Saturday, January 19, 2008

Microsoft Tests Memory-Making Camera

The SenseCam is no tourist's point-and-shoot, but may help give Alzheimer's patients a photographic assist.

A digital camera developed by Microsoft is undergoing testing, but you won't see it in any stores soon.

Over the past several years at its research facility in Cambridge, England, the company created a wearable digital camera called the SenseCam. The camera's software is designed to take a low-resolution photo every 30 seconds while dangling from its wearer.

The SenseCam has received increasing attention in the medical field as an experimental tool to help those with memory problems, such as Alzheimer's disease. In 2005 the first trials began, and over time, the SenseCam has been used to help those with more severe memory problems, said Emma Berry, a neuropsychologist at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Patient Tests SenseCam

Berry has been working recently with a 68-year-old Cambridge woman, "Mrs. F," who was diagnosed 12 years ago with severe memory impairment. For example, if Mrs. F goes to an art exhibit in the morning, she will not remember the activity the next day, Berry said.

Mrs F. wears the SenseCam on a lanyard around her neck when she and Berry do an activity. The SenseCam will take hundreds of images with its fish-eye lens, which provides a wide-angle view. Then, every two days for two weeks, Mrs. F reviews the images.

"At the end of the two weeks, she has a fantastic recollection of the event," Berry said. "What seems to happen is that when she looks at the images, some images don't bring to mind the events at all, but one or two of the images or maybe 10 of the images will bring it all back to her."

A key factor seems to be the quantity of images, since different images and scenes are more significant for some people than others, Berry said. For one person, the color of another person's shoes captured in an image may be enough to trigger wider recollections, she said.

SenseCam can take plenty of images. It has a 1 G-byte SD memory card and can shoot as many as 30,000 640-by-480 pixel images at Video Graphics Array quality. That spec isn't very impressive compared to today's digital cameras, but it's enough to be useful to jog memory, said Steve Hodges, who manages the SenseCam project at Microsoft Research in Cambridge.

"It's remarkable how it appears to trigger your memory for that event," Hodges said. "It seems to bring you back to that original moment."

Tailored Features

SenseCam holds advantages over video recorders, Hodges said. The device is less intrusive for the user to wear, and the snapshots can be viewed at a faster pace later, allowing a person to get to the significant images rather than watching a video clip in real time. SenseCam's battery will last more than a day, and its user must download the images every couple of days.

SenseCam's image-viewing software is easy enough for elderly people to manage and designed to display images in a flip-book fashion, Hodges said. Similar to other photo-viewing software, a person can choose how quickly they want to play back the photos, he said.

The device has other features tailored to its purpose. It will interrupt its 30-second intervals to take a photo when it senses a sudden change in lighting or heat. It's equipped with a passive infrared sensor that can detect when another person is close and can take a photo.

So far, Microsoft isn't working on advancing the hardware specifications and instead is concentrating on engaging the medical community, Hodges said. Microsoft has no plans to commercialize SenseCam, but it has provided US$550,000 in funding for medical research projects using it.

Researchers are still a long way from understanding how memory works. Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and the University of Leeds in England have a research project underway using the SenseCam to study autobiographical memory, or how people remember events over their lifetime.

"The jury is out over what part of our brains are involved in autobiographical memory," Berry said.,141568-c,researchreports/article.html#

Sony KDL-46D3500 Review

Sony KDL-40D3000

46in LCD
Pristine HD pictures tempered by slightly disappointing SD pictures.
HD Ready: yes
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Rating: 88%


The KDL-46D3500 is the embodiment of Sony's design philosophy with a chic matte black understated presence that simply oozes class. Build quality is back to its very best with the Sony looking like it could have been sculpted from a solid block of metal.


Unlike the KDL-40D3500, there is no corresponding 3000 model alongside the KDL-46D3500 in the UK. If you are familiar with the D3000 series from Sony it is worth noting that the 46D3500's spec sheet reads a little different than you would imagine.

Screen: 46in 16:9
Sound System: Nicam
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Contrast Ratio: 1800:1 (16,000 dynamic)
Brightness: 500cd/m2
Other Features: Bravia Picture Processing Engine, Live Colour Creation, 24p True Cinema.
Sockets: 2 HDMI, 2 SCART, Component Video, Composite Video, PC input.

