Rise of the Robots – IELTS Academic Reading Passage

If you are into technology, you are living in wonderful times. Things are developing in leaps and bounds, especially gadgets. Let us look at the technology that is set to break through.

Backyard stargazing goes seriously hi-tech with the Celestron SkyScout, which was judged to be the Best of Innovations at the New York Consumer Electronics Show press preview event in November. It is not difficult to see why. The SkyScout is a hand-held viewing device that is capable of finding and identifying more than 6,000 celestial objects visible to the naked eye, thus transforming the night sky into your own personal planetarium. Using GPS technology and a substantial celestial database, the camcorder-sized SkyScout enables stargazers to point the device at any visible object in the sky, press a button, and then listen to a commentary. For the truly celestially challenged, if you want to view a star or planet but do not have a clue which bit of the heavens to look in, do not despair; the SkyScout’s “locate” feature will guide you to it using illuminated arrows in the viewfinder.

This amazing mobile jukebox is due out early in 2006. Nokia’s N91 looks set to be in a class of its own as a multimedia mobile phone. It will play music, take photos, surf the web and download videos, store contact details, and generally organise your life. The robust little phone, resplendent in its stainless steel case, is the first Nokia to be equipped with a hard drive (4Gb), which means that it can store up to 3,000 songs. The N91, which has a hi-fi quality headset and remote control, supports a wide range of digital music formats, including MP3, Real, WAV, and WMA. It uses wireless technology to allow users to find and buy music from the operator’s music store. You can also drag and drop music from your PC to the N91 and manage and share playlists. If you can find the time, you can get on the blower, too.

The Seiko Spectrum is no ordinary wristwatch. At first glance, it is an attractive and futuristic bracelet-style watch. Look closer, however, and you will notice that its display is unlike any you have seen before. Rather than the usual LCD screen, the display is made of “e-paper” – from the electronic paper pioneers E Ink Corp – and shows a constantly changing mosaic pattern along with the time. Because e-paper is so flexible and thin, it allows the display to curve round the wrist along with the watch band – something conventional liquid-crystal displays cannot do, as they have to be flat. Seiko says the e-paper display not only produces far better contrast than an LCD screen, but requires no power to retain an image, so the batteries last longer. Seiko is releasing only 500 of the watches next month, priced at about £1,250 – so you’d better lose no time.

HDTV, already available in the United States, Japan, and Australia, will hit the UK in 2006. When you watch a programme filmed in the HD format, you will see a much sharper, clearer and more vibrant image. This is due partly to the way a programme is filmed, but also to the high-definition TV set itself, which uses either 720 or 1,080 visible rows of pixels (depending on which format the individual HDTV uses) to display images, compared to the 576 rows of pixels used in current sets.

Next time you are expecting visitors, do not bother to vacuum first – wait until they arrive, and then entertain them with this little gadget. The Electrolux Trilobite 2.0 is a robotic vacuum cleaner that navigates its way around your floors using ultrasound, just like a bat. It pings out ultrasound vibrations at surfaces to create a map of the room, which it remembers for future cleaning assignments. The Trilobite has no problem avoiding collision with things placed on the floor. Special magnetic strips are placed in doorways, near stairs and other openings. These act as a wall, keeping the Trilobite in the room. You can also programme it to glide round when you’re at work or after you’ve gone to bed. When Electrolux introduced the original Trilobite in 2001, it was voted among the 100 most innovative designs (though whether the judges were dedicated couch potatoes, and thus biased, we were not aide to discover). The name comes from the hard-shelled sea creature from the Paleozoic era (between 250 million and 560 million years ago) that roamed the ocean floor feeding on particles and small animals.

Need an extra pair of hands around the office? Look no further; this mouth, the Honda Motor Company showcased its second-generation humanoid robot, Asimo. The machine has come a long way since its first incarnation five years ago. The 1.3 metre-tall droid is now capable of performing a variety of office tasks, including reception duties, serving drinks and acting as an information guide, as well as making deliveries. Using multiple sensors, Asimo has the ability to recognise the surrounding environment and interact with people using integrated circuit tags. It can walk and run at a fair pace, and push a cart. Honda plans to start using Asimo’s receptionist functions at its Wako Building in Japan early in 2006, and it is hoped it will become available for leasing afterwards. It could soon be pushing a cart at an office near you.

Questions 27-30
Choose the correct letter A, B or C.

27. The Celestron SkyScout can
A tell you information about the stars
B tell you where in the world you are
C find objects in the sky that are not normally visible

28. The Seiko Spectrum e-paper watch
A cannot be sent
B can be used for surfing the internet
C is being produced as a limited edition

29. The Electrolux Trilobite 2.0 robot vacuum cleaner
A asks permission before moving from room to room
B uses lasers to help it avoid objects
C is programmable

30. The Honda Asimo robot
A has two pairs of hands
B uses lasers to help it recongise its surroundings
C can run

Questions 31-35
Complete the following sentences using NO MORE THAN THREE WORDS from the text for each gap.

The SkyScout uses GPS and (31)………………….to help you find a star.

The Seiko Spectrum does not need batteries to power the (32)………………

HDTV uses more (33)………………….than conventional TV.

The Trilobite 2.0 could be used to (34)……………..guests.

Asimo first appeared (35)…………..

Questions 36-40
Do the following statements agree with the information given in Reading Passage? In boxes 36 – 40 write

TRUE                     if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE                   if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN        if there is no information on this

36. The Nokia N91 is strong.
37. E-paper can be torn easily.
38. HDTV is filmed differently to conventional TV.
39. The Trilobite 2.0 looks just like the original design.
40. Asimo is available for export.