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Updated: 24 min 44 sec ago

Entrepreneur Hopes to Use Interference to Improve the Mobile Internet

Mon, 03/10/2014 - 16:03

WebTV’s creator thinks his forthcoming wireless technology will give us faster, better mobile Internet access.

Ten years ago, when most of us still had no idea what a smartphone was, Steve Perlman was contemplating a future in which we’d be watching so many YouTube videos over cellular networks that the radio frequency bands available to wireless carriers would get clogged up.

Virtual Reality Startups Look Back to the Future

Fri, 03/07/2014 - 00:00

Thirty years after the first wave of virtual reality, new startups are determined to take it mainstream.

It’s been almost 30 years since the computer scientist Jaron Lanier formed VPL Research, the first company to sell the high-tech goggles and gloves that once defined humanity’s concept of where technology might soon take our species. In the late-1980s, a person could pull on a $100,000 head-mounted display and electronic gauntlet and fool their brain into thinking they had stepped inside the simulated space rendered on the screen.

Artificial Organs May Finally Get a Blood Supply

Thu, 03/06/2014 - 00:00

Artificial tissue has always lacked a key ingredient: blood vessels. A new 3-D printing technique seems poised to change that.

In what may be a critical breakthrough for creating artificial organs, Harvard researchers say they have created tissue interlaced with blood vessels.

Google Glass Still Needs a Killer App

Wed, 03/05/2014 - 00:00

Glass is still a pain to use, but a few apps reveal what it could become.

Aside from the fact that it’s not yet publicly available, there are plenty of reasons to not wear Google Glass even if you get the chance. To name just a few: it’s expensive, it looks and feels weird, it doesn’t work that well, and, whether you’re at home or walking down the street, people will stare at you and the small, prismatic display on your face.

Heart Implants, 3-D-Printed to Order

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 00:00

Tailor-made medical devices could give a more detailed picture of cardiac health and may be better at predicting and preventing problems.

It’s a poetic fact of biology that everyone’s heart is a slightly different size and shape. And yet today’s cardiac implants—medical devices like pacemakers and defibrillators—are basically one size fits all. Among other things, this means these devices, though lifesaving for many patients, are limited in the information they can gather.

Intel Designs a Safe Meeting Place for Private Data

Mon, 03/03/2014 - 00:00

A super-secure place for sensitive data to mingle could free companies to get the benefits of sharing it without risking leaks.

As companies from the financial sector to the health industry amass ever larger, more detailed databases of information about people, it is clear that combining different data sets can offer powerful insights. But to protect users’ privacy, many of these data sets stay locked up inside corporate firewalls.

Putting Crowdsourcing on the Map

Fri, 02/28/2014 - 00:00

Mapillary is trying to build a community-generated version of Google Street View.

Even in San Francisco, where Google’s roving Street View cars have mapped nearly every paved surface, there are still places that have remained untouched, such as the flights of stairs that serve as pathways between streets in some of the city’s hilliest neighborhoods.

A $629 Ultrasecure Phone Aims to Protect Personal Data

Mon, 02/24/2014 - 16:30

With a heavy emphasis on encryption and strong controls over all data from your phone, Blackphone launches amid intense interest at Mobile World Congress.

A phone touted as the first to put privacy and security ahead of all other considerations launched at a packed event at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, today.

Augmented Reality Gets to Work

Mon, 02/24/2014 - 00:00

Augmented reality hasn’t yet lived up to its promise, but it could catch on in situations where it makes employees more efficient.


Marginally Useful

Tue, 02/18/2014 - 00:05

Bitcoin itself may fail as a currency, but the underlying technology is beginning to suggest valuable new applications.

Bitcoin, a purely digital currency, is backed by no commodity and governed by no central bank, but it exists because a small number of humans have chosen to believe in its legitimacy.

Driving Innovation

Tue, 02/18/2014 - 00:05

The electric car company’s CTO explains what’s going on under the hood.