Sony currently offer a huge range of LCD TV's and the number of different models can seem quite bewildering to those of you who are looking to buy a new LCD TV. The D3500 sits between the slightly higher spec V3000 series and directly above the slightly lower spec T3500 line.

Essentially, the D3500 gains 'True Cinema' over the T3500 but comes equipped with a slightly less sophisticated version of Sony's 'Bravia' picture processing engine than the V3000.

The 46D3500 comes equipped a Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution which can potentially give a marked improvement in the display of sources such as Sky Tv (1080i). The 1080 lines of resolution match the resolution of the screen negating the need for any picture scaling to fit. If you have a device which outputs pictures in the superior 1080p (e.g. Sony's PlayStation 3) the 3500 can accept those pictures in their full glory.

There is no 'Motionflow +100Hz' technology on the 46D3500 (featured on the 40D3000) which doubles the number of frames shown from 50 to 100 by interpolating an extra frame in between each source frame.

The KDL-46D3500 is equipped with '24p True Cinema' which enables the panel to display films at their intended 24fps (frames per second).

Alongside 24p True Cinema is Sony's 'Theatre Mode' technology which adjusts colour, contrast and brightness settings to makes movies look as authentic as the original.

It is worth mentioning that the 24p mode comes into its own with High Definition (Blu-ray or HD DVD) players which allow you to play movies at their original speed. The original 'cine' film is generally recorded at 24 frames per second, which in the absence of '24p True Cinema' is speeded up to 25 (standard for most TV's) frames per second with an accompanying increase in audio pitch.

Colour reproduction on the KDL-46D3500 should offer smoother transitions than previous Sony LCD's with a new 10-bit panel offering 1024 shades of gradation.

Theatre Sync, which is Sony's name for CEC (Consumer Electronic Control), is a control standard that functions over HDMI 1.3. The technology facilitates one-touch control over compatible devices and in practice means that if you fire up your compatible DVD player, the all connected devices such as your LCD TV will also spring into life.

Sonically, the KDL-46D3500 comes equipped with Sony's S-Force Front Surround which is their latest virtual surround sound technology.


High Definition (HD) is where the Sony KDL-46D3500 excels. Hook up a 1080p capable source and you will be treated with absolutely pristine pictures. The KDL-46D3500 displays a clarity and sharpness that make you want to reach out and touch objects or people as they glide across the screen. Colours are wonderfully vibrant and reach a level of authentic realism to match any LCD.

Although black levels are still behind the best that plasma can offer, the KDL-46D3500 has made great strides in this area from previous Sony's. Shadow detailing now takes on a subtlety which is a match for any 46in LCD currently out there.

Standard Definition (SD) performance suffers to a degree from some of the inconsistencies that creep into a picture as a result of the conversion of a 576p source to an HD ready screen configuration, especially with such a large screen. SD performance is nevertheless very good, and quite an accomplishment for a 46in LCD.

The SD performance can be a little 'grainy' at times with some noticeable degradation in picture quality with faster motion sequences. Simply as a result of the extra size, the KDL-46D3500 can't quite live up to the performance of its smaller 40D3500 brother, but was better than we expected.

Finally, if there is a 46in LCD TV out there with a richer or more precise colour palette, we have yet to see it. The range, depth and subtlety in this respect is simply outstanding. The most intricate of detailing such as skin tone is realised with class leading performance.


The Sony KDL-46D3500 is a another highly accomplished performer when it comes to High Definition material. However, if SD viewing is just as important there are better performers out there.

How Important Is the Latest Cloning Feat?

Scientists have generated early-stage cloned human embryos, but not stem cells.

Human cloning: Shown here is a three-day old cloned embryo, created from a donor egg and the skin cell of an adult male.
Credit: Stemagen

Scientists at Stemagen, a small biotechnology company in La Jolla, CA, reported yesterday that they have for the first time generated cloned human blastocysts--early-stage embryos--from adult skin cells. This is the first step in generating stem cell lines matched to individuals, which are crucial for creating new cellular models of disease and potentially important for future tissue replacement therapies. (See "Next Steps for Stem Cells" and "The Real Stem Cell Hope".) The new findings also confirm that access to fresh eggs from healthy young donors is a key part of successful cloning. Lack of access to human eggs has been the major barrier in the field. (See "Human Therapeutic Cloning at a Standstill".)

