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The Tour de France's Tech Transformation
July 3, 2015
The 102nd running of the longest sporting event in the world, the Tour de France, begins Saturday. The race first took place in 1903, and it has continued every year since, except during WWI and WWII. In the 112 years since that first race, the technology utilized by the riders has changed dramatically. Today, the racers ride bikes with frames made of advanced carbon fiber.
Faster, Cheaper Fiber Could Rev Up Internet
June 30, 2015
Researchers have found a way to significantly improve the performance of fiber networks, which could lead to benefits for both consumers and Internet service providers. Information in fiber optic cables degrades with the distance it travels. When you try to increase the speed at which the data is traveling by boosting the power in the network, degradation gets worse.
Uncle Sam Wants a Hoverbike
June 29, 2015
The United States Army Research, Development and Engineering Command has commissioned two companies to develop hoverbike technology. The Army intends to operate the hoverbike as a new class of tactical reconnaissance vehicle. "This isn't for jungles or mountains, but could be ideal for patrols over deserts, swamps, or other open areas with mixed terrain," suggested tech analyst Rob Enderle.
The Automobile as We Know It Is Dead
June 29, 2015
There's a massive number of efforts going on to kill the car as we know it. Among them are efforts to make it a tiny self-driving box that we'd likely be embarrassed to be seen in, efforts to make it highly customized and amazing, and efforts to change its fuel from gasoline to CNG, electricity or something else. There is no doubt that the car as we know it soon will be dead.
Gadget Ogling: Vertical Vinyl, Kid-Friendly Video Chats, and a Smart Pool Monitor
June 27, 2015
I enjoy music as much as anyone, though I'm no real audiophile and I have not an enormous passion for one format over another. I admire the romance of vinyl but find it unwieldy and cumbersome when digital recordings work just fine for me. The Floating Record turntable is beautiful, though, and I'm almost tempted to race to my record store to stock up on vinyl to play on one of these.
Self-Driving Cars Avoid Collision, as They Should
June 26, 2015
Two self-driving prototype vehicles, one operated by Google and the other operated by Delphi Automotive, earlier this week avoided a collision in Palo Alto, California. Neither car touched the other, but the incident spurred a number of rattled headlines over the so-called "near miss." In actuality, both vehicles responded as they were supposed to, the companies said in response to the media brouhaha.
Oculus Rift: This Is My Final Form
June 26, 2015
No more screendoor-effect issues or motion-induced sickness. On-board power, outside power requirements under control. With each prior iteration of its Rift headset, Oculus VR assured gamers that they hadn't yet seen the its final form. Finally, in the run-up to this year's E3 and at the show, came the invitation for everyone to "step into the Rift" and behold what the VR headset has become.
3D Printing Could Resurrect Custom Carmaking
June 25, 2015
Divergent Microfactories just introduced the world to the Blade, a 3D-printed supercar it designed as a proof of concept to spur the establishment of other microautomakers and reshape the auto industry. Divergent Microfactories envisions microautomakers emerging similar to the way microbreweries have popped up across the U.S. It wants to "democratize the auto industry."
Lexus Teases Smokin' Hoverboard
June 25, 2015
Some said it could never be done. Some said it would be at least another half century before someone could develop an actual hoverboard. However, Toyota on Wednesday announced that a division of its Lexus arm has built a prototype of a hoverboard, one that truly leverages magnetic levitation. Superconductors, cooled by liquid nitrogen, and permanent magnets give it lift.
Devialet Wants You to Experience an Emotional Sound Implosion
June 24, 2015
Capable of pushing out sound levels that approach the edge of the infrasound spectrum, Devialet's Phantom speaker system finally reached the U.S. market last week. Two versions of the speakers will be available: the 740 watt, 99 db base model, the Phantom, will sell for $1,990; the 3,000 watt, 105 dB Phantom Silver will sell for $2,390. Devialet will begin fulfilling U.S. preorders this September.
Amazon Holds Coming-Out Party for Echo's Alexa
June 23, 2015
About seven months of invitation-only exclusivity for Prime customers came to a close on Tuesday as Amazon opened up sales of Echo, its digital assistant hardware, to anyone willing to spend $180 for it. Amazon will start fulfilling new Echo orders on July 14, but shoppers can prepurchase the cylindrical tower now. The device is animated by Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant software.
3 Things That Will Change Electronic Entertainment Forever
June 22, 2015
E3 -- perhaps the biggest and most important gaming conference in the world -- took place last week. Sony and Microsoft came ready to do battle, Nintendo showed up, and we were up to our armpits in little companies doing amazing things with virtual reality. However, companies that weren't at the event likely have more to say about the future of gaming than those that had a big presence there.
