Saturday, March 8, 2008

'Bungee backpack' that lightens the load

A "bungee backpack" that uses rubber bands to lighten the load enables people to carry 25 per cent more weight while expending the same amount of energy. The ergonomic design, developed by an American scientist, reduces the force of the backpack's load by 86 per cent.

A person carrying 60lb (27kg) in a bungee backpack would use the same amount of energy as someone carrying a load of 48lb (22kg) in an ordinary one, according to a study published today in the journal Nature.

"It's like carrying an extra 12lb for free," said Larry Rome, a biology lecturer at Pennsylvania University, who designed the device. He said that an immediate application would be in backpacks carried by schoolchildren — "a well- known cause of musculo- skeletal injury".

Soldiers and emergency service workers would also benefit, because the design made running while carrying a heavy load much more practical. "Being able to move at relatively high speeds is crucial for many professions, such as firemen, first responders, disaster relief workers and police," Dr Rome said. "If you have ever tried to run with a heavy backpack, it is almost impossible because of the large shocks to your knees and ankles."

Dr Rome said last night that the bungee backpack was at the prototype stage but he hoped to have it in production in around two years. It was likely to cost about 25 per cent more than a traditional backpack. In a conventional backpack, the load is strapped directly to the body and moves up and down with the walking motion. The bungee cords and rails on the new design allow it to remain at a virtually constant height.

Dr Rome said: "The suspended backpack reduces the accelerative forces during the more energetically expensive phase of walking, which is when both legs are simultaneously in contact with the ground and performing mechanical work against each other."

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Three New Sims Games Are Soon To Come Out

The Sims' neverending saga is bound to get even longer, now that Electronic Arts is lifting the veil off a new line of games, lovingly called The Sims Stories. These are intended to be "laptop-friendly games" (whatever that means), and, unlike the previously open-ended gameplay of the first two series, they will feature easy-to-play storylines with engaging characters, that are sure to entertain both the novice and experienced player, they reckon.

Another key difference when compared to The Sims and The Sims 2 is that The Sims Stories games are being developed by EA's Redwood Shores studio - not Maxis, as you might have though. So expect them to play quite differently from what you've been used to up to this point.

We can confidently talk about multiple games in this series already, because Electronic Arts has three titles planned ahead by now. The first one (The Sims Life Stories) is set for release early next month - February 2 in Europe / February 6 in the US - and two more titles will also follow in Summer 2007 (The Sims Pet Stories), and in Winter 2008 (The Sims Castaway Stories). Probably worth mentioning is that all of them will be standalone products, so they will not require any expansion packs or stuff packs from previous The Sims or The Sims 2 collections.

If we got your attention, then here are some screenshots from next month's The Sims Life Stories, and below you can see what the game will be all about:

"The first of these games, The Sims Life Stories, introduces an all-new Story Mode with two stories that follow the lives of Riley Harlow and Vincent Moore, two very different characters who have reached similar crossroads in their love lives. A comic romantic plot centered around engaging characters guides players through twelve chapters of this one-of-a-kind entertainment experience. Players can take their Sims through unique and entertaining storylines filled with romance, intrigue and dramatic twists. Will female lead character Riley ditch beau number one to marry and have kids with beau number two? Will successful entrepreneur Vince ever find love, or the culprit who's been foiling his heart-earned efforts to find it? Players can discover these answers and more, or enjoy classic open-ended Sims gameplay."