Cloned blastocysts have been generated before, but from embryonic stem cells rather than from adult cells. Scientists theorize that embryonic stem cells are easier to turn into blastocysts because of their earlier developmental stage.

Experts in the field have had a mixed reaction to the new work. "It's a nice achievement, but in my view, they haven't crossed the bar," says Evan Snyder, director of the Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Program at the Burnham Institute in La Jolla. "The real test will be, can you generate cell lines that are stable and self-renewing and normal?" Others applaud the confirmation of the feasibility of human cloning. "The fact that it can be done is important," says Jeanne Loring, a stem cell scientist at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla. "It wipes away that blot on our scientific integrity," she says, referring to a massive fraud unveiled in 2005 in which South Korean scientist Woo Suk Hwang claimed to have generated stem cell lines from cloned human embryos. (See "Stem Cells Reborn".)

To clone an embryo, a process also called nuclear transfer, scientists first strip an egg of its genetic material. Then they insert DNA from an adult cell, such as a skin cell, into the egg. Through an unknown process, the egg turns back the clock on the adult DNA and begins to develop as a normally fertilized egg would. From the embryo, researchers could theoretically collect a specialized ball of cells that can be coaxed to turn into stem cells. So far, however, no one has successfully performed this feat.

Stemagen, a relatively unknown player in the field, probably owes its success to access to human eggs through a close association with a local fertility clinic. (The company was founded by a fertility specialist at the Reproductive Sciences Center in La Jolla.) "We were able to get access to high-quality oocytes and have them in the incubator within one to two hours," says Andrew French, Stemagen's chief scientific officer.

Egg donors and the intended parents gave eggs in excess of those needed for in vitro fertilization to the Stemagen scientists for research. Regulations in many states prohibit compensation for donated eggs for ethical reasons, a requirement that has slowed other cloning efforts.

Starting with 25 fresh oocytes, French and colleagues generated five blastocysts--five- to six-day-old embryos consisting of 30 to 70 cells. Rather than attempting to generate stem cell lines from the embryos, the researchers sent them to an independent company for genetic confirmation of their results. "They showed we had completely removed the DNA from the egg donor and replaced it with DNA from the skin-cell donor," says French. One blastocyst was confirmed as a clone via two DNA-fingerprinting methods, while genetic analysis of two others indicated the likelihood that they were clones.

The next crucial step will be generating stem cell lines from cloned embryos, which many stem cell scientists speculate will be the most challenging step. "That's likely where Hwang failed," says Synder.

French and colleagues are planning such experiments, with results potentially in the next eight to twelve months. "The quality of our blastocysts improved with each experiment," says French. Based on the success rate of previous attempts to make stem cells from regular embryos, he estimates that Stemagen will be able to generate a stem cell line from between five and ten cloned embryos and report the results in the next year. The company aims to sell or license the lines to pharmaceutical companies and others who would use them to test new drugs or develop new therapies.

While human therapeutic cloning has always been an ethically contentious area of research--partly because it requires the creation and destruction of human embryos--it has recently come under greater fire. After the announcement of new techniques for reprogramming adult cells so that they turn into stem cells without first forming embryos, some opponents called for a halt on embryonic-stem-cell research. (See "Stem Cells without the Embryos".)

However, researchers in the field emphasize the need to pursue all reprogramming techniques. "Even though there are other techniques to reprogram a cell that have gotten a lot of press, we still don't know how those compare with the reprogramming you actually see with nuclear transfer," says Snyder. "My feeling is, if we understand nuclear transfer better, we will be able to do the other kind of reprogramming more efficiently."

Controlling Cell Behavior with Magnets

Nanoparticles allow researchers to initiate biochemical events at will.

Cell switch: Immune cells coated with nanoparticles take up calcium in the presence of a magnetic field. Each nanoparticle measures approximately 30 nanometers in diameter. In this image, yellow cells are taking up calcium in response to a localized magnetic field. Cells that are farther away from the field are shown in purple and do not take up calcium.
Credit: Donald Ingber, Harvard Medical School

For the first time, researchers have demonstrated a means of controlling cell functions with a physical, rather than chemical, signal. Using a magnetic field to pull together tiny beads targeted to particular cell receptors, Harvard researchers made cells take up calcium, and then stop, then take it up again. Their work is the first to prove that such a level of control over cells is possible. If the approach can be used with many cell types and cell functions, it could lead to a totally new class of therapies that rely on cells themselves to make and release drugs.

