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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Tue 17th Jan 2017

Mark Zuckerberg in DallasMark Zuckerberg with residents of the Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas, Texas. Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg's first stop on his 2017 tour of the US is Dallas, Texas.

The billionaire Facebook CEO helped plant fruits and vegetables in a community garden in the Oak Cliff neighborhood of Dallas on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, according to his Facebook page. He also met with computer science students from a local public high school.

Zuckerberg's main reason for being in Dallas is to testify on Tuesday in a $2 billion lawsuit that claims the Oculus VR company he acquired in 2014 was based on stolen technology. He and other key Oculus executives, including Palmer Luckey, will take the stand this week to defend the company against video game maker Zenimax.

Zuckerberg's personal goal for 2017 is to visit and meet people from every US state he hasn't visited yet, a statesman-like agenda that has sparked more speculation that he could be plotting to eventually run for public office.


Source: uk.businessinsider.com
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th Jan 2017


Eloise Dicker with her mother's bracelet

While travelling through Kyrgyzstan, Eloise Dicker lost her late mother's treasured gold bracelet. Then a Facebook message changed everything.

It was on the second day of our five-day trek that I realised it was missing.

We had packed up the tents and loaded the horses. I reached up to the horse's mane to pull myself up and saw that my wrist was bare.

"My mum's bracelet! It's gone," I thought, and immediately burst into tears.

Made from melted-down rings she inherited from her own mother, the bracelet had always been worn by my mum for almost as long as I could remember.

Eloise Dicker's wrist with and without the bracelet

Image captionEloise Dicker's wrist with and without the bracelet

Her wrist was very slender even towards the end of her life, with steroids puffing her up like a blowfish. There came a point, however, when she couldn't wear it any more.

She had taken it off and placed it on her bedside table. While clearing up the cups and tissues, tablets and tinctures, I had picked the bracelet up and put it on.

She'd smiled, put her hand on my wrist and said how lovely it was to see me wearing it and that one day I would pass it on to my children.

She died a couple of months later, and I had never taken the bracelet off.

Rosemary Dicker, wearing the bracelet six months before her death on Mother's Day 2015

Image captionRosemary Dicker, wearing the bracelet six months before her death on Mother's Day 2015

Now I felt pain in my throat and a sinking feeling in my stomach. It could be anywhere in this vast landscape - the Tian Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia.

There was a silence as we all realised there was no point in even trying to find it. We were two days up into the mountains and surrounded by grass.

I had one last look around our camp. It was no use. I couldn't re-trace my steps, we were in the middle of nowhere. I climbed back on the horse.

I walked behind the others, crying and thinking. All the memories of her passing away came back to me, bit by bit.

Rosemary holding Eloise's brother Barnaby in the early 1980s

Image captionRosemary holding Eloise's brother Barnaby in the early 1980s

My naked wrist still made me feel incomplete. I wanted to go back in time to the moment I decided to bring it with me. Why hadn't I left it at home?

But maybe it was meant to be here, I thought to myself. Mum was born in Hong Kong and grew up in the UK, and this was half way.

Tian Shan mountains

An endless lush landscape with wild horses, snowy peaks, birds of prey and the sound of the river. Maybe it should be lost here.

That night I looked in the tents with a bit of hope left that it might be in some corner. Nothing.

I crawled into my sleeping bag feeling deeply sad, and accepted it was gone for good.

Later, in the city of Karakol, recovering from our trek, I visited the Russian Orthodox church.

I was just about to leave, having lit a candle in remembrance of my mother, when the Russian nun took my arm and walked me to a painting of the Virgin Mary.

She kissed the glass frame of the picture and gestured that I do the same. I'm not a believer, and was not brought up religious in any way, but I followed her invitation.

When I kissed the glass I looked up at the picture. I started crying. The picture was adorned with gold necklaces and rings.

Russian Orthodox church in Karakol

It was feeling just how jewellery was so significant to humans that made me cry. As a student of anthropology, I have always been interested in the meaning we humans ascribe to objects.

Jewellery by its very nature says: Look at me, see what I can afford, observe what I was given, admire how significant I am.

When inherited from a beloved, it also brings people into relationship, solidifying a kinship or affection, creating a sense of connectedness and of presence.

That bracelet was a physical part of my mother who is no longer physically in the world. It became part of me, and now was gone.

I had already made peace with the loss of the bracelet when, some weeks after I had returned to Europe, I received a Facebook message from Elaman Asanbaev, one of the guides from the Community-Based Tourism (CBT) office in Karakol.

Facebook message

There was a picture attached. "This is it or not, I don't know," he asked.

It was it. It was the bracelet.

It was suddenly back in existence, but what should I do? Should I get Elaman to send it? Should I leave it there? Ask him to throw it in the river?

When I looked into secure courier services, they advised against sending precious stones or metals. I was also reluctant to trust the postal system, it being so far away.

It did occur to me that I could find someone who would be travelling there, but when I saw that flights were cheap in November I decided I would go and get it myself.

