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Which Stars Will Shine Brightest in Apple's Brilliant 2015?
December 19, 2014
The end of the year and holiday season is a natural time to look back -- and then look forward to the year to come. Apple started 2014 slowly, but more than made up for it in the long haul, introducing the Apple Watch, Apple Pay, Mac OS X Yosemite, iOS 8, an iPad Air 2 with a super-fast processor, the massively selling iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 Plus, and a luscious iMac with a 5K Retina screen.
BMW's Self-Parking Tech Relieves Drivers From Circling the Lot
December 18, 2014
BMW Group this week previewed the automated parking technology it will showcase at next month's International CES in Las Vegas. The Remote Valet Parking Assistant features 36-degree collision avoidance with secure position and environment recognition. It can be controlled via a smartwatch. The technology will be demonstrated at the trade show in BMW's electric i3.
FIDO Pursues Vision of a Password-Free World
December 17, 2014
A group of some 150 companies last week moved closer to eliminating the bane of many an online user: the ubiquitous password. The FIDO Alliance, which counts among its members Microsoft, PayPal, Google, Bank of America, Visa and MasterCard, released version 1.0 of its open specifications for strong authentication on the Internet without the use of passwords.
Google's Cardboard VR Kit Is Really No Joke
December 17, 2014
Google last week announced an updated app for its minimalist Cardboard virtual-reality viewer, as well as software development kits for both Android and the Unity game engine. It also published new building specifications for those interested in making their own Cardboard viewers and announced that it's hiring more people to work on the project, with five new positions now open.
Skype Begins Dismantling the Language Barrier
December 16, 2014
Microsoft on Monday announced the first phase of its Skype Translator preview program, which initially will facilitate conversations between English and Spanish speakers. It will convert spoken words both ways. It also will translate instant messages in 40 languages. Translations occur in near-real time. Participants must run Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 Technical Preview on a desktop or tablet.
Gadget Ogling: Wireless Lights, Sunny Wearables and Flashy Smartphones
December 13, 2014
Welcome, dear readers, to another installment of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the best and worst in just-announced gizmos. On the docket this time around are wireless Christmas lights, solar-charging jackets, a speed-reading wearable and much more. The Aura Wirelessly Powered Christmas Lights aren't attached to long power cords designed to snake along, around and through the tree branches.
Iowa to Lead Digital Driver's License Movement
December 12, 2014
Iowa plans to issue digital drivers' licenses in the form of a smartphone app by next year, Paul Trombino, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation, said earlier this week at a public state agency budget hearing. The digital license will be accepted by Iowa law enforcement officers conducting traffic stops, as well as by security officers who screen travelers at Iowa's airports.
For Sync 3, Ford Picks BlackBerry, Kicks Microsoft to the Curb
December 12, 2014
Ford Motor on Thursday introduced Sync 3, its new communications and entertainment system. It is faster, more intuitive and easier to use than MyFord Touch, the company said. Sync 3 offers conversational voice recognition technology with enhanced response to driver commands, along with a smartphone-style touchscreen and graphical user interface. Sync 3 will roll out in new vehicles next year.
Amazon Cries Foul Over FAA's Drone License Stalling
December 12, 2014
The FAA this week gave five licenses to four companies for UAS operations -- that is, flying drones. The drones will be used in aerial surveying, construction site monitoring, and inspecting oil rig flare stacks. The news led Amazon to launch a media blitz about its attempts to get a license and to renew threats to take more of its drone testing outside of the U.S.
Samsung Offers Cool Gear VR Headset but Content Is MIA
December 09, 2014
Samsung on Monday began offering what may best be described as the "alpha version" of its Gear VR headset, developed by Oculus, in the U.S. This Gear VR Innovator Edition works with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and is priced at $200. The headset comes with sample gaming and experiential content such as the dungeon exploration adventure HeroBound and the space shooter Anshar Wars.
Uber Lurches Down Rocky Road
December 08, 2014
An Uber driver in New Delhi has been arrested on charges of raping his passenger, prompting authorities there to ban the service from operating within city limits. Meanwhile, the Netherlands' Commercial Appeals Court has issued a preliminary judgment that Uber must stop working with drivers who lack a taxi license but charge passengers fares for rides.
An iPod Moment Is About to Make Your PC Obsolete
December 08, 2014
I was at Dell's thin client briefing earlier this week at its new facility in California's Silicon Valley, and it clearly is feeling very confident, in light of HP's plan to split its company. There really have been only two major players in the thin client space for a few years, and they are HP and Dell, but HP's split would seem to make its offering obsolete.
