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Sony's Gaming Biz Coming to America
January 27, 2016
Sony on Tuesday announced plans to merge its PlayStation operations in a new company to be headquartered in the U.S. Sony Interactive Entertainment will open for business on April 1, starting with $2 million in operating capital. The new California-based firm will merge the operations of Japan-based Sony Network Entertainment International and Sony Computer Entertainment.
3D Printing: Innovation's New Lifeblood
January 27, 2016
To many, 3D printing is little more than a toy. A toy that mostly prints toys. To others, it's a prototyping tool good for a hands-on feel of a manifested idea but not much more. Yet for a select few, 3D printing is the heart of innovation, and each new iteration is pumping the future's lifeblood. Here are some of the innovations 3D printing is bringing to life.
Gadget Ogling: Super Strollers, Posture Prodders, and Portable Projectors
January 26, 2016
Regular readers will know that I am not a parent, so you might wonder why I'm including a self-propelling stroller in this week's cavalcade of riches. The answer is elementary: It's a smashing idea. Granted, it's maybe because I don't have a child that I think as much. Aside from pushing itself along the sidewalk, the Smartbe Intelligent Stroller can warm bottles, charge devices and play music.
DARPA Challenges Researchers to Link Human Brains With Computers
January 26, 2016
The United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, last week announced a new program that aims to build a connection between the human brain and the digital world. To achieve the goals of the Neural Engineering System Design program, DARPA has invited proposals to design, build, demonstrate and validate a human-computer interface.
The Gears of E-Commerce
January 26, 2016
As the U.S. retail industry puts another long holiday shopping season behind it, a few changes appear to be taking place. For one thing, it appears there's a new recipe for success. Growing a business requires more than setting up a fancy website, placing inventory into a warehouse, and engaging a service to make speedy deliveries. That's in part because customer expectations have changed.
Panel: Time Is Running Out to Address Killer Robot Threat
January 25, 2016
The rise of autonomous war machines is outpacing policies and technological countermeasures, weapons and robotics experts warned last week at the World Economic Forum. Autonomous weaponry potentially is a $20 billion industry that has taken root in 40 countries, said BAE Systems Chairman Roger Carr. He was one of four panelists at the session titled "What If: Robots Go to War?"
Android Is Download King, but iOS Reigns Over Revenues
January 23, 2016
Worldwide downloads of Android apps in 2015 were double those for iOS, but revenues from iOS apps were nearly twice those of Android, according to an App Annie report released this week. First-time device owners in emerging markets drove the huge increase in Android downloads, researchers found. "This growth opens up avenues for publishers to create new markets," the report says.
Foxconn Makes $5.3B Bid for Sharp
January 22, 2016
Foxconn Technology Group has offered as much as $5.3 billion to purchase Sharp, according to media reports this week. Foxconn, formally known as "Hon Hai Precision Industry Co.," is said to have offered between $5.1 billion, or 600 billion yen, and $5.3 billion, or 625 million yen. A response to the offer is not expected before the end of January, as the discussions are private.
Consumer Advocates Push FCC on Broadband Privacy Rules
January 22, 2016
A coalition of 59 organizations on Wednesday sent a letter to U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler calling on him to get cracking on privacy protection rules for consumers. The groups include consumer advocates such as Consumer Watchdog and the Chicago Consumer Coalition as well as the Center for Democracy and Technology and the American Association of Law Libraries.
GM Bug Program Gets Mixed Notices
January 21, 2016
Two white-hat hackers, Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek, made headlines last year when they demonstrated how they could hijack the control systems of a moving motor vehicle over the Internet. The move got the attention of the auto industry, and last week General Motors put in place a program to encourage more digital dabblers to alert the company when they find bugs in GM vehicles.
