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Elon Musk Calls for Preventive AI Demon Wrangling
October 28, 2014
Elon Musk, CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla Motors, among his many roles, this week warned about the threat humans face from artificial intelligence. AI is probably our biggest existential threat, he told students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon," Musk said, indicating that it might not be possible to control it.
Battered Aereo Takes a Couple More Blows
October 28, 2014
U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan last week granted broadcasters' request for a temporary restraining order against Aereo. This is the latest setback for the would-be cable-killer service, which was suspended following a Supreme Court ruling this summer. Aereo had utilized small dime-sized antennas to capture over-the-air TV signals and stream the content to subscribers over the Internet.
Hybrid IKEA Desk Could Get You Off Your Duff
October 28, 2014
IKEA last week introduced a new desk that can be raised and lowered with the push of a button to accommodate both sitting and standing positions. Part of IKEA's Bekant line, the desk serves as a hybrid alternative to traditional desks. "This desk promotes a healthy work environment by getting people on their feet," said Karen Haas, IKEA's U.S. sales leader for Workspaces.
CVS, Rite Aid Kick Apple Pay to the Curb
October 27, 2014
Consumers who had been using Apple Pay at CVS and Rite Aid received a rude shock over the weekend when the chains turned off the technology at their stores. Apple Pay enables mobile payments using the latest iPhone models or Apple Watch. The technology underlying it -- near field communications -- allows transactions to be performed on a point-of-sale terminal with a tap or wave of a phone.
Fitbit Tosses 3 More Bands Into the Activity-Tracking Melee
October 27, 2014
Fitbit on Monday announced three new fitness and activity-tracking wearables: the Fitbit Charge, Charge HR and Surge. The Charge HR and Surge will be available early next year. The Charge is available now on Fitbit's site and is coming soon to retailers nationwide. Prices are high -- $130 for the Charge, $150 for the Charge HR, and $250 for the Surge, a fitness super watch with eight sensors.
Amazon Sticks It to Google Chromecast
October 27, 2014
Amazon on Monday introduced the Fire TV Stick, a new streaming-media device that can connect to an HDTV's HDMI port and deliver video content from Amazon Prime Instant Video, as well as Netflix, Hulu Plus, ESPN, YouTube, Spotify, Vevo, Pandora and A&E. It also can be used to play games. New and existing Amazon Prime customers can pre-order the Fire TV Stick for $19 through Tuesday.
Detroit's Stupid Plan to Kill Tesla
October 27, 2014
In watching the illicit attempts of dealers and U.S. auto companies to try to kill Tesla, I have to think they are all wrongheaded. I don't drive a Tesla, but this kind of thing makes me really mad because it is so incredibly stupid. Tesla is as much an idea as it is a company -- and an idea that should be flowing through the car industry anyway, because the world is changing.
Gadget Ogling: Up In The Air, Big Reads and Ghastly Wearables
October 25, 2014
This week in Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, a peek at newly announced gadgets that caught my eye, we're going back to the future. Yes, there's an actual hoverboard on the agenda, alongside a larger Nook tablet, a high-end Kindle, smart luggage, and the tipping point for wearable tech. As always, there are ratings for each item, which are based on how interested I am in using them.
Android Wear Gets Its First Big Update
October 24, 2014
Google's Android Wear on Thursday got its first major update, bringing GPS support and offline music capabilities to the wearables platform. "Android Wear is great for tracking things like route, distance and speed," wrote Kenny Stoltz, Android Wear product manager. "Before today, you had to keep your phone close at hand. Starting today, Wear supports watches with GPS sensors."
Robots Gearing Up to Join Ebola Front Lines
October 24, 2014
The White House and roboticists have set Nov. 7 to get together in a workshop to explore ways of using robots to help in the battle against Ebola. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will cohost the workshop on safety robotics for Ebola workers, with Texas A&M University's Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, or CRASAR.
Space Explorers Hole Up in Hawaii to Simulate Life on Mars
October 23, 2014
The third in a series of four simulated missions to Mars planned by NASA kicked off last week at a remote site on the Hawaiian island of Mauna Loa. A six-person team, comprising the Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation 3 mission, is inhabiting a dome for an eight-month study of the human factors that contribute to astronaut crew function and performance over time.
Smart Nightlight Calls Your iPhone When Smoke, CO Alarms Start Wailing
October 22, 2014
Leeo on Tuesday introduced the Smart Alert Nightlight, a $99 gadget that can detect when the alarm sounds from a smoke or carbon monoxide detector and send alerts to an iPhone. About the size and shape of a coaster, the Smart Alert Nightlight plugs into a wall outlet where it does double duty as illuminator and monitor. When it hears an alarm, it uses its WiFi connection to send a push notification.
