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Riding in Driverless Cars Could Be Sickening
April 17, 2015
Self-driving vehicles could increase the likelihood of motion sickness in some riders, suggests a UMTRI study released last week. Motion sickness, also known as "kinetosis," is a condition marked by symptoms of nausea, dizziness and other physical discomfort. Some factors that contribute to motion sickness could be elevated in self-driving vehicles, the researchers noted.
Jawbone Gets a Charge Out of Amex
April 17, 2015
Jawbone on Wednesday announced two new, completely reworked fitness bands. The $99 UP2, which launched Wednesday, tracks activities and monitors the quality of sleep, doing so for up to seven days on a single charge. The $199 UP4 smartband, scheduled for release this summer, complements its biometrics-tracking with a mobile payment capability powered by American Express.
Devs Rev Up for a Weekend of Galactic Problem-Solving
April 9, 2015
More than 10,000 software and hardware developers, scientists and space fans will spend this weekend huddling in rooms in 136 cities around the world to participate in NASA's International Space Apps Challenge -- a hackathon for space wonks. Using IBM's Bluemix, they will develop apps, software, hardware, data visualization and platform solutions to help explore space and to improve life on Earth.
Compliance Mindset Can Lead to Epic Security Fail
March 30, 2015
The recent data breach at Premera Blue Cross -- in which the personal information of some 11 million customers was compromised -- raises questions about how effective government regulators are at ensuring that healthcare providers adequately protect their patients' data. There have been abundant warnings that compliance with government regulations alone would not be adequate.
Gadget Ogling: Shooting Flames, Flowing Time, and Locked-Up Temptation
March 28, 2015
Someway, somehow, it's apparently legal to own the XM42 flamethrower in the United States, unless you happen to live in California or Maryland. I can't fathom any circumstance under which a weapon -- let's not mince words here -- capable of shooting flames 25 feet should be available for anyone to pick up if they have $700 lying around to back Ion Productions' crowdfunding campaign.
Obama Lauds STEM Progress at White House Science Fair
March 24, 2015
President Obama on Monday announced $240 million in new pledges from private businesses, schools and foundations across the country for STEM -- science, technology, engineering and math -- education. The president also announced that a national goal set four years ago to provide 98 percent of Americans with high-speed wireless Internet has been reached ahead of schedule.
Mars One Could Turn Out to Be Mars Zero
March 20, 2015
Mars One, a Dutch nonprofit organization aiming to land the first humans on Mars and establish a space colony by 2025, appears to have run into trouble. Astrophysicist Joseph Roche, one of the 100 shortlisted candidates, was excited about the project until recently. However, his disposition has soured. At best, things are not quite what they appear to be, according to Roche.
Big Robo-Bird Trains to Be Fastest on 2 Feet
March 17, 2015
Becoming the fastest of its kind is just a byproduct of the ATRIAS robot's primary objective. Oregon State University's biped is the focus of a loftier goal: to build an entire industry on its leg locomotion mechanics. Researchers have been drawing inspiration for ATRIAS from birds, and the science will grow from there, said Jonathan W. Hurst, associate professor of mechanical engineering at OSU.
The Micro Bit's Mega Promise
March 17, 2015
The BBC last week announced that it would give programming PCs to 1 million students through its Make It Digital initiative, an effort to spark greater interest in technology. The 11- and 12-year-old UK school children will receive Micro Bit, a stripped-down computer that can be worn on a lanyard. The Micro Bit is designed to serve as an entry point for individuals interested in coding.
Apple's Researchkit Could Be Gold Mine for Hackers
March 13, 2015
Apple earlier this week announced ResearchKit, an open source framework that will let medical and health researchers gather data through iPhone apps. ResearchKit will be released in April. Apps to monitor asthma patients and for studies on breast cancer survivors, cardiovascular health and Parkinson's Disease, already have been developed using ResearchKit.
Apple Springs Bevy of New Products at Watch Event
March 9, 2015
The Apple Watch wasn't the only new product to take the stage at Apple's Monday media event -- Apple also introduced an all-new sleek MacBook. In addition, Apple nabbed the chance to be the exclusive launch partner for HBO's new streaming subscription service. Among the event highlights: Apple Watch will be available for preorder April 10, sale April 24; and Apple Watch Edition starts at $10,000.
Gadget Ogling: A Lovely Sky Snapper, a Grotesque Power Pack and Wafer-Thin Speakers
March 4, 2015
There's a new Nikon camera that actually won't work for parents eager to flash their cash at a kid's birthday party with an expensive DSLR when a camera phone would work just fine. The D810A has an infrared filter that probably will result in distorted colors when used for everyday purposes. So you might not want to use it for that cute shot of a butterfly nestling on a poppy.
