Monday, 30 June 2014

Engadget Japan's #egfes: drone races, robots, dry ice and a Dyson fan

Just north of Akihabara, Tokyo's tech epicenter, our Japanese colleagues took over an art gallery (and cafe and basement...) for its premier Engadget Fes. As well as the chance to play with Microsoft's newest console and Surface Pro 3 (both still not... read more

Luckiest guy in the world avoids death by stray demolition rock

Luckiest guy in the world avoids death by stray demolition rock

Witness a man being born again as a huge stray rock—ejected from the explosive demolition of a clothing factory in Czech Republic—swooshes right by his head. A few inches closer and he would have been instantly killed.

Mobile-Only Bank Osper Raises $10M To Aim At UK Youth Market

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 01.04.03

Osper, a new UK startup, has come up with an innovative way to create a banking service than can be used by children, combining prepaid debit cards and smartphone apps controlled by both them and their parents. The approach could potentially reach a market underserved by most banks, but which may also be embraced by parents keen to educate their children early on about how to manage money.…Read More

Apple’s New iPhone Pitch To Parents [Video]


In my line of work  I’m often called on to think critically about the usability of both hardware and software, especially smartphones. One of my big touchstones, and one that’s ignored by a surprising amount of designers — is that stuff doesn’t exist in a vacuum. If your goal is to have thousands, or millions, of people use your thing then you’ve got to consider… Read More

Microsoft’s Top Lawyer Calls Supreme Court Cellphone-Warrant Case “Seminal”

Microsoft Way

It’s been a busy week in the realm of policy and technology, with the Supreme court weighing in on a several issues impacting the industry, and the government releasing something akin to a transparency report regarding a portion of the NSA’s surveillance practices. The unanimous Supreme Court decision on Riley v. California caused a stir because it set new precedent regarding… Read More

Facebook offers explanation for controversial News Feed psychology experiment

Facebook caused a stir over the weekend with the revelation that it had been altering the content of some users' News Feeds in an attempt to study the psychology behind what causes people to post emotional material. Now Adam Kramer, Facebook data scientist and co-author of the study, has posted an explanation of the motivation behind the research, which he says serves as Facebook's statement on the matter.
"The reason we did this research is because we care about the emotional impact of Facebook and the people that use our product," says Kramer. "We felt that it was important to investigate the common worry that seeing friends post positive content leads to people feeling negative or left out. At the same time, we were concerned that...
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Sunday, 29 June 2014

iPhone classic 'Eliss Infinity' finally comes to Android

Earlier this year Eliss, one of the iPhone's original indie hits, got a major upgrade with Eliss Infinity — and now the experience is finally available to Android users. This actually marks the very first time that the zen-like touchscreen experience has been available on Android, as the 2009 original was exclusive to iOS. The game has you moving, growing, and combining colorful planets with your fingertips, and it was one of the first mobile titles to show the power of multitouch for games.

Infinity adds in welcome new features like early-collision detection and a challenging new endless mode. "It's the Eliss I wish I could have released on day one," creator Steph Thirion said when it launched.
Along with finally coming to Android,...
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We're Not Dead Yet, Says BlackBerry, And Launches a "Fact Check" Portal

We're Not Dead Yet, Says BlackBerry, And Launches a "Fact Check" Portal

BlackBerry's U.S. market share is now 0 percent. But the company doesn't want you to think that it has given up yet. Instead, it has launched a new portal called the "BlackBerry Fact Check" to counter the "smoke and mirrors marketing tactics by competitors" and fight back with facts.

There Might Be A Microsoft Smartwatch In October

There Might Be A Microsoft Smartwatch In October

We hope you didn't blow all your cash on that Surface Pro 3 . Tom's Hardware says that a "trusted source with knowledge of the development" has verified that a Microsoft smartwatch will be released in October.

