JimPinto.com - Connections for Growth & Success™
No. 70 : December 5, 2001

Keeping an eye on technology futures.
Business commentary - no hidden agendas.
New attitudes, no platitudes.

  • Video games train troops to fight terrorists
  • Kamen's 'IT' announced - Segway Human Transporter
  • Soft solutions for hard problems
  • Invensys dismemberment proceeds
    • Brokers hired for sale of pieces
    • Action Instruments crumbles
  • Happy birthday - now I'm 64!
  • eFeedback:
    • Shared values vs. Ayn Rand's Objectivism
    • The real problem is the economic gap
    • Distributed vs. centralized living

Anti-terrorism technology - 10
Video-games train troops to tackle terrorists

With the click of a mouse you flip from a huge, blank movie screen to a seat in a Humvee rumbling through the misty cobbled streets of a village where there has been an accident. A turbaned child lies in the street in critical condition. Townspeople glare angrily from a curb. A helicopter circles overhead.

This is Mission Rehearsal Exercise one of several high-tech interactive video games designed to train U.S. soldiers in the rigors of war. A series of scenarios projected on a 150-degree movie screen with floor-shaking surround sound, mimic the sound and feel of a variety of hostile war situations, natural disasters and peacekeeping missions.

Ubi Soft Entertainment, one of the world's largest video game companies, is licensing technology used to create simulations to help train soldiers. The Department of Defense plans to use the game engine from 'Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear' - the programming that powers the game's logic - to train troops to fight terrorists in urban terrain. It will be modified to use maps and scenarios requested by the U.S. Army, and will teach strategy and tactics, as opposed to weapons training.

Click Training the military to tackle terrorists

Click Soldiers play 'virtual reality' training games

Dean Kamen's 'Ginger' is announced:
Segway Human Transporter

More than a year ago, we were intrigued by the top-secret new machine that Dean Kamen was working on - code named "Ginger". On Monday (3 December 2001) the ABC television program "Good Morning America" demonstrated the invention - a one-person, two-wheeled, battery-powered scooter that can travel at about 12 mph.

Says Kamen: "This self-balancing human transporter does what a human does - it has gyros and sensors that act like your inner ear; a computer that does what your brain does for you; motors that do what your muscles do for you; tires that do what your feet do for you." (You can see videos via some of the web-links below)

Supporters insist that the agile scooter will displace awkward, polluting cars, leading to realigned cityscapes that are more people-friendly.

Segway HT will be sold in limited quantities over the next few weeks. By the end of next year it should be widely available at a price around $3,000.

My friend Ray Zack, a long-time Kamen observer, doesn't believe the claims:

    "I am still having trouble with the Physics - 2HP inductive loads, plus gyros, plus mechanical losses, 300 pounds capacity, 11-15 mile range, etc. - all in a package weighing about 80 pounds, including batteries. A wonderment!

    "Several years ago, a simple 2-wheel scooter was offered for sale, using a small gasoline engine driving the rear wheel and started by impulse. It had a range of about 15 miles on a quart of gas - no batteries, no gyros, no electronics, no electric motors - and weighed about 45 pounds. I am having trouble seeing how Kamen's Segway can become popular."

Click TIME: Re-inventing the wheel

Click CNN Sci-tech:Scooter like magic sneakers (includes videos)

Soft solutions for hard problems

Comments and feedback on this topic continue strong and supportive. More and more people seem to be recognizing that the headlong rush into hard technology does not provide solutions for the softer side of humanity.

The first of my articles has just been published (December '01) in the popular web-magazine spark-online.

Click "Soft Solutions" at spark-online

Click Soft Solutions for Hard Problems

Your inputs, ideas, feedback, commentary, suggestions and encouragement will be much appreciated!

eSpeak to me : Click Jim@JimPinto.com

Invensys dismemberment proceeds

It has been clear for some times that Invensys cannot survive, with its Yurko-legacy debt burden. This week, it became official. The company has hired two brokers ("investment bankers" is the respectable name)- Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan - to sell £1b worth of the business (nominally flow controls and battery systems).

Analysts have pointed out that Invensys has £3.3b debt and raising money through disposals is difficult in current economic conditions. They expect industrial automation systems and other businesses to be sold off as well. So, what will be left - Baan?

Click UK Financial Times: Invensys asks banks to sell £1bn of assets

Pinto Prognostications:

Rick Haythornthwaite is doing what is expected and Invensys stock has risen on the expectation that the group will be sold at some sensible value. Haythornthwaite would quickly become Haythornwait or Haythornweight if he did not bring in the brokers immediately to coordinate the auction and maximize the sale-price.