London-Moscow-Bishkek. Then a six-hour drive from the capital Bishkek to Karakol with Azamat Asanov, the CBT manager. It was 05:00 and -11C in the capital, the roads icy with thick snow.

As we drove, I watched the country waking up. Children in their winter clothes walking to school, horses with snow on their backs, men in the traditional pointed Kyrgyz hats known as kalpaks.

The next morning we picked up Elaman. "This is for you," he said as he jumped in the car.

Elaman Asanbaev with the bracelet

There it was. This slim piece of gold that I have known all my life.

This part of mum, here in this car 7,000km (4,350 miles) from home in the freezing mountains of Kyrgyzstan.

Elaman described to Azamat where he found it. I didn't understand anything except a word that sounded like "toilet".

Azamat translated - it was in our first campsite, a yurt camp, lying on a path towards the toilets (or, more accurately, a shed with a hole in the ground).

Yurt camp

We laughed. Not the most romantic of places.

I felt its weight and its shape. Mum held this. Putting it back on I felt complete again, and I couldn't stop looking at it.

I gave Elaman a designer flask and wrapped some money around it as a reward for handing in the bracelet.

There was another day in the snow on horseback before I turned round and made the long 21-hour journey back home.

Tian Shan mountains in the snow

We took the horses up the Bos Uchuk valley, which means "colourful point". This was where we had camped on our last day of the summer trek. I could recognise the shape of the mountains and the river.

On my way back to the town I sprinkled some of mum's ashes in the river - something to exchange for the bracelet in the ground, something to put her between home and where she was born, Hong Kong.

Preparing to scatter Eloise's mother's ashes

At this point I felt that these rituals were almost too much.

Yet back home, looking at photographs of mum, I notice the bracelet in every picture. I think how strange it is to know that it had a story waiting of being lost and found far away in a wonderful place.

Is this still the most precious thing that I own? Yes. Would I take it again on an adventure? Probably.


Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th Jan 2017

Super Mario RunImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

An insatiable desire by gamers to jump to the next level generated record revenues for App Store developers in 2016, according to Apple.

Developers who sell their apps through Apple earned a record $20bn in 2016, up 40% on the previous year.

Games dominated App Store's bestsellers, including Pokemon Go and Nintendo's Super Mario Run.

Jan Dawson, chief analyst at Jackdaw, said in-app purchases, such as paying to upgrade a character, drove the rise.

Since 2008, when the App Store first launched, developers have earned a total $60bn in revenue.

Last year alone accounted for $20bn, or a third of total sales.

Mr Dawson attributed the acceleration to a relatively new business model where people download a game app for their iPhone or iPad for free, then pay to buy additional features such as opening secret levels or new powers.

In 2016, Apple also also changed its revenue sharing deal with developers of subscription apps such as Netflix or HBO Now.

In the first year of a customer's subscription, the existing agreement remains in place which gives the developer 70% of revenue and Apple 30%.

Under the new terms, if the subscription continues for a second year Apple takes a smaller cut of 15% and the developer keeps the lion's share, giving them a greater incentive to work to retain customers' interest.

Apple also extended the scope of who can offer customers subscriptions to their product. Previously, only categories such as music services and magazines offered this service. In 2016 the option became available to all 25 categories on the App Store, including game makers.

Last year, revenue from subscriptions rose by 74% to $2.7bn. Also, the number of apps available through Apple grew by 20% to 2.2 million.

Mr Dawson said subscriptions give Apple more "predictable" revenue streams as sales of iPhone, iPad and Macs slow.

App sales made a strong start to the year, with customers spending $240m on the App Store on New Year's Day alone.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th Jan 2017

Mark ZuckerbergImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Mark Zuckerberg has announced plans to spend 2017 touring the US - in the Facebook founder's latest ambitious New Year's resolution.

He posted that this year's personal challenge is to "have visited and met people in every state in the US".

The 32-year-old tech titan added that he needs to travel to about 30 states to fulfil the pledge.

His previous New Year challenges have included running 365 miles, reading 25 books and learning Mandarin.

The US tour comes amid speculation that a future personal challenge by Mr Zuckerberg could include running for president of the United States.

"After a tumultuous last year, my hope for this challenge is to get out and talk to more people about how they're living, working and thinking about the future," Mr Zuckerberg said in his Facebook post.

"For decades, technology and globalization have made us more productive and connected.

"This has created many benefits, but for a lot of people it has also made life more challenging. This has contributed to a greater sense of division than I have felt in my lifetime. We need to find a way to change the game so it works for everyone."

He added that the road trips would help him to make "the most positive impact as the world enters an important new period".

"My trips this year will take different forms - road trips with [wife] Priscilla, stops in small towns and universities, visits to our offices across the country, meetings with teachers and scientists, and trips to fun places you recommend along the way," the statement continued.

Last year there was speculation that he could one day launch a bid for the White House.

That was fuelled by documents showing he has made provisions to keep control of the company if he works for the government.

Mr Zuckerberg also said last week that he was no longer an atheist.

He posted a Christmas message, prompting someone to ask: "Aren't you an atheist?"

