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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.
Apple Pay vs. CurrentC: Prelude to the Beacon Wars
October 30, 2014
The current dustup between Apple Pay and CurrentC is a stark, bleak mess. That's not because Apple promises an easier, more secure way of making a smartphone-based retail transaction. Nor is it because CurrentC wants to harvest data on you and provide behavior-bending coupons, incentives and special deals, while cutting out the middleman credit card processing industry. It gets worse.
HP May Sprout New Manufacturing Techniques
October 29, 2014
HP has introduced its Blended Reality ecosystem: HP Multi Jet Fusion, an advanced 3D printer; and Sprout by HP -- a combination scanner, depth sensor, high-res camera and projector that provides 3D images of items and enables real-time remote collaboration. The ecosystem might revolutionize manufacturing, sharply reducing the design-to-prototype cycle and making it easy to customize products.
With Ampy, You'll Get a Charge Out of Exercising
October 29, 2014
While some people are vaguely aware that movement can be converted into electrical energy -- think wrist watches or emergency crank flashlights -- a new Kickstarter project has created Ampy, a small, wearable battery pack that can harness the kinetic motion of common humans and release it back into smartphones, smartwatches and other USB-powered electronic gadgets.
Lowe's Gives Robotic Customer Service a Good Name
October 28, 2014
Lowe's soon will add two robots to the customer-service staff at one of its San Jose, California, stores. Called "OSHbot," the robots will assist customers at the Lowe's-owned Orchard Supply Hardware store by directing them to specific products and providing real-time information about promotions and inventory. The OSHbot was developed through a partnership with Fellow Robots.
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.
CVS, Rite Aid Kick Apple Pay to the Curb
October 27, 2014
Consumers who had been using Apple Pay at CVS and Rite Aid received a rude shock over the weekend when the chains turned off the technology at their stores. Apple Pay enables mobile payments using the latest iPhone models or Apple Watch. The technology underlying it -- near field communications -- allows transactions to be performed on a point-of-sale terminal with a tap or wave of a phone.
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.
Detroit's Stupid Plan to Kill Tesla
October 27, 2014
In watching the illicit attempts of dealers and U.S. auto companies to try to kill Tesla, I have to think they are all wrongheaded. I don't drive a Tesla, but this kind of thing makes me really mad because it is so incredibly stupid. Tesla is as much an idea as it is a company -- and an idea that should be flowing through the car industry anyway, because the world is changing.
Gadget Ogling: Up In The Air, Big Reads and Ghastly Wearables
October 25, 2014
This week in Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, a peek at newly announced gadgets that caught my eye, we're going back to the future. Yes, there's an actual hoverboard on the agenda, alongside a larger Nook tablet, a high-end Kindle, smart luggage, and the tipping point for wearable tech. As always, there are ratings for each item, which are based on how interested I am in using them.
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.
Smart Nightlight Calls Your iPhone When Smoke, CO Alarms Start Wailing
October 22, 2014
Leeo on Tuesday introduced the Smart Alert Nightlight, a $99 gadget that can detect when the alarm sounds from a smoke or carbon monoxide detector and send alerts to an iPhone. About the size and shape of a coaster, the Smart Alert Nightlight plugs into a wall outlet where it does double duty as illuminator and monitor. When it hears an alarm, it uses its WiFi connection to send a push notification.
The Next-Gen TV Cable Dilemma
October 22, 2014
Television manufacturers are moving toward ultra high definition -- also known as "4K" -- which offers four times the resolution of HD. It also offers greater depth of color and faster frame rate. That means more information must travel through the cable from the video source to the TV. The current de facto cable, HDMI, or high-definition multimedia interface, solves some of the old problems.
Google Takes a Flyer on Magic Leap
October 21, 2014
Magic Leap on Tuesday announced that Google was the lead investor in a $542 million round of funding for its secret endeavors. Also participating were Qualcomm, Legendary Entertainment, KKR, Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Andreessen Horowitz and Obvious Ventures. Details are scarce about Magic Leap's forthcoming products, but they are likely proprietary wearable technology.
$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.
Kickstarter Puts Kibosh on Tor-Based Router Funding
October 21, 2014
Kickstarter on Friday suspended a crowdfunding campaign for Anonabox, a portable networking device designed specifically to run Tor. The campaign for the privacy-minded router, which launched earlier last week, was wildly successful. In just a few days, it reportedly garnered more than $600,000 in pledged funds from thousands of backers. The Kickstarter goal for the $45 device was just $7,500.
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.
Debate Simmers Over Facebook, Apple Egg-Freezing Benefit
October 16, 2014
Facebook and Apple, companies already known for their generous employee benefits, are raising the bar even more by paying for egg-freezing services for their female employees. Facebook began covering up to $20,000 in these expenses at the start of the year, and Apple will beginning covering them at the start of next. At first blush, it seems to be a typical high-tech perk.
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.
August Smart Lock Gets Key Exposure in Apple Stores
October 14, 2014
The August Smart Lock will become available for purchase at Apple retail stores in the U.S. starting this week, the company announced on Tuesday. Priced at $249.99, the smart device uses Bluetooth and a mobile app to create a virtual key. It has been shipping since late August in limited quantities to those who ordered it online, but it currently is backordered, with delivery expected in 90 days.
Samsung Plots Foray Into Speedy 60-GHz WiFi Market
October 14, 2014
Samsung on Sunday announced that it has resolved issues hindering the commercialization of 802.11ad standard 60-GHz WiFi technology. The company's solution maintains maximum speed by eliminating co-channel interference regardless of the number of devices on the network, using what it claims is the world's first method that allows multiple devices to connect simultaneously to a network.
DARPA's Concept Car Makes the Batmobile Look So Passť
October 13, 2014
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency last week posted a video of an advanced concept ground vehicle under development in its Ground X-Vehicle Technologies program. It's not clear whether the vehicle in question is a light armored car or a tank, but DARPA wants to give it improved survivability through the use of advanced technologies. The vehicle will rely more on speed than on armor.
When Computers Get a Right Brain
October 13, 2014
IBM is massively increasing its commitment to Watson, which was evident at last week's IBM Think Forum. IBM recognizes that if it can get a product that thinks first, then it can again take absolute control over the technology market, and every other company will be chasing it again. It is making some impressive headway, and the firm that succeeds at this will change the world.

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