution pictures, because it is shooting with 2.1 megapixels, and if you're buying a digital camera you want to be up in the megapixels, so that when you blow that up on your computer and print it out it looks great. How good do the pictures look from this? We have a copy of some pictures taken with this camera and you can't believe the detail. Isn't that gorgeous?


CURRAN: Take that picture. Now that is a photograph that was blown up to like an 8x10 and it still maintains that quality. Really outstanding.

MANN: That's been one of the barriers, I think, to a lot of serious photographers or even serious hobby photographers buying digital cameras, has been that the quality of the images has not really been as good as what you would have on a good and similarly priced 35mm camera.

CURRAN: You're right. When they first came out, we were wowed by just the fact that you could do it, you know, and put it on your computer. And then when you'd start to blow it up, you'd see all the artifacts, it would fall apart. Then they start adding more and more pixels.

Now, a camera like this, a 2.1 something megapixels is actually so high resolution and under a thousand dollars, so it's an incredible buy. You put into a computer and then -- the beauty of it is, once the picture is in your computer you can manipulate the picture, you can do all kinds of marvelous things with it, take out the red eye, add color here and there, and it's really, and again, under thousand dollars, and a wonderful glass lenses in here, so the quality of these cameras has come up so much.

MANN: I have to ask another question about this. Is this the death knell of the 35mm camera that has been in so many homes for so many years?

CURRAN: You know, video hasn't killed film either, and we love the way film looks and we love the way regular photographs look. And to me there still is difference between your regular photograph and something done with a wonderful camera like this. There is a warmth and a different feel that you have with photography that you may not see with digital. But you know, when you get into the real high- priced pictures, your newspapers and everything are shooting with high-priced digital cameras and have been for yours in many cases, and you can get wonderful quality. ALLEN: Someone that is not into computers and using computers, do they have any reason to have a digital camera?

CURRAN: Well, you know, I think it's great. You can take it somewhere and get the pictures printed out. Using it with a computer, of course, gives you the real power of the camera. You can buy a photo printer that you hook this right up to, or take the memory card out of here and actually -- see, you can do that. This is what holds your pictures, folks. Everything is right on there. And you can actually put this right into your printer and print it out of a digital photo printer, too. So you don't need a computer, you can do this with another one.

This is amazing. This is a cellular video telephone, it's a wireless video phone from Motorola, and this is right now -- we are actually transmitting from one to the other. Now, we're holding the whole base in our hands. The actual cell phone is just this whole unit here.

ALLEN: There I am.

CURRAN: See that.

MANN: You can wave again. Natalie wants to wave into everyone of these devices, so let's give her, her chance.

CURRAN: There you go. Yes. You can wave at each other. But this will be available when you're able to broadcast this type of thing over the cellular circuits we have now. Right now, the cellular systems in place can't support this kind of technology. That's why our transmission, the wireless, we're doing right here.

We have two cellular transmitters in the studio to do this transition. When we are able to do this, when the cellular systems change, in about 2001, we'll have the ability in this country to not only send video like this that we are transmitting for you here live, but also the ability to do high-speed Internet access over your cellular telephone. So we are doing a live -- now our little phone here...

ALLEN: That's great.

CURRAN: ... has a wire on the bottom, but we are actually wirelessly transmitting. It only goes to a transmitter below me here. And we are sending it the whole five feet, from me to you.

MANN: If you told people five years ago that everyone would have a cell phone, they wouldn't have believed you. But we know that basically anyone who wants a cell phone gets one now. How common are these going to be? How affordable?

CURRAN: I -- you know, I don't know. I'm not sure. And the reason why I say that is because we already have video phones that you put on your desktop and do a video phone call using wires, and those are available and those are not very expensive, and you can set them up and you can use them, and I think I showed one here two and a half, three years ago on CNN, and we made a video phone call. It was the first time I had ever done that before. However, they haven't become commonplace.

We have little video cameras you can hook up to the computer and talk to each other. Those haven't become real, real commonplace. Everybody in the world isn't talking to each other using a video phone call in either one of these environments, so I do not know. Yet it has its applications, you know. If only, too, like with your first cell phone, if only to take it to you with -- to Florida or whatever and hold it up and say, hey, look where I am, and show people where you are, which is what everybody will do at first.

ALLEN: I'm wondering how many instruction booklets do you have to read on any given day?

CURRAN: You know what? I'll tell you what my secret is, when I look at products and evaluate products is how far can I get with a product without looking ever in the book.

ALLEN: I like that. I like that, Ed.

CURRAN: And I use that as a little rule of thumb to see how far I can get and just how simple it is to work with, and software that's simple to work with -- and we have seen that come a long way -- and some of these gadgets that are simple to work with, the beauty of some of them is you pick them up, you turn them on, they walk you through it, and you don't have to go deep into the book to find out what to do.

ALLEN: It still intimidates a few people. Right. My new cell phone, I didn't have to ever look into the book. Every time, oh, hi, you've never used your voice mail. Well, here's how to do it.

CURRAN: Really? And what kind of cell phone do you have?

ALLEN: Nokia.

CURRAN: Nokia. Wonderful phone. They make wonderful phones. And we have seen some -- boy, these guys are coming so far. Yesterday, we showed the little Ericsson phone, Nokia has a phone that's become so popular across America, Motorola's phones, and yesterday, showing a little watch phone and this stuff. It's just so exciting where this is all going. I really think that our wireless phones are going to be the basis for so much of what we can do now. You can use your phone as a wireless modem now for your lap top computer and that type.

MANN: What's the next thing like, though? What's the next gadget or invention that everyone is going to have, do you think?

CURRAN: Boy, the next thing? I think we're going to see more health oriented stuff. I think we're going to see a lot more Internet oriented stuff. I mean, we're going to see a lot more DVD, a lot more digital recording.

One thing we didn't show here that we showed recently on CNN were video servers for your television set. Hook up this video server, it records like your computer does. Tell it you want to see "CNN TODAY" and put that into the server. Every time "CNN TODAY" is on, it'll record it automatically. Tell it you like Clint Eastwood. It'll record anything on TV with Clint Eastwood. Watch live TV and when you -- you're watching a ball game and you need to take a phone call, press pause, your live TV pauses and then you go back to it 10 minutes later and pick up where you left off.

These video servers are going to become very popular, you're going to see more of them. Two out there right now by Replay TV and by Tivo, are the two everybody is talking about. And Philips puts their trademark on the TiVo brand. Real exciting technology, so we will see more digital stuff aimed at our TV as we all go digital on our TVs.

ALLEN: Ed, we're inspired every time you come here.

MANN: Fascinating stuff, and I feel better knowing my cat is going to be safe out there on the front lawn.

CURRAN: Your cat will be safe with your auto mower, as soon as you get that, yes.

ALLEN: Ed, thanks and happy New Year.

CURRAN: Thank you. Happy New Year.

ALLEN: We'll probably see you -- what -- around Father's Day you usually come by.

CURRAN: Probably I would come wandering through with someone else.

ALLEN: OK. Thanks a lot, Ed.

CURRAN: Thank you.


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