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Oculus' Controversial ToS a Stark Reminder of Its Facebook Parentage
April 4, 2016
Oculus last week updated its terms of service to accompany the release of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, raising privacy and content ownership concerns. Software will be installed to monitor how the device is used, and the usage data will be sent back to Oculus and its parent company, Facebook, according to the terms of service. Collected data could be shared with third parties.
The Hololens Academy: How I Became a Novice Wizard
April 4, 2016
At last week's Microsoft Build conference, I attended the Hololens Academy -- a whirlwind effort to turn me into a master programmer able to create things out of thin air. It failed. Apparently it takes longer than an hour to teach someone who hasn't coded in decades to be a master programmer -- go figure. However, by the end of the class I was gleefully throwing fireballs.
Stakes High as Tesla Gets Ready to Pull the Wraps Off Model 3
March 31, 2016
Tesla fans around the world queued up to add their names to a reservation list in anticipation of Tesla Motors' planned Thursday night unveiling of its Model 3. The long-awaited new addition to the Tesla line is a more affordable sedan that targets not just early adopters, but a larger audience of luxury car owners. Company founder Elon Musk has shared key details in advance of the reveal.
Microsoft Tells Devs to Talk to the Bots
March 31, 2016
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and members of his leadership team, speaking to developers Wednesday at the Build 2016 conference, introduced their vision to infuse human speech and machine learning into the company's consumer and enterprise businesses. Nadella and Executive VP Terry Myerson introduced upgrades to Windows 10 and Cortana as well as technology called "Conversations as a Platform."
Gadget Ogling: Honey, I Shrunk the iPhone
March 31, 2016
The iPhone SE packs almost everything from the iPhone 6s into a handset that looks almost identical to the iPhone 5. The only thing that's really missing is Force Touch. It's a smart play, trying to convince iPhone 4 and 5 owners that they can still upgrade to -- almost -- the latest model without the need to take on a device with a larger screen.
You Rang? Microsoft's Holoportation Redefines Face-to-Face Communication
March 29, 2016
Microsoft on Monday unveiled its version of a teleporter, called "holoportation," which was designed to transmit 3D models of people anywhere in the world. Holoportation compresses, transmits and reconstructs the 3D scans to Microsoft's HoloLens and other head-mounted displays. It lets headset wearers interact with remote users in 3D as if they were in the same space, according to Microsoft.
Oculus Rift Offers the Best VR Experience Yet, Reviewers Say
March 28, 2016
The first reviews of the Oculus Rift surfaced Monday, and reviewers praised the potential of the virtual reality system while pointing out some obvious concerns. The headset display is well-crafted, but drawbacks include the cost and the fact that it requires a powerful gaming system to run it, according to some reviews. "It has the potential to change the world," Devindra Hardawar wrote.
Microsoft Apologizes for Corrupted Chatbot's Nasty Comments
March 28, 2016
Microsoft last week apologized for its Tay chatbot's bad behavior. It took the machine learning system offline, only 24 hours into its short life, after Twitter trolls got it to deny the Holocaust and elicit pro-Nazi and anti-feminist remarks. "We are deeply sorry for the unintended offensive and hurtful tweets from Tay, which do not represent who we are or what we stand for," said Peter Lee, corporate vice president at Microsoft Research.
The Brand New Made-in-Space Frontier
March 25, 2016
What happens when you're 220 miles above Earth on the International Space Station and you need a tool you don't have? You can print one yourself. In 2014, American astronauts for the first time printed a tool -- a ratchet wrench -- using a design file sent from NASA on the ground to the 3D printer spinning about in space. The feat was only the first step to much larger miracles in space.
Gadget Ogling: Bathroom Bots, Bedroom Bulbs, and Doorbell Detectives
March 22, 2016
Can you imagine a time before robot vacuum cleaners? The world was a messier place, certainly in the homes of those with too little impetus to pick up a broom or vacuum cleaner once in a while. Thankfully, for those of us who don't mind sweeping but are less enthused about using the mop, robotic help is on its way in a more affordable model: the Braava Jet from iRobot.
