Tech Review Top Stories

Subscribe to Tech Review Top Stories feed
Updated: 1 hour 24 min ago

How Ads Follow You from Phone to Desktop to Tablet

Wed, 07/01/2015 - 00:00

Advertisers are increasingly using technology that targets users across multiple devices, and it’s working.

Imagine you slack off at work and read up online about the latest Gibson 1959 Les Paul electric guitar replica. On the way home, you see an ad for the same model on your phone, reminding you this is “the most desirable Les Paul ever.” Then before bed on your tablet, you see another ad with new details about the guitar.

At a Crossroads, Biofuels Seek a New Path Forward

Mon, 06/29/2015 - 00:00

New microbes and new techniques show promise for advanced biofuels, but the industry is still years away from real progress.

Attempting to chart a path forward for the beleaguered biofuels industry, a group of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley, have devised what they describe as a novel method for producing renewable jet fuel. Using sugarcane and the sugarcane waste called bagasse, the new process (described in a paper in the latest issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) could enable green refineries to put out a range of products, including bio-based aviation fuel and automotive lubricant base oils.

Inside India’s Phablet Revolution

Fri, 06/26/2015 - 00:00

In India, bigger is better when it comes to mobile phones, but Apple is lagging behind competitors like Samsung and Xiaomi.

Zanish Khan runs a tiny shop in Delhi’s Basrurkar Market, where India’s middle class comes to buy life’s essentials. All around him, other merchants offer everything from electric fans to dried lentils that shoppers can scoop from 100-pound burlap bags. By contrast, Khan’s merchandise is kept under glass and packed with state-of-the-art electronics.

Why Liquid Biopsies in Cancer Treatment Are Still Experimental

Wed, 06/24/2015 - 21:14

New diagnostics can find the DNA that drives a tumor, but evidence that they help patients is missing.

A year ago I interviewed Deborah Fletcher, a 54-year-old manager at Deloitte who was fighting inflammatory breast cancer with all her professional skills. She carried a briefcase of spreadsheets, documenting treatments, bills, research, notes about who’d said what and what her plans were.

Speeding Up 3-D Printing

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 00:05

A company’s novel technology could make custom medical devices and car parts— not to mention shoes that fit just right.

3-D printers can make objects that are impossible or expensive to make with molding, milling, and other conventional manufacturing processes. However, these printers work too slowly to be widely used in factories.

Rebooting the Automobile

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 00:05

Automakers and tech companies are racing to bring safer and more useful smartphone-style interfaces to cars. Can any of them go further and reprogram vehicles completely?

“Where would you like to go?” Siri asked.

The Wait-for-Google-to-Do-It Strategy

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 00:05

America’s communications ­infrastructure is finally getting some crucial upgrades because one company is forcing ­competition when regulators won’t.

It’s too often said that some event “changed everything” in technology. But when it comes to the history of broadband in the United States, Google Fiber really did. Before February 2010, when Google asked cities to apply to be first in line for the fiber-optic lines it would install to deliver Internet service to homes at a gigabit per second, the prospects for upgrading Americans’ wired broadband connections looked dismal. The Federal Communications Commission was on the verge of releasing its first National Broadband Plan, which stressed the importance of affordable, abundant bandwidth and the need to spread it by “overbuilding”—stringing fiber to houses and businesses even if they already had service over cable and phone lines with relatively low capacity. Yet at the time, as Blair Levin, executive director of the broadband plan, told me, “for the first time since 1994, there was no national provider with plans to overbuild the current network.”

50 Smartest Companies 2015

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 00:05

These companies are shaping the technology landscape, in everything from massive solar panel factories to human stem cells.

Sometimes we hear that technology companies have lost their ambition. Too many great minds are pouring their energy into the next app for the affluent, the argument goes. Where is the daring?

China’s Climate Challenge

Tue, 06/23/2015 - 00:05

Rapid industrialization and rising standards of living have made China the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide. Preventing a runaway increase will require the country to keep per capita emissions at a relatively low level.

The Struggle for Accurate Measurements on Your Wrist

Mon, 06/22/2015 - 00:00

Wearable devices are getting more advanced, but can today’s technology really measure our health?

Until recently, I didn’t know a thing about how my roughly 25-minute bike commute across San Francisco—or any other part of my day, really—affects my body, other than that I inevitably arrive at work sweaty and a bit out of breath when I’m in a big rush. How high is my heart rate? Do my sleep habits affect it? How many calories do I burn?

Injectable Implants Could Help Crack the Brain’s Codes

Fri, 06/19/2015 - 00:00

A new type of flexible electronic device shows promise for long-term brain mapping and could be a more effective way to provide therapeutic stimulation.