Child Laborers Mine for Cobalt Used in Tech Gadgets
January 20, 2016
Amnesty International and African Resources Watch on Tuesday issued a report alleging that the supply chains of major electronics companies -- including Apple, Sony and Samsung -- included cobalt mined by child laborers in Africa. The companies have failed to make basic checks to halt the practice, the report claims. The report traces the harvesting and sale of cobalt in the poverty-stricken DRC.
SpaceX Finds Silver Lining in Failed Sea Landing
January 20, 2016
SpaceX this week failed in its third attempt to land a rocket on an ocean platform. The company has landed a reusable rocket on land successfully, but it has stepped up its efforts to land at sea. The latest attempt, though not successful, was a step forward, SpaceX said. The Falcon 9 rocket was supposed to deliver its payload, then land on a drone ship out in the Pacific Ocean.
FTC Issues Regulatory Warning on Big Data Use
January 20, 2016
The Federal Trade Commission is extending its regulatory reach to the e-commerce impact of big data. For years, the FTC has asserted vigorously its authority to apply existing consumer protection laws to emerging developments in the IT realm. Now it is signaling that it will apply that same vigor to big data under the regulatory authority it possesses through the FTC Act and other laws.
Reading, Writing and Minecraft?
January 19, 2016
Microsoft on Tuesday announced its acquisition of MinecraftEDU, one of the building blocks for its upcoming Minecraft: Education Edition. MinecraftEDU, developed by Teacher Gaming, launched in 2011 as a version of Minecraft enhanced for the classroom. Microsoft has used the lessons learned from MinecraftEDU to expand Minecraft: Education Edition's feature set, the company said.
Cook Slams Door on Backdoor Discussions
January 19, 2016
Privacy advocates from around the globe have taken heart from reports that Apple CEO Tim Cook pushed hard against the Obama administration's efforts to reach a compromise on encryption during a recent Silicon Valley meeting. Cook reportedly lashed out at administration officials who were calling for a way to grant law enforcement officials limited, backdoor access to computer systems.
Gadget Ogling: Baring Souls, Soaking Up Sound, and Tracking Babes
January 19, 2016
As time advances, more responsibilities seep into our lives. We get wrapped up in our own worlds, and don't necessarily make enough time to spend with the friends and family members who've been important parts of our worlds for decades. Concepter's Soul time tracker seeks to make us more conscious of the time we spend with those who matter most to us.
Pokken Tournament to Kick Off in March
January 18, 2016
Nintendo last week announced that "Pokkén Tournament" will be available worldwide for Wii U on March 18. The Pokémon-themed fighting game, developed by Bandai Namco and published by Nintendo, will retail for $60. For the first production run, Nintendo is tossing in a Shadow Mewtwo amiibo card. When used with a Wii U gamepad, the amiibo card will unlock Shadow Mewtwo as a playable character.
What the PC Industry Could Learn From the NRA
January 18, 2016
One of the fascinating things about the NRA is that buyers of guns think the organization represents them, when in fact its mission is to represent gun sellers -- not gun buyers -- and certainly never gun buyers against gun sellers. Guns for consumers largely have been banned in most of the world, with the exception of the U.S., which uniquely has the NRA.
Sony Builds Smart Home Hub Into Ceiling Light
January 15, 2016
Sony this week announced its Multifunctional Light, a ceiling lamp that's kitted out with sensors to talk to smart things. It includes sensors for motion, illumination, temperature and humidity. There's also WiFi radio, a memory card slot, a condenser microphone, and an infrared controller for air conditioners. The lamp form factor offers convenient placement, said a Sony Electronics spokesperson.
NASA Advances Mission to Protect Earth From Asteroids
January 15, 2016
NASA last week announced that it has established the Planetary Defense Coordination Office to formalize its efforts to detect and track near-Earth objects. The PDCO will supervise all NASA-funded projects to find and characterize asteroids and comets that pass near Earth's orbit around the sun. It will issue notices of close passes and warnings of any detected potential impacts.