Mr Zuckerberg replied: "No. I was raised Jewish and then I went through a period where I questioned things, but now I believe religion is very important".

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th Jan 2017

New approach promises faster, smaller devices

Scientists could have found a way to boost Moore's Law

Scientists could have found a way to boost Moore's Law

Scientists have announced a promising development in the quest for producing smaller and more efficient microcircuits as the basis for wearables and other small mobile devices.

With Moore's Law approaching a hard limit scientists are looking at new ways to speed up processing. One is quantum computing which is still some way off as a general purpose computing platform for everyday use, while another approach is to change the way memory works.

A new technology called Redox-based resistive switching random memory (ReRAM) is being developed by a number of major semiconductor firms and should be commercially available soon. ReRAM is a non-volatile RAM that works by changing the resistance across a dielectric solid-state material. It has a good long-term storage capacity and can be produced at nanoscale. It promises to increase I/O speeds while also reducing power consumption.

ReRAM is not only a promising alternative to traditional RAM; it may also be used as a processing platform as assistant professor Anupam Chattopadhyay from Nyang Technology University in Singapore, professor Rainer Waser from RWTH Aachen University in Germany and Dr Vikas Rana from Forschungszentrum Juelich have discovered. The scientists are working on processing data held on ReRAM in situ rather than moving it to and from a CPU. This approach is far more efficient, allowing for faster and thinner mobile devices.

There is another feature of the prototype circuitry should also allow for quicker processing too. Rather than operating on the familiar binary system (0,1), the ReRAM based circuitry being developed by the scientists stores and processes data using a quaternary number system (0,1,2,3). This should increase the processing efficiency because a quaternary number is shorter than its binary equivalent. Chattopadhyay explained that in current computer systems, all information has to be translated into a string of zeros and ones before it can be processed.

"This is like having a long conversation with someone through a tiny translator, which is a time-consuming and effort-intensive process," he said.

"We are now able to increase the capacity of the translator, so it can process data more efficiently."

Professor Waser explained that the new system is promising for the development of future IoT and wearable devices.

"These devices are energy-efficient, fast, and they can be scaled to very small dimensions," he said.

"Using them not only for data storage but also for computation could open a completely new route towards an effective use of energy in the information technology."

The findings will be published in Scientific Reports.

Source: v3.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Mon 16th Jan 2017

Media captionWATCH: A device that lets children create their own bedtime stories is just one of thousands of new products that will go on show at CES

CES provides a first glimpse at the future.

Pretty much all of the tech giants attend the vast Vegas expo - either to unveil new products or to clinch deals behind the scene.

But in recent years it's been start-ups that have had many of the most eye-arresting and sensational reveals.

There are more at this year's show than ever before, thanks in part to crowdfunding. They now have to convince retailers - hunting through the halls for the next bestsellers - that the promise of their concept videos has been delivered upon.


Media captionWATCH: A start-up offering virtual reality thrills without the need for a headset is one of more than 200 French companies at CES this year

Dozens of start-ups are also there thanks to help from governments and other national bodies - France, Israel, Ukraine and the Netherlands all have stands where they'll fly the flag for local talent.

But China may make the biggest splash with more than 1,300 registered exhibitors.

"Every year at CES I meet the people who work on the technology that affects our lives and you can see literally every part of the tech industry represented," innovation evangelist Robert Scoble told the BBC.

Of course, there's a lot of crud too - the challenge is to distinguish the potential hits from the glitch-ridden flops.

Below, we have picked what could be some of the week's highlights:

Voice control and other new interfaces

CES marks the beginning of a land grab by three of the leading virtual assistants: Amazon's Alexa, Microsoft's Cortana and the Google Assistant.

The companies all want their voice-controlled AIs to power third-party products. And Amazon looks to have the head start.

C by GEImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionThe C by GE table lamp has a central blue ring that responds when Alexa is summoned

The headphones specialist OnVocal will be showing off wireless earphones that link up to Alexa, and GE has also preannounced a table lamp that doubles as a speaker powered by Amazon's voice service. Sonos too aims to add the facility to its wireless speakers, though we believe it isn't quite ready to show off its efforts.

But don't count the other two out.

We know Microsoft is working with Harman Kardon on a "premium audio" speaker, and the firm has teased adding Cortana to other types of products, including toasters. And Google has secured at least one bit of kit at CES - the Aivia speaker - to host its cloud-based intelligence.

AiviaImage copyrightAIVIA

Image captionAivia says its smart speaker will be equipped with Google Assistant

One expert suggested others will also try to gatecrash the party.

It's not all about voice though.

The French start-up Bixi will be making the case for gesture controls. It will be demoing the final design of a gizmo that lets you control smartphones and tablets with a wave of a hand.


Media captionWATCH: Bixi's glowing pad lets smartphones and tablets be controlled with a wave of the hand

More groundbreaking perhaps is the Blitab, a tactile tablet described as the iPad for the blind.

The Austrian innovation produces small physical bubbles in an area above its touchscreen which delivers refresh double lines of dynamic Braille.

