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Versatile iBot Wheelchair to Make a Comeback
May 24, 2016
Toyota and DEKA Research and Development last week announced an agreement that will revive development of the iBot, a wheelchair that can climb stairs. The companies revealed their pact to develop mobility solutions for the disabled community at the annual convention of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. One of the first initiatives under the agreement will be to resurrect the iBot.
The Rise of Drone Racing, Part 1
May 24, 2016
Tearing through open spaces and timing each turn to burst out of them, a seeming continuum of drones weaves through a set of obstacles lap after lap, until the stutter of a pilot's joystick breaks the cadence of this competitive concert and destroys the illusion. It's the drama -- anticipating and reacting to those human moments -- that has propelled drone racing to the spotlight.
Google's New Custom Chip May Not Live Up to the Hype
May 23, 2016
Google last week announced the Tensor Processing Unit, a custom application-specific integrated circuit, at Google I/O. TPU was built for machine learning applications and has been running in Google's data centers for more than a year. Google's AlphaGo software, which thrashed an 18-time international Go champion in a match earlier this year, ran on servers using TPUs.
Hyperloop Dreams Are Getting Real
May 21, 2016
The Hyperloop -- the high-speed transportation concept Elon Musk has promoted heavily -- is edging closer to becoming a reality. Russia plans to develop a Hyperloop network for freight transportation, the country's transport minister announced Friday. MIT last week unveiled its Hyperloop Pod, a prototype of its award-winning design concept intended for human travelers.
Google Patents Tech to Limit Injuries in Vehicle-Pedestrian Accidents
May 20, 2016
The United States Patent and Trademark Office earlier this week granted Google a patent for "Adhesive Vehicle Front End For Mitigation of Secondary Pedestrian Impact." The patent application, filed a year and a half ago, credits Google employees Alex Khaykin and Daniel Lynn Larner as the inventors of the new technology. This latest patent grant is for "a system for protecting a colliding object from a secondary impact."
Gadget Ogling: Speedy Tortillas, Racing Robots, and Real-Time 3D
May 20, 2016
Flatev is a pod-based system for instant tortillas in the mold of a Keurig coffee maker. Insert a pod of fresh dough -- you have several choices, all organic -- then adjust settings for type of dough and desired crispiness, and 90 seconds later you'll have a fresh, warm tortilla. There's a heated drawer to keep your tortillas warm while you make as many as you need.
Apache Guru Behlendorf to Helm Hyperledger Project
May 20, 2016
The Linux Foundation on Thursday announced that Brian Behlendorf, a primary developer of the Apache Web server, has joined the Hyperledger Project as executive director. The project is a collaborative effort to advance blockchain technology by identifying and addressing important features for an open standard for distributed ledgers that will apply across industries.
Google Plots Home Invasion
May 19, 2016
Google CEO Sundar Pichai kicked off the company's annual I/O developers conference on Wednesday with a keynote address that included previews of a batch of new products. Among those showcased were Google Assistant, a tool that can understand and respond to complex questions in real time; and Home, Google's highly anticipated response to Amazon's Echo speaker.
Otto Kits Out Big Rigs With Aftermarket Self-Driving Tech
May 18, 2016
Otto on Monday introduced a self-driving kit designed to help those behind the wheel of big rigs drive more safely and efficiently. The company is developing a suite of sensors, software and other truck-related enhancements that could be retrofitted into existing vehicles. The technology has been tested in Otto's research fleet, and the company completed an autonomous demo on public highways.
Could the Next Disruptive Consumer Product Be a Flip Phone?
May 16, 2016
Smartphones appear to be losing their luster, and the king of smartphones -- Apple -- clearly is not having a good year. Suddenly, I'm hearing that there is an upswing in flip phones, making this feel a bit like a Game of Thrones episode, when a believed-dead king returns to seize the throne by surprise. Clearly, the market is looking for the next big thing.
