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Computercycle

Villagers in remote parts of India will soon be surfing the Web, thanks to a new Internet-on-wheels device. Built by researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, India, in collaboration with MIT’s Media Lab Asia, Infothela consists of a covered tricycle with a steel platform that carries a computer linked to the Internet by a wireless antenna. A 12-volt battery tucked below the platform powers the computer: as the Infothela operator rides from village to village, offering Internet access at each stop, a pedal generator recharges the battery. Should the rider tire, the battery can be charged with electricity from an outlet or a diesel generator. The Indian researchers are working on ways to translate Internet content into local languages, and they are developing audio- and video-based software that would make the Net accessible to people who can’t read. Prashant Kumar, head of the project’s mechanical-design team, expects Infothela to begin its village-hopping voyage within the next three to five months.

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