In a poor economy, no one seems to want to make a bid to buy the whole ugly mess. All the usual buyers (Emerson, Tyco, GE, Siemens, Schneider) are looking (ABB and Honeywell are too busy with their own problems). Everyone is fishing for the good pieces and no one wants the carrion.

In the meantime, all the pieces are aware that they are being sold; I get a hundred emails about somebody making a tour, and noise about who is buying what. And the re-structure re-org rumors rumble regularly.

My own advice to the Invensys people:

    You will be better off when your company is sold. They will be looking for good, motivated talent to help build what they buy.

Action Instruments crumbles

Action Instruments, the company that I founded 30 years ago, was a jewel in the instrumentation business till it was acquired by Eurotherm (my choice), then an exciting UK publicly traded company. Sadly, a few months later Invensys bought Eurotherm (not my choice).

Several key people have since exited Eurotherm: Peter Wade the CEO retired, Peter Vos the CFO moved to Baan, Allen Imrie (Systems Division CEO) went to Roxboro. Eurotherm has since crumbled under the weight of mis-management by those who remain.

Bill Perry, President of Eurotherm USA planned to exit two years ago - even he wonders why he is still there. Frank Williams, long term Action hero and my choice as President of Action Instruments, quit in disgust a few months ago. VP Marketing Fred Noble, and dynamic Marketing Manager Mike Adelman, joined Graviton (wireless sensors) in San Diego recently.

Just this week, Rob Henley, the dynamic VP of Sales who has been at Action for 22 of his 41 years, resigned to join stellar startup Xsilogy (web-based wireless data acquisition) also in San Diego.

Companies like Weidmuller and Turck are now reported to be looking to buy what is left of Action. You know, perhaps Action will be better off sold to someone who can bring back the sparkle.

Click Rob Henley is at Xsilogy

Click Fred Noble & Mike Adelman are at Graviton

Happy birthday! Now I'm 64!

I've always been a Beatles fan - indeed, I kinda feel I learned music from the Beatles, trying to follow all their interesting chord progressions.

One of my favorite songs has always been: "When I'm 64" - I had always savored the idea that, if I was lucky enough to last till the new century, I'd eventually get there.

Well, I've arrived at December 6, 2001 and I'll be 64 (tomorrow). To celebrate, I've written this little ditty - which you can sing to the tune of the Beatles song. Try it!

Click "Now I'm 64" - right here on the web

P.S.: I couldn't put in the "grandchildren on my knee" line yet - though I'm excited to announce that my son David and his wife Surya are expecting a boy in April. So, I'll be a grandpa soon....


University of San Diego Professor Dennis Zocco [dzocco1@san.rr.com] commented :
    "I believe your emerging philosophical (and pragmatic) body of thought is a counterpoint (not a complete refutation) of Ayn Rand's Philosophy of Objectivism (which includes "The Virtue of Selfishness"). Her ideas had their place in the 20th century, and resulted in the advance of capitalism and the exposure of communism as a non-viable economic system. But with the close of the previous millennium, they were taken to their extreme and resulted in the resentment of American values in many places in the world as well as economic excesses followed by dramatic failures.

    "There is no better time than the beginning of our new millennium for new thinking - a Philosophy of Shared Values, or something of that sort, to serve as a contrast to Rand's Philosophy of Objectivism. A new soft technology of thinking and reasoning."

Canadian Jerry Van Ee [jvanee@ppco.com] wrote:
    "In your latest email musings you are brushing up against subjects which are much bigger than events of September 11, 2001, or the US economy, or capitalism in general. Frankly, much of the world is in a condition where most of the citizens do not have the basic essentials of life such as a steady supply of food or decent shelter.

    "I don't think much of the world cares to find out about American "freedoms and the warmth of its culture". They want to have a decent place to live and be able to put food on the table everyday. These are two things to which most North Americans never have to give a second thought. I am not saying that Americans caused the situation and I do not know if they have an obligation to try to fix it."

Lou Heavner [Lou.Heavner@EmersonProcess.com] commented on distributed vs. centralized technologies:
    "I don't know how far and how fast we will embrace distributed living, but there will definitely be some changes. I am generally wary of claims like higher reliability and reduced environmental impact. It may come to pass, but where are all the old worn out batteries going? To the sea or a landfill or an incinerator? And where will they all be made? In battery operated factories? And if we fly less, will we drive more? Revert back to horseback?

    "Walking and bicycling are possible answers, but when itís hot like it was this summer in Austin, TX. That doesn't seem like progress to me - especially when schlepping around 5 kids and the family pets. And during the holidays, I will miss the hugs and kisses from visiting relatives. Somehow, I can't imagine a virtual reality environment that will replace touch."

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