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Robots Meet DARPA Challenge Despite Pratfalls
June 8, 2015
Robots from Korea and the U.S. staggered off with the top three prizes at the DARPA Robotics Challenge, held in California over the weekend. In all, robots from 23 teams participated in the challenge, which consisted of an obstacle course simulating conditions similar to those following the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. DRC-Hubo, the entry from South Korea's Team Kaist, took first prize.
It's Hard to See WWDC Through My Apple TV Tears
June 4, 2015
By the time you read this, I'll have finished swearing in the privacy of my office, and likely will have entered the acceptance stage of grief. Already, realization is dawning that I was right to withhold hope that Apple would reveal a new Apple TV at its WorldWide Developers Conference on Monday. I hate it when pessimism wins. But how can I know that Apple isn't going to introduce a new Apple TV?
Wood Chips: Electronics May Go Back to Nature
May 29, 2015
In a significant step toward a future in which consumers can toss old gadgets onto a compost heap, researchers have proved the viability of placing computer chips on support structures made from wood. This latest advance in green technology could "be used for many things, including mobile devices, displays, solar cells and much more," said UW engineering prof Zhenqiang "Jack" Ma.
NASA's $2.25M Challenge: 3D-Print a Space Base
May 18, 2015
NASA and America Makes have challenged innovators in the additive construction market to design a habitat for deep space exploration for the first stage of the competition and to fabricate such facilities in the second phase. The organizations will award a $50,000 prize and a pair of $1.1 million purses for the winners of the multistage challenge. Registration opened for phase one on Saturday.
The Future According to Qualcomm
May 18, 2015
I was at the Qualcomm Internet of Things event in San Francisco last week during what was a major IoT event in the city. What is kind of amazing is the larger event was just a small part of the applications show that used to go on at the same time. This year it is twice the size of that older show. Companies are flocking to this IoT concept like ducks to water.
3 SciFi Technologies That Are About to Get Amazingly Real
May 11, 2015
Lisa Su, the talented new CEO for AMD, last week gave a pitch on the future to get people excited about where AMD is going. Based on the stock performance after her talk, she and her team knocked it out of the park. They also got me thinking about some tech advancements that have been quietly percolating, which likely will form the basis for a revolutionary announcement in the next few years.
EM Drive Stirs Blood of Hopeful Space Explorers
May 6, 2015
It may not be warp drive, but EM drive is perhaps even more exciting, because it has a better chance of being science fact than fiction. EM drive technology theoretically could allow a trip to the moon in four hours, to Mars in 70 days, and to Alpha Centaurii, the star system nearest to our own, in roughly 130 years. It would take thousands of years using today's space travel technologies.
Apple, IBM Bring Tech to the Rescue for Japan's Seniors
May 4, 2015
Apple and IBM last week announced an initiative with Japan Post Group to provide seniors in Japan with iPads preloaded with apps and analytics designed to improve their quality of life. Japan Post Group will launch a pilot service later this year and gradually expand it to cover 4-5 million customers by 2020. This is one of several undertakings to deal with aging in Japan.
Gadget Ogling: Wine in a Dash, Connected Bicycles, and a Wearable for Behinds
May 2, 2015
I'll admit I'm not the planet's most refined wine connoisseur, but I do enjoy a glass or two of red with my dinner. At the minute, the few bottles I have are vacuuming up space around my kitchen, so I could use a wall-mounted wine rack -- but what's the use of having a rack with no bottles once they're finished? Poppy Reserve could solve the problem of a barren wine rack.
We'll Soon Live in an Imaginary World
April 20, 2015
Virtual and augmented reality and holographic image technologies are coming at us with the speed of a freight train, and it won't be long until we'll no longer be able to distinguish between what is real and what isn't. There are some initiatives going on behind the scenes, as well as some breakthroughs, that shortly will make our experience of the world very different from what it is now.
Gadget Ogling: A Juicy Wristband, a Gamy Wearable and a Dorky Dongle
April 18, 2015
Asus is taking a common-sense approach to the fitness tracker game by debuting a new watch with a 10-day battery life. Thanks to its square screen, the soon-to-be-released VivoWatch resembles a smartwatch more than, say, a Fitbit. It appears to have a monochrome screen, which must help extend that all-important battery life. It has a stainless-steel build, and dust and water protection.
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.
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I plan to do my holiday shopping…
Online only -- I like the convenience and comfort.
Online only -- I'd shop in stores if their stock weren't so limited.
At brick-and-mortar stores only -- I like to see what I'm getting.
At brick-and-mortar stores only -- I enjoy the holiday shopping atmosphere.
At brick-and-mortar stores only -- I want to support local merchants.
Online and in stores -- I want the best of both worlds.
I'm not planning on doing any holiday shopping.