In the News

Wireless Net Access Speeds Up
by Henry Norr (excerpted from Mr. Norr’s technology column)
San Francisco Chronicle

Nokia, the Finnish phone giant, introduced a new GSM phone called the 3310, which features extended support for online chat (including built-in libraries of pictures and smiley icons), graphical “screen savers,” four built-in games and a new feature that makes the phone vibrate at critical moments in game play.

RealTimeTouch, a division of Design Systems Research and Development in Alpine (San Diego County), went Nokia one better— conceptually, at least with word of technology it says will enable wireless devices to “send and receive instantaneous, person-to-person touch transmissions.”

For example, according to the news release, “a husband and wife who have been notified of a crisis (might) speak to each other via cellular telephone. In order to reassure his wife, the husband squeezes his phone. His wife immediately feels her husband’s touch as the phone expands in her hand.”

The company’s Web site ( takes this idea—for which RealTimeTouch says it has patents pending in more than 100 countries -- considerably further. Among other descriptions of possible applications of the technology, it says business owners could seal deals by shaking each other’s cell phones; teen idols could virtually “hold the eager, outstretched hands of their excited fans”; and politicians and religious leaders could “convey trust and sincerity (by) touching millions of viewers during interactive television, Web-based, and live performances.”

The technology, according to the company, could even “revolutionize current military strategies” and health care, possibly making “the difference between life and death for an infant” starved for physical attention.

I spoke to Craig Linden, CEO of RealTimeTouch, who explained that all this would begin with phones that, like the Nokia 3310, simply have programmable vibrators. The next step, he said, will be adding special transducers that expand or contract parts of the phone on receipt of a coded “touch transmission.” Then would come new devices capable of much more varied and extensive movements—for example, remote-controlled teddy bears, physical-therapy devices and military machines. In effect, they’d be phone-controlled robots.

Linden even has a trademark on the term “CyberHugs.” The imagination runs wild . . .

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