What’s the News: Smart clothes might soon be coming into bed with you. A company is developing shirts endowed with a chip that senses the changes in breathing that accompany shifts in sleep phase, to help people track how variables like exercise, coffee intake, and stress affect their sleep.
With VizWiz, the blind can take a picture, ask a question, and get an answer back from a real person in seconds.
What’s the News: With the web as their eyes, the blind will able to read menus, identify canned foods, and tell whether that park has any free benches without having to walk over. That’s the vision of a team of computer scientists behind an iPhone app called VizWiz, which lets people take a photo of whatever’s perplexing them, record a question like “What denomination is this bill?” and send it off to real people online who’ll respond in a matter of seconds with “That’s a 20.”
I know the holidays are over and the long, dark winter months—which bring little to look forward to besides furry meteorologists and the pressure-packed atrociousness of Valentine’s Day—lie ahead. But take heart, America: Shiny new toys are coming. January means it’s time for the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which begins Thursday in Las Vegas. And gadget lust is already at peak volume, with product prognosticators predicting what will be unveiled in 2011.
Tablets. We mean it this time.
2010, certainly, was the year of the iPad—Apple has sold millions of the sleek devices since their April launch. 2011, gadget pros are predicting, will be the year everybody tries to catch up to Apple and the tablet computer market explodes.
While [Apple] is poised to introduce a new model in just a few weeks (barring some manufacturing hiccup), the likes of Microsoft, Blackberry’s RIM, Hewlett-Packard, and Google are gunning for them. A raft of consumer electronics companies, ranging from HDTV leader Vizio to Japanese heavyweight Toshiba to Palm OS owner HP, will introduce their own tablets. These will be in a variety of sizes and price ranges, in the hopes that the right balance will be struck to unseat Apple in the tablet space. [FoxNews.com]
In many high-tech parts of the world, iPhones are what people turn to when their minds wander from what they were supposed to be doing. For a study in this week’s Science, however, researchers turned the tables on these people, using the iPhone as a tool to study the wandering mind. Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert found that the minds wanders a lot (no surprise there), but also that daydreaming could make people unhappier.
Their app, called Track Your Happiness, takes advantage of the iPhone’s unparalleled ability to butt into its owner’s life.
iPhone users, aged 18 to 88, signed up for a Web application that contacted study them at random times during their days to ask a simple set of questions: How happy were they at the moment? What were they doing? Were they thinking about something other than what the task at hand, and if so, were they thinking of something pleasant, neutral, or negative? [Boston Globe]
Skyhook, the tiny Massachusetts company that created the location software in your iPhone, sued Google this week (pdf). David is charging Goliath with trying to keep its software out of Google’s Android mobile software platform in favor of Google’s own location service, and with encouraging Skyhook’s partners to break contracts.
In other words, Google is leveraging its OS market share to push its own affiliated products and snuff out competitors — kind of like Microsoft did with Internet Explorer on Windows 15 years ago. Yikes. [Wired.com]
Google says it hasn’t had the opportunity to review the legal action, so it has yet to comment.
Every three years the Librarian of Congress reviews the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), and James H. Billington’s review just expanded digital freedom with this year’s ruling of new exemptions to the copyright law.
Jailbreak that iPhone
First and foremost, Billington ruled that it’s not against the law to jailbreak a phone (the practice of working around the device’s security system and taking more direct control of it). The Electronic Frontier Foundation lobbied hard for this, particularly with the iPhone in mind. Because Apple keeps tight reins on the device—offering only AT&T phone service and acting as gatekeeper for what apps can be added—many people had taken to jailbreaking the phone.
About 4 million iPhone and iPod Touch units had been jailbroken as of last August, and were accessing apps from a sort of black-market storefront called Cydia, the marketplace’s founder told Wired. The store is a haven for many developers that Apple, the gatekeeper to its App Store, has ignored or turned away [Los Angeles Times].