BlitabImage copyrightBLITAB

Image captionBlitab plans to show off an Android tablet with a dynamic braille display

Year of the robot?

We're still decades away from having the type of androids seen on TV shows such as Westworld or Humans.

But CES is still an opportunity to see how far along more specialised kit has become.

London-based Emotech is one to watch.

Olly robotImage copyrightEMOTECH

Image captionThe Olly robot learns over time how best to behave with different users

It will unveil Olly - a tabletop bot with its own smart assistant that recognises different household members and adapts it personality to suit each one.

The project was developed with help from academics at University College London, Imperial College and Edinburgh University, and has already secured $10m (£8.2m) of investment from China.

There will also be a range of modular robots.

Several companies are backing the concept, which allows users to switch about parts to change skills and manoeuvrability.

UnibiotImage copyrightEVOVACS

Image captionThe Unibot offers changes function depending on which modules are connected to its base

Examples will include Modi, a Lego-style kit that lets owners build a bot out of small cubes - each offering different functions such as motors, lights and infra-red detectors.

Another is Unibot, a robotic vacuum cleaner that trebles up as a mobile home security camera and an air purifier/humidifier.

Meanwhile, OAPs can look forward to Cutii, a robot that resembles an iPad on wheels, which will supposedly become their "companion".

And there will also be bots that zoom round tennis courts picking up balls, remove droppings from cat litter, and even move physical chess pieces around a board.


Image captionThere will be a range of robots specialising in niche tasks at the show

Keep an eye out for Laundroid, too. The Japanese clothes-folding machine raised $60m from Panasonic and others for its giant clothes-folding droid following an appearance at last year's CES.

Some have described the idea as ridiculous.

But it will be interesting to see if it works well enough to go on sale later this year, as planned.

LaundroidImage copyrightSEVEN DREAMERS

Image captionPotential buyers of the Laundroid will have to make sure they have room to install it

Health and wearables

Pregnancy seems to be one of health tech's preoccupations this year.

There is both Ava, a sensor-equipped wristband that apparently alerts women to when they are most fertile, and Trakfertility, a DIY sperm count test that tells an associated app what steps the owner should take to boost their numbers.

Ava wristbandImage copyrightAVA SCIENCE

Image captionAva claims its wearable will help women "understand" their bodies better to help them get pregnant

And just in case you are tempted to pair off with the wrong partner, Milo Sensors is in town with what it describes as the world's first blood alcohol wearable.

It's easy to joke, but health tech is booming and analysts are competing to predict how many billions of pounds it will be worth in a decade's time.

The ultimate goal is to create something resembling Star Trek's Tricoder - an all-in-one device that diagnoses any ailment.

An Israeli start-up will be showing off a gadget that promises to get us at least partly there.

Tyto HomeImage copyrightTYTOCARE

Image captionTytoCare says it wants to put "health in the hands of consumers" with its diagnostic devices

The TytoHome is designed to let families take heart, lungs, throat, abdomen and other organs' readings and send them to their clinicians. Its slogan is a "check-up without the check-in", but medics may need convincing.

There will doubtless be new twists on the fitness tracker too. It would be unwise to suggest the market for such devices has peaked - Fitbit's app topped Apple's App Store this Christmas, indicating people are still buying them in droves.

But a more intriguing development is wearables with built-in airbags.

Air bag wearablesImage copyrightINEMOTION/ACTIVEPROTECTIVE

Image captionAt least two companies at CES are trying to adapt the car's airbag for the human body

ActiveProtective is promising to show off a prototype smart belt for the elderly that triggers a cushioning action over their hips if it detects a fall.

And Inemotion has developed ski racing clothes with a similar function to prevent injuries on the piste.

France's Wair has a different spin on discreet wearable tech with a internet-connected scarf that doubles as an air filter.


Media captionWATCH: Wair's smart scarf promises cleaner air with a focus on fashion

But the question remains whether wearable tech has a profitable future beyond health.

There will be more app-laden smartwatches - including the possibility of the first Android Wear 2.0 devices - at the show, but the sector has not been the hit many had predicted.

We're also promised the world's first vibrating tight cut jeans that offer their wearers directions without having to look at a screen.

Spinali DesignImage copyrightSPINALI DESIGN

Image captionSpinali Design's jeans connect to a smartphone to buzz different sides of the wearer's body to direct them to turn left or right


If you had asked the experts a decade ago, they would probably have predicted OLED (organic light-emitting diode) TVs would be the norm by now. But the tech has faced several setbacks.

It's stubbornly refused to become as cheap to manufacture as hoped, it doesn't go as bright as LED equivalents and some complain that it "crushes the blacks" making it hard to distinguish detail in the shadows.

Panasonic OLED TVImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionPanasonic was once famed for its plasma TVs, now its focus is OLED

Even so, OLED retains a wow factor thanks to its ability to control the light of each individual pixel, helping its images to have more "pop", and its screens to be ever thinner.