Gadget Ogling: Seeing E-Ink Everywhere, Breathing Easy and Brewing Beer
December 06, 2014
Welcome, dear readers, and set aside that last leftover-turkey sandwich for a short while as we explore the murky landscape of freshly announced gadgets. On the menu in our post-Thanksgiving edition are a pair of e-ink smart devices, wearables with a health focus, an intelligent home brewing kit, a kitschy kitchen product, and perhaps the most useless item we've included in this column to date.
Hawking Sounds Alarm Over AI's End Game
December 05, 2014
Artificial intelligence eventually could bring about mankind's demise, according to renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. "Once humans develop [full] artificial intelligence, it would take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever-increasing rate," he said. "Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete, and would be superseded."
Amazon Gears Up Its Well-Oiled Holiday Machine
December 02, 2014
Amazon on Monday announced its deployment of 15,000 robots as part of the highly automated systems in place at all 10 of its eighth-generation fulfillment centers across the United States. The systems reportedly have cut cycle times from an hour or more to less than 15 minutes and eliminated the need for aisles. This lets Amazon store 50 percent more items per square foot.
Intel Gives Google Glass a Big Break
December 01, 2014
Google reportedly has teamed up with Intel to target the corporate market with its Glass eyewear, and it will use an Intel processor in the next iteration of the device instead of the Texas Instruments chip it now uses. The partnership makes sense, given that Glass has failed to make much headway in the consumer market. "It's a major coup for Google to get Intel," said tech analyst Ronald Gruia.
What If Jaguar and Tesla Merged?
December 01, 2014
OK, I know you are just back from Thanksgiving vacation, if you are in the U.S., and you likely are still stewing about what your drunk uncle said during dinner. So, since you probably are in the mood, I thought I'd toss out an idea that has been percolating in my brain that I plan to annoy folks with at my Thanksgiving dinner: What if Jaguar and Tesla merged?
Musk Hints at Tesla, BMW Tie-Up
November 24, 2014
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk reportedly has engaged in talks with BMW to partner on the production of electric batteries, as well as other technologies for electric vehicles. Musk reportedly said that the companies might collaborate to develop advanced batteries and lightweight components including carbon fiber body parts in an interview published Sunday.
A View of the Future: Demo 2014
November 24, 2014
I attended Demo in Silicon Valley last week and, as always, it showcased things likely to mature in the market 12 to 14 months into the future. The presenters are small companies, hand-selected because they offer something unique and forward-looking. This year there was a showcase of products that could redefine home automation, drones, emergency rooms, and even how you buy clothing.
Gadget Ogling: Dueling Tablets, a Smart Scale, and Slooow Games
November 22, 2014
Welcome to our weekly look at the latest, greatest, and poorest gadgets to be revealed to the world. Hark as yours truly extols the virtues and horrors of two wildly different tablets, a smart kitchen scale, and video games requiring patience, among other objects. It's not like the planet needs another well-known consumer gadget maker whipping up Android tablets, and yet here we are.
Will Apple's Next iPhone Capture DSLR Quality With 2 Lenses?
November 20, 2014
The Apple rumor mill never stops spinning, and even though the iPhone 6 is barely here and the next version ages away, the most interesting rumor is the chance that the next iPhone will make a huge leap forward with its camera -- possibly using two lenses to produce DSLR-quality images. The rumor comes from John Gruber of Daring Fireball via an episode of The Talk Show podcast.
IBM Begins New Email Chapter With Intelligent Verse
November 19, 2014
IBM on Tuesday introduced Verse, its entry into the reinventing email derby. Verse, which will be available in both an enterprise and freemium edition, integrates the many ways people communicate with each other every day -- email, meetings, calendars, file sharing, instant messaging, social media, video chats and more -- into a single collaboration environment.
Google Glass May Be Saved by Obscurity
November 19, 2014
Whatever happened to Google Glass? In the early days, people got punched in bars, bounced from movie theaters, and pulled over in cars for wearing them, and some establishments outright banned "glassholes" from their premises. Google claimed the white "Cotton" beta model sold out when it held a one-day sale of Google Glass Explorer for United States residents at $1,500 a pop in April.
Toyota's Mirai Aims to Kick Fuel-Cell Tech Into High Gear
November 17, 2014
Toyota on Monday officially unveiled its fuel cell sedan in an Internet video, in advance of the Los Angeles Auto Show Nov. 21-30. The new sedan, dubbed "Mirai" -- which means "future" in Japanese -- can travel up to 300 miles on a single tank of hydrogen, refuel in less than five minutes, and emit only water vapor. Toyota also will help establish 12 new hydrogen fueling stations in five states.

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