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Google's Project Ara Smartphone Puzzle Is Coming Together
January 14, 2015
Google on Wednesday shed fresh light on Project Ara, its modular Android smartphone initiative, including plans to pilot the project in Puerto Rico through food truck-style stores. Project Ara will offer a smartphone endoskeleton; users will be able to add the functionality they want piece by piece, rather than being confined by the hardware configurations determined by operators and providers.
Auto Insurance? Just Google It
January 12, 2015
Google reportedly is gearing up to launch a shopping and comparison site for auto insurance in the United States. The company has been operating such a site in the UK, dubbed "Google Compare," for the past two years. Although it apparently has been beset by delays, an entity called "Google Compare Auto Insurance Services Inc." now is licensed to do business in 26 states.
The Secret Stories of CES
January 12, 2015
By this time, you likely are getting a bit sick out of folks talking about wild new products that won't be on the market for weeks or months while you are paying your Christmas bills. So rather than tell you about a slew of new products, I'll focus on the back stories that didn't seem to get much coverage at CES -- what now is the largest technology show in the U.S.
Researchers Turn Computer Into Poker Shark
January 09, 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.
Self-Driving Concept Cars Impress at CES
January 08, 2015
CEO Mark Fields on Wednesday took the stage at the International CES 2015 in Las Vegas and said that Ford Motor is focusing on bringing autonomous automobiles to the masses. Although Ford may not be the first company to produce a self-driving car, it could be the first to deliver one outside of the luxury category, Fields said in his keynote address.
Virtual Reality Makes Leaps and Bounds at CES 2015
January 07, 2015
Samsung this week unveiled its Milk VR platform for its Gear VR headset at the 2015 International CES in Las Vegas, but it was far from alone in ramping up the virtual reality action at the show. HP introduced the Zvr Virtual Reality Display, and Razer rolled out its Android-based OSVR. Not to be outdone by these upstart efforts, Oculus gave a peak at its Rift controller.
Sony's New Walkman Aims Sky High
January 06, 2015
Sony on Monday debuted a new Walkman at CES that's as notable for its hefty price as for its high-end features. Listed at $1,119.99, the new Walkman NW-ZX2 is several hundred dollars more than last year's Walkman NW-ZX1. In return, it promises "high-resolution audio like never before," thanks to Sony's new S-Master HX digital amplifier and DSEE HX technology.
We Are the World: Samsung's Vision for IoT
January 06, 2015
The world needs one open ecosystem to enable the Internet of Things, and Samsung is prepared to lead the way, said CEO BK Yoon at the 2015 International CES. Serving up the classic depiction of IoT -- always-on, always-connected devices working together -- Yoon said the technology for linking smart radios, smart TVs, smartphones and smart homes will be available later this year.
Gogoro: The Little Electric Scooter That Could?
January 06, 2015
Gogoro on Monday took to the stage at CES to unveil a zero-emissions electric scooter. The Smartscooter is designed to be powered by batteries available via subscription from a network of vending machines in urban areas around the world. The Gogoro Smartscooter is quipped with 30 onboard sensors, cloud connectivity and an integrated mobile app to aid performance and find battery vending machines.
CES: Oh, the Amazing Things You Will See
January 05, 2015
Writing a CES teaser is a bit difficult because I actually know a great deal about what will be announced, but I can't share the details because I'm bound by a variety of ironclad NDAs. However, I can comment in general about the product categories you are going to see opened up at the show, and I have to say you'd better lock up your wallet because much of this is cool and you'll likely want it.
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.
The Big Tech Stories of 2015
December 29, 2014
Last week, we looked back at the largely untold, or under told, stories of 2014. This week, let's look ahead to some of the stories that are coming in 2015. We'll have robots, self-driving cars, armed autonomous drones, the professional proliferation of head mounted cameras, some scandals, and some interesting political implications. I'll close with my product of the year, which even surprised me.
Fraud-Proofing Credit Cards Through Quantum Physics
December 26, 2014
Researchers at the University of Twente and the Eindhoven University of Technology have come up with what they claim is an unprecedentedly secure way to authenticate credit cards, IDs, biometrics, and parties involved in quantum cryptography. The method -- quantum-secure authentication of optical keys -- basically consists of sending a beam of light at cards treated with a special paint.
Gadget Ogling: Budget Fitness Tracking, Focused Writing and Red-Hot Wearables
December 22, 2014
Gather around, friends, for another edition of the column that holds up just-announced gadgets to scrutiny, Gadget Dreams and Nightmares. In the stocking for our pre-holidays edition are a smartphone-controlled lock, an inexpensive fitness tracker, a red-hot wearable and much more. While I've looked before at smartphone-enabled door locks, Sony's take on the idea, the Qrio, stands out.
The Untold Stories of 2014
December 22, 2014
It is time to look back at 2014, so I'll focus here on a series of stories I thought were interesting but didn't seem to catch much or any real air. Some, like what is really behind Sony's decision to pull The Interview still might take off. Hadoop analytics is one of the most powerful platforms to come to market, and one vendor stands out above all others: Cloudera.
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.

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