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Gadget Ogling: A Creepy Echo, Clever Home Connections, Bizarre Smartphones and Flexible 3D Printing
November 15, 2014
Echo, Amazon's newest attempt at a smart personal assistant, is set to take pride of place in your home. The black tower is voice-activated and can play music, as well as provide information and news updates. It's from Amazon, so it also can update your shopping list. It's always on, so it's continually listening to you, wherever you are in a room. That's just more than a little unsettling.
Rosetta Plants 1st Human Kiss on a Comet
November 12, 2014
The ESA's Rosetta mission on Wednesday achieved a first for humankind by successfully landing its Philae probe on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Now, the lander's fate hangs in the balance following a tense descent and the apparent failure of several key anchoring systems. "We are extremely relieved to be safely on the surface of the comet," said Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager.
Are Tiny Internet Satellites Twinkling in Musk's Eyes?
November 10, 2014
Elon Musk, CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla Motors, soon may be venturing into new territory: the Internet satellite sector. Musk reportedly is working with ex-Googler Greg Wyler, founder of WorldVu Satellites, on a $1 billion project to develop a fleet of 700 relatively small and inexpensive models that can be used to provide Internet access around the globe.
Dell: Using Technology to Change the World
November 10, 2014
I was at Dell World last week, and it is kind of amazing how far the company has come since it went private. Interestingly, much of the big tent content was less about Dell's technology and more about how technology was being used to change the world. This was kind of a scary event in some cases, because we are far from ready for some of the changes.
Foodini: Presto Chango, Your Dinner Is Printed
November 07, 2014
Natural Machines this week took to the stage at the Web Summit in Dublin to demonstrate Foodini, a 3D printer that can be used to create pizza, pasta, burgers and a wide range of other savory and sweet foods. Users begin by choosing the recipe they want to print, either from the Internet-connected device's onboard touchscreen or from their own PC or mobile device.
New Jawbone Fitness Trackers Stretch High and Low
November 06, 2014
Jawbone has announced two new fitness trackers: the high-end Up3 wristband and the entry-level Up Move clip device. Using a multisensor platform, the $179.99 Up3 captures detailed information about the wearer's heart rate, sleep stages and physical activity over the course of the day. It also connects with the Up App to deliver Smart Coach, an intelligent system that tracks the user's progress.
NTSB Gives Last Press Briefing on SpaceShipTwo Crash Investigation
November 04, 2014
Christopher Hart, acting chairman of the United States National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash last week of Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, on Monday delivered his final press briefing on the initial stage of the investigation. Hart clarified on Monday that it was not known whether Alsbury or copilot Peter Siebold had moved the feathering lever.
Take a Nano Pill and Call Google in the Morning?
November 03, 2014
Google is in the early stages of developing a nanoparticle-covered pill to detect cancer and other serious health problems such as heart disease, according to Andrew Conrad, head of the life sciences team at Google X, who revealed the project last week. The pill would work in tandem with a wearable magnetic device worn by the patient; the device would guide the pill to different parts of the body.
Ghost Hunters Kinect With Spirits
October 31, 2014
Microsoft's Kinect motion controller may have been intended to keep gamers moving while in the throes of play, but some intrepid explorers have been using it for a different purpose: hunting ghosts. Its skeletal-tracking and infrared-sensing capabilities let Kinect can "see" as many as six players in a room. What makes spines start to tingle, however, is when it sees some who aren't there.
Gadget Ogling: Logged Jogs, Manual Music, Smart Weapons and Skinny Phones
October 31, 2014
Welcome to another installment of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, a weekly look at the treats and horrors revealed as manufacturers pull back their curtains. Behind door number one is a selection of updated activity trackers from one of the oldest dogs in the yard, with the other shiny prizes including a music controller, a smart accessory for police firearms, and the planet's thinnest smartphone.
Microsoft May Have Launched a Band of Gold
October 30, 2014
Microsoft has made another foray into the mobile health market with the introduction of the Microsoft Band, powered by its new Microsoft Health platform. The band, which is available at Microsoft Stores for $200 as of Thursday, is designed to be worn 24 hours a day. In addition to the usual monitoring capabilities, the band will notify wearers of incoming calls, emails, texts and social updates.
Elon Musk Calls for Preventive AI Demon Wrangling
October 28, 2014
Elon Musk, CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla Motors, among his many roles, this week warned about the threat humans face from artificial intelligence. AI is probably our biggest existential threat, he told students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon," Musk said, indicating that it might not be possible to control it.
