August 13/20, 2003   

   Skulls gain virtual faces
For decades, forensic experts have identified the dead by using clay to sculpt faces on skulls. The effort to computerize the process has taken a big step forward with a tool that builds virtual muscles and skin on a three-dimensional skull scan. The models can even be animated to show different facial expressions.
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Viewer explodes virtual buildings
Being immersed might be a good way to play Doom, but isn't necessarily the best way to watch the action unfold. Software that takes the tops off digital buildings could turn computer games into a spectator sport. It could also make it easier to evaluate trainees as they go through their paces in simulators.

Tool blazes virtual trails
Navigating through large computer models like ships and manufacturing facilities is often a frustrating experience that leaves you drifting along, dream-like, with little sense of moving through a real space. Software that keeps your virtual feet on the ground could bolster the realism of three-dimensional environments.

Quantum computer keeps it simple
Quantum computing is a great idea, but it's too soon to tell whether manipulating the quantum world to the necessary degree will ever be a manageable undertaking. Controlling fleeting quantum particles usually requires making extraordinarily precise devices. A proposal that calls for chaperoning pairs of particles and getting all of the particles in a quantum computer to sing the same tune could ease this burden.

News briefs
Video keys off human heat... Interference boosts biochip... Device simulates food... Motion sensor nears quantum limit... Molecule makes ring rotor... Carbon wires expand nano toolkit.

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