Low-Cost Bundle Beckons Gamers to PlayStation VR
March 21, 2016
Sony last week announced it would begin taking preorders for a cost-shaving virtual reality bundle. Priced at $499, the PlayStation VR bundle includes everything needed except the PlayStation 4 console. It contains a VR headset, cables, stereo headphones, a PlayStation camera, two PlayStation Move motion controllers and a pair of discs etched with VR demos.
Amazon May Let You Pay With a Wink and a Nod
March 16, 2016
Amazon has applied for a patent for selfie-based authentication for online purchases, according to a patent application published last week. Using the technology, a prospective purchaser would take a selfie, and the image would be authenticated against an image database using facial recognition software. The buyer then would perform an action to verify that the image is of a live human being.
Gadget Ogling: All-In-One Cooking, In-Car Movie Nights, and Rolling Robots
March 15, 2016
Tovala is going to change everything, apparently. It's a countertop cooking system that acts as oven, microwave, toaster, broiler and steamer. It appears to have all the convenience of ready-made meals, while providing healthier eating options than a typical TV dinner. While you can create your own dishes, Tovala offers its own meals created by professional chefs that are delivered fresh to your home.
Google's AlphaGo Thrashes Go Master
March 15, 2016
Google's AlphaGo on Tuesday rocked the worlds of Go and artificial intelligence when it beat 18-time international Go champion Lee Se-dol the final round of the Google DeepMind Challenge. Lee lost the first three rounds last week but came back and won the fourth game. Go "depends as much on logic, like chess, as it does on intuition," said Mike Jude of Stratecast/Frost & Sullivan.
Artificial Intelligence Learns the Ways of Minecraft
March 15, 2016
Microsoft on Monday unveiled AIX, a platform that its researchers have been using to turn Minecraft into an artificial intelligence learning environment. Although Microsoft's 2014 decision to buy Minecraft raised some eyebrows -- the main criticism being that the game had run its course by then -- the company has been putting it to some innovative uses.
USA Today to Experiment With Virtual Reality News Show
March 14, 2016
The USA Today Network last week announced VRtually There, a virtual reality news program that will evolve alongside the nascent VR sector. Set to launch this spring, VRtually There will air an assortment of regularly scheduled programming, according to the Gannett-owned company. It will lean on the network's newsrooms to deliver original reporting for the VR platform.
Oculus Opens Social Doors for Gear VR
March 12, 2016
Oculus VR on Wednesday launched Oculus Social for Samsung's Gear VR viewer. Gear VR users can create profiles on Oculus Social and search out friends via real names or handles. The company, which has yet to ship its own virtual reality headset, also released two social games to encourage more friending on Oculus Social: Herobound: Gladiators and Social Trivia.
Intel Gets Into the FreeD Sportscasting Game
March 11, 2016
Intel has announced its intent to acquire Replay Technologies, the company known for elevating the NBA All-Star Weekend with cutting-edge 3D graphics. Replay develops and maintains what it calls "freeD" -- that is, free dimensional -- technology. Sports fans may have noticed the Matrix-esque effect employed at other sporting events. The novel technique relies on an array of cameras and software.
Toyota's Project Blaid Gives Visually Impaired More Freedom
March 9, 2016
Toyota on Monday introduced a concept for a piece of wearable tech that could help the visually impaired better navigate the world around them. Dubbed "Project Blaid," the mobility device would sit atop a wearer's shoulders and use cameras to sense the layout of indoor spaces. Wearers would be able to ask the device about objects and areas in a room, the company said.
Gadget Ogling: Lingering Echoes, DIY Scanner Projects, and Empowered Pitchers
March 8, 2016
Amazon is doubling down on its Alexa personal assistant with two new models of the Echo speaker: Echo Dot and Amazon Tap. The Dot is a more compact version of Echo. While it does have its own speaker, it apparently has nowhere near the quality of the Echo proper. As a standalone device, it looks more suited to standing in as an alarm clock and delivering the day's headlines than playing music.
