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Updated: 1 hour 42 min ago

EmTech: Illumina Says 228,000 Human Genomes Will Be Sequenced This Year

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 12:13

Record number of genomes being decoded, but cost of DNA sequencing might not fall much further, says Illumina president.

Henry Ford kept lowering the price of cars, and more people kept buying them. The San Diego–based gene sequencing company Illumina has been doing something similar with the tools needed to interpret the human genetic code.

EmTech: IBM Tries to Make Watson Smarter

Wed, 09/24/2014 - 12:10

IBM’s senior vice president says Watson could find success with commercial apps in wealth management, call centers, and medicine.

Three years after its artificial-intelligence engine Watson made its high-profile win on Jeopardy!, IBM is adapting the technology as it seeks practical commercial uses, an IBM executive explained today at EmTech, a conference organized by MIT Technology Review.

EmTech: Google’s Internet “Loon” Balloons Will Ring the Globe within a Year

Tue, 09/23/2014 - 11:52

Google X research lab boss Astro Teller says experimental wireless balloons will test delivering Internet access throughout the Southern Hemisphere by next year.

Within a year, Google is aiming to have a continuous ring of high-altitude balloons in the Southern Hemisphere capable of providing wireless Internet service to cell phones on the ground.

Robots That Learn Through Repetition, Not Programming

Mon, 09/22/2014 - 00:00

A startup says getting a robot to do things should be less about writing code and more like animal training.

Eugene Izhikevich thinks you shouldn’t have to write code in order to teach robots new tricks. “It should be more like training a dog,” he says.  “Instead of programming, you show it consistent examples of desired behavior.”

Technology Stalled in 1970

Thu, 09/18/2014 - 00:00

Peter Thiel says he’s trying to get entrepreneurs to go after bigger problems than the ones Silicon Valley is chasing.

Peter Thiel has been behind some prominent technologies: he cofounded PayPal and was an early investor in such companies as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Tesla Motors. But he’s convinced that technological progress has been stagnant for decades. According to Thiel, developments in computers and the Internet haven’t significantly improved our quality of life. In a new book, he warns entrepreneurs that conventional business wisdom is preventing them and society as a whole from making major advances in areas, such as energy or health, where technology could make the world a better place—though he doesn’t offer detailed answers on how we might unlock such breakthroughs. Thiel spoke to MIT Technology Review’s San Francisco bureau chief, Tom Simonite, at the offices of his venture capital firm, Founder’s Fund.

Radical New DNA Sequencer Finally Gets into Researchers’ Hands

Wed, 09/17/2014 - 00:00

A DNA sequencer the size of a cell phone could change where, and how, gene research occurs.

One day in 1989, biophysicist David Deamer pulled his car off California’s Interstate 5 to hurriedly scribble down an idea. In a mental flash, he had pictured a strand of DNA threading its way through a microscopic pore. Grabbing a pen and a yellow pad, he sketched out a radical new way to study the molecule of life.

Making Innovation

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 00:00

The hubs of advanced manufacturing will be the economic drivers of the future because innovation increasingly depends on production expertise.

Visitors to the Crosspointe Rolls-Royce facility in Prince George County, Virginia, have to don safety glasses and steel-tipped shoes, just as they would at any traditional factory. But then things start to look different. Past the cubicles filled with programmers and support staff sits a 140,000-square-foot factory with spotless white concrete floors, bright lighting, surprisingly quiet equipment, and very few human beings.

How Human-Robot Teamwork Will Upend Manufacturing

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 00:00

Robots are starting to collaborate with human workers in factories, offering greater efficiency and flexibility.

Sometime in the next couple of years, if everything goes to plan, workers at BMW’s manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina, will be introduced to an unusual new teammate—a robot arm that will roll around handing them tools and parts as they assemble the German carmaker’s luxury vehicles.

The New Chinese Factory

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 00:00

Leading manufacturers in China combine the country’s historical labor advantages with expertise in automation, design, and manufacturing.

With its medieval canals and carefully preserved downtown, the eastern Chinese city of Suzhou might have been a quiet burgh compared with neighboring Shanghai. But in 1994, the governments of Singapore and China invested in an industrial development zone there, and Suzhou grew quickly into a manufacturing boomtown.

Audi Drives Innovation on the Shop Floor

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 00:00

A carmaker’s automated body shop illustrates how German manufacturing is moving forward.

