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tech innovation

Google Expands Self-Driving Car Test

Posted by Shirley Brady on August 7, 2012 02:01 PM

Google today announced it's expanding its self-driving robotic car test with a new car model for the next leg of its journey: the Lexus RX450h, which will help it "refine our systems in different environments and on different terrain." Its blog post update on the project:

Our vehicles, of which about a dozen are on the road at any given time, have now completed more than 300,000 miles of testing. They’ve covered a wide range of traffic conditions, and there hasn’t been a single accident under computer control. We’re encouraged by this progress, but there’s still a long road ahead. To provide the best experience we can, we’ll need to master snow-covered roadways, interpret temporary construction signals and handle other tricky situations that many drivers encounter. As a next step, members of the self-driving car team will soon start using the cars solo (rather than in pairs), for things like commuting to work. This is an important milestone, as it brings this technology one step closer to every commuter. One day we hope this capability will enable people to be more productive in their cars. For now, our team members will remain in the driver’s seats and will take back control if needed.

tech innovation

App Watch: Facial Recognition, Friend or Foe?

Posted by Sheila Shayon on July 3, 2012 11:01 AM

With facial recognition technology all the rage, it’s fitting, in an eponymous way that Facebook is advancing the art with its recent acquisition of Face.com for the startup's Klik, a recently updated app that makes tagging friends in photos that much easier.

But no sooner was the deal done than vulnerability in the app was discovered that allowed users to access each others' Facebook and Twitter accounts. Now corrected, it resulted from Face.com storing Facebook and Twitter OAuth tokens, unique authentication keys, on its servers insecurely, said Ashkan Soltani, an independent security researcher who reportedly discovered the breach and posted the story here.

The incident highlights growing concerns about privacy issues associated with facial recognition technologies, including accessibility to private photos, friend lists, or bogus status updates and tweets posted via user’s names.

According to PCworld.com, “An attacker could hijack a popular user's account ‚ like Lady Gaga's, had she used KLIK — and build face prints for their millions of Facebook friends. Then they could match those in real time to people walking down the street."

Solutions to mitigate the invasive powers of facial recognition technologies range from policy proposals to counter-apps such as FaceLock for Apps. “The free version allows users to lock Settings, Play Store, Task Manager, and one application of choice. While this is by no means a way of completely securing your device, it’s a pretty cool way of preventing access to specific device features.

“Once the app is trained to recognize your face, any protected app will automatically initiate your front facing camera (which is a requirement for this app, for obvious reasons). Should your face not be recognised, it will ask you for the pin/password you set as a failsafe.”Continue reading...

tech innovation

The iPhone is Five, and We Couldn't Be Appier

Posted by Mark J. Miller on June 29, 2012 02:52 PM

Five years ago today, Apple changed the world – again — by launching the first iPhone. The press release for the 6:00 p.m. EST, June 29th, 2007 launch noted:

iPhone introduces an entirely new user interface based on a revolutionary multi-touch display and pioneering new software that allows users to control iPhone with just a tap, flick or pinch of their fingers. iPhone combines three products into one small and lightweight handheld device—a revolutionary mobile phone, a widescreen iPod®, and the Internet in your pocket with best-ever applications on a mobile phone for email, web browsing and maps. iPhone ushers in an era of software power and sophistication never before seen in a mobile device, which completely redefines what users can do on their mobile phones.

Since then, the smartphone marketplace has changed considerably thanks to its innovation and design. And Apple has reaped the rewards, pulling in $150 billion from the iPhone alone — and creating an "app economy" the likes of which even Steve Jobs couldn't have predicted five years ago.Continue reading...

tech innovation

Google Reveals First Tablet, Streaming Media Player & $1,500 Project Glasses

Posted by Sheila Shayon on June 27, 2012 06:20 PM

The Google I/O three-day annual developer event in San Francisco today kicked off with a slew of product news.

