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Updated: 34 min 27 sec ago

Pay with Your Fingerprint

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 00:00

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is the first smartphone that can use a fingerprint to authorize payments in stores and online.

Anyone with an iPhone 5 can use its fingerprint reader to unlock the device and pay for apps or music in Apple’s iTunes store. Owners of Samsung’s latest flagship device, the Galaxy S5 smartphone, which launches on April 11, will be able to make much broader use of their fingerprints to pay for things. If they visit a website or app that accepts PayPal using the device, they can authorize payments by swiping a finger across the phone’s home button. And PayPal’s own mobile app can be used to pay for goods in some physical stores in the U.S.

A Bandage that Senses Tremors, Delivers Drugs, and Keeps a Record

Tue, 04/01/2014 - 00:00

A flexible electronic skin patch has strain gauges to measure tremors, and heating elements to release drugs held inside nanoparticles.

Offering a preview of what future wearable medical devices may look like, researchers in Korea have built a skin patch that’s thinner than a sheet of paper and can detect subtle tremors, release drugs stored inside nanoparticles on-demand, and record all of this activity for review later.

Study Shows Flawed U.S. Encryption Standard Could Be Broken in Seconds

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 17:28

If the NSA did have the keys to the backdoor in a random number generator it could break some encryption without trouble.

The security of a data connection protected using a flawed U.S. encryption standard promoted by the National Security Agency could be broken in under 16 seconds using a single computer processor. That’s according to the first in-depth study of how easily encryption systems that use the now deprecated Dual_EC random number generator could be defeated by an attacker that had “backdoored” the standard.

U.N. Climate Report Warns of Increased Risk to Crops

Mon, 03/31/2014 - 10:17

Crop yields are expected to decline due to climate change faster than scientists thought.

A few years ago scientists thought climate change wouldn’t cause much harm to overall food production until temperatures in a region rose by three to four degrees Celsius compared to current levels. But in the latest United Nations report on climate change, released today, scientists have revised those estimates, pointing to significant losses with a temperature rise of just two degrees Celsius.

The Latest Chat App for iPhone Needs No Internet Connection

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 10:31

A startup’s software will let iPhone apps connect phones without the Internet.

Mobile app stores are stuffed with messaging apps from WhatsApp to Tango and their many imitators. But FireChat, released last week for the iPhone, stands out. It’s the only one that can be used without cell-phone reception.

Lens-Free Camera Sees Things Differently

Thu, 03/27/2014 - 00:00

An itty-bitty camera could bring sight to the Internet of things.

Patrick Gill is excited to show me a small, fuzzy-looking picture of the Mona Lisa, printed in black and white on a piece of paper. It’s not much to look at, literally, but it’s unmistakably her, with long dark hair and that mysterious smile.

What Zuckerberg Sees in Oculus Rift

Wed, 03/26/2014 - 11:00

Facebook acquired Oculus Rift because it believes virtual reality could be the next big thing after mobile.

Facebook moved quickly to acquire Oculus VR—creator of the forthcoming Oculus Rift virtual reality headset—for approximately $2 billion. Discussions between the two companies opened less than two weeks ago, according to Oculus VR’s CEO Brendan Irebe. “We locked ourselves in the Facebook HQ and just got the deal done really fast,” Irebe told the Wall Street Journal. “We don’t want to disrupt the team and go through months of negotiations.”

Coming Soon: Android Apps for Wearable Devices

Wed, 03/26/2014 - 00:00

Developers and designers are now building apps for Google’s smart watch platform.

The designers of the forthcoming Moto 360 hope they’ve passed a fashion test. In contrast to the often bulky and boxy smart watches released to date (see “Smart Watches Need a Makeover, and a Shrink Ray”), their device is sleek and perfectly round, evoking the style of a classic analog wristwatch.

Academics Spy Weaknesses in Bitcoin’s Foundations

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 00:00

Game theory suggests the rules governing Bitcoin may need to be updated if the currency is to endure.

One thing cannot be disputed about the person (or persons) responsible for creating Bitcoin: they were skilled in math, and expert at coding. Five years after the Bitcoin software was first released, no major fixes have been needed to the core code, which uses cryptography to generate and transfer virtual money.

