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-- by Jim Forbes
Microsoft isn't yet ready to give up on social interface technology. Although Bob, which debuted in 1995, left users distinctly underwhelmed, Microsoft has a new character-Peedy-in the works. When Peedy appeared several years ago, it required two computers-one a desktop, the other a specialized machine that controlled the animated character. Since then, however, Peedy has been refined and now runs on a Pentium PC (that nonetheless has a large hard drive, special software, a high-performance graphics card and gobs of memory)
What makes Peedy special is that the character-an animated parrot-responds to spoken commands and, yes, talks back. When the user stops talking to Peedy, he goes to sleep; when specific words are spoken into a microphone, he wakes up. And finally, Peedy interacts with users visually.
Microsoft is also trying to develop code that tracks and predicts what a user is trying to do with the PC. In the long term, the company is investigating the use of digital cameras and other equipment that tracks head movement, and uses that information to control the PC.