Car companies have struggled to sell electric cars. Tesla Motors is the exception. Last year, the first full year of sales for its Model S luxury sedan, Tesla sold more than twice as many cars as either Nissan or GM did when they introduced their battery-powered vehicles, the Leaf and the Volt. Tesla did this even though it’s a startup with no dealer network, selling a car that’s more than twice as expensive as the electric cars from the major automakers.

Why Illumina is No. 1

Tue, 02/18/2014 - 00:05

After outflanking and outlasting competitors, it is on top of the genome-sequencing business—just as that market is about to soar in importance.

Almost 25 years after the Human Genome Project launched, and a little over a decade after it reached its goal of reading all three billion base pairs in human DNA, genome sequencing for the masses is finally arriving. It will no longer be just a research tool; reading all of your DNA (rather than looking at just certain genes) will soon be cheap enough to be used regularly for pinpointing medical problems and identifying treatments. This will be an enormous business, and one company dominates it: Illumina. The San Diego–based company sells everything from sequencing machines that identify each nucleotide in DNA to software and services that analyze the data. In the coming age of genomic medicine, Illumina is poised to be what Intel was to the PC era—the dominant supplier of the fundamental technology.

50 Smartest Companies 2014

Tue, 02/18/2014 - 00:05

These businesses are setting the pace of innovation. They’re shaking up markets or creating new ones.

Storing the Sun

Tue, 02/18/2014 - 00:05

Aquion manufactures cheap, long-lasting batteries for storing renewable energy.

A new kind of battery invented by Jay Whitacre, a professor of materials science at Carnegie Mellon University and founder of the startup Aquion Energy, could make renewable electricity more practical and economical around the world. Aquion is about to start full-scale production of the batteries at a new factory in Mount Pleasant, Pennsylvania.

An Artificial Hand with Real Feeling

Tue, 02/18/2014 - 00:05

A new nerve interface gives a sense of touch to a prosthetic limb.

Igor Spetic’s hand was in a fist when it was severed by a forging hammer three years ago as he made an aluminum jet part at his job. For months afterward, he felt a phantom limb still clenched and throbbing with pain. “Some days it felt just like it did when it got injured,” he recalls.

Google’s Quest

Tue, 02/18/2014 - 00:05

It may have finally found the missing piece it needs to move beyond relying solely on advertising.

When it comes to developing software, few companies can match Google’s prowess. It doesn’t just have the most popular search engine. Chrome is the most widely used Internet browser. Gmail, Calendar, Spreadsheets, Docs, and Presentations are legitimate alternatives to Microsoft Office. Picasa, Google’s free photo management software, might be as good as anything from Apple. Android dominates the phone and tablet landscape. Google Maps is becoming the best navigation program on any device.

Glass, Darkly

Mon, 02/17/2014 - 00:00

For its wearable computer to be accepted, Google must convince people that the device isn’t creepy.

Google Glass shares much of its electronics and software with the smartphone, but it’s a very different machine.

Show Me the Bitcoins

Fri, 02/14/2014 - 00:00

Though still volatile, Bitcoin is surging in value and being spent more freely; it’s also inspired a legion of competitors.

The World’s Most Powerful 3-D Laser Imager

Thu, 02/13/2014 - 13:00

A new military LIDAR chip shows promise for faster and more precise aerial mapping—doing in minutes what used to take days.

Airborne laser scanning has produced stunning maps and insights in the last few years, such as revealing the faint outlines of a vanished medieval city street grid obscured by the jungle surrounding Cambodia’s Angkor Wat (see “Laser Scanning Reveals New Parts of an Ancient Cambodian City”). The feat required 20 hours of helicopter flight time to map 370 square kilometers to a resolution of one meter.

Samsung’s Tizen Will Hit the Ground Running with Android Apps

Thu, 02/13/2014 - 00:00

As the world’s leading smartphone maker prepares to launch its own OS, new software will automatically port as many as “hundreds of thousands” of Android apps.

If app availability is the make-or-break factor in the success of any smartphone operating system, then Tizen—the secrecy-cloaked OS that Samsung is expected to unveil on a new device this month at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona—could leap from the gate fairly strongly.