Graphene Helps Copper Wires Keep Their Cool

Fri, 03/21/2014 - 00:00

An exotic form of carbon could help relieve a growing problem with the copper used in computer processors.

When people in the chip industry talk about the thermal problems in computer processors, they get dramatic. In 2001, Pat Gelsinger, then vice president of Intel, noted that if the temperatures produced by the latest chips kept rising on their current path, they would exceed the heat of a nuclear reactor by 2005, and the surface of the sun by 2015. Fortunately, such thermal disaster was averted by slowing down the switching speeds in microprocessors, and by adopting multicore chip designs in which several processors run in parallel.

Sony Joins Virtual Reality Race with New Headset for PlayStation

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 13:55

Inspired by Oculus Rift, Sony is adding virtual reality to the PlayStation 4.

Sony unveiled its long-rumored virtual reality headset on Tuesday at the 2014 Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, stood in front of a packed auditorium of game developers and said: “Virtual Reality is the next innovation from PlayStation that could shape the future of video games.”

Sony Looks Back to Virtual Reality with a Headset for PlayStation

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 13:55

Inspired by Oculus Rift, Sony is adding virtual reality to the PlayStation 4.

Sony unveiled its long-rumored virtual reality headset on Tuesday at the 2014 Game Developer’s Conference in San Francisco. Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, stood in front of a packed auditorium of game developers and said: “Virtual Reality is the next innovation from PlayStation that could shape the future of video games.”

Apps by the Dashboard Light

Wed, 03/19/2014 - 00:00

New cars will soon come with high-bandwidth connections and app stores.

Starting next month, many car buyers will be getting a novel feature: Internet connections with speeds similar to those on the fastest smartphones—and even a few early dashboard-based apps, engineered to be as dumbed-down as possible.

Before Snowden, There Was Huawei

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 00:00

The travails of a Chinese telecom company show how spying charges could hurt U.S. firms.

How’s this for a tough sales job? The American sales reps of Huawei offer top-notch telecom gear at a 35 percent discount. But anytime they get near to closing a sale, their customers get a visit from the FBI or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Spinoffs from Spyland

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 00:00

How America’s eavesdropping agency commercializes technology.

It takes more than a little tradecraft to spin off a startup from the National Security Agency.

For Swiss Data Industry, NSA Leaks Are Good as Gold

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 00:00

Here’s how the Swiss promise to keep your data safe.

There is data security, and then there is Swiss data security.

Spying Is Bad for Business

Tue, 03/18/2014 - 00:00

Can we trust an Internet that’s become a weapon of governments?

Following a one-day summit in Brasilia this February, negotiators from Brazil and Europe reached a deal to lay a $185 million fiber-optic cable spanning the 3,476 miles between Fortaleza and Lisbon. The cable will be built by a consortium of Spanish and Brazilian companies. According to Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, it will “protect freedom.” No longer will South America’s Internet traffic get routed through Miami, where American spies might see it.

Look, Smartphone: No Hands!

Mon, 03/17/2014 - 00:00

Controlling an iPhone or Android phone with just your voice and a noise-cancelling headset is doable, but frustrating.

I usually enjoy making fun of people who walk around wearing Bluetooth headsets, seemingly talking to themselves. So of course I felt like a hypocrite this week wandering around downtown San Francisco doing exactly that.

SpaceX Set to Launch the World’s First Reusable Booster

Thu, 03/13/2014 - 14:19

SpaceX’s reusable booster rocket, the first of its kind, could pave the way for radically cheaper access to space.

On Sunday, if all goes well, Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, will achieve a spaceflight first.

The Numbers Behind Japan’s Renewed Embrace of Nuclear

Tue, 03/11/2014 - 15:08

The Fukushima disaster led Japan to shut down nuclear power plants, but three years of rising costs and carbon dioxide emissions are forcing it to reverse course.

In the three years since the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Japan has tried to replace nuclear energy with fossil fuels. But the costs have proved prohibitive, and now the government is convinced it must turn its reactors back on.