Dronecode Project Gets More Wind Beneath Its Wings
January 14, 2016
The Linux Foundation this week announced an expansion of the Dronecode project with investments from new members and the creation of three technical working groups. The foundation launched the open source project in 2014 in an effort to create a unified platform for commercial drone technology. Twenty-seven companies have joined Dronecode since, bringing membership to 51, officials said.
Google's Self-Driving Cars Still Need Human Touch
January 14, 2016
Google's self-driving cars showed major safety improvements over the past year -- but there were dozens of incidents when test drivers had to intervene, the company said in a report recently filed with California regulators. There were 272 so-called immediate manual control disengagements due to a failure of the autonomous car technology, between September 2014 and November 2015, Google reported.
Google Sharpens Its Virtual Reality Focus
January 14, 2016
Google has confirmed the appointment of Clay Bavor as vice president of virtual reality, one of several indications that the company intends to get serious about competing in the emerging field. Diane Greene will take over Bavor's former role as vice president of product management. The news comes as Facebook's $599 Oculus Rift and HTC's yet-to-be priced Vive are being prepped for shipment.
Researchers May Have Licked Flaming Lithium-Ion Battery Problem
January 14, 2016
Incorporating a polymer switching material into lithium-ion batteries could prevent their overheating due to a process known as "thermal runaway," according to Stanford researchers. Lithium-ion batteries consist of an anode, a cathode, a separator and a flammable electrolyte. The separator melts when a large amount of heat is generated by overcharging or shorting, ultimately resulting in a thermal runaway.
EFF Urges Revival of Human Rights Case Against Cisco
January 13, 2016
The Electronic Frontier Foundation on Monday pressed to revive a lawsuit against Cisco Systems for violating human rights in China, in a brief filed with a U.S. Court of Appeals. Members of Falun Gong, a religious group persecuted in China, originally filed the lawsuit in 2011, but a federal district court in California dismissed it in 2014. The federal appeals court now is considering a challenge to that dismissal.
FordPass Aims to Engage Customers on Their Terms
January 12, 2016
Ford on Monday announced FordPass, a platform focusing on enhancing the customer experience. FordPass includes a Marketplace offering mobility services; 24x7 access to FordGuides, which are personal assistants to help customers with mobility challenges; membership loyalty rewards; and FordHubs -- select stores that let customers experience Ford's latest innovations.
ESA Fails to Rouse Philae Lander
January 12, 2016
DLR, the German Aerospace Center, this week vainly tried to reawaken the dormant Philae robotic probe, which achieved the first-ever soft landing on a comet nucleus in 2014. The center, known as DLR, sent a command to Philae to spin up its flywheel, which had stabilized the lander during its descent onto the comet. DLR hoped that might give Philae some angular momentum to align itself with the sun.
Ford's Self-Driving Cars Brave Ice and Snow
January 11, 2016
Ford on Monday announced that it has begun conducting the automobile industry's first autonomous vehicle tests in snow and icy conditions at Mcity. The company is using Mcity -- a full-scale, 32-acre simulated real-world urban environment that was developed as part of the University of Michigan's Mobility Transformation Center -- to test vehicles in a variety of weather conditions.
Behind the Scenes at CES
January 11, 2016
CES surprised me again this year. For a show that comes too early in the year for most buyers and companies, it still stood out as having some truly amazing things. It will be remembered for showcasing the birth of personal flight vehicles, along with a Tesla-beating car, and Ford showing how it could do what Apple couldn't. I'll fill you in on some of the back stories at CES.
Gadget Ogling: Fitbit's Smartwatch, Super Home Movies, and Flying Machines
January 9, 2016
Fitbit found great success this past holiday season, and it's keeping up the momentum with its first smartwatch. The Fitbit Blaze includes a continuous heart-rate monitor, a connected GPS, and a multisport mode with a feature that recognizes the type of workout or sport and tracks it appropriately. Still, the Blaze stands out almost more for what it doesn't do.
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