The Morbid Anatomy Museum reopens, bringing lectures and mummified cat heads to Brooklyn

The Morbid Anatomy Museum started as a blog in 2007 by Joanna Ebenstein, an artist and historian of the weird. Ebenstein and her associates began cataloguing odd relics, toys, medical curiosities, and other offbeat items of interest in the Morbid Anatomy Library, a small space in South Brooklyn open to the public.
The Morbid Anatomy Library started hosting lectures and workshops in taxidermy, post-mortem photography, mail order porn, 18th century Italian anatomical waxes, Victorian hair art,...
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Google’s Principal Designer For Search And Maps Explains Material Design


Google’s design work was center stage at I/O this year, from the keynote through sessions and things being demoed on the show floor. The changes run across Google’s range of devices and platforms, and embrace a new set of design principals grouped under the central concept of ‘Material Design.’ Design Evolved I spoke to Jon Wiley, Principal Designer of Search and Maps… Read More

Extortionists Are Using Bitcoin To Steal Cash From Business Owners


Extortionists are going completely anonymous thanks to social media and bitcoin. Brian Krebs just posted on a number of pizzerias that received anonymous letters asking for one bitcoin in order to keep the owners from receiving bad ratings on Yelp, the Better Business Bureau and the like as well as to keep the extortionists from “SWATing” – calling the police to report… Read More

Awful Tech: 11 great ideas that just don't work

Gary Marshall: Terrible tech: 11 great ideas that just don't work

Terrible tech

We love tech, but we don't love it unconditionally - and it doesn't always love us back, either. Tech can fight us rather than delight us, confuse rather than amuse, be destructive when we need it to be productive. Sometimes that's because of bad design, sometimes because of bad users, and sometimes because it was just a really bad idea in the first place. These are a few of our least favourite things. What are yours?

1. Kinect


Microsoft's Kinect sensor is the stuff of sci-fi, but unfortunately we mean sci-fi of the dystopian, nothing-bloody-works variety. It ignores our kids, it gets confused by dogs, it struggles in small rooms and it's a pretty awful way to control your Sky HD box.
How to fix it: Give it Cortana.

2. Captchas

Captchas are the little boxes with barely legible text that are designed to frustrate spambots and ticket scalping bots, but as each new generation gets cracked they become harder and harder for humans to decipher. Ticketmaster's current captchas are essentially Rorschach blots.
How to fix it: sites could use puzzles, simple arithmetic, SMS verification… there's no shortage of alternatives.

3. Glossy screens


We're writing this on a typically dull British day, and we're doing it with the blinds down and a blanket running from the top of our head to the top of our PC. The glossy screens that looked so bright and deep and gorgeous in the shop reflect so much light that if we try to log on at lunchtime, we're blinded until mid-afternoon. Moving around to find a dark corner is all well and good, but that's not much fun with a 27" iMac or on a busy train.
How to fix it: Invest in a matte monitor or, if cash is tight, a matte screen protector.

4. Smartphones

Smartphones seem to be good at everything but the phone bit: we've lost count of the number of times even short calls have become extended games of telephone tennis as calls drop or go silent for no good reason after just a few words. The main culprit is usually mobile phone coverage.
How to fix it: change provider, use voice over Wi-Fi apps or get hold of a Sure Signal, which connects to your router and delivers strong indoor 3G.

5. Windows RT

Windows RT

For consumers Windows RT was a confusing mess, a Windows that didn't run Windows programs and whose predicted armies of low-cost tablets didn't appear. Of the few manufacturers that could be bothered launching RT devices, most of them had bailed out by last summer. The RT-packing Surface 2 is better than its predecessor, but that's better in the sense that death by shooting is better than death by boiling.
How to fix it: buy something running Windows 8.1. Or buy an iPad. Ha!

More terrible tech

6. Freemium apps

Apple's refusal to allow demo versions of apps and people's unwillingness to pay for content have created predictably horrible consequences as developers try to make money from their apps. Most developers are perfectly honourable, but gamers and parents are all too familiar with the minority who aren't: producers of games that are effectively unplayable without in-app purchases and kids' apps that exist solely to try and make kids spend their parents' cash.
How to fix it: get help to find the good stuff and be willing to pay for your entertainment.