To understand how the brain works—or doesn’t, as the case may be—depends on deciphering the patterns of electrical signals its neurons produce. Recording them requires inserting electrodes into the tissue. But the rigid devices traditionally used to record these signals, or to therapeutically stimulate certain regions, can damage the brain and elicit an immune response, and they tend not to work for very long.

Biotech’s Coming Cancer Cure

Thu, 06/18/2015 - 00:00

Supercharge your immune cells to defeat cancer? Juno Therapeutics believes its treatments can do exactly that.

When Milton Wright III got his third cancer diagnosis, he cried until he laughed. He was 20 and had survived leukemia twice before, first when he was eight and again as a teen. Each time he’d suffered through years of punishing chemotherapy.

Soft Robotic Glove Could Put Daily Life Within Patients’ Grasp

Wed, 06/17/2015 - 00:00

The latest in assistive technology is a lightweight glove that helps patients with limited mobility grab and pick up objects.

Engineers at Harvard have developed a soft robotic glove that allows people with limited hand mobility to grasp and pick up objects. The device could help the estimated 6.8 million people in the United States who have hand mobility issues, whether from a degenerative condition, stroke, or old age.

Who Will Own the Robots?

Tue, 06/16/2015 - 00:00

We’re in the midst of a jobs crisis, and rapid advances in AI and other technologies may be one culprit. How can we get better at sharing the wealth that technology creates?

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles about the effects of software and automation on the economy. You can read the other stories here and here.

Smartphones (and Motorcycles) Fuel Hyperlocal E-Commerce in India

Mon, 06/15/2015 - 00:00

Entrepreneurs using couriers and mom-and-pop shops hope to outmaneuver Amazon with ultrafast deliveries in India’s big cities.

The heat wave gripping India on a day in late May feels particularly intense in the booming Delhi suburb of Gurgaon. Temperatures have soared to 109 °F by 12:30 p.m., and they aren’t done rising. Lizards are looking for shade. A profusion of new office parks, roads, and malls has obliterated any vegetation that might have preserved a little of the previous night’s coolness. And yet Albinder Dhindsa is smiling as he looks out his window, because this sort of weather is perfect for business.

How to Avoid Real Objects While in a Virtual World

Fri, 06/12/2015 - 00:00

Occipital wants to interrupt virtual-reality scenes with what’s coming at you in real life to prevent surprises and spills.

How will you walk around virtual worlds without smacking into actual walls?

Energy Storage Gets a Boost from Nanotechnology

Thu, 06/11/2015 - 00:00

Manufactured materials could lead to breakthroughs in batteries, supercapacitors, and eventually carbon-capture systems.

A group of Stanford researchers have come up with a nanoscale “designer carbon” material that can be adjusted to make energy storage devices, solar panels, and potentially carbon capture systems more powerful and efficient.

Designer Carbons Are Getting a Boost from Nanotechnology

Thu, 06/11/2015 - 00:00

Manufactured materials could lead to breakthroughs in batteries, supercapacitors, and eventually carbon-capture systems.

Typically made from coconut shells or wood chips, activated carbon has a variety of uses, from refrigerator deodorizers to water filters to batteries. Its primary characteristic is its Swiss-cheese-like structure: it’s riddled with tiny holes or pores that increase the material’s surface area, enhancing its ability to catalyze chemical reactions and store electrical charges. But activated carbon has significant drawbacks: the pores are randomly sized and unconnected, and it tends to have high levels of impurities.

Cyber-Espionage Nightmare

Wed, 06/10/2015 - 00:00

A groundbreaking online-spying case unearths details that companies wish you didn’t know about how vital information slips away from them.

On a wall facing dozens of cubicles at the FBI office in Pittsburgh, five guys from Shanghai stare from “Wanted” posters. Wang Dong, Sun Kailiang, Wen Xinyu, Huang Zhenyu, and Gu Chunhui are, according to a federal indictment unsealed last year, agents of China’s People’s Liberation Army Unit 61398, who hacked into networks at American companies—U.S. Steel, Alcoa, Allegheny Technologies (ATI), Westinghouse—plus the biggest industrial labor union in North America, United Steelworkers, and the U.S. subsidiary of SolarWorld, a German solar-panel maker. Over several years, prosecutors say, the agents stole thousands of e-mails about business strategy, documents about unfair-trade cases some of the U.S. companies had filed against China, and even piping designs for nuclear power plants—all allegedly to benefit Chinese companies.

Why Robots and Humans Struggled with DARPA’s Challenge

Tue, 06/09/2015 - 00:00

The falls and fumbles of robots in the DARPA Challenge point to the remaining hurdles for human-robot interfaces.

When some of the world’s most advanced rescue robots are foiled by nothing more complex than a doorknob, you get a good sense of the challenge of making our homes and workplaces more automated.