Google is expanding its Nexus sub-brand of smart products from an Android phone (with Samsung, unveiled in October) to a streaming media player and the product that garnered the most buzz today: its first tablet, Nexus 7, a 7-inch device co-developed with Asus.

Nexus 7 is a bigger challenge to Amazon's 7-inch Kindle Fire than it is to Apple's iPad. The tablet costs $199 (8GB) or $249 (16GB) and is available to purchase now, with shipping starting in July.Continue reading...

tech innovation

Best Buy Salutes Innovators of Tomorrow

Posted by Shirley Brady on June 4, 2012 09:31 AM

Sunday's New York Times magazine paid tribute to "32 innovations that will change your tomorrow" (and let designers hack its logo as part of the package). Best Buy's new ad campaign also pays tribute to student innovators, while the electronics retailer tips its hat to phone innovation, below.Continue reading...

tech innovation

Apple's Knight in Shining New Armor Says Best Days are Ahead

Posted by Mark J. Miller on May 23, 2012 05:56 PM

Apple nearly went out of business back in the late ’90s, but the creation of the iMac helped save it. Of course, then the iPod, iPhone, and iPad came along, all of which didn’t just change the revenue stream at Apple, but helped the change the culture overall.

Even though it’s already had such recent success, Apple’s SVP of Industrial Design, Jonathan Ive, tells the Telegraph in part two of an interview (here's part one) that the company is still working on its “most important and best work.”

The London-born Ive, who goes by Jony, was back in his homeland for a momentous occasion — the newly minted knight is now Sir Johny Ive, thank you very much. Not that the soft-spoken Brit would want to be called that back at the office.

“We have become rather addicted to learning as a group of people and trying to solve very difficult problems as a team,” the design guru said of his colleagues at Apple HQ in Cupertino, CA. “And we get enormous satisfaction from doing that. Particularly when you’re sat on a plane and it appears that the majority of people are using something that you’ve collectively agonized over. It’s a wonderful reward.”Continue reading...

tech innovation

Disney Research Keeps Uncle Walt's Magic Touch Alive

Posted by Sheila Shayon on May 7, 2012 02:02 PM

Disney's R&D unit, the Pittsburgh-based Disney Research, is described by Extreme Tech as “the bleeding edge guerilla technology arm of The Walt Disney Company.”

Disney Research describes itself thusly: "a network of research labs that collaborate closely with academic institutions We're able to combine the best of academia and industry: we work on a broad range of commercially important challenges, we view publication as a principal mechanism for quality control, we encourage engagement with the global research community, and our research has applications that are experienced by millions of people. We're honoring Walt Disney's legacy of innovation by researching novel technologies and deploying them on a global scale." Or as its logo states, it's "The science behind the magic."

One of its latest innovative novel technologies has the potential to make all button interfaces obsolete: Touché, which senses hand gestures and turns the human body and everyday objects into virtual touchscreens. The possibilities are huge, as the presentation below at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Austin, Texas, has demonstrated.Continue reading...

tech innovation

Nike Expands Innovative Flyknit Collection

Posted by Mark J. Miller on April 24, 2012 06:33 PM

Nike is setting a goal to have consumers be able to get their shoes individually made to perfectly fit them. The shoe giant takes another step toward reaching its vision with this week's release of the second round of its HTM Flyknit collection, which features the brand's innovative new technology for customizing shoes that debuted in February.

The Oregonian reports that the company sees Flyknit as “game-changing technology” (Bloomberg Businessweek calls it "the swoosh of the future") because of two different things. One is that it streamlines production (read: lessens the need for humans). When the day comes that robots can do the whole thing, you can expect Nike CEO Matt Parker (and all of the company’s shareholders) to be doing a jig of joy.

The second reason Flyknit is so radical is that it creates less waste. The uppers of Flyknit shoes are constructed as they are needed (on the fly, if you will) rather than with excess material that ends up being scrapped, thereby living up to the Nike Better World eco-platform.Continue reading...

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