CAR FOR TOMORROW Researchers on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Smart Cities team have developed a concept car designed to deal with the challenges of tomorrow's mega cities, namely congestion, pollution and parking. The 'stackable' electric car would be parked throughout the city, such as outside MTR stations, with users taking the first car out of the stack and depositing it in another stack close to the desired location. 'We have to think of city cars as not just small-footprint vehicles that can squeeze into tight spaces but ones that can work in unison and also be almost like a parasite that leeches on to mass-transit systems,' Smart Cities group architect and engineer Ryan Chin told The Guardian newspaper. The car's omni-directional wheels also contain the 'engine' and self-contained suspension frees up more space in the car for passengers, while the design enables movement in any direction, including crabbing and sideways movement to aid parking. Other features include programmable displays for signalling and customisable dashboards. Seat belts are replaced with 'fingers' to hold the passengers in place if they got involved in an accident. General Motors will build a prototype from the group's final design later this year. VOIP HANDSET GETS APPLAUSE Hong Kong telecommunications equipment manufacturer SunCorp Technologies received a welcome accolade at the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show last week when its voice over internet protocol (VoIP) slide phone was named among the most innovative Bluetooth products by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group. Developed in conjunction with XACT Communications, the Slide Cordless phone has VoIP and landline compatibility and Bluetooth long range communication capability. The handset synchronises contacts with select mobile phones and allows users to reroute their mobile phone calls through the Slide handset and vice versa. HITACHI'S MICRODRIVE IS 'WHAT WOMEN WANT' Hitachi Global Storage Technologies have optimistically labelled its 1-inch Microdrive a 'girl's best friend' on the back of a survey conducted by the Consumers Electronics Association. The survey, entitled 'What Women Want', sampled more than 1,600 adults to determine the features and functions women prefer in their consumer electronic devices. A panel of industry experts used the survey results to identify products that best matched women's desires in eight categories of consumer electronics. Hitachi's Microdrive 3K6 was the winner in the digital imaging category, where survey respondents determined picture quality and ability to share photos as must-have features. 'The Microdrive as a girl's best friend makes sense. It allows women to keep so much of what means the most, to share and treasure,' said Becky Smith, vice-president, marketing and strategy, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies. Droids of asia gather in taipei A robot show opened in Taipei last Friday featuring droids from around the region, including the speech recognition 'Actroid' designed by Japanese firm Kokoro. The company said 'Actroid' was designed as an 'Android receptionist bearing a striking resemblance to a woman with good command of four languages' - Japanese, Chinese, English and Korean. The show runs until February 12. Separately, Korea's first robot museum opened last week in Puchon, Kyonggi Province, according to a report in The Korea Times. Robo Park has 30 kinds of household and industrial robots on display, including a six-member troupe of Robonova which gives a three-minute dancing performance using their 14 human-like joints.