Earlier today on Apple’s Cupertino campus, Steve Jobs held a press conference regarding the iPhone 4 reception saga, which he said is not “antenna-gate.” The overall gist: Jobs says the iPhone 4’s reception isn’t perfect, but not any worse than other phone’s, and Apple will give out a free “bumper” case to iPhone 4 phone buyers.
The cases are meant to reduce the dropped reception problem that can occur if a person’s hand covers a crucial bit of the antenna. The bumpers will be free until September 30th, and buyers can return their phones for a refund if still unhappy.
We’ve rounded up opinions of Jobs’ conference, which you can catch a video of through Apple’s site, here.
Jobs started the meeting by showing other phones (BlackBerry Bold, Droid Eris…) also dropping signal strength depending on how they’re held. But some think that comparing the iPhone 4 to other devices isn’t a valid excuse when you have a brand built on exclusivity (and expense).
“Stop me if you’ve already seen this.” So joked Steve Jobs today at the official rollout of the iPhone 4, which will be available June 24 in the United States. Back in his native habitat of a product reveal, the be-turtlenecked one made light of the multiple iPhone 4 leaks (including the famous incident of the lost phone prototype) as he demonstrated the phone’s new features.
The iPhone 4 is sleeker and more advanced than the original iPhone that came out in 2007. Like the iPhone 3GS, it comes in black or white, though it has a more angular look. Its front and back are covered with glass, and it is rimmed with stainless steel that acts as part of the phone’s antenna. It is about three-eighths of an inch thick; the iPhone 3GS is nearly half an inch. It can shoot high-definition video, catching up to some other smart phones. It has a gyroscope in addition to other sensors, to enable more advanced motion-sensing applications, such as games and mapping services [AP].
The Retina display is what’s really turning heads.
A furious Apple has sent tech website Gizmodo a terse letter demanding the return of an iPhone prototype which the site procured. The device was found on a barstool in a pub in Redwood City, California, and was sold by the finder to Gizmodo for a reported sum of $5,000.
As Discoblog reported yesterday, the site immediately declared that the phone was the prototype for the 2010 model of the new iPhone 4G and wrote an in-depth article detailing all its new features. The article, accompanied by photos and video, drew an estimated 3 million viewers to the Web page in just 12 hours online. Some of those viewers must have been Apple’s lawyers.
In the letter dated yesterday, Apple’s senior counsel wrote: “It has come to our attention that Gizmodo is in possession of a device that belongs to Apple. This letter constitutes a formal request that you return the device to Apple. Please let me know where to pick up the unit.”
The phone, Gizmodo revealed, was found in a bar, camouflaged to look like a regular iPhone 3GS. But when the finder switched on the device, he found that the mobile Facebook app was logged in to the account of Gray Powell, an Apple software engineer whose last post on the social networking site was reportedly “I underestimated how good German beer is” [ABC News]. The guy who found the phone reportedly tried to get in touch with the person who lost it, to no avail. That is when the finder is reported to have started shopping the phone around; selling pictures of the phone first to Engadget and then selling the device to rival Gizmodo for $5,000.
Scientists at MIT’s Senseable City Laboratory have designed a bicycle wheel that can give riders a boost when they need it most. Kinetic energy is released when a rider hits the brakes, and the new wheel, called the Copenhagen Wheel, captures that energy for later use. The new wheel uses a kinetic energy recovery system, the same technology used by hybrid cars, like the Toyota Prius, to harvest otherwise wasted energy when a cyclist brakes or speeds down a hill. With that energy, it charges up a battery inside the wheel’s hub [The New York Times].
The Copenhagen Wheel made its debut today in Copenhagen, one of the most bicycle friendly cities in the world and the site of the current international talks on climate change regulations.The special wheel can be swapped in for any bike’s rear wheel, and includes other bells and whistles such as an odometer, a sensor to track air quality, and a GPS. The wheel can even talk to your iPhone though a Bluetooth connection so you can check your speed, direction, distance traveled, monitor traffic, and find your biking buddies. The wheel is expected to retail for between $500 and $1,000.