The research, which appeared in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, was led by Donald Ingber, professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School and cochair of the Harvard Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Ingber's group demonstrated its method for biomagnetic control using a type of immune-system cell that mediates allergic reactions. Targeted nanoparticles with iron oxide cores were used to mimic antigens in vitro. Each is attached to a molecule that in turn can attach to a single receptor on an immune cell. When Ingber exposes cells bound with these particles to a weak magnetic field, the nanoparticles become magnetic and draw together, pulling the attached cell receptors into clusters. This causes the cells to take in calcium. (In the body, this would initiate a chain of events that leads the cells to release histamine.) When the magnetic field is turned off, the particles are no longer attracted to each other, the receptors move apart, and the influx of calcium stops.

"It's not the chemistry; it's the proximity" that activates such receptors, says Ingber.

The approach could have a far-reaching impact, as many important cell receptors are activated in a similar way and might be controlled using Ingber's method.

"In recent years, there has been a realization that physical events, not just chemical events, are important" to cell function, says Shu Chien, a bioengineer at the University of California, San Diego. Researchers have probed the effects of physical forces on cells by, for example, squishing them between plates or pulling probes across their surfaces. But none of these techniques work at as fine a level of control as Ingber's magnetic beads, which act on single biomolecules.

"Up to now, there hasn't been much control [over cells] at this scale," says Larry Nagahara, project manager in the National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer and a physics professor at Arizona State University.

Many drugs, from anticancer antibodies to hormones, work by activating cell receptors. Once a hormone is in the blood, however, there's no turning it on or off. "This shows that you can turn on and off the signal, and that you can do it instantly," says Christopher Chen, a bioengineer at the University of Pennsylvania. "That's something that's hard to do, for example, with an antibody."

Ingber has many ideas for devices that might integrate his method of cellular control. Magnetic pacemakers could use cells instead of electrodes to send electrical pulses to the heart. Implantable drug factories might contain many groups of cells, each of which makes a different drug when activated by a magnetic signal. Biomagnetic control might lead to computers that can take advantage of cells' processing power. "Cells do complex things like image processing so much better than computers," says Ingber. Ingber, who began the project in response to a call by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for new cell-machine interfaces, acknowledges that his work is in its early stages. In fifty years, however, he expects that there will be devices that "seamlessly interface between living cells and machines."

Other researchers agree. Ingber's biomagnetic control "may represent a new mechanism for man-machine interfaces," says UC San Diego's Chien. But before such interfaces can be developed, says University of Pennsylvania engineer Chen, researchers need to learn a lot more about cells.

"Say we have cells on a chip and we know what behavior we want to elicit," such as getting a stem cell to enter a wound site and initiate repairs, says Chen. "We don't know what signaling events have to happen to put the cell into the right state" so that it will take the desired action.

In the short term, Chen says that Ingber's method could help biologists gain crucial knowledge about cell signaling, such as how these signals are processed chemically and physically by the cell, and how they lead to particular outcomes, from calcium uptake to changes in gene expression. "It provides a tool that lets us tweak the cell and see what happens," says Chen.

Federal Research Funding Cut

Financial support for a major international fusion project is one of many casualties.

Cooled fusion: The United States has stopped funding research for an international fusion-reactor project called ITER.
Credit: ITER and Technology Review

It was supposed to be a year bringing sharp increases in federal funding for physical-sciences research. Instead, as a result of the final appropriations bill signed a few weeks ago by Congress, fiscal year 2008 (the federal fiscal year runs October 1 to September 30) brought cuts that will cause hundreds of researchers to lose their jobs, and it's putting the future of two important international projects in jeopardy, including one to make a large-scale fusion demonstration facility.

For most of 2007, as Congress and the Bush administration debated the federal budget, support was strong from both parties for significantly increasing funding for three federal agencies that support the lion's share of basic research in the physical sciences: the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science. Indeed, the president's proposed budget included increased funding for these agencies, as part of a plan to double investment in physical-sciences research over the next 10 years. And early appropriations bills met these targets. But veto threats and one actual veto related to a cap on domestic spending imposed by President Bush kept these bills from becoming law.