The Next-Gen TV Cable Dilemma
October 22, 2014
Television manufacturers are moving toward ultra high definition -- also known as "4K" -- which offers four times the resolution of HD. It also offers greater depth of color and faster frame rate. That means more information must travel through the cable from the video source to the TV. The current de facto cable, HDMI, or high-definition multimedia interface, solves some of the old problems.
Google Takes a Flyer on Magic Leap
October 21, 2014
Magic Leap on Tuesday announced that Google was the lead investor in a $542 million round of funding for its secret endeavors. Also participating were Qualcomm, Legendary Entertainment, KKR, Vulcan Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Andreessen Horowitz and Obvious Ventures. Details are scarce about Magic Leap's forthcoming products, but they are likely proprietary wearable technology.
$10K Will Get You a Clunky, Slow Hoverboard That's Nothing Like Marty McFly's
October 21, 2014
The designers behind the Hendo Hoverboard on Tuesday took to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to help launch a prototype and bring it to actual production. The funding period for this project will run from Tuesday through Dec. 15. The team has set a Kickstarter goal of $250,000 and already raised in excess of $100,000 in the opening hours. Early investors can get on board -- literally.
Kickstarter Puts Kibosh on Tor-Based Router Funding
October 21, 2014
Kickstarter on Friday suspended a crowdfunding campaign for Anonabox, a portable networking device designed specifically to run Tor. The campaign for the privacy-minded router, which launched earlier last week, was wildly successful. In just a few days, it reportedly garnered more than $600,000 in pledged funds from thousands of backers. The Kickstarter goal for the $45 device was just $7,500.
Gadget Ogling: Apple vs. Google, a Bossy Activity Tracker, and Feeling Your Path
October 18, 2014
There was plenty of focus on the cameras at Apple's presentation, as it tries to promote the tablet as an ideal viewfinder for taking high-quality images, while adding iPhone features like time-lapse and burst mode. However, the new push of iPad photography is just encouraging even more people to look foolish by taking photos with their tablet in public. This is a plague.
BBC to Preserve Memory of Its 'Forgotten' Articles
October 17, 2014
The BBC will publish and continually update a list of its published articles that were removed from Google searches under Europe's "right to be forgotten" rule. David Jordan, director of editorial policy and standards for the BBC, announced the move. The decision is a reaction to the EC ruling that search engines must remove "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant" links upon request.
Netflix Drives Into a Ditch
October 17, 2014
Netflix stock closed Friday at $357, up slightly from the depths it plummeted to earlier this week. Shares fell almost 25 percent in premarket trading on Thursday -- more than $110 a share -- to $338. The plunge followed news of weak subscriber growth in its third quarter. Netflix reported $1.2 billion in Q3 revenue, which was up 38 percent from the same period a year prior.
Tide Starts to Turn Against Gamergate's Women-Hating Campaign
October 17, 2014
Backlash against the #Gamergate movement escalated several notches this week, thanks to high-profile newspaper reports and a public statement from the Entertainment Software Association. "Threats of violence and harassment are wrong," the ESA said. "They have to stop. There is no place in the video game community -- or our society -- for personal attacks and threats."
Enter the Nexus Dragon
October 16, 2014
Google on Wednesday announced three new devices in its Nexus line: a tablet, a phablet, and a streaming media game player-cum-Android TV device, all of which run Lollipop, the latest version of its Android OS. Lollipop lets users sync content from phones to tablets to TVs and use it seamlessly. It has a consistent design across devices so transitions between tasks are more fluid.
Debate Simmers Over Facebook, Apple Egg-Freezing Benefit
October 16, 2014
Facebook and Apple, companies already known for their generous employee benefits, are raising the bar even more by paying for egg-freezing services for their female employees. Facebook began covering up to $20,000 in these expenses at the start of the year, and Apple will beginning covering them at the start of next. At first blush, it seems to be a typical high-tech perk.
Find My iPhone? Find Me! Lost Phone Feature Helps Rescuers Locate Crashed Car
October 16, 2014
A woman whose car rolled 500 feet down an embankment near San Jose, California, was located through the Find My iPhone feature on her smartphone after spending 19 hours in the ravine where her Chevy Cruze ended up. The OnStar feature in her car triggered two calls to police, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Monday, but neither pinpointed the location of her car.
Skype Qik Video Chat: Shoot, Send, Vaporize
October 15, 2014
Microsoft on Tuesday released Skype Qik, a new mobile chat app that features short, self-destructing video messages that automatically self-destruct in two weeks -- or sooner if set to do so. Skype need not be installed on a mobile to use Qik, which runs on Android, iOS and Windows phones and is available for free from the Google Play, the iTunes App Store and the Windows Phone Store.

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