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Google’s Experimental Smartphone Captures a Future Mapped in 3-D

Thu, 05/29/2014 - 00:00

Early testers are building a range of prototypes from drones to immersive video games using Google’s 3-D mapping smartphone.

Four months after Google unveiled Project Tango—a prototype Android smartphone with cameras and sensors that capture the phone’s environment in 3-D—developers are using the device to make cheap drones for surveying zones, more immersive video games, and even a system for finding a better-fitting suit.

10-4, Good Computer: Automated System Lets Trucks Convoy as One

Wed, 05/28/2014 - 14:12

A recent demonstration involving two trucks tethered by computer control shows how automation and vehicle-to-vehicle communication are creeping onto the roads.

A pair of trucks convoying 10 meters apart on Interstate 80 just outside Reno, Nevada, might seem like an unusual sight—not to mention unsafe. But the two trucks doing this a couple of weeks ago were actually demonstrating a system that could make trucking safer and much more efficient.

Wireless Power from Across the Room

Fri, 05/23/2014 - 00:00

A startup called Energous aims to let you charge your gadgets without plugging them in.

“Do you want us to charge your phone?” George Holmes asks. Normally, that would be an odd question. But Holmes is the vice president of sales and marketing for Energous, a company that is developing technology called WattUp that will allow you to charge smartphones, tablets, and other small gadgets from across a room without wires.

GE’s $1 Billion Software Bet

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 00:00

To protect lucrative business servicing machines, GE turns to the industrial Internet.

To understand why General Electric is plowing $1 billion into the idea of using software to transform industry, put yourself in the shoes of Jeff Immelt, its CEO.

The Lowly Thermostat, Now Minter of Megawatts

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 00:00

How Nest is turning its consumer hit into a service for utilities.

Google’s $3.2 billion acquisition of Nest Labs in January put the Internet of things on the map. Everyone had vaguely understood that connecting everyday objects to the Internet could be a big deal. Here was an eye-popping price tag to prove it.

Silicon Valley to Get a Cellular Network, Just for Things

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 00:00

A French company plans to build a wireless slow lane for small, low-power devices.

San Francisco is set to get a new cellular network later this year, but it won’t help fix the city’s spotty mobile-phone coverage. This wireless network is exclusively for things.

Business Adapts to a New Style of Computer

Tue, 05/20/2014 - 00:00

Are companies ready for billions of everyday objects to join the Internet?

The technology industry is preparing for the Internet of things, a type of computing characterized by small, often dumb, usually unseen computers attached to objects. These devices sense and transmit data about the environment or offer new means of controlling it.

We Need a MERS Vaccine, but High Costs, Regulations Make One Unlikely

Mon, 05/19/2014 - 15:47

New technologies give vaccine developers a boost in early development, but large-scale testing and production are bogged down by high costs and lengthy trials.

Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, is spreading across the globe, and while a vaccine could be developed, there’s little commercial incentive to make one.

Jawbone’s Vision: Activity Tracking Now, Remote Control Tomorrow

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 00:00

Fitness bands like the Jawbone Up are in an unusual and enviable position in the electronics business: people rarely take them off.

If you wear a Jawbone Up24 around town, people might ask what it is. The wristband looks like a piece of futuristic jewelry, skinned in a rubbery plastic with a wavy pattern. Even in matte black, the most unexciting of available colors, it stands out.

How Much Will It Cost to Solve Climate Change?

Thu, 05/15/2014 - 16:40

Although major reports conclude that avoiding climate change is affordable, costs could skyrocket without smart, immediate action.

Major reports are concluding that stabilizing greenhouse-gas emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change is possible and can be done at a relatively low cost. But the details of the reports make it clear that when you factor in real-world issues—such as delays in developing and implementing technology and policy—the cost of solving climate change gets much higher. Switching from fossil fuels to low-carbon sources of energy will cost $44 trillion between now and 2050, according to a report released this week by the International Energy Agency. That sounds like a lot of money, but the report also concludes that the switch to low-carbon technologies such as solar power—together with anticipated improvements in efficiency—will bring huge savings from reduced fossil-fuel consumption. As a result, the world actually comes out slightly ahead: the costs of switching will be paid for in fuel savings between now and 2050.