Instead, a catch-all appropriations bill was passed in late December, with last-minute cuts that eliminated not only the proposed increases to these agencies, but also funding for some programs within these agencies. The cuts caught researchers by surprise just before the holidays and sent directors of at least two national labs scrambling to find ways to deal with the unexpected shortfalls. As a result of the cuts, hundreds of researchers at Fermilab, in Batavia, IL, and at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), in Menlo Park, CA, will be laid off.

What's more, two international projects will receive no funding at all for the remainder of the fiscal year. One endeavor, the International Linear Collider project, is being designed to answer some fundamental questions about the universe, such as those concerning the nature of dark matter. While funding could be restored in the future, layoffs will mean that the labs involved could lose key technical staff, says Persis Drell, the director of SLAC. She says that a particle collider at the lab will also have to shut down due to lack of funds, which will mean that the lab must back out of some international commitments.

"It pains me greatly that at a time when particle physics needs to be ever more international, the political process in the U.S. has resulted in real damage to the relationships with our international partners," Drell said in a speech to the researchers and staff at her lab.

Another important project, a proposed demonstration of nuclear fusion--called ITER--was slated to receive $160 million in federal funding this year; instead, it received no funding. ITER will consist of a 500-megawatt fusion reactor, to be built in the South of France, with which researchers will attempt to demonstrate that fusion can be a practical source of electricity. If all goes well, results of the project will be used to design the first commercial fusion power plants. Fusion projects in general have been delayed in part because of intermittent funding, says Ian Hutchinson, the head of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT. The ITER project is taking up where research left off in the early 1990s, the last time funding dropped off. If funding had been constant, Hutchinson says, "we could have been at this stage 10 years ago." He calls the current cuts a "complete disaster" in terms of the message it conveys to the international community. "It's completely reversing ourselves from what we've been saying the last four years," he says, given that United States officials have publicly supported the project.

The ITER project could go on without support from the United States, but it will move forward more slowly, Hutchinson says, and when the facility is complete, researchers in this country won't have timely access to the results. He hopes that in the coming year, "cooler heads will prevail" and the funding for ITER will be restored.

The appropriations bill is not bad news across the board for research and development, but it does favor short-term development, which often comes at the expense of long-term research. For example, the DOE overall received an increase in funding compared with both last year and the president's request. But the Office of Science--the basic research arm of the agency--saw nearly a half-billion-dollar cut compared with appropriations bills in Congress earlier in the year. In the DOE, some programs that were slated to be cut in the president's budget will continue to receive funding, such as research on geothermal and hydroelectric energy. Eliminating these proposed cuts added to the overall budget and led to cuts elsewhere.

The cuts in research funding have researchers and organizations such as the American Physical Society calling for Congress to push through new funding this year. But many, including Drell, are preparing for more difficult times ahead: they're anticipating similar budget shortcomings next year.

High-Def Is in the Air

New technologies wirelessly transmit high-definition video.

Big bandwidth: This SiBeam chipset, which is about the size of a deck of cards, enables high-definition video to wirelessly move between televisions and other electronic devices. The gold square on the right side of the chipset is an array of antennas that shape the data signal into a directed beam. The radio circuitry is below the antenna array and is not visible. The black chip in the center encodes the signal and controls the antenna and radio.
Credit: SiBeam

A trip across the showroom floor at last week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas pointed to a home entertainment trend: bulky cabinets that hold boxy televisions, stereos, and media players are out, and flat-panel displays on walls are in. But as good as those skinny displays look, they still pose the aesthetic and logistical challenge of what to do with the wires connected to them. Now, a handful of companies are racing to outfit televisions, media players, video cameras, and gaming systems with wireless chips that can cut some of those cords.

At CES, SiBeam demonstrated its wireless chipset, which could stream high-definition video and audio from a media player to a television. With SiBeam's technology, it would be possible to hang a television on a wall and place the media player in the same room, but far away and out of sight, without wiring the two together. In the demonstration, the company sent data from the media player to the television at a rate of two gigabits per second, fast enough for standard high-definition video, which is known as 1080i. But the company's first commercial chips--available in Panasonic displays in early 2009--will be better. They will transmit data at four gigabits per second, fast enough to stream the highest-quality high-definition video, 1080p.

Wireless data-transfer technologies are already familiar to most people. But Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, the most common, weren't designed to send and receive as much data as is needed to make a wireless entertainment center possible, explains John Marshall, vice president of sales and marketing at SiBeam and president of Wireless HD, a collection of companies developing technology guidelines for the consumer electronics industry to follow.