Panasonic has hinted it will show off an OLED display at CES that will better handle dim scenes, and there is speculation Sony has similar news.

Plus there's reason to believe prices are about to drop.

Until recently, LG manufactured all the OLED panels used by itself and other brands. But now BOE - a Chinese company - has a rival component. The question is who will break ranks to adopt it.

Samsung TVsImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionQLED, UHD, HDR, HLG - OMG!!! - be prepared to get your head round a lot of acronyms if you want to understand the latest TV tech

Expect Samsung to make a loud noise about QLED, a new spin on its "quantum dot" technology that allows its screens to be brighter than ever before.

That's important because of HDR - another acronym you're going to have to get used to. It refers to high dynamic range, which allows images to appear more vibrant and detailed - especially in scenes containing both glints of light and shadows.

Dolby Vision

Image captionDolby claims its version of HDR offers the best picture quality, but most TV-makers have opted to support the open source HDR10 standard instead

The problem is that there are three rival HDR standards - HDR10, Dolby Vision and the BBC's forthcoming HLG - meaning the potential for another format war.

But it is possible to support all three, so it will be revealing to see if any of manufactures make a commitment to do so with their new screens.

Smart home and other "internet-of-things"

It's now relatively cheap and power-efficient to add sensors and wireless data links to products. That's led to an explosion of ideas - some more sensible than others.

GenicanImage copyrightGENICAN

It's debateable how many of us really need Genican, for example, a device that scans rubbish's barcodes as it is thrown away in order to build up a shopping list of replacement items.

Likewise, it's not clear whether an aromatherapy diffuser needs to be smartphone-controlled, even if its scents really boost memory and clean lungs, as claimed.


Media captionWATCH: A new gadget at CES allows users to change the smell of a room via a tap of an app.

Where things get more interesting is when tech genuinely makes lives simpler without requiring too much effort.

One way firms are trying to do this is by focusing on the refrigerator.

LG has a model that activates a sterilisation process when it senses temperature and/or humidity issues in order to extend food's shelf life.

And for those who would prefer to retrofit their existing equipment, UK start-up Smarter Applications has Fridgecam: a device that keeps track of what its owners have in stock and when it expires, sending alerts to buy new items when necessary.

FridgecamImage copyrightSMARTER APPLICATIONS

Image captionThe Fridgecam shows owners what's in their fridge and can suggest recipes based on the contents

But one expert says if the sector is to achieve its potential, consumers need to be reassured that the risks do not outweigh the benefits.

"In the last 18 months the conversation about security and privacy has moved from the tech pages to the front pages of newspapers," said John Curran from the consultancy Accenture.

"To make these devices easy to connect and easy to use, some companies have hardcoded passwords or put no security measures in place, and that made them an easy target.

"At CES we're looking for businesses to be more transparent about what data is being collected, how it's being used and with whom it's being shared.

"And they need to make it easier for consumers to adjust their security settings."

Virtual and augmented reality

GettyImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionHTC beat Sony and Oculus to bring a virtual reality headset to market in April

There are rumours that HTC will unveil a second-generation Vive VR headset at CES - possibly introducing wireless capabilities - but the system is only nine months old, so that seems a tad optimistic.

The two other big virtual reality firms - Sony and Facebook's Oculus division - launched their kit even more recently.

Even so, there should still be lots of developments.

Huawei has just hired Steve LaValle, one of the brains behind Oculus, and the Chinese firm is set to reveal more about its VR plans at the show.

It's a safe bet that several third-party headsets previously teased by Microsoft will also be on display.

Windows 10 eventImage copyrightMICROSOFT

Image captionIn October, Microsoft disclosed that several firms were working on Windows 10 compatible VR headsets

And we will also see the introduction of Fove, a crowdfunded VR headset with eye-tracking abilities, allowing gamers to control action with shifts in their gaze.

Fove won't be the only one trying to offer new ways for users to interact with virtual experiences.

FoveImage copyrightFOVE

Image captionFove raised $480,000 for its eye-tracking headset via Kickstarter and plans to start delivering them during the week of CES

A foot controller that lets you direct where your character walks, a sensor-laden T-shirt that tracks your torso's movements, and various haptic devices that try to let consumers feel virtual objects are just some of the products with CES stands.

With augmented reality - where graphics and real-world views are mixed together - things are still at an early stage.

But Asus and others may reveal handsets that include Google's Project Tango depth-sensing technology, adding basic AR capabilities.

Project AlloyImage copyrightINTEL

Image captionMost augmented headsets overlay graphics over the real world, but Intel is taking the reverse approach

Intel will have more to say about Project Alloy - a headset that lets you see your hands and other real-world objects within VR worlds.

And a start-up called Occipital will demo a contraption that uses an iPhone to create something akin to Microsoft's HoloLens mixed-reality headset.

While hardware may dominate the headlines, it could be content that determines which products are winners.

Occipital BridgeImage copyrightOCCIPITAL

Image captionOccipital's Bridge headset scans the surrounding area to create a digital copy in which the user can interact with virtual characters

"In the US the National Basketball Association recently announced that it will broadcast games in virtual reality," noted Mr Curran.