Hybrid IKEA Desk Could Get You Off Your Duff
October 28, 2014
IKEA last week introduced a new desk that can be raised and lowered with the push of a button to accommodate both sitting and standing positions. Part of IKEA's Bekant line, the desk serves as a hybrid alternative to traditional desks. "This desk promotes a healthy work environment by getting people on their feet," said Karen Haas, IKEA's U.S. sales leader for Workspaces.
Fitbit Tosses 3 More Bands Into the Activity-Tracking Melee
October 27, 2014
Fitbit on Monday announced three new fitness and activity-tracking wearables: the Fitbit Charge, Charge HR and Surge. The Charge HR and Surge will be available early next year. The Charge is available now on Fitbit's site and is coming soon to retailers nationwide. Prices are high -- $130 for the Charge, $150 for the Charge HR, and $250 for the Surge, a fitness super watch with eight sensors.
Android Wear Gets Its First Big Update
October 24, 2014
Google's Android Wear on Thursday got its first major update, bringing GPS support and offline music capabilities to the wearables platform. "Android Wear is great for tracking things like route, distance and speed," wrote Kenny Stoltz, Android Wear product manager. "Before today, you had to keep your phone close at hand. Starting today, Wear supports watches with GPS sensors."
Robots Gearing Up to Join Ebola Front Lines
October 24, 2014
The White House and roboticists have set Nov. 7 to get together in a workshop to explore ways of using robots to help in the battle against Ebola. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will cohost the workshop on safety robotics for Ebola workers, with Texas A&M University's Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, or CRASAR.
Space Explorers Hole Up in Hawaii to Simulate Life on Mars
October 23, 2014
The third in a series of four simulated missions to Mars planned by NASA kicked off last week at a remote site on the Hawaiian island of Mauna Loa. A six-person team, comprising the Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation 3 mission, is inhabiting a dome for an eight-month study of the human factors that contribute to astronaut crew function and performance over time.
$10K Will Get You a Clunky, Slow Hoverboard That's Nothing Like Marty McFly's
October 21, 2014
The designers behind the Hendo Hoverboard on Tuesday took to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to help launch a prototype and bring it to actual production. The funding period for this project will run from Tuesday through Dec. 15. The team has set a Kickstarter goal of $250,000 and already raised in excess of $100,000 in the opening hours. Early investors can get on board -- literally.
Gadget Ogling: Apple vs. Google, a Bossy Activity Tracker, and Feeling Your Path
October 18, 2014
There was plenty of focus on the cameras at Apple's presentation, as it tries to promote the tablet as an ideal viewfinder for taking high-quality images, while adding iPhone features like time-lapse and burst mode. However, the new push of iPad photography is just encouraging even more people to look foolish by taking photos with their tablet in public. This is a plague.
Find My iPhone? Find Me! Lost Phone Feature Helps Rescuers Locate Crashed Car
October 16, 2014
A woman whose car rolled 500 feet down an embankment near San Jose, California, was located through the Find My iPhone feature on her smartphone after spending 19 hours in the ravine where her Chevy Cruze ended up. The OnStar feature in her car triggered two calls to police, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Monday, but neither pinpointed the location of her car.
Google's Doctor Is In
October 13, 2014
Google is offering a limited trial of a feature that offers people conducting searches of medical terms the opportunity to engage in a video chat with a health professional via its Helpouts service. Helpouts, which launched last November, connects users with experts in a variety of fields such as Art & Music, Fitness & Nutrition, and Health. The experts typically charge a fee for their service.
Thync Scores $13M for Foggy Brain Project
October 09, 2014
Thync on Wednesday announced it had raised US$13 million in funding from "top-tier" investors, including lead investor Khosla Ventures. Thync's product, possibly called the "Vibe," is a wearable device that purportedly uses neurosignaling to modify a user's state of mind in relation to energy, calm and focus. Thync's claims have raised some eyebrows.
Pinning Down the Matter/Antimatter Particle Just Got Easier
October 08, 2014
Researchers led by Princeton University physics professor Ali Yazdani have developed an easier way to spot the much-sought-after Majorana fermion. "Theorists have proposed that Majorana can emerge at the edge of some superconductors as quasi-particles, and manipulating them can be used to test their properties as well as building interesting quantum systems that could be useful," Yazdani said.
FDA Aims to Shore Up Medical Device Cybersecurity
October 06, 2014
The Food and Drug Administration last week released long-awaited recommendations aimed at better managing cybersecurity risks to protect patient health and information. The new standards recommend manufacturers take into account cybersecurity risks as part of the design and development of a medical device. They require device makers to submit documentation to the FDA about identified risks.

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