Gadget Ogling: Wrist-Saving Keyboards, Resource-Saving Smartphones and New Angles on Reality
June 20, 2015
Here to save all our wrists -- or at least those of the populace with a spare $299 to spend on a computer accessory -- is a lovely, wood-finished keyboard called "Keyboardio Model 01." Taking its cue from a long history of ergonomic keyboards, the device splits an atypical keyboard in two, dedicating half the keys to each of your hands, and it's set in a gorgeous maple wood construction.
Skies May Soon Be Friendlier to Amazon Drones
June 19, 2015
Amazon on Wednesday appealed to members of Congress to approve use of its fleet of drones for package deliveries. Electrically powered drones could deliver packages to consumer homes and offices faster, more efficiently and with less environmental impact than automobiles, Paul Misener, vice president of global public policy at Amazon, suggested in testimony before the House Oversight Committee.
Hyperloop Dreams May Become Concrete
June 19, 2015
SpaceX this week announced plans to construct a mile-long Hyperloop test track next to its headquarters in Hawthorne, California, scheduled for completion by June 2016. The company concurrently announced an open competition for university students and independent engineering teams to design and build the best Hyperloop pod. Entrants will be able to test their pods on the track.
Google Takes It to the Streets
June 18, 2015
Google last week announced the formation of a new company that will develop technology to improve city life for residents, businesses and governments. Google has teamed up with Dan Doctoroff -- former Bloomberg CEO and ex-deputy mayor of economic development and rebuilding for the City of New York -- to advance the effort. Doctoroff will be CEO of Sidewalk Labs, which will be based in New York.
Amazon May Try Out Delivery-Sharing
June 17, 2015
Amazon reportedly is developing a mobile app that will be the cornerstone of an Uber-type service for neighborhood package delivery. Under the scheme, the app would allow Amazon to compensate people to deliver packages in lieu of using a commercial carrier. People would pick up packages at Amazon's partnering brick-and-mortar stores, and make deliveries on their way to another destination.
San Jose to Dabble With Smart City Tech
June 16, 2015
The city of San Jose, California, recently decided to undertake an Internet of Things pilot project. Under a deal finalized last month, anyCOMM, will deploy WiFi sensors on 166 streetlights, to collect data on traffic, sense movement on the streets, turn off streetlights when sidewalks and roads are empty, detect ground shifts and send earthquake warnings, and act as WiFi hotspots.
Gadget Ogling: Equalized Eardrums, Holographic Pyramids and Live-Streaming Ovens
June 13, 2015
Aumeo is an attachment that's all about fine-tuning your earphones to better hear anything you listen to on your smartphone, tablet or other audio-emitting gadget. Using a smartphone app, it tests how well you can hear a number of different frequencies and provides you with a personal equalizer attuned to each of your ears. The sound fidelity supposedly is far better.
Synaptics Gives Spacebar Some New Touches
June 12, 2015
Touchpad pioneer Synaptics has touched up an unlikely area on a keyboard: the spacebar. The company last week announced the availability of its SmartBar technology, which adds gesture features to the bar. For example, text can be selected by swiping it. A double-thumb gesture can be used to zoom in and out on a document or image. SmartBar also includes gesture support for vertical scrolling.
Beware the Killer Robots
June 12, 2015
Russia's advanced military combat robot -- which has drawn alarmed comparisons to Hollywood's Terminator -- will be able to run and clear an obstacle course by late this year, according to reports this week. That's just the latest news fueling the already-fiery debate over what to do about killer robots. Stuart Russell, a UC Berkeley professor, believes the issue is urgent.
Microsoft's Surface Hub Aims to Unify the Enterprise
June 11, 2015
Microsoft on Wednesday unveiled the Surface Hub, a large-screen device meant to dramatically improve business collaboration. The interactive display marries white boards with presentations, voice with video, speakers with addressees, Android with iOS, and Windows 10 with conference rooms. The Surface Hubs will go on sale July 1 at $6,999 for the 55-inch model and $19,999 for the 84-inch version.
Gadget Ogling: A Speaker-Stuffed Tablet Case, a Soothing Wearable, and Earbuds for the Real World
June 9, 2015
Asus' new ZenPad 8.0 aims to end the scourge of tablets with terrible sound. Its interchangeable cover design gives users several functional options. One is the Audio Cover, which bumps up sound quality by tucking a 5.1 surround-sound system inside. Its six speakers, including a subwoofer, promise to significantly improve the tablet experience of watching video and listening to music.
Robots Meet DARPA Challenge Despite Pratfalls
June 8, 2015
Robots from Korea and the U.S. staggered off with the top three prizes at the DARPA Robotics Challenge, held in California over the weekend. In all, robots from 23 teams participated in the challenge, which consisted of an obstacle course simulating conditions similar to those following the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster. DRC-Hubo, the entry from South Korea's Team Kaist, took first prize.

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