7. Jetpacks

Martin Jetpack

You'd think nearly 100 years after jetpacks appeared in SF stories we might all be tooling around in them today, but the problem with jetpacks is that we humans aren't exactly designed to fly. Getting us airborne requires powerful propulsion, and powerful propulsion is big, heavy and uses enormous amounts of highly flammable fuel. It'll get you up there, but it won't keep you up for long - and if it goes wrong, the consequences are of the crashy-explodey-death variety.
How to fix it: Turbine jetpacks such as the Martin jetpack are better, but that's relative: they're still jet engines strapped to people.

8. Voice recognition

Spike Jonze HER

If the Spike Jonze movie Her featured a real personal digital assistant such as Siri, it'd be an hour and a half of an increasingly angry man bellowing the same thing at a smartphone before smashing it to smithereens in a fit of fury. Voice recognition is much better than it used to be, but it's still a long way from being perfect - and that makes it all the more frustrating when its accuracy takes a sudden dip.
How to fix it: More money, better algorithms and more talent.

9. Electric cars outside London

Tesla Model S

Outside cities, electric cars currently face a chicken-and-egg problem: until there are sufficient EVs on the road there's little reason to install lots of charging points, but until there are lots of charging points there's little reason to shell out on an electric car. Things are improving, but as the Zap Map shows, charging points are still fairly rare outside the biggest cities and fast chargers are rarer still.
How to fix it: move to London, buy an EV with a range extender or wait until the infrastructure improves.

10. UltraViolet

If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, UltraViolet is a digital service designed by a camel - or at least it is if you want to use it on Apple kit. It doesn't play nice with iTunes (you need to use Flixster or the Sony store, and the latter doesn't support iOS), HD discs sometimes give you SD downloads, you can't download HD content to iOS devices for offline viewing and some UltraViolet movies suffer delays before arriving in the Flixster app. Other than that it's just dandy.
How to fix it: use a PC, or just buy your movies elsewhere

11. Flying cars

Flying cars

Here's another SF favourite, and it's another one hamstrung by the laws of physics. Making vehicles that fly is a lot tougher and considerably more expensive than making ones that roll. Even if we get the tech right, there's a more fundamental issue, which is that unless they're fully automatic flying cars would cause carnage. More than 32,000 people die in car accidents every year in the US alone, and that's on regulated roads where people can only move in two dimensions. Look at your fellow motorists the next time you're driving. Now imagine them all airborne.
How to fix it: if they ever happen, we humans won't be allowed to drive them.

This Is The Most Earth-Like Planet Discovered Yet

This Is The Most Earth-Like Planet Discovered Yet

The nearest Earth-like planet is only 16 light-years away from us. It has a mass that is more than five times the mass of the Earth and it orbits a red dwarf star that has half the mass and radius of our sun.

California bill legalizes alternative currencies like Bitcoin and Dogecoin

Almost exactly one year ago, the state of California told The Bitcoin Foundation to stop trading or face hefty fines.
Today, Reuters is reporting that California governor Jerry Brown has passed a bill that effectively reverses the state's stance on alternative currencies. The bill, dubbed AB 129, nullifies an older bill that made other currencies besides the dollar illegal. Here's the exact language:

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Facebook Doesn't Think Manipulating Users' Emotions Is A Big Deal

Facebook Doesn't Think Manipulating Users' Emotions Is A Big Deal

If you missed this outrageous study published earlier this month in an academic journal, here's the nutshell version: In January 2012, a Facebook data scientist, along with two university researchers, tweaked the News Feed of almost 690,000 users to display more "positive" or "negative" stories to figure out if "emotions are contagious on social networks".

