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Ghost Hunters Kinect With Spirits
October 31, 2014
Microsoft's Kinect motion controller may have been intended to keep gamers moving while in the throes of play, but some intrepid explorers have been using it for a different purpose: hunting ghosts. Its skeletal-tracking and infrared-sensing capabilities let Kinect can "see" as many as six players in a room. What makes spines start to tingle, however, is when it sees some who aren't there.
Gadget Ogling: Logged Jogs, Manual Music, Smart Weapons and Skinny Phones
October 31, 2014
Welcome to another installment of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, a weekly look at the treats and horrors revealed as manufacturers pull back their curtains. Behind door number one is a selection of updated activity trackers from one of the oldest dogs in the yard, with the other shiny prizes including a music controller, a smart accessory for police firearms, and the planet's thinnest smartphone.
Microsoft May Have Launched a Band of Gold
October 30, 2014
Microsoft has made another foray into the mobile health market with the introduction of the Microsoft Band, powered by its new Microsoft Health platform. The band, which is available at Microsoft Stores for $200 as of Thursday, is designed to be worn 24 hours a day. In addition to the usual monitoring capabilities, the band will notify wearers of incoming calls, emails, texts and social updates.
Elon Musk Calls for Preventive AI Demon Wrangling
October 28, 2014
Elon Musk, CEO of both SpaceX and Tesla Motors, among his many roles, this week warned about the threat humans face from artificial intelligence. AI is probably our biggest existential threat, he told students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon," Musk said, indicating that it might not be possible to control it.
Hybrid IKEA Desk Could Get You Off Your Duff
October 28, 2014
IKEA last week introduced a new desk that can be raised and lowered with the push of a button to accommodate both sitting and standing positions. Part of IKEA's Bekant line, the desk serves as a hybrid alternative to traditional desks. "This desk promotes a healthy work environment by getting people on their feet," said Karen Haas, IKEA's U.S. sales leader for Workspaces.
Fitbit Tosses 3 More Bands Into the Activity-Tracking Melee
October 27, 2014
Fitbit on Monday announced three new fitness and activity-tracking wearables: the Fitbit Charge, Charge HR and Surge. The Charge HR and Surge will be available early next year. The Charge is available now on Fitbit's site and is coming soon to retailers nationwide. Prices are high -- $130 for the Charge, $150 for the Charge HR, and $250 for the Surge, a fitness super watch with eight sensors.
Android Wear Gets Its First Big Update
October 24, 2014
Google's Android Wear on Thursday got its first major update, bringing GPS support and offline music capabilities to the wearables platform. "Android Wear is great for tracking things like route, distance and speed," wrote Kenny Stoltz, Android Wear product manager. "Before today, you had to keep your phone close at hand. Starting today, Wear supports watches with GPS sensors."
Robots Gearing Up to Join Ebola Front Lines
October 24, 2014
The White House and roboticists have set Nov. 7 to get together in a workshop to explore ways of using robots to help in the battle against Ebola. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy will cohost the workshop on safety robotics for Ebola workers, with Texas A&M University's Center for Robot-Assisted Search and Rescue, or CRASAR.
Space Explorers Hole Up in Hawaii to Simulate Life on Mars
October 23, 2014
The third in a series of four simulated missions to Mars planned by NASA kicked off last week at a remote site on the Hawaiian island of Mauna Loa. A six-person team, comprising the Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation 3 mission, is inhabiting a dome for an eight-month study of the human factors that contribute to astronaut crew function and performance over time.
$10K Will Get You a Clunky, Slow Hoverboard That's Nothing Like Marty McFly's
October 21, 2014
The designers behind the Hendo Hoverboard on Tuesday took to the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to help launch a prototype and bring it to actual production. The funding period for this project will run from Tuesday through Dec. 15. The team has set a Kickstarter goal of $250,000 and already raised in excess of $100,000 in the opening hours. Early investors can get on board -- literally.
Gadget Ogling: Apple vs. Google, a Bossy Activity Tracker, and Feeling Your Path
October 18, 2014
There was plenty of focus on the cameras at Apple's presentation, as it tries to promote the tablet as an ideal viewfinder for taking high-quality images, while adding iPhone features like time-lapse and burst mode. However, the new push of iPad photography is just encouraging even more people to look foolish by taking photos with their tablet in public. This is a plague.
Find My iPhone? Find Me! Lost Phone Feature Helps Rescuers Locate Crashed Car
October 16, 2014
A woman whose car rolled 500 feet down an embankment near San Jose, California, was located through the Find My iPhone feature on her smartphone after spending 19 hours in the ravine where her Chevy Cruze ended up. The OnStar feature in her car triggered two calls to police, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Monday, but neither pinpointed the location of her car.
