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Updated: 53 min 4 sec ago

Magic Leap

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 00:05

A startup is betting more than half a billion dollars that it will dazzle you with its approach to creating 3-D imagery.

Availability: 1-3 years

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2015

Wed, 02/18/2015 - 00:01

Technology news is full of incremental developments. These are the breakthroughs that matter.

How People Will Use the Apple Watch

Tue, 02/17/2015 - 07:45

Developers and designers debate whether the Apple Watch will find its purpose.

When Apple unveiled the first iPad in 2010, many pundits scoffed. Among the gripes: tablet computers had been tried before without success; most people already had laptops; and wasn’t it just a giant iPod Touch?

A Film Studio for the Age of Virtual Reality

Fri, 02/13/2015 - 15:00

A Montreal-based film studio is making movies that you’ll watch with a virtual-reality headset, pointing the way to a whole new form of entertainment.

Imagine sitting back in a chair, sliding a headset over your eyes and headphones over your ears. Suddenly, you’re sitting on a rock in a sun-dappled clearing, surrounded by tall trees, alone with the noises of the forest. Alone, that is, until you turn your head and spot Reese Witherspoon walking toward you, looking like a haggard camper with a giant pack on her back.

A Pancreas in a Capsule

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 00:00

Stem-cell advocates pin their hopes on a method of treating diabetes.

Fourteen years ago, during the darkest moments of the “stem-cell wars” pitting American scientists against the White House of George W. Bush, one group of advocates could be counted on to urge research using cells from human embryos: parents of children with type 1 diabetes. Motivated by scientists who told them these cells would lead to amazing cures, they spent millions on TV ads, lobbying, and countless phone calls to Congress.

A Pancreas in a Capsule

Thu, 02/12/2015 - 00:00

Stem-cell advocates pin their hopes on an artificial pancreas to treat diabetes.

Fourteen years ago, during the darkest moments of the “stem-cell wars” pitting American scientists against the White House of George W. Bush, one group of advocates could be counted on to urge research using cells from human embryos: parents of children with type 1 diabetes. Motivated by scientists who told them these cells would lead to amazing cures, they spent millions on TV ads, lobbying, and countless phone calls to Congress.

Our Fear of Artificial Intelligence

Wed, 02/11/2015 - 00:00

A true AI might ruin the world—but that assumes it’s possible at all.

Years ago I had coffee with a friend who ran a startup. He had just turned 40. His father was ill, his back was sore, and he found himself overwhelmed by life. “Don’t laugh at me,” he said, “but I was counting on the singularity.”

Why We Don’t Have Battery Breakthroughs

Tue, 02/10/2015 - 00:00

A promising advance that came to nothing suggests what it will take to make cheap batteries for electric cars.

Electric cars are quick and quiet, with a range more than long enough for most commutes. If you want a car with extremely fast acceleration, the Tesla Model S is hard to beat. And, of course, electric vehicles avoid the pollution associated with conventional cars, including emissions of carbon dioxide from burning gasoline. Yet they account for a tiny fraction of automotive sales, mainly because the batteries that propel them are expensive and need to be recharged frequently.

Q&A: Steven Chu

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 00:00

The former energy secretary, who has begun chasing emerging technologies again, looks back on his successes and failures in government.

What left you the most frustrated or disappointed at the Department of Energy?

Additive Manufacturing Is Reshaping Aviation

Fri, 02/06/2015 - 17:45

Advanced manufacturing technologies are leading to smaller jet engines.

The aviation company Pratt & Whitney is exploring whether technology known as additive manufacturing could be used to develop more compact jet engines that could make commercial airplanes lighter and more fuel efficient.

IBM Says Watson Can Help Declutter Your In-Box

Thu, 02/05/2015 - 15:11

IBM’s new messaging software uses algorithms to learn how to organize your e-mail better .