Google’s Dart Programming Language Is Coming To The Server


A few days ago at its I/O developer conference, Google quietly announced that it is working on bringing its Dart programming language to App Engine soon. This implementation will use the company’s recently launched managed virtual machines and the service’s custom runtime support. Because custom runtime support is still in private beta, however, the Dart team isn’t able to… Read More

Scientists discover one of the most Earth-like planets yet is reporting that astronomers at the University of New South Wales have discovered an Earth-like planet just 16 light-years away. The planet, dubbed Gliese 832c, is orbiting a red dwarf star half the mass and radius of our own sun. Gliese 832c has an orbital period of about 35 days, and a mass more than five times that of Earth's. More importantly, however, Gliese 832c is orbiting within the habitable zone of the red dwarf, and receives the same average stellar energy as Earth does from the Sun, reports.

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Microsoft reveals folders are coming to Windows Phone 8.1

Microsoft has always taken a fairly simple approach to app management on Windows Phone, avoiding folder interfaces that iOS and Android have adopted with the company’s "Metro-style" interface. It appears that’s about to change. A now removed support article over at Microsoft’s Windows Phone site has revealed the company is planning to natively support folders for apps on the Start Screen. The method will work similar to iOS, where you drag one Tile on top of another and it creates a folder that can then be renamed. Apps can then be accessed from within the folder.
Microsoft notes that to create folders on the Start Screen "you need to have Windows Phone 8.1 Update installed on your phone," which suggests this functionality is coming in...
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Five Best Budget Computer Mice

Five Best Budget Computer Mice

A good computer mouse doesn't have to cost a ton of money, especially if you need it to travel, or you're on a budget. This week we're looking at five of the best mice on the market for around $20, based on your nominations.

Startups And The Un-Banking Of America

bank vault, banking 

Historically, when looking for opportunity in the financial industry where technology can have the greatest impact — for investors and entrepreneurs — the best place to start has been with one of our oldest institutions: banks. However, while critical to our economy, banks are generally inefficient, have high fixed costs and don’t exactly elicit happy thoughts from the… Read More

Google locks down Android Wear, Android Auto and Android TV user interfaces

Google locks down Android Wear, Android Auto and Android TV user interfaces

Google has confirmed that manufacturers will not be able to alter the user interface for devices running its three new Android operating systems.
Following the launch of Android WearAndroid TV and the in-car Android Auto platform at Google I/O there was doubt over whether OEMs would have the freedom to overlay their own custom takes on the Android.
Google engineering director David Burke says the firm wants a more consistent approach across these devices, claiming that UI is more important to the actual product than, say, it is to Android for phones or tablets.
He told Ars Technica: "The UI is more part of the product in this case. We want to just have a very consistent user experience, so if you have one TV in one room and another TV in another room and they both say Android TV, we want them to work the same and look the same."

'It should be the same'

Burke added that manufacturers like HTC, Samsung, LG and Motorola will have the freedom to add their own services and apps into the mix, but that's as far as it'll go.
He said: "The device manufacturers can brand it, and they might have services that they want to include with it, but otherwise it should be the same."
The decision explains why the Samsung Gear Live, the LG G Watch and Moto 360 smartwatches all look so similar on the software side of things.
Late last week, Samsung itself said it would be looking to add its multitude of services, some from its Galaxy smartphones and others from its Gear watches into the mix.
Do you think Google has made the right call in keeping the new versions of Android pure? Or is it another sign of Google walling off the open source garden? Let us know your thoughts below.

    See all 43,634 foreclosed Detroit homes in one place

    It's hard to grasp the full scope of Detroit's foreclosure problem, but The New York Times is here to help. The paper has laid out all 43,634 of the city's foreclosed homes in a single mosaic, representing more than $328 million in unpaid taxes on a single page. The mosaic breaks the amounts down by neighborhood, but the overall effect is still overwhelming, a tidal wave of thumbnails representing an entire city's worth of foreclosed and often abandoned homes. As the city struggles to climb out of debt, these houses are one of the big challenges standing in its way.
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    The Aloof Blackjack Player Who Created Our Digital World

    The Aloof Blackjack Player Who Created Our Digital World

    Every digital device you use operates on a string of ones and zeroes, the binary "yes/no" decision at the foundation of modern computing. It's a concept so fundamental to our modern day that we rarely stop to wonder where it came from. But it's all the work of one man: Claude Shannon, whose fascinating story you've likely never heard.

