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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.

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.

Hidden Obstacles for Google’s Self-Driving Cars

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 00:00

Impressive progress hides major limitations of Google’s quest for automated driving.

Would you buy a self-driving car that couldn’t drive itself in 99 percent of the country? Or that knew nearly nothing about parking, couldn’t be taken out in snow or heavy rain, and would drive straight over a gaping pothole?

A Headset Meant to Make Augmented Reality Less of a Gimmick

Tue, 08/26/2014 - 00:00

A novel optical technique could overlay virtual imagery on the real world through a compact pair of glasses.

Andrew Maimone thinks augmented reality hasn’t been much more than a gimmick so far.

Insect Farming Is Taking Shape as Demand for Animal Feed Rises

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 00:00

As the world grows hungrier for animal protein, insects could be the new way to feed livestock.

Most farmers go to great lengths to keep insects at bay. For a growing cadre of livestock and fish producers though, bugs have never been so welcome.

2014 Visionaries | Innovators Under 35

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 00:05

People who are reimagining how technology might solve perennial human problems.

The History Inside Us

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 00:05

Improvements in DNA analysis are helping us rewrite the past and better grasp what it means to be human.

Every day our DNA breaks a little. Special enzymes keep our genome intact while we’re alive, but after death, once the oxygen runs out, there is no more repair. Chemical damage accumulates, and decomposition brings its own kind of collapse: membranes dissolve, enzymes leak, and bacteria multiply. How long until DNA disappears altogether? Since the delicate molecule was discovered, most scientists had assumed that the DNA of the dead was rapidly and irretrievably lost. When Svante Pääbo, now the director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany, first considered the question more than three decades ago, he dared to wonder if it might last beyond a few days or weeks. But Pääbo and other scientists have now shown that if only a few of the trillions of cells in a body escape destruction, a genome may survive for tens of thousands of years.

2014 Entrepreneurs | Innovators Under 35

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 00:05

These innovators are creating businesses that will upend markets or create new ones.

2014 Pioneers | Innovators Under 35

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 00:05

The frontiers of science provide ample space to explore innovation. Meet nine of the pioneers.

Love of Labor

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 00:05

Automation makes things easier, whether it’s on the factory floor or online. Is it also eroding too many of the valuable skills that define us as people?

Messages move at light speed. maps speak directions. Groceries arrive at the door. Floors mop themselves. Automation provides irresistible conveniences.

2014 Inventors | Innovators Under 35

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 00:05

These people are inventing the devices and technologies that will redefine how we live and work.

2014 Humanitarians | Innovators Under 35

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 00:05

By applying technology in novel ways, they are improving lives and expanding opportunities.

In Praise of Efficient Price Gouging

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 00:05

Uber’s most important innovation is the way it prices its services. But that innovation has not been unreservedly welcomed by customers. They’re wrong.

Innovators Under 35 | 2014

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 00:01

Our 14th annual celebration of people who are driving the next generation of technological breakthroughs.

Robots Rising

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 00:00

Do robots kill jobs? Not necessarily.

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