In the wake of the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunamis in Japan, Google has launched a version of its Person Finder tool for Web users looking friends and loved ones in the affected region.
The tool is available in English and Japanese. Users can click on the "I'm looking for someone" link or the "I have information about someone" link and enter what they know. Search by name or parts of a name, or - if you have information - enter the family or given name to create an entry.
Google stressed that all data entered is available to the public and viewable and usable by anyone. The search giant also does not review or verify the data entered into the system; after the immediate crisis has passed, Google archives the data. At this point, the system is currently tracking about 7,200 records.
Microsoft Vine was conceived during Hurricane Katrina as a means of helping people cope both before and after the disaster. Now the beta software can be used as a social tool. Enter your address on the Dashboard and you get the location on a map as well as news and safety information. Invite others to join you and arrange them in groups. Receive any alerts from email, SMS or the Vine client. Ask for an invitation to help test drive the beta version with the promo code 09AAA to speed up the process.
Read More | Microsoft
Before you head to your nearest 7-11 or Walgreen’s for last minute holiday gifts, think about an inexpensive gift that will benefit more than your Uncle Bob. The site is appropriately named Changing the Present. For $14.00, you can support a land field mine survivor in the Middle East for a day. Send $20.00 and you can provide a family overseas with a small flock of baby chicks. It only takes $30.00 to feed a family in Bangladesh for an entire month. We love the idea that at this time of the year, we can give to others as well as ourselves.
Read More | Changing The Present
Want to play the end of the world? Fractured allows players to engage in survival of the fastest. Destroy your enemies with your choice of weapons as you deal with the effects of earthquakes, flooding and tornadoes. Look for hidden paths as you raise and lower your surroundings. The best part is the price. Fractured can be yours for $11.90 one week only for Xbox 360, although it is available for other game systems at the regular price of $49.99.
Read More | Play-Asia
Bots recently competed in Germany as part of the RoboCup to be held in July in China. A sub-competition, RoboCup Rescue, allows robots to practice on dolls in such critical situations as chemical spills and other disasters. Robotic teams must go through a maze and scores are based on how well they can navigate and generate a 3D map of the course. A Manipulation Challenge gives extra points for delivery of radios or water bottles to victims. Currently, it takes about 5 to 10 minutes to scan the area and the same amount of time to create the image, but that should decrease as the bots become more advanced.
Read More | New Scientist Tech