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THE CUTTING EDGE | PREVIEWS

But Can They Do Windows?

August 05, 1996

The Summer Olympics in Atlanta may be over, but the Robot Olympics are about to begin. Leading robotics researchers will pit their latest inventions against each other in Portland, Ore., during the Mobile Robot Competition and Exhibition Tuesday through Thursday.

It's not all fun and games, of course. The goal is to demonstrate what mobile robots can do with the help of artificial intelligence, including planning a task, maneuvering obstacles and locating and picking up objects.

The robots will not be controlled with joysticks or remote devices, but will have to rely on range sensors and their own "common sense." Teams from USC and Stanford University will join the competition. For more information, visit http://tommy.jsc.nasa.gov/~korten/competition96.html

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The Cyber American Dream: Will the digital revolution put America on the path toward progress or decay? That question will be debated this week in Aspen, Colo., as futurist Alvin Toffler, techno-pundit Esther Dyson, Sen. Bill Bradley, computer industry executives and others gather for the third annual Progress & Freedom Foundation's summit.

The meeting should be a welcome respite for the technology-loving foundation: The nonprofit group, which is closely aligned with House Speaker Newt "Give the Poor Laptops" Gingrich, is now embroiled in a special counsel investigation as to whether it solicited tax-deductible contributions in exchange for access to Gingrich.

Local Government in Cyberspace

Everyone knows the World Wide Web is great for finding a new restaurant, looking up a long-lost college buddy or just wasting time. But it is also a practical resource for navigating your way around sometimes-Byzantine government bodies.

Start with Los Angeles County Online at http://www.co.la.ca.us. In addition to fun facts about the county's geography and population, visitors can link up with the Board of Supervisors. Each of the supes has a home page, including a biography, a district map and information on how to reach his or her offices.

And that's just for starters. The site lists phone numbers for no fewer than 429 county services (in alphabetical order) along with the department that provides them. You can find numbers for animal bites, marriage records, radioactive material and street lighting, to name a few.

The site also has a list of all the cities in Los Angeles County, with links to the home pages of cities on the Web. For example:

* At the city of Los Angeles Web site (http://www.ci.la.ca.us), you'll find Mayor Richard Riordan's home page, along with links to museums, libraries, colleges and universities, plus information on city services.

* Santa Monica's Public Electronic Network (http://pen.ci.santa-monica.ca.us) offers a directory of businesses that are registered with the city, an online copy of the municipal code, a map to City Hall and links to virtually every city agency, ranging from the city attorney to the Police Department's Homeless Liaison.

* Glendale (http://www.keyconnect.com/glendale/index.html) allows visitors to send electronic mail to City Council members and other public officials with a single mouse click. Minutes and agendas from recent council meetings are also online.

* Long Beach's Web site (http://www.ci.long-beach.ca.us) highlights city services, including composting, vanpooling and recycling. There's also a list of frequently called numbers in the city.

* Bellflower's official Web site (http://citywd.com/bellflower) has a listing of upcoming garage sales.

If you can't find a home page for your city through these links, point your browser to http://www.city.net/ countries/united_states/california. Here you'll find a lengthy list of cities in the Golden State.

From the county Web site, you can also connect to Caltrans (http://www.scubed.com/Caltrans/la/la_oc_closures.html) to find out about closures on freeways, highways and state routes.

Site suggestions can be sent to cutting.edge@latimes.com

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