Picks and Pans Main: Bytes
When Kristen Holden gets the working-mom blues, she peeks in on her 2-year-old at daycare—20 miles away. "It's a little pick-me-up during the day," says the 30-year-old computer systems trainer. But how does she get her fix without ever leaving the office? Her daughter Sarah attends Kids 'R' Kids in Marietta, Ga., one of about 100 child care facilities nationwide that have installed Internet-wired video cameras.
For $10 a month, Holden and other parents get password-protected access to live pictures from the center's cafeteria, playground and classrooms. Kids 'R' Kids owner Harry Fraley says the $20,000, 16-camera setup helps give his clients peace of mind. "The few negative comments we've received came when a parent thought their child was sleeping too much or when they saw their kids running around in their underwear," he says.
Parents say they use the service more to feel close to their children than to spy on them. Many share their passwords with family and friends who rarely get a chance to visit. "My mother-in-law has only seen Sarah in person three times, but now she can see her every day," says Holden. Fraley predicts the video systems, now nationally marketed by three companies, will soon be a must-have, in part because they allow parents to watch over the staff who cares for their kids. "It's going to force a lot of places to clean up their act," he predicts.
TANGLED UP IN BOB
Bob Dylan, who was a Net fave even before he was acknowledged as a national treasure at the Kennedy Center Honors last December, now has an official Web site that puts him in rare company indeed. The stylish Columbia Records-sponsored site (www.bobdylan.com) features searchable lyrics to more than 400 Dylan compositions and 45-second sound clips from every cut on his 42 albums. Devoted Dylanologists will dig the audio selections from current and vintage live performances, with new rarities added weekly. The site celebrates Dylan's "incredible body of work," says site producer Dan Levy, 39, a Web consultant and self-described "Dylan freak." Columbia online exec Mark Ghuneim says the site reflects an effort to "do the right thing" for top artists by beefing up their Web presences. Here's hoping Dylan's serves as the model.
MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU
Rat-a-tat-tat. You machine-gun a monster into Swiss cheese. Vroooom! Your Boeing 737 barrels down the runway. WHAM! Your Ferrari smacks into a wall. Finally, computer gamers can get a feel for the action, thanks to new joysticks that shake, rattle and roll in sync with what happens onscreen. The first two "force-feedback" joysticks, Microsoft's $160 Side Winder Force Feedback Pro and CH Products's $100 Force FX, were hot sellers at Christmas, and other similar products are on the way. Dozens of CD-ROMs, from gamers feel the action. flight simulators to bass-fishing games, are already programmed to work with the sticks. "It's like the transition from black and white to color," says Louis Rosenberg, 28, president of San Jose's Immersion Corp., which helped develop the new joysticks. "No one wants a black-and-white TV set."
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