A Smart Watch Controlled by Twists, Tilts, and Clicks

Wed, 05/14/2014 - 00:00

A movable smart-watch screen makes it easier to read a map or play a game.

The first time I tried out a smart watch with a touch screen, I quickly went from feeling excited to feeling clumsy. Tapping or swiping the small display on my wrist often failed to yield the response I expected. It might have been the quality of the screen, but it may have also been simply that the screen was too small and my fingers too big.

Intergalactic Entrepreneurs Prepare for Blast-Off

Tue, 05/13/2014 - 14:00

A unique gathering of 13 companies showcases a coming year of launches.

It was a rare meeting of minds. Representatives from 13 commercial space companies gathered on May 1 at a place dedicated to going where few have gone before: the Explorers Club in New York.

Alibaba’s Big Rivals May Have a Mobile Edge

Mon, 05/12/2014 - 00:00

Other big Chinese e-commerce companies, including, merge social networking, payments, and mobile.

The planned initial public offering of the world’s biggest e-commerce site—China’s Alibaba—will do more than mint a hoard of new millionaires. It will draw attention to other Chinese e-commerce sites, many with homegrown technology, that are itching to gain the eye of American investors.

Can Compounds in Young Blood Fix Aging?

Fri, 05/09/2014 - 00:00

Animal studies on the revitalizing power of young blood suggest new drug targets for treating conditions like dementia and heart disease.

Researchers and investors are already dreaming up ways to devise medical treatments based on the near-fantastical findings that the blood of young mice can rejuvenate older mice. In some cases, a single protein found circulating in the blood is sufficient to restore muscle tissue and improve brain activity. 

The Next Startup Craze: Food 2.0

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 00:00

Silicon Valley investors and startups are trying to improve our food. Do they bring anything to the table?

Most tech startups are silent spaces where earbud-clad engineers peer into monitors. Not Hampton Creek Foods. The two-year-old company’s office—a filled-to-bursting space in San Francisco’s South of Market tech hotbed—grinds, clatters, and whirs like a laundromat run amok. That’s the sound of industrial-strength mixers, grinders, and centrifuges churning out what the company hopes is a key ingredient in food 2.0: an animal-free replacement for the chicken egg.

Why Some Doctors Like Google Glass So Much

Tue, 05/06/2014 - 00:00

The way some emergency doctors are using Glass highlights the promise, and the limitations, of wearable technology.

Kermit the Frog showed up in the emergency room at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston recently, complaining of chest pain. A quick tilt of my head showed me Kermit’s records—his EKG results, the radiology tests ordered for him, and his medical history.

Two Carbon-Trapping Plants Offer Hope of Cleaner Coal

Mon, 05/05/2014 - 00:00

Coal power plants in Saskatchewan and Mississippi will produce fewer emissions, but rely on special circumstances.

Two of the world’s first coal-fired power plants with integrated carbon capture are nearing completion in Saskatchewan and Mississippi, providing a rare lift for a technology that has languished in recent years.

Now Your Phone’s Tilt Sensor Can Identify You

Thu, 05/01/2014 - 14:55

Tiny hardware imperfections in smartphone and tablet accelerometers lead to unique “fingerprints” within the data they produce, researchers find.

The sensor that lets your phone know which way the screen is oriented also—thanks to minute manufacturing variations—emits a unique data “fingerprint” that could allow your phone to be tracked, even if all other privacy settings are locked down, researchers say.

Increasingly, Robots of All Sizes Are Human Workmates

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 13:00

Even conventional industrial robots are becoming safer to work around, making them more likely to collaborate with humans.

Most industrial robots are far less friendly than the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, which is safe enough to be a surprisingly popular means of feline transportation. Industrial robots often sit behind metal fences, their mechanical arms a blur of terrific speed and precision; to prevent serious injury to humans (or worse), these robots are normally shut down when anyone enters their workspace.

Genome Editing

Wed, 04/23/2014 - 00:05

The ability to create primates with intentional mutations could provide powerful new ways to study complex and genetically baffling brain disorders.