Gene-Silencing Drugs Finally Show Promise

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 00:00

After more than a decade of disappointment, a startup leads the development of a powerful new class of drugs based on a Nobel-winning idea.

The disease starts with a feeling of increased clumsiness. Spilling a cup of coffee. Stumbling on the stairs. Having accidents that are easy to dismiss—everyone trips now and then.

Intel Says Laptops and Tablets with 3-D Vision Are Coming Soon

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 00:00

Your next laptop or tablet may have 3-D sensors that let it recognize gestures or augment a real scene with virtual characters.

Laptops with 3-D sensors in place of conventional webcams will go on sale before the end of this year, according to chip maker Intel, which is providing the sensing technology to manufacturers. And tablets with 3-D sensors will hit the market in 2015, the company said at its annual developers’ conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Cheap, Scratch-Resistant Displays

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 00:00

Ultrathin sapphire laminates could lead to new screen covers that are harder to break.

Glass touch-screen displays are easily cracked and scratched, making them a weak point in today’s ubiquitous mobile devices. Sapphire—second only to diamond in hardness—could make such damage a thing of the past. Sapphire is already used on a few luxury smartphones and for small parts of recent iPhones, including the cover of the camera lens and thumbprint reader on the iPhone 5S. And some models of Apple’s newly announced watch include a sapphire face. In a sign of the material’s growing importance, Apple recently invested $700 million in a sapphire processing factory in Arizona.

How Even More Apple Devices Could Get Sapphire Screens

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 00:00

Ultrathin sapphire laminates could lead to durable but affordable next-generation screen covers.

Glass touch-screen displays are easily cracked and scratched, making them a weak point in today’s ubiquitous mobile devices. Sapphire—second only to diamond in hardness—could make such damage a thing of the past. Sapphire is already used on a few luxury smartphones and for small parts of recent iPhones, including the cover of the camera lens and thumbprint reader on the iPhone 5S. And some models of Apple’s newly announced watch include a sapphire face. In a sign of the material’s growing importance, Apple recently invested $700 million in a sapphire processing factory in Arizona.

No More Cracked Smartphone Glass

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 00:00

Ultrathin sapphire laminates could lead to durable but affordable next-generation screen covers.

Glass touch-screen displays are easily cracked andscratched, making them a weak point in today’s ubiquitous mobile devices. Sapphire—second only to diamond in hardness—could make such damage a thing of the past. Sapphire is already used on a few luxury smartphones and for small parts of recent iPhones, including the cover of the camera lens and thumbprint reader on the iPhone 5S. And some models of Apple’s newly announced watch include a sapphire face. In a sign of the material’s growing importance, Apple recently invested $700 million in a sapphire processing factory in Arizona.

The Apple Watch May Solve the Usual Smart Watch Annoyances

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 16:32

Apple’s first smart watch seems like the best of its kind so far, but the user experience is still a little unclear.

Today I finally got to try on a smart watch that fits my wrist, looks good, and purports to be full-featured yet not overly annoying.

Sapphire Screens Would Test Apple’s Manufacturing and Design Skills

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 12:19

To make sapphire screens, Apple would need to source high-quality raw material and be clever about incorporating it into devices.

At Apple’s latest product unveiling tomorrow, CEO Tim Cook may sing the praises of super-strong sapphire, and proclaim it as the perfect screen material for its new iGadgets.

“Hello, Computer” -- Intel’s New Mobile Chips Are Always Listening

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 11:45

Tablets and laptops coming later this year will be able to constantly listen for voice commands thanks to new chips from Intel.

A new line of mobile chips unveiled by Intel today makes it possible to wake up a laptop or tablet simply by saying “Hello, computer.” Once it has been awoken, the computer can operate as a voice-controlled virtual assistant. You might call out “Hello, computer, what is the weather forecast today?” while getting out of bed.

Google Launches Effort to Build Its Own Quantum Computer

Wed, 09/03/2014 - 18:12

Google’s crack at a quantum computer is a bid to change computing forever.

Google is about to begin designing and building hardware for a quantum computer, a type of machine that can exploit quantum physics to solve problems that would take a conventional computer millions of years.

On the Horns of the GMO Dilemma

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 17:00

Can genome-editing technology revive the idea of genetically modified livestock?

Four years ago, Scott Fahrenkrug saw an ABC News segment about the dehorning of dairy cows, a painful procedure that makes the animals safer to handle. The shaky undercover video showed a black-and-white Holstein heifer moaning and bucking as a farmhand burned off its horns with a hot iron.

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