"And as other big media and content companies get involved, they will attract more types of consumers to VR, rather than just the tech-enthused.

"So, I'll be looking to see which platforms the media providers target as they pursue opportunities in this space."


There's going to be a lot of talk and demos of self-driving cars by the big automakers on and off the Las Vegas strip.

RinspeedImage copyrightRINSPEED

Image captionRinspeed will be exhibiting a concept vehicle designed for a self-driving future

Menawhile, rival chipmakers - including Intel, Nvidia and Qualcomm - will be excitedly pitching their processors and 5G chips as the potential heart of the autonomous vehicle revolution.

But you'll have to wait for a future CES to find anything road-ready that allows the "driver" to really ignore the steering wheel.

BMW HoloActivImage copyrightBMW

Image captionBMW says the functions of its concept car can be controlled without any physical contact

This time round, look instead for new ways to interact with your vehicle.

BMW will unveil its HoloActiv Touch system, in which motorists use finger gestures to interact with graphics that project out of dashboard screens.

And Continental will demo facial recognition tech that recognises who is driving and adjusts mirror and seat positions accordingly.

Faraday Future is also back for a second year to convince sceptics that it can launch an electric car before its funds dry up.

Faraday Future teaser videoImage copyrightFARADAY FUTURE

Image captionFaraday Future has posted teaser videos in which it claims its car can accelerate from standstill more quickly than the Tesla Model X

There will also be all kinds of alternative transport ideas including an intelligent scooter that shuts off its power if it detects an accident, a motorised rideable suitcase and the latest evolutions of the hoverboard.

Odds and ends

And we've still barely scratched the surface. There are zones dedicated to drones, beauty tech and 3D printing.

Plus there's room for oddities, such as a device that claims to be able to record smells.

Selfie stock drone and Mi GuitarImage copyrightAEE/MAGIC INSTRUMENTS

Image captionAEE will be showing off a "flying selfie stick" while Magic Instruments claims people can learn to play its Mi Guitar in minutes

The BBC tech team will do its best to keep you across all the major developments from the first press day on Tuesday until the show floors shut on Sunday.

You can keep up to date at bbc.co.uk/ces2017 and by following our Twitter list of those covering CES.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 11th Jan 2017


Big Ben during New Year's celebrations in 2016Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionThe leap second caused Cloudflare software to 'panic'

Web firm Cloudflare was briefly caught out by the leap second added to the end of 2016.

A small number of the firm's servers failed to handle the added second properly making them return errors.

The problem meant that the sites of some of its customers were hard to reach in the early hours of 2017.

The second was added to compensate for a slowdown in the earth's rotation and helps to co-ordinate time-keeping among nations that use GMT.

Time lost

In a statement, Cloudflare said that its engineers had fixed the problem within 90 minutes of it affecting its servers.

Anyone falling victim would have got an error message saying servers could not be reached rather than seeing the page they wanted to visit.

Content delivery firm Cloudflare acts as a go-between for websites aiming to speed up access to a site as well as stopping malicious traffic and attacks reaching that destination.

It said that the problem affected about 1% of the requests its servers processed during the glitch period.

A detailed analysis of why the bug emerged found that it was triggered by a mismatch between the time-stamps Cloudflare servers were expecting and the ones they actually got from the separate systems that keep time on the wider net.

This caused an internal system to "panic" the firm wrote, causing the server errors.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 11th Jan 2017

Josh Coombes is a hairdresser with a huge salon: the streets of London.

The 29-year-old has been giving free haircuts to homeless people for the past year. Photos of the results are posted on an Instagramaccount which has thousands of followers.

It's part of an campaign by Josh and friends Matt Spracklen and Dave Burt, which is using the the hashtag #DoSomethingforNothing, to encourage people to help others, any way they can.

Video Journalist: Alvaro A. Ricciardelli

For more videos subscribe to BBC Trending's YouTube channel. Or find us on Facebook.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 11th Jan 2017

Tech collageImage copyrightREUTERS/GETTY/BBC

Another year of tech news is nearly over.

It has been an eventful 12 months. Samsung smartphones exploded, GoPro drones dropped out of the air and Pebble smartwatches met an untimely end.

Facebook became embroiled in a fake news controversy, Yahoo revealed several mega-breaches, we identified the supposed creator of Bitcoin - who then went AWOL - and millions indulged in a game of Pokemon Go.

Yet none of those stories made our most-read-of-the-month list - based on the number of times an article was clicked - as you can see below.

January: Licence to spy

Office workersImage copyrightTHINKSTOCK

There is a good rule of thumb: if you do not want your employer to know what you are up to online, wait until you are not on the job. And at the start of 2016, a Romanian company successfully argued it was within its rights to read Yahoo Messenger chats sent by one of its staff.

The sales engineer had claimed his privacy had been invaded as he had posted details about his health and sex life, but the European Court of Human Rights noted he had previously been warned not to send personal messages within working hours. However, later in the year, the man appealed and the case was reconsidered. The ECHR will now issue a fresh ruling in early 2017.