    These wireless bone-conducting headphones let you listen while you listen

    Kickstarter, it's a funny old place. A weird soup of real ingenuity and beermat ideas. Headbones might initially sound like it'll fall in the latter camp, but you'd be wrong. Once you know they're bone conducting headphones, the name reveals its... read more

    'Star Trek: The Next Generation' season 8 boldly goes from Twitter parody to book

    Star Trek: The Next Generation ended its run on TV in 1994 after seven acclaimed seasons, but what if it hadn't? Parody Twitter account  "TNG Season 8 (@TNG_S8)" has been imagining new, ever-sillier storylines for the never-made eighth season since October 2011. Now, it's being turned into an illustrated guidebook all unto its own, with the official licensing from the franchise.

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    What it Takes to Shoot Jaw-Dropping Photos Inside Giant Caves

    What it Takes to Shoot Jaw-Dropping Photos Inside Giant Caves

    Photographer Chris Higgins has been fascinated by caves ever since he was a kid. When he found that words weren't enough to describe the beauty of what he saw in the caves he explored, he began photographing them. Now, he shoots heart-stopping underground images, and the guys from JOBY followed along to see how much hard work that takes.

    What 'Ultra High-Definition' really means

    In yet another successful attempt at making the Quad HD / 4K / Ultra HD situation as clear as mud, this week the CEA updated its official... definition of the term "Ultra High-Definition." The original spec was established in late 2012 just as the... read more

    The Rise Of The “Social Professional” Networks

    social professional networks

    Back in the mid-2000s, many espoused a theory that there would emerge social networks for different types of people. It sounds a little preposterous now in the age of Facebook dominance, but at the time you had smart people like Marc Andreessen founding companies like Ning that followed this thesis. I was the co-founder of a now-defunct social network called Zaadz that you could think of as… Read More

    IAC Putting A Ring On Dating Site HowAboutWe


    Looks like IAC is adding Brooklyn-based HowAboutWe as another notch in its dating site acquisition belt. It already owns, OkCupid and a majority stake in Tinder. According to a letter obtained by Business Insider, founder Brian Schechter addressed employees about the acquisition, confirming that many HowAboutWe employees would be losing their jobs: Indeed, we are still finalizing… Read More

    Saturday, 28 June 2014

    Is this procedure the first step toward genetic engineering?

    A new piece in The New York Times Magazine looks at the growing controversy surrounding three-parent fertilization. The procedure introduces a donor's cytoplasm into the mother's egg, potentially adding a third parent's genetic data to the child, but effectively treating mitochondrial disorders and a range of infertility issues. As the science develops, it's also become the center of a heated battle around genetic ethics. Three-parent IVF is the first technique to alters the germ line, disrupting the natural flow of genetic information from parent to child. As a result, many are already casting it as the first step towards genetic engineering. Three-parent fertilization already works as medicine, and could make a huge difference for the...
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    This Weird Morphing Skin Could Make Future Vehicles Super Aerodynamic

    This Weird Morphing Skin Could Make Future Vehicles Super Aerodynamic

    This strangely alive-looking blob isn't a prop from a sci-fi movie. It's a smorph, a morphing material that could make the cars, trains and airplanes of tomorrow extremely aerodynamic, using the same trick that helps golf balls fly faster and straighter.

    Facebook experiment proves that social networks can alter your mood

    Before you begin stalking a frenemy's tragic life on Facebook to feel a sense of schadenfraude, know this: that depression could rub off on you. At least that's the conclusion Facebook's researches came up with when they turned 689,000 users into... read more

    Awww, the Little Google Maps Guy Is Wearing His Soccer Gear

    Awww, the Little Google Maps Guy Is Wearing His Soccer Gear

    World Cup madness is sweeping the internet—and even the little yellow guy on Google Maps is getting in on it. Awww, s'cute.

