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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dell OEM: The Magic Is in the Mystery
October 06, 2014
I had a chance last week to talk with the most secretive group inside Dell. They are kind of like the Q Division in the James Bond movies. These folks are pretty much unique in the industry, in that they build PCs and servers that are highly customized for firms that then place them into unusual solutions. This is the kind of machine that might go into a unique military vehicle.
Gadget Ogling: Jump Starts, Wearable Drones, Smarter Yoga and Safer Food
October 03, 2014
Welcome, dear readers, to a new installment of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares. On the docket this time around are a motivational wearable device, a smart yoga mat, a golfer-focused smartwatch, a drone with a difference, and a way to stop food from going bad. As always, these aren't reviews -- the ratings denote only my interest in actually using them.
Tech Advances Will Give Aging Baby Boomers More Independence
October 01, 2014
The U.S. is facing a retirement wave; 76 million Baby Boomers are beginning to hit the 65-year-old mark. By 2025, the number of people between 65 and 85 will account for 16.6 percent of the population. In the U.S., the elderly prefer aging in their own home, but it can be risky. Connectivity and technology advances are enabling more sophisticated devices and tools to help consumers and caretakers.
Major Players Bid for Slice of Federal Health Records Pie
September 30, 2014
The ambitious health information technology program now under way at the U.S. Department of Defense has garnered attention from some of the major e-commerce companies in the U.S. The DoD soon will evaluate bids for its 10-year, multibillion-dollar program to enhance its health IT capability, with an emphasis on electronic health records.
DoD and Tech Firms Face Daunting Health-IT Challenge
September 22, 2014
The U.S. government is about to embark on a major IT program dealing with personal health records. The program is being launched by the U.S. Department of Defense, which issued a request for proposals to health IT providers late last month. The initiative is expected to support medical readiness for DoD's military personnel, as well as its beneficiaries and health system personnel.
Soft Super-Suit Could Make Soldiers Stronger
September 16, 2014
A new, flexible robotic suit funded by the U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency could enable soldiers to walk longer distances with less fatigue and also improve mobility for disabled civilians. Called the "Soft Exosuit," the biologically inspired device is made of flexible textiles woven together into a piece of smart clothing that is worn under a soldier's regular gear.
Medical Trials to Test Usefulness of Apple's HealthKit
September 15, 2014
Stanford and Duke Universities reportedly will use Apple's HealthKit in medical trials. Doctors at Stanford are working with Apple to let physicians track blood sugar levels for children with diabetes, while Duke is developing a pilot program to track blood pressure, weight and other measurements for patients with cancer or heart disease. The programs will roll out in a few weeks.
Google Buys Developer of Tremor-Canceling Tech
September 12, 2014
Google has purchased Lift Labs, which produces battery-operated utensils that make it easier for people with tremors to eat their meals. Parkinson's and ET patients' hands shake, making it difficult for them to eat or drink. Lift Labs' products, offered under the "Liftware" name, cancel more than 70 percent of tremors. Lift Labs also is working on attachments for painting and craftwork.

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