Yahoo Links Voice Search to 3-D Printers

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Yahoo Japan has developed a voice-activated Internet search that links to a 3-D printer, letting users look online for blueprints to deliver solid objects in a few minutes, the company said.

The search engine scours the Internet for information that it can use to print palm-sized renderings of items as diverse as hippopotamuses or fighter jets.

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Heralded as a technology that is potentially as game-changing as the steam engine was in its day, 3-D printers have become a more commonplace reality over the last few years.

The devices use slices of information about a three-dimensional object and gradually deposits fine layers of material -- such as plastic, carbon or metal -- to build a copy.

Design information for a working handgun was posted online earlier this year, sparking warnings that the technology needed to be tamed amid fears of a wave of home-built weaponry.

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Yahoo Japan, which is part-owned by Japanese mobile carrier Softbank and US Internet giant Yahoo has no firm plans on commercializing the technology.

As part of the project, Yahoo Japan has introduced the 3-D search engine to a school for blind and visually impaired students in Tokyo on a temporary basis, it said, adding they can use it for free until mid-October.

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