- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 10, 2007

Each week the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free, interactive sounds and action.

Weapons online

The Discovery Channel’s exploration of the latest technologies of war continues with the documentary-style television series “Future Weapons.” Hosted by 10-year veteran of the Navy SEALs, Richard Machowicz, the program (seen Mondays at 9 p.m.) is currently in its second season and has an interactive and multimedia-enhanced Web site (www.readyaimfuture.com) for fans.

Boasting a rugged silvery steel design riddled with bullet holes, the site takes visitors into a military-style hangar and reveals not only some of the high-powered weapons to be used in the battlefields of the 21st century but even some simple games to tax the brain.

The major section, Weapon Zone, spearheads the online effort as it offers descriptions and photos of some of the items seen in both seasons of the show. Of the 50 or so offered, 10 provide some fantastic multimedia presentations that incorporate, three-dimensional blueprints, video and a photo gallery.

For example, visitors can learn about the NLOS-C (Non-Line of Sight Cannon). This 24-hour, all-weather reinforcement for the infantry soldier piece fires 100 pound artillery munitions up to 18 miles and can move 56 miles per hour on band track suspension.

The presentation offers five points of interest on the blueprint, quick statistics, an image slide show and footage that includes a loud firing demonstration and its basic operation.

Another section worth a look, Video Galleries includes 19 segments from the shows such as a look at the massive ordnance air blast bomb, the Joint Strike Fighter and Novel Explosive rocket along with some exclusive clips of Mr. Machowicz.

Also, the Games section offers about 20 jigsaw and slider puzzles that highlight a current selection of American military might with some classic weapons used throughout history.

Additionally, visitors can control a drone as it flies over the Web site and drop bombs that pierce the page being viewed for an experience as slick as it is mindless.

Cyber spooks

The Pang Brothers’ stylish supernatural thriller, “The Messengers” did scare up an audience and its Web site (www.sonypictures. com/movies/the messengers/) also roams through cyberspace, more than able to send a multimedia-packed chill up a visitor’s spine.

The creep factor is high as Sony Pictures Digital has created a spooky cyber presence that begins with imagery surrounded by blackness (of course) as a very serious narrator tells visitors “children are highly susceptible to paranormal phenomenon. They see what adults can not, and they are trying to warn us.”

Shadowy figures, creaking doors and an ominous, pulsating musical score continues as sections load, complete with a video fright grabbed from the strange happenings on a North Dakota farm featured in the movie.

Visitors will first want to check out a Webisode, found under Videos, to learn about the making of the film before jumping over to Jess’ Belongings where they will be able to look at the lead character’s personal tech items.

They can pry into her laptop to view her MySpace area and watch a text chat between her and a friend. They can look at her digital-camera images and use her cell phone to view her text messages, hear voice mails and actually call her with a provided 800 number. That call can be done on any phone and reveals a frantic Jess, who beckons the caller to not hang up as she investigates a dangerous event.

Next, a click over to the Messengers Graphic Novel offers the first 20 pages of a sequential-art book from Dark Horse Comics based on the film. The virtual reader allows the visitor to grab and turn pages as well as zoom into panels to learn about a mysterious stranger and his trouble with crows.

Under the category of an interesting exercise with no payoff, I took part in the Supernatural Sense Experience test. Visitors look for paranormal events through either visual, audio or sensory cues. Basically they pull a slider bar to focus on apparitions, listen to high-frequency sounds and answer questions as to whether they ever witnessed a supernatural event.

More intense is the Paranormal Stories area containing a map of the U.S. with points that when clicked on present a text testimonial from a site visitor about their brush with the unknown.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail to jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com).

Mr. Szadkowski also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www.washingtontimes.com/family times/romperroom.htm.

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