February: iPhone lockout

iPhone with FBI symbolImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Apple clashed with the FBI when it refused to unlock an iPhone used by a murderer. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik had killed 14 people in a shooting spree in California before being shot dead themselves. Farook's iPhone 5C was password-protected and the FBI feared that if it tried and failed to guess the combination, the device would auto-delete.

The agency demanded a bypass, but Apple refused to help saying it would set a dangerous precedent. A legal battle ensued, but then suddenly ended when the FBI declared an unnamed third party had found its own way to access the data. For now, the matter rests. But at the height of the stand-off, Donald Trump called on consumers to boycott Apple. That is likely to serve as a warning to any tech firm tempted to take a similar stance in a future dispute.

March: Amazon's shock tactics

Amazon warehouseImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Amazon's bosses sounded somewhat distrustful when it was reported that they had started screening videos of staff caught stealing on the job via big TVs in their US warehouses. The alleged offenders were said to have been silhouetted with the words "arrested" and "terminated" superimposed over them.

It was not the only time working conditions at the company made headlines. Earlier this month, Amazon was also accused of threatening to axe workers if they took four days off for sickness even if they had a doctor's note.

April: Google's awkward April Fool

MinionsImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

It must have seemed like a hilarious idea. To celebrate April Fool's Day, Google added a button to its Gmail app to let users send a gif of a Minion cartoon character dropping a microphone. The meme symbolises a triumphant moment and had been popularised by rappers, actors and even a fast food chain.

So what could go wrong? Well, because of a "bug" some users reported the gif had been added even if they clicked Gmail's normal "send" button. People complained of having the yellow henchman pop up in inappropriate messages. One man even claimed it had cost him his job. Despicable Google!

May: Microsoft's "nasty trick"

Microsoft boxImage copyrightMICROSOFT

As the shutters began to close on Microsoft's free Windows 10 offer, it faced a challenge. Many were ignoring its pop-up plea to upgrade and were opting instead to stick with earlier versions of the operating system.

So, in an effort to spur them on, the firm embarked on a mischievous strategy: clicking on the cross in the pop-up's top right-hand corner no longer dismissed the Windows update but triggered it instead. The move was widely denounced and Microsoft soon added a further notification message providing users with another chance to opt out before the software was installed. The firm's chief marketing officer recently acknowledged the whole affair had been "a lowlight" for all involved.

June: Shattered glass


Media captionDan Simmons tests the world's longest glass-bottomed bridge

BBC Click's Dan Simmons was invited to visit the world's highest and longest glass-bottomed bridge ahead of its launch in China. He took a sledgehammer with him. You can view the results in the clip above. It's smashing! The bridge opened to the public in August, but was closed again a fortnight later for urgent maintenance work. We understand Dan was not to blame.

July: Self-drive death

Crashed Tesla vehicleImage copyrightREUTERS

Image captionA Tesla driver died in Florida in May after colliding with a lorry

While other car-makers talked up their self-driving vehicle plans, Tesla went ahead and deployed a restricted form of the tech. The firm described its Autopilot feature as being a "beta" test, but it faced criticism when a former Navy Seal died after his Model S car failed to recognise a tractor trailer and ploughed into it.

Weeks later, another non-fatal crash involving Autopilot occurred in the US, and then unconfirmed reports emerged from China that another motorist had died in a motorway crash while using the feature. Tesla continues to roll out updates to Autopilot and its chief executive Elon Musk says the technology has the potential to save many lives. But critics - including the German and Dutch authorities - have urged Tesla to rebrand the system to discourage drivers from putting too much trust in it.

August: Android alert

Android smartphone

Every summer, many of the world's top hackers, cybersecurity experts and government officials descend on Las Vegas for the Defcon and Black Hat conferences. To mark the events, a flurry of new cracks and bugs are revealed as researchers compete for recognition from their peers and the wider public.

This year's break-out revelation was about flaws in software used on Android devices powered by Qualcomm chips, which could be exploited to reveal their users' data. By the time the news was made public, Qualcomm had already developed a patch and Google fixed outstanding issues in an Android update released in September.

September: Hit the road, jack

Apple iPhone 7Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Usually new hardware is all about what has been added. But the iPhone 7 made headlines because of Apple's decision to build it without a headphone jack - a decision that took "courage" apparently. To be fair, the move helped Apple make the handset more water-resistant, and others - including Samsung - are now rumoured to be considering similar moves.

But the path to a wireless music-playing future was not totally smooth after Apple had problems getting its accompanying AirPod earphones to market after running into manufacturing issues. The hiccup has now been addressed, but a backlog in orders means many users will not be able to pop the new tech into their ear canals until the new year.

October: Snapchat slapdown

Sasha ObamaImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Daughters... it does not matter how powerful you are, they are still prone to gain the the upper hand. President Obama revealed on TV that his youngest child, Sasha, had recorded him "lecturing" his family on Snapchat and other social media. He said she then secretly posted her reaction - a look of boredom - to her friends via the app. The anecdote sparked a brief media frenzy as gossip writers and others sought to track down Sasha's Snapchat account, but to no avail.