Quantum Computer Leap Could Make Today's Encryption Passe
March 8, 2016
Researchers at MIT and the University of Innsbruck last week announced that they had designed and constructed the world's first scalable quantum computer, a development that could make existing encryption technology obsolete. They built the computer using five atoms in an ion trap. The researchers used laser pulses to carry out an algorithm on each atom to correctly factor the number 15.
Meta Gives Devs a New Dream Machine
March 3, 2016
Meta on Wednesday began taking preorders for its Meta 2 augmented reality headset, and announced it would begin shipping the US$949 product in the third quarter of this year. Meta has been working on an experience that blends "the art of user interface design with the science of the brain," CEO Meron Gribetz said during a session at last month's TED2016.
Google Car Stubs Toe
March 2, 2016
One of Google's self-driving cars kissed a bus on Valentine's day, marking the first accident in which the one of the company's autonomous vehicles was at least partly at fault. Possibly too smart for its own good, the self-driving car was attempting to reenter its previous lane when it contacted a municipal bus. Google was testing a software update when the incident occurred.
Gadget Ogling: Playful Projectors, Star Wars Sounds, and Spotify-to-Go
March 1, 2016
Sony's Xperia Projector Concept turns any surface into an interactive display. One can, for instance, check the latest temperature, play games, edit documents, or make video calls. It is a self-contained system, and it does not need to connect to a smartphone or a computer to operate. It seems that Sony has designs on turning this into a portable device as well.
Microsoft Invites Devs to Tinker With HoloLens
February 29, 2016
Microsoft on Monday announced that its HoloLens Development Edition was available for preorder, with units set to ship to developers beginning March 30. The company early last year introduced the holographic computer technology as a feature for Windows 10. It later announced a partnership with Volvo that would allow the application to be applied to the automobile sales floor.
Superhot Warps Time
February 26, 2016
Three years of thought went into the think-between-steps shooter game Superhot, which was released Thursday. Born of a week-long first-person-shooter game jam, Superhot's concept caught the attention of the Kickstarter crowd, raising $250,000. The indie title is available on Windows, Linux and OS X. It will arrive on Xbox One next month. It's a novel approach to the FPS genre.
Atlas Robot Turns the Other Cheek
February 25, 2016
Google-owned Boston Dynamics on Tuesday gave the world a look at the latest version of Atlas, a bipedal robot that someday could threaten manual laborers' livelihoods. Boston Dynamics certainly didn't say or imply that the fast-progressing Atlas robot would force humans out of their jobs. The clandestine group merely demonstrated the latest build of the bot, and gave it a cringeworthy battering.
Facebook Uses AI to Map Population Density
February 23, 2016
Facebook has been using artificial intelligence to sharpen its focus on the roughly 10 percent of the world that has been overlooked by the Internet revolution, the company announced Sunday at the Mobile World Congress. The work has been led by the Connectivity Lab, Facebook's research and development wing, which is tasked with making the breakthroughs needed to connect the world to the Internet.
Dell's Embedded PCs Take the IoT to the Mainstream
February 23, 2016
Dell on Tuesday announced the release of its first purpose-built industrial PC products for the mainstream market: the Embedded Box PC 3000 Series and 5000 Series. The products are a response to the growing embedded computing market and the lack of reliable devices, Dell said. The embedded systems market is expected to reach $23.1 billion in 2019, according to a Technavio study.
Samsung Raises Curtain on Galaxy S7 Models
February 23, 2016
Samsung on Sunday introduced two new models of its flagship Galaxy smartphone line at the annual gala for the mobile world, the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, Spain. Both phones have similar features, but one, the Galaxy S7 Edge, has a 5.5-inch display, the same size as the iPhone 6s Plus. The units have curved screens that support quad HD resolution, as well as a slight curve on the back.
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What best reflects your opinion on online privacy?
We need new laws to curb government spying.
It's dead -- Google, Facebook and others killed it.
Personalized advertising is the worst -- it's creepy.
It's achievable through encryption and other tech.
It's an overblown issue -- I have nothing to hide.