IBM to Drill Watson in Cybersecurity
May 11, 2016
IBM on Tuesday announced Watson for Cyber Security, a cloud-based version of its AI technology, trained in cybersecurity as part of a year-long research project. IBM will collaborate with eight universities with renowned cybersecurity programs, including MIT and the University of Waterloo in Canada. The universities' students will provide the data for Watson.
Google, Fiat Chrysler Team on Self-Driving Minivans
May 10, 2016
Google's Self-Driving Car Project and Fiat Chrysler last week announced that they would integrate autonomous vehicle technology into 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid minivans as part of Google's testing program. It is the first time Google has worked directly with a carmaker to integrate its self-driving technology into a passenger vehicle. It will add 100 Pacifica Hybrids to its test program.
IBM Extends Open Invitation to Play With Its Quantum Computer
May 10, 2016
IBM last week announced that it would allow researchers and scientists to run experiments using its quantum processor. The IBM Quantum Experience runs on the IBM Cloud. Users will be able to run algorithms and experiments on the quantum processor; work with individual quantum bits, or qubits; and explore tutorials and simulations on the possibilities opened up by quantum computing.
Futuristic Digital Assistant Viv Takes the Stage
May 9, 2016
Viv Labs CEO Dag Kittlaus on Monday demonstrated at Disrupt NY 2016 technology that was designed to make people-to-machine interactions as natural as people-to-people interactions. Kittlaus, the former CEO of Siri, and other Siri vets cofounded Viv in 2012. The artificial intelligence-enabled interface no user manual and can handle complex tasks via simple commands, he said.
Gadget Ogling: Digital Doodles, Magnetic Lighting, and Alexa Everywhere
May 4, 2016
Orée's Stylograph pen, which is made of copper, can transmit your scrawls and doodles to an iOS or Android device. It houses an accelerometer and a camera on the tip to capture what you're noting. You can get two days of use from an hour's charge, and if you're away from your smartphone or tablet as you're sketching or writing, you can store the data and transfer it later.
Gadget Ogling: Electric Nightmares, Cold Coffee, and a Smart Clothespin
April 28, 2016
I'm quite possibly the worst person in the world at waking up, without exaggeration. As a boy, I slept through a gas explosion that destroyed a home around 100 yards from my bedroom. All too often, I rely on my partner to shake me out of my slumber, as my own alarm clock rarely does the trick. I need something a little more forceful. The Shock Clock may be just up my alley.
Tech, Auto Honchos Join Forces to Push Self-Driving Cars
April 27, 2016
Some major players in both the new and old economies on Tuesday announced an alliance to pave the way for self-driving cars in America. Ford, Google, Lyft, Uber and Volvo raised the curtain on their Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, which will work with lawmakers, regulators and the public to raise awareness of the safety and societal benefits of self-driving vehicles.
Taking DIY to the Next Level
April 26, 2016
While hobbyists, inventors and innovators have been experimenting and producing a variety of do-it-yourself projects, their world is expected to undergo a hard shift as DIY moves to the next level. 3D printing is the cornerstone of the coming shift, and its effect on our daily lives will be multiplied by several converging forces: the collaborative economy, the jobless economy and personalization.
BMW, Daimler Steer Clear of Apple Car Project
April 25, 2016
BMW and Daimler have broken off talks about forming a partnership with Apple to develop an electric car, according to news reports published last week. Discussions stalled over issues that included which company would take the lead on the project and which would have ownership of the data. Apple apparently sought to develop a vehicle that would be integrated closely with its cloud-based software.
Gadget Ogling: A 360-Degree Cam, a Leveled-Up Kindle, and a Space-Saving Home Gym
April 21, 2016
Facebook has unveiled its latest push into hardware -- an open source 360-degree camera. Bearing 17 cameras and Web-based software to render footage in 360-degrees, Facebook Surround 360 is more of a design than a commercial product. It would cost around $30,000 to build one as is, Facebook said. The idea is to allow creators to iterate on the design to create their own cameras.