November: ...now with added dongle

AppleImage copyrightAPPLE

Apple clocked up its third "win" of the year after it offered a discount on connector adapters following criticism that its latest laptops lacked legacy ports. The firm has a habit of dropping support for historic hardware standards ahead of the competition and often before many of its consumers are ready. But this time even it acknowledged that it was surprised by the scale of the backlash it had provoked.

December: Back to the phone future

NokiaImage copyrightNOKIA

Nostalgia had a certain role to play in our last popular story of the year, as Nokia revealed that handsets emblazoned with its brand are being promoted via its website once again. The Finnish firm is not actually making the mobiles this time round - a start-up called HMD Global is taking charge - but has lent its name for a fee.

Nokia itself is more interested in virtual reality and smart health tech these days. But for many, its brand, ringtone and Snake game will be forever associated with the dawn of the mobile age. Whether or not many people will actually buy one of the existing featurephones or forthcoming Android smartphones is another matter.

Source: bbc.co.uk
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Posted by Damien Biddulph on Wed 11th Jan 2017


DroneImage copyrightDFID

Image captionThe Zip drones are launched from a catapult

The UK government is to fund a trial of drone-based deliveries of blood and other medical supplies in Tanzania.

The goal is to radically reduce the amount of time it takes to send stock to health clinics in the African nation by road or other means.

The scheme involves Zipline, a Silicon Valley start-up that began running a similar service in Rwanda in October.

Experts praised that initiative but cautioned that "cargo drones" are still of limited use to humanitarian bodies.

The Department for International Development (Dfid) has not said how much money will be invested in the Tanzanian effort or for how long.

It also announced plans to fund tests of drones in Nepal to map areas of the country prone to damage from extreme weather, so help prepare for future crises.

"This innovative, modern approach ensures we are achieving the best results for the world's poorest people and delivering value for money for British taxpayers," commented the International Development Secretary Priti Patel.

Nepal mapImage copyrightDFID

Image captionDfid believes that drones can help map routes in Nepal that could help if a disaster like last year's earthquake reoccurs

Parachute deliveries

Zipline's drones - called Zips - are small fixed-wing aircraft that are fired from a catapult and follow a pre-programmed path using GPS location data.

The advantage of the design over multi-rotor models is that the vehicles can better cope with windy conditions and stay airborne for longer. In theory, they can fly up to about 180 miles (290km) before running out of power, although Zipline tries to keep round trips to about half that distance.

Their drawback is that they require open space to land - in Zip's case an area about the size of two car parking slots.

Zipline gets round this issue by having its drones descend to heights of about 5m (16.4ft) when they reach their destinations and then release their loads via paper parachutes. Afterwards, they regain altitude and return to base before coming to rest.

Zip droneImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionThe Zip drones can carry supplies weighing up to 1.5kg (3.3lb)

The aircraft fly below 500ft (152m) to avoid the airspace used by passenger planes.

Tanzania, Rwanda and Malawi - which uses a different type of drone for medical deliveries - all take a permissive approach to unmanned aerial vehicle [UAV] regulations, helping make them attractive places for such trials.

Earlier in the year, Tanzania also authorised the use of drones in its Tarangire National Park as part of an effort to deter animal poachers.

Saved lives

Dfid estimates that flying blood and medical supplies by drone from out of Tanzania's capital, Dodoma, could save $58,000 (£47,400) a year compared to sending them by car or motorcycle.

But a spokeswoman suggested that the time savings were more crucial.

"Flights are planned to start in early 2017, and when they do it is estimated that [the] UAVs could support over 50,000 births a year, cutting down the time mothers and new-borns would have to wait for life-saving medicine to 19 minutes - reduced from the 110 minutes traditional transport methods would take," she explained.

The Ifakara Health Institute - which specialises in treatments for malaria, HIV, tuberculosis as well as neonatal health issues - will be the local partner.


Media captionZipline already offers a medical supplies delivery service in Rwanda

The Humanitarian UAV Network and other non-profit bodies recently surveyed the use of drones to carry out human welfare tasks.

The study highlighted the work Zipline was doing, noting the firm was capable of setting up a new drones launch hub in as little as 24 hours, meaning it was well suited to rapid response efforts as well as longer-term projects.

But the study also noted that humanitarian cargos are often measured in tonnes rather than kilograms, and need to be transported across longer distances than a Zip can manage.

Zip droneImage copyrightREUTERS

Image captionThe Zip drones land on an inflatable pad

"Given these current trade-offs relative to manned aviation, the specific cases in which cargo drones can currently add value are particularly narrow in the context of the universe of needs that humanitarian organisations typically face," it said.

And it added that more research was needed to properly evaluate whether existing schemes were as reliable as claimed.

"Organisations considering the use of cargo drones need statistics on flights performed, hours logged, failure rates and other performance measures."

Source: bbc.co.uk
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