Over 100 billion work e-mails are exchanged each day, but research suggests that only around a quarter of those are actually essential. IBM hopes to lighten that load. Later this month the company will open up a trial of a new online e-mail service called Verse, which uses algorithms to work out which messages and people are most important to you.

Holding Data Hostage: The Perfect Internet Crime?

Wed, 02/04/2015 - 16:49

Thousands of people will have their personal files held hostage this year, by software that uses virtually unbreakable encryption.

Every so often someone invents a new way of making money on the Internet that earns wild profits, attracts countless imitators, and reshapes what it means to be online. Unfortunately, such a shift took place last year in the world of online crime, with the establishment of sophisticated malicious software known as ransomware as a popular and reliable business model for criminals.

A Startup’s Neural Network Can Understand Video

Tue, 02/03/2015 - 12:00

Software that understands what it sees in video could lead to new forms of advertising, or make video editing easier.

In recent years, researchers at companies including Google and Facebook have made impressive breakthroughs in training software to understand what’s going on in images, thanks to a technique known as deep learning. Now a startup called Clarifai is offering a service that uses deep learning to understand video.

A Battery for Electronics That Lasts Twice as Long

Mon, 02/02/2015 - 17:20

A startup called SolidEnergy has developed a kind of lithium-ion battery that stores far more energy.

A new kind of lithium-ion battery could let portable electronics such as smartphones and smart watches last twice as long between charges.

The Purpose of Silicon Valley

Fri, 01/30/2015 - 00:00

Capital and engineering talent have been flocking to seemingly trivial mobile apps. But would we really be better off if more startups instead went directly after big problems?

The view from Mike Steep’s office on Palo Alto’s Coyote Hill is one of the greatest in Silicon Valley.

Why the Time Seems Right for a Space-Based Internet Service

Tue, 01/27/2015 - 00:00

New micro-satellite technology is enabling satellite Internet services that could reach billions of new users.

Providing Internet access from orbiting satellites—a concept that seemed to have died with the excesses of the dot-com boom—has returned thanks to SpaceX founder (and dot-com billionaire) Elon Musk. And while such a service would be expensive and risky to deploy, recent technological trends mean it’s no longer so out-of-this-world.

Technology Repaints the Payment Landscape

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 00:00

As technology-driven payment ideas give cash a run for its money, the big winners could be established banks and credit card companies.


In developed economies, money has been digitizing for decades. Few Westerners touch a paycheck anymore. Through direct deposit, digital money is transferred electronically from our employer to our bank account every pay period. A similar process moves contributions into our 401(k) accounts or zaps money over to pay the rent, the utility bill, a student loan, or any other expense.

Alipay Leads a Digital Finance Revolution in China

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 00:00

What started as a service to help customers buy goods from Alibaba retailers has grown into a serious finance business all its own.

Not many years ago, Jane Yang, a 26-year-old civil servant in Beijing, paid her landlord in three-month installments with a stack of 100-yuan notes. To pay her utilities—water, electricity, and home Internet bill—she went to three separate banks, where she handed cash to a teller. The process was “very time-consuming and irritating,” she remembers. Even as skyscrapers and gleaming shopping malls cropped up around China’s capital, most middle-class residents had never seen or used a simple checkbook.

A Weekend in Bitcoin City: Arnhem, the Netherlands

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 00:00

Is it possible to live for 48 hours on nothing but Bitcoin?

Propped up next to me on the red sofa in my room at the boutique Hotel Modez in Arnhem, the Netherlands, my iPad has its screen on the Bitcoin exchange ­Bitstamp.net, and the value of the crypto­currency is dropping, moment by moment. At breakfast one bitcoin had been worth over $400, but the value has been sinking for the past 30 minutes and has now hit $383. I know I’m blowing it.

Resurrecting a Meltdown-Proof Reactor Design

Thu, 01/22/2015 - 15:30

A new molten salt nuclear reactor design could make nuclear power safer and more economical.

A new take on an old reactor design could make nuclear power cleaner and safer, and therefore more competitive with fossil fuels.

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