Apple Snags Hotshot Engineer, Former Tesla VP, for Project Titan
April 20, 2016
Apple has hired Chris Porritt, Tesla Motors' former vice president of vehicle engineering, to work on special projects, according to news reports published Tuesday. Porritt, who left Tesla last year, is expected to take charge of Apple's electric car initiative, Project Titan. He reportedly was given the purposefully vague title of "special projects group PD administrator."
YouTube Wants You to See the World From Every Angle
April 19, 2016
YouTube on Monday announced the rollout of live-streaming 360-degree video and spatial audio, part of the company's push to boost its reach in the growing market for immersive video and virtual reality. It has provided support for 360-degree video for more than a year, but it has been working with content creators to push the technology even further, Chief Product Officer Neal Mohan said.
The HTC's Wow Factor May Trump Shortcomings for VR Fans
April 19, 2016
The HTC Vive drew accolades from a hyped-up base of gamers and virtual reality enthusiasts when it launched earlier this month. However, the Vive is proving to be an experience that is not for the faint of heart, the light of wallet, or the short of patience. HTC earlier this year unveiled the Vive to an enthusiastic audience at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Facebook Envisions Virtual Social Future
April 15, 2016
Facebook on Wednesday demonstrated at its F8 developer conference how socializing could take place in a virtual world. Two employees some 30 miles apart showed how they could share the same virtual space. Through the use of 360-degree photos, they visited London, drew together with virtual pens, and took selfies and posted them to their Facebook news feeds.
Gadget Ogling: Smarter Notes, Livelier Virtual Reality, and Bigger In-Flight Movies
April 14, 2016
We've for some time had Moleskine's Smart Notebooks, which allow you to jot down your thoughts and upload them to Evernote through an app. The new Smart Writing Set takes that idea and elevates it to a new plane, letting you quickly turn scrawled notes or doodles into digital files you can edit using a computer or any mobile app -- no smartphone camera required.
Facebook Entices VR Content Creators With Open Source Surround Cam
April 13, 2016
Facebook on Tuesday unveiled a high-quality 360-degree 3D camera suitable for creating virtual reality content. The Facebook Surround 360 system, which made its debut at the F8 developers conference, includes a production-ready camera -- which costs about $30,000 to build and looks like a flying saucer from a science fiction movie -- and software for controlling the camera and for stitching and rendering what the camera captures.
Samsung's AR Vision Includes Smart Contact Lenses
April 12, 2016
Samsung has been granted a patent for a smart contact lens, according to news reports published last week. The lens is equipped with a tiny display, a camera, an antenna, and sensors that detect movement and eye blinks. Eye blinks would provide the input, and a smartphone would be needed to process images. A user blinks to take pictures or interact with data displayed on the smart contact lens.
Ford After Dark: Self-Driving Car 'Sees' All
April 11, 2016
Ford on Monday announced that it has been testing its Fusion Hybrid autonomous research vehicle with no headlights on remote desert roads at night. While such a task would be quite perilous for a human driver, it was an important step in developing a fully autonomous vehicle, the company said. The test vehicle relied on LiDAR technology for navigation.
Learning to Love Virtual Reality
April 11, 2016
At Nvidia's technology conference, I saw a variety of new technologies showcased. From deep learning systems -- computers that arguably are smarter than we are -- to self-driving cars that can drive better than we can, the technological advances on display made me feel just a tad inadequate. One way to get over my sudden concern over obsolescence was to check out the virtual reality showcase.
A Convoy of Autonomous Trucks Just Platooned Across Europe
April 9, 2016
A dozen trucks utilizing an autonomous driving system arrived Wednesday in Rotterdam, Netherlands, after traveling across Europe in the European Truck Platooning Challenge. The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, along with the Directorate General Rijkswaterstaat, the Netherlands Vehicle Authority and the Conference of European Directors of Roads were behind the initiative.
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Would you drive a Tesla?
I already do, and I love it!
Yes -- if the price were lower.
No -- I wouldn't trust its Autopilot.
I'd drive an electric car but not a Tesla.
I'm not yet sold on electric vehicles.