Unlike Wi-Fi, which operates in the 2.4-gigahertz range of the electromagnetic spectrum, Wireless HD works in the 60-gigahertz range, a previously unused region that has a significant amount of bandwidth to spare. As a consequence, Wireless HD can transmit over a broad swath of spectrum, between 59 and 66 gigahertz, greatly expanding its data capacity. But transmission in the 60-gigahertz range also poses significant technical challenges.

For one thing, objects, such as walls or people, readily absorb signals at this frequency, says Jeff Gilbert, chief technology officer at SiBeam. This means that if a signal were simply sent from a media player to a display, and someone walked in front of the player, the picture quality would degrade. SiBeam got around this problem by building a radio that uses beam steering, says Gilbert. Unlike Wi-Fi signals, which send data in all directions, SiBeam's chips create a beam of information and send it directly between two devices--essentially creating a wireless wire. But the chips' antenna arrays can also route the signal along multiple paths. To ensure that the link between devices is never broken, explains Gilbert, the radio's software is ready to switch to an alternate path almost instantly. "In less than a millisecond, it can switch directions," he says.

SiBeam's beam-steering technology can bounce signals off of surfaces to maintain a wireless link between devices. If the beam is interrupted by an object or a person, the SiBeam chip automatically and instantly reroutes it.
Credit: SiBeam

Another challenge for SiBeam was to make the chip cost effective. Historically, transmitting data at 60 gigahertz has required radios made of a semiconductor called gallium arsenide, which has advantageous electrical properties but is expensive to mass-produce. While it would be cheaper to build the radios out of silicon, the circuit designs used in gallium arsenide radios didn't translate well to silicon. So SiBeam turned to Bob Brodersen, an electrical engineer at the University of California, Berkeley, who is also the chairman of the company's board. Brodersen's team had developed the circuitry to make 60-gigahertz radios out of silicon and has advised the company on the technology. SiBeam is now ramping up mass production of these radios in standard silicon-manufacturing facilities.

SiBeam's 60-gigahertz chip has progressed faster than many industry watchers expected. "It's an esoteric part of the spectrum," says Brian O'Rourke, senior analyst at In-Stat, a technology research firm. "I thought it'd take them longer to get the solution." One of the features of SiBeam's technology, O'Rourke notes, is that it works only within a single room. As 60-gigahertz signals pass through walls, they degrade, which means that their data rate would drop enough that picture quality would suffer.

SiBeam isn't alone in its quest to bring wireless high-definition content to homes, however. Another company, called Pulse-Link, demonstrated its chips at CES as well, and it expects to have products to consumers by the end of this year. Like SiBeam's chip, Pulse-Link's increases bandwidth by operating over a range of frequencies, from 3.5 to 4.7 gigahertz--frequencies that have a longer transmission range than 60-gigahertz signals. This means that Pulse-Link's technology could be used to wirelessly network an entire home, says John Santoff, the company's founder and chief technology officer. But signals in the 3.5-to-4.7-gigahertz range don't have the bandwidth of those in the 59-to-66-gigahertz range, so Pulse-Link's data rates will never match SiBeam's. However, Santoff says, his company's chips can handle a little more than a gigabit of data per second. In addition, Pulse-Link has developed software that shrinks the file size of high-definition video when it's sent through the air and decompresses it when it arrives at the television. The company's chips work with wired media too, Santoff says. In other words, a chip in a media box could receive a signal from an Internet coaxial cable and transmit it wirelessly to a television.

While the first wireless-HD products are expected to be available later this year, experts who are tracking them don't expect them to overtake home entertainment centers anytime soon. "My big question is, how bad do consumers want to get rid of cables?" says O'Rourke. When wireless-HD first hits the market, he says, it's going to be expensive. Initially, he says, manufacturers, such as Panasonic, will put it in high-end products where there is less cost sensitivity. And depending on consumer response, the technology may or may not then find its way into mid- and low-range products within the next few years.

Still, the technologists are optimistic. "Ideally, people want to go wireless," says Pulse-Link's Santoff. "Who likes that rat's nest of wires behind the home entertainment center? We want to plug this stuff in and have it intelligently and wirelessly connect. That's where the industry is going."