Tech Blotter: Ray Guns, Xbox Meets 'Burning Man'

The Air Force steps into the future by developing a laser rifle; Microsoft woos gamers eager to get their hands on an Xbox 360; and TV classics like "Welcome Back Kotter" head to your computer in this inaugural edition of the "Tech Blotter."

Set Phasers for Stun!

Flying cars and robot servants may still be a few years away, but laser guns are almost here today, the yield of Air Force research project called PHaSR.

The Air Force Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base is developing "non-lethal illumination technology," or in layman's terms, a laser light gun that blinds enemies without killing them.

"The laser light used in the weapon temporarily impairs aggressors by illuminating or 'dazzling' individuals, removing their ability to see the light source," researchers said in a statement.

The project is only in the prototype phase right now, but according to the release, the National Institute of Justice recently gave $250,000 to the project to make another PHaSR prototype with an eye-safe laser range finder.

Similar systems have been too powerful at close range and ineffective at longer distances. The money will go to making this non-consumer weapon both useful and safe for the user.

Console Wars: The Next Generation

Microsoft is about to fire the first salvo in the next generation of video game console wars, as the software giant prepares to launch its new "Xbox 360" system, which will battle Sony's upcoming Playstation 3 and Nintendo's Revolution.

But instead of a ritzy black-tie party or similar gala event, it's taking a cue from the anti-establishment art and self-expression festival "Burning Man," which is held in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada each summer.

"Xbox 360: Zero Hour," will bring thousands of gamers from around the world to an undisclosed location in the Mojave Desert where hundreds of "gaming stations" will be set up, along with live entertainment and "around-the-clock gaming."

To get a ticket, the lucky few were required to register at participating Web sites late one night last week. Out of those, 1,500 gamers are chosen to grab a friend and play video games from sundown next Sunday, Nov. 20 through 12:01 a.m. Nov. 22, when the unit goes on sale to the general public.

Attendees will also be offered the first opportunity to purchase an Xbox 360, courtesy of an onsite Best Buy store. The rest of us will have to wait until next Tuesday to get our hands on the system -- if they don't sell out!

From One Small Screen to Another

A new deal between Warner Bros. and America Online Inc. aims to bring dozens of television shows to your computer -- for free.

"Welcome Back Kotter," "Eight is Enough" and "Growing Pains" are all slated to be presented through a new service called In2TV, which launches in early 2006, the companies said.

The service will also provide other forms of entertainment like games and other interactive experiences, but its main offering will be "vintage TV."

When the service launches, programming will be available through AOL Video on Demand, AOL Video Search and AOL Television exclusively.

The venture is considered experimental because usually Internet programming is limited to just a few minutes, and these programs break from that convention.