Karaoke-bot [tools & toys]

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  • draw from each of the batteries. Bramscher says Valences system is the best hes seenand super-safe to boot. You can cut these batteries in half with a chainsaw, and they will not ignite, he says.

    The designers and engi-neers kept the bike simple and unintimidating for novice rid-ers. There is no clutch; the only controls are the throttle and the hand and foot brakes.

    Instead of a gas cap, theres a lid that conceals the charging port, which works off 110-volt household current. Closer to the rider is the power button, and mounted above the handlebar is a small flat-panel display showing speed, the remaining charge, and how much carbon you avoided pumping into the atmosphere by taking the Enertia instead of a car.

    Brammo is taking orders for delivery by the second quarter of 2008. By then the bike will also have a port that will allow owners to use their laptops to reprogram the performance characteris-tics of their Enertias, down-load ride telemetry, and more.

    Were going to let you download to the bike, change the throttle map, and alter the power settings, Wismann says. Some hardcore motorcyclists want every bit of power available to them. Were going to give them the chance to fiddle with it. More power to the motor, of course, will come at the expense of range.

    In the second half of 2008, Brammo will introduce a production version of its first model, priced at $12 000. A second model will follow, carry-ing both a rider and a passenger. With greater battery density and a more muscular motor, it should have a top speed of about 120 km/h, fast enoughand powerful enoughfor highway driving. Sure, the Enertia is green and effi-cient. But its also a fun ride. Brian Santo & Mark Santo

    Karaoke-bot it lip-syncs as you sing

    Our favorite new desk toy is the USB-powered Tengu, which moves its LED lips in time with the songs you sing. Made by Solid Alliance Corp., of Tokyo, it sells for US $50. To see our own Tengu in action, visit us at http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/feb08/tengu.

    Hired To invenTYour company may own your brainchild

    if youre an engineer, you were probably hired to invent. That means that if you come up with some-thing that brings heaps of money to your employer, you are owed nothing beyond your paycheck.

    That puts you on a different ground from that of accountants, truck drivers, and other people who were not hired to inventthey get to keep their patent rights. Even if they did their inventing on the job, using company resources, all the company gets is a shop right to use the patented invention without paying a royalty fee.

    The courts havent been all that clear on what

    hired to invent means, and therefore most companies require all new employees to sign a contract handing rights to any future inven-tions to the company. Your company might even

    require that you assign to it any patentable ideas you may have within a year after termination, to dissuade you from quitting your job to perfect an invention that youd con-ceived on company time.

    Of course, employers can, if they want, renounce some of their rights in your patents. Universities have generally found it worth their while to let professors

    share in the proceeds of their intellectual endeavors. MIT, for example, gives its professor-inventors a third of the revenue coming from their patented inventions.

    Some companies also go beyond what the law requires to reward their engineers. In 2004, a survey by the Intellectual Property Owners Association found that 61 percent of the respond-ing companies paid their employees US $1000 to $3000 upon the filing of a patent application,


    February 2008 Ieee Spectrum Na 25www.spectrum.ieee.orG


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