    Watch Tywin Lannister sire a vampire in the 'Dracula Untold' trailer [Video]

    We've seen nearly every angle of the Dracula story, from campy Victorianisms to modern reboots. But aside from a few quick flashbacks, we've never actually seen the origin story. Dracula Untold is looking to fill the gap, recasting Vlad the Impaler as a sensitive family man who turns to vampirism as a last-ditch effort to save his people. Along the way, we get an ur-vampire played by Tywin Lannister (also known as Charles Dance) and some surprisingly dextrous CGI bat clouds. Will it be terrible? Too early to say. But it's bound to fare better than NBC's Dracula, which was unceremoniously cancelled earlier this year.
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    Aereo, Smartwatches That Don't Suck, HDR Ruining Photography, and More

    Aereo, Smartwatches That Don't Suck, HDR Ruining Photography, and More

    What a week! We got to ogle everything Google showed at I/O, we learned that cops can't search your smartphone without a warrant, and we learned about BugJuggler, the car-flinging giant robot you see above . Let's take a look back at the best stuff we wrote this week.

    A new Trapper Keeper is coming this September, and it's built for tablets

    For some, each new school year brought a about a specific kind of dilemma. No, we aren't talking about picking out what to wear on the first day, we mean choosing a new Trapper Keeper. To stoke those flames of indecision and nostalgia, the folks at... read more

    Wednesday, 25 June 2014

    The best camera you can buy for under $250

    For the vast majority of people, the compact camera is dead. Today’s smartphones take good enough pictures, easily fit in our pockets, and are always with us. But there are situations where the fixed lens on a smartphone just doesn’t cut it.
    If you’re looking for a camera that can do more than a smartphone, you have a number of options — including some good ones under $250. The right camera should cover the basics: it should be compact enough to fit in your pocket or the bag you’re...
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    Watch The Google I/O Keynote Here [LiveStream]


    Google is kicking off its annual I/O developer conference in San Francisco today. We don’t know all that much about what the search and inflatable balloon giant has in store for us this year, but from what we’ve been told, the focus this year will be on design and wearables. Read More

    Barnes & Noble Is Dumping Its Nook Business

    Image (1) nookp.jpg for post 158443

    Once a pioneer in the space, the B&N Nook has long lagged behind the Kindle, dragging down the bookseller with it. But no more. Barnes & Noble just announced that it will separate its retail and NOOK Media businesses into two separate public companies. This separation is expected to be complete by the first quarter of the next calendar year. “We have determined that these… Read More

    Aereo Loses In Supreme Court, Deemed Illegal


    Today the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling in the legal tussle between streaming TV service Aereo and major network broadcasters. SCOTUS ruled that the decision of the second-circuit, which upheld that Aereo was within the bounds of the Copyright Act, shall be reversed. It was a 6-3 decision, with Justices Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissenting. Aereo has stated publicly… Read More

    Wingify Launches A New A/B Testing Platform For People Without Coding Experience

    ios_testing Wingify

    A/B testing of sites and apps is usually the domain of developers and IT teams. With the relaunch of its Visual Website Optimizer (VWO), however, Wingify hopes to make A/B testing accessible for more people, even if they don’t have HTML or coding experience. This means that companies can open up A/B testing of their products to marketing teams and product managers, letting them see… Read More

    “Straight Talking” Payday Loans Startup Wonga Found Sending Fake Legal Firm Letters

    Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 15.21.05

    Wonga’s unescapable TV advertising campaign, featuring cute ‘elderly’ puppets, carries the company slogan “straight-talking money“. But, following a ruling by UK regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the UK payday loans startup and great European IPO hope, has been found anything but straight-talking. Read More