Tech News April 7, 2014

  • Why Google’s Modular Smartphone Might Actually Succeed

    Google believes open hardware innovation could help it find industries and markets for its software and services.

    In a two-story building in an industrial district of Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ara Knaian shows off prototypes of what could be the industry’s first completely modular smartphone.

  • The Revival of Cancer Immunotherapy

    An old idea for treating cancer is yielding impressive results on cancer patients—and lots of attention from drug companies.

    New medicines that shrink tumors and have beneficial effects lasting for months to years in some cancer patients are helping breathe new life into an old idea: using a patient’s own immune cells to attack malignant cells.

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Tech News April 4, 2014

  • Cheaper Joints and Digits Bring the Robot Revolution Closer

    Efforts to build robot hands and humanoids more cheaply could make them affordable enough for businesses and even homes.

    The Atlas humanoid robot, unveiled last year by Boston Dynamics, a company later acquired by Google, is a marvel. It can clamber over rubble and operate power tools. But these abilities don’t come cheap. Atlas has a price tag well above a million dollars, and it consumes around 15 kilowatts of electricity when in operation, meaning hefty power bills for its owner and limiting its practicality. “That’s enough to power a small city block,” says Alexander Kernbaum, research engineer at the nonprofit research agency SRI International. To be truly practical, he says, Atlas “needs to be many times more efficient.”

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Tech News April 2, 2014

  • Pay with Your Fingerprint

    Samsung’s Galaxy S5 is the first smartphone that can use a fingerprint to authorize payments in stores and online.

    Anyone with an iPhone 5 can use its fingerprint reader to unlock the device and pay for apps or music in Apple’s iTunes store. Owners of Samsung’s latest flagship device, the Galaxy S5 smartphone, which launches on April 11, will be able to make much broader use of their fingerprints to pay for things. If they visit a website or app that accepts PayPal using the device, they can authorize payments by swiping a finger across the phone’s home button. And PayPal’s own mobile app can be used to pay for goods in some physical stores in the U.S.

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Tech News April 1, 2014

  • A Bandage That Senses Tremors, Delivers Drugs, and Keeps a Record

    A flexible electronic skin patch has strain gauges to measure tremors, and heating elements to release drugs held inside nanoparticles.

    Offering a preview of what future wearable medical devices may look like, researchers in Korea have built a skin patch that’s thinner than a sheet of paper and can detect subtle tremors, release drugs stored inside nanoparticles on-demand, and record all of this activity for review later.

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Tech News March 31, 2014

  • U.N. Climate Report Warns of Increased Risk to Crops

    Crop yields are expected to decline due to climate change faster than scientists thought.

    A few years ago scientists thought climate change wouldn’t cause much harm to overall food production until temperatures in a region rose by three to four degrees Celsius compared to current levels. But in the latest United Nations report on climate change, released today, scientists have revised those estimates, pointing to significant losses with a temperature rise of just two degrees Celsius.

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Tech News March 27, 2014

  • Lens-Free Camera Sees Things Differently

    An itty-bitty camera could bring sight to the Internet of things.

    Patrick Gill is excited to show me a small, fuzzy-looking picture of the Mona Lisa, printed in black and white on a piece of paper. It’s not much to look at, literally, but it’s unmistakably her, with long dark hair and that mysterious smile.

  • What Zuckerberg Sees in Oculus Rift

    Facebook acquired Oculus Rift because it believes virtual reality could be the next big thing after mobile.

    Facebook moved quickly to acquire Oculus VR—creator of the forthcoming Oculus Rift virtual reality headset—for approximately $2 billion. Discussions between the two companies opened less than two weeks ago, according to Oculus VR’s CEO Brendan Irebe. “We locked ourselves in the Facebook HQ and just got the deal done really fast,” Irebe told the Wall Street Journal. “We don’t want to disrupt the team and go through months of negotiations.”

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Tech News March 26, 2014

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Tech News March 24, 2014

  • Academics Spy Weaknesses in Bitcoin’s Foundations

    Game theory suggests the rules governing Bitcoin may need to be updated if the currency is to endure.

    One thing cannot be disputed about the person (or persons) responsible for creating Bitcoin: they were skilled in math, and expert at coding. Five years after the Bitcoin software was first released, no major fixes have been needed to the core code, which uses cryptography to generate and transfer virtual money.

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Tech News March 21, 2014

  • Graphene Helps Copper Wires Keep Their Cool

    An exotic form of carbon could help relieve a growing problem with the copper used in computer processors.

    When people in the chip industry talk about the thermal problems in computer processors, they get dramatic. In 2001, Pat Gelsinger, then vice president of Intel, noted that if the temperatures produced by the latest chips kept rising on their current path, they would exceed the heat of a nuclear reactor by 2005, and the surface of the sun by 2015. Fortunately, such thermal disaster was averted by slowing down the switching speeds in microprocessors, and by adopting multicore chip designs in which several processors run in parallel.

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