Google's Doctor Is In
October 13, 2014
Google is offering a limited trial of a feature that offers people conducting searches of medical terms the opportunity to engage in a video chat with a health professional via its Helpouts service. Helpouts, which launched last November, connects users with experts in a variety of fields such as Art & Music, Fitness & Nutrition, and Health. The experts typically charge a fee for their service.
Thync Scores $13M for Foggy Brain Project
October 09, 2014
Thync on Wednesday announced it had raised US$13 million in funding from "top-tier" investors, including lead investor Khosla Ventures. Thync's product, possibly called the "Vibe," is a wearable device that purportedly uses neurosignaling to modify a user's state of mind in relation to energy, calm and focus. Thync's claims have raised some eyebrows.
Pinning Down the Matter/Antimatter Particle Just Got Easier
October 08, 2014
Researchers led by Princeton University physics professor Ali Yazdani have developed an easier way to spot the much-sought-after Majorana fermion. "Theorists have proposed that Majorana can emerge at the edge of some superconductors as quasi-particles, and manipulating them can be used to test their properties as well as building interesting quantum systems that could be useful," Yazdani said.
FDA Aims to Shore Up Medical Device Cybersecurity
October 06, 2014
The Food and Drug Administration last week released long-awaited recommendations aimed at better managing cybersecurity risks to protect patient health and information. The new standards recommend manufacturers take into account cybersecurity risks as part of the design and development of a medical device. They require device makers to submit documentation to the FDA about identified risks.
Dell OEM: The Magic Is in the Mystery
October 06, 2014
I had a chance last week to talk with the most secretive group inside Dell. They are kind of like the Q Division in the James Bond movies. These folks are pretty much unique in the industry, in that they build PCs and servers that are highly customized for firms that then place them into unusual solutions. This is the kind of machine that might go into a unique military vehicle.
Gadget Ogling: Jump Starts, Wearable Drones, Smarter Yoga and Safer Food
October 03, 2014
Welcome, dear readers, to a new installment of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares. On the docket this time around are a motivational wearable device, a smart yoga mat, a golfer-focused smartwatch, a drone with a difference, and a way to stop food from going bad. As always, these aren't reviews -- the ratings denote only my interest in actually using them.
Tech Advances Will Give Aging Baby Boomers More Independence
October 01, 2014
The U.S. is facing a retirement wave; 76 million Baby Boomers are beginning to hit the 65-year-old mark. By 2025, the number of people between 65 and 85 will account for 16.6 percent of the population. In the U.S., the elderly prefer aging in their own home, but it can be risky. Connectivity and technology advances are enabling more sophisticated devices and tools to help consumers and caretakers.
Major Players Bid for Slice of Federal Health Records Pie
September 30, 2014
The ambitious health information technology program now under way at the U.S. Department of Defense has garnered attention from some of the major e-commerce companies in the U.S. The DoD soon will evaluate bids for its 10-year, multibillion-dollar program to enhance its health IT capability, with an emphasis on electronic health records.
DIY Pi-Top Computer Lets Users Get Under the Hood
September 24, 2014
Pi-Top, a Raspberry Pi Model B+ powered build-your-own-laptop kit, soon could enable users to learn computer programming, designing and 3D-printing skills. The Pi-Top team recently released details on its construction of a prototype computer. The developers plan to use the model in a Kickstarter campaign to generate funding for the project.
Pants on Fire, Schmidt Tells Climate Change Denier ALEC
September 23, 2014
Google on Monday publicly denounced the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council for lying about climate change. "We funded them as part of a political campaign for something unrelated," Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt told a caller to NPR's Diane Rehm Show. "I think the consensus within the company is that was sort of a mistake. We're trying to not do that in the future."
DoD and Tech Firms Face Daunting Health-IT Challenge
September 22, 2014
The U.S. government is about to embark on a major IT program dealing with personal health records. The program is being launched by the U.S. Department of Defense, which issued a request for proposals to health IT providers late last month. The initiative is expected to support medical readiness for DoD's military personnel, as well as its beneficiaries and health system personnel.
Gadget Ogling: Amazon on Fire, Virtual Reality, True Nature and Energy Relief
September 20, 2014
Apple might be the flavor of the minute as new iPhones hit stores, but Amazon isn't ready to let its rival hog all the limelight. Without a flashy presentation, it unveiled a half-dozen new Fire tablets and Kindle e-readers. There's a 6-inch Fire HD tablet priced at $99 and a 7-inch version for $139. The Fire tablets are reliably solid machines, and those are fantastically enticing prices.

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