DeepMind AI Exterminates Space Invaders, Pac-Man
February 27, 2015
Researchers at Google's DeepMind subsidiary in England have developed an artificial agent they call a "deep Q-network" that learned to play 49 classic Atari 2600 arcade games by just diving in. The DQN algorithm performed at more than 75 percent of the level of a professional player in more than half the games. It achieved the maximum attainable scores in certain games, such as Breakout.
Anthem Mega-Breach Jeopardizes 80 Million Consumers
February 5, 2015
Hackers broke into the databases of Anthem Inc., the second-largest health insurer in the U.S., and stole up to 80 million customers' personal information. The data includes current and former customers' names, birthdays, medical IDs, social security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information, Anthem president and CEO Joseph Swedish wrote in a note sent to customers.
Gadget Ogling: A Touchless Thermometer, Flashing Audio, and a Mesmerizing Mattress Cover
January 31, 2015
JoyWing's Wishbone is a fancier thermometer than what you or I will have seen on any trip to the doctor. It's a smartphone attachment that gives temperature readouts within a couple of seconds without even having to touch the person or material it's examining, thanks to an infrared sensor. It's inexpensive, at $26-35 for those pledging to the crowdfunding drive.
SpaceX Video Stirs Excitement for Falcon Heavy
January 29, 2015
SpaceX on Thursday released a computer-generated animation demonstrating how the three Falcon 9 cores of its Falcon Heavy rocket, scheduled for launch later this year, would return to Earth. The boosters would land vertically at a selected site. The Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket in the world, being able to lift more than 53 metric tons, or 117,000 pounds, into low earth orbit.
Google Buys In on Musk's Space Internet Plans
January 21, 2015
SpaceX, the space transport services company founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, has raised $1 billion in funding from Google and Fidelity Investments. Together, they will together own almost 10 percent of SpaceX. Musk last November confirmed that SpaceX was developing advanced micro-satellites operating in large formations and would make an announcement in two to three months.
Sid Meier's Starships on the Horizon
January 20, 2015
2K Games and Firaxis have announced Sid Meier's Starships, an interstellar strategy game of exploration and conquest. It will arrive later this year for the PC, Mac and iPad. Assuming the role of a fleet commander, players will be tasked with leading their starships across the universe to save planets from eradication, build an empire, and bring peace and order to the galaxy.
Texas May Be Ground Zero for Musk's Hyperloop Dreams
January 16, 2015
Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk has announced plans to build a test track, most likely in Texas, for his envisioned Hyperloop high-speed transportation system. The goal is to allow experimentation with Hyperloop pods, the equivalent of train carriages. The project will be "entirely funded by Musk's companies and other interested private companies," said Frost & Sullivan's said Vishwas Shankar.
Gadget Ogling: A Swank Walkman, a Brainy Grill, and Oh, So Much More From CES
January 10, 2015
Welcome to the year's first edition of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that offers infallible opinions on the latest gadget announcements. The mammoth CES trade show took place this week, and though it offered far too many new items to conceivably cram into a single column, we'll look at some of the most notable and notorious, including Sony's latest Walkman, a smart grill and more.
Researchers Turn Computer Into Poker Shark
January 9, 2015
A computer program dubbed "Cepheus" has solved the game of poker, researchers at the University of Alberta announced. The Computer Poker Research Group, which created Cepheus, claims it not only can play heads-up limit Texas hold'em poker, but also beat human opponents. Games such as poker and chess have been used as test beds by researchers developing new concepts in artificial intelligence.
Kepler-438b and 442b: Are These the Planets We're Looking For?
January 8, 2015
Astronomers have discovered eight new potentially habitable planets beyond our solar system, including two that are the most similar to Earth of any discovered so far. First identified by NASA's Kepler mission, all eight of the planets are located in their distant suns' "habitable zone," or the region where liquid water might exist on the surface of an orbiting planet.
SpaceX Seeks to Defy Odds With Ocean-Platform Rocket Landing
January 2, 2015
SpaceX next week will try for the first time to land the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket on a custom-built ocean platform in the Atlantic Ocean. The experiment originally was scheduled to take place in mid-December but was postponed to Jan. 6.The Falcon 9 first stage is some 14 stories tall and will be traveling at a speed of nearly a mile per second.
The Halting Progress of Mind-Controlled Robot Tech
December 30, 2014
new mind-controlled robotic arm in a project run by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Earlier this year, demonstrated her ability to use her thoughts to move the robot hand into different positions while controlling the wrist and arm. Mastering four distinct movements gave Scheuermann control of the hand in 10 dimensions. However, the school recently closed down the project.

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