TIME technology

This Dozing Desk Means Never Getting Out of Bed Again

Hanko

Lazy? Me?

Some incredible—or incredibly useless—inventions have come out of Japan, like the ramen face shield. But this “Super Upward-Looking Dozing Desk,” discovered by Kotaku, is something every lazy technology user would love to own. The contraption brings us one step closer to becoming the pod people from Wall-E.

The Dozing Desk forms a kind of armature over your prone body in bed. It holds a laptop precariously above your face with the help of elastic ties (hopefully secure enough to keep it from falling on you, which it looks poised to do). Your eyes now have a straight line to the screen even while laying down, and your keyboard is perfectly aligned to your hands. The only problem might be a lack of circulation to your arms, but you don’t type that much anyway, do you?

The desk apparatus looks funny, but there’s a burgeoning line of products for those who don’t want to do their computing while sitting—which, after all, kills you slowly. The Zero Gravity Desk kind of looks like a dentist’s chair, with its various arms and levers. But it’s designed to keep your body perfectly balanced and unstressed while working, and who wouldn’t want that?

These devices are the closest thing we have to becoming floating brains in tanks, controlling our digital lives through the power of our thoughts. Before we achieve that singularity, there’s always the bed-desk. Or at least these prism-spectacles that let you read while laying down.

TIME Gadgets

Top Tech for Back to School

Back to School time is upon us. The yellow buses are all being tuned up and hosed down, the classrooms are getting that final coat of paint and the teachers are finalizing their lesson plans. It’s also the time for you to make sure your kids have all the supplies they need for a successful and happy school year.

These days, though, you need more than just a new pair of jeans, a handful of pencils and a new Trapper Keeper to get your kids ready. Here are our picks for the best – and most affordable – back-to-school tech.

Laptop: Acer Aspire E1

Acer

These days, a sturdy, reliable computer is a must when it comes to homework, research projects or just keeping in touch with friends from school. For these simple tasks, we recommend the budget-friendly Acer Aspire E1 Windows laptop.

Why the Aspire? First of all, we like the 15” size, which has a big enough screen for comfortable viewing, but still lends itself to better battery life, better portability and a lower price tag. We also like the Core i5 processor (for plenty of power), the 4GB of RAM (expandable to 8GB if needed) and the 500GB hard drive. Plus, it gets high marks from reviewers for long battery life and good performance for the price, and a respectable four stars on Amazon.

You can find the Acer Aspire E1 for $466.77 at Amazon.

Travel Mouse: Microsoft Arc Touch

Microsoft

Most laptops come with a capable touchpad, but they can be too touchy when there’s a lot of typing to do. That’s why we recommend the highly portable Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse.

The curious design of the Arc Touch Mouse is actually its best feature. It’s flexible, allowing you to flatten it when not in use for easy storage. Flattening also turns off the mouse, so you won’t waste the battery. The traditional mouse wheel is replaced with a small “touch scroll strip,” while the magnetic Nano transceiver easily stores on the bottom of the mouse when not in use. BlueTrack technology, meanwhile, allows the Arc Touch to work reliably on just about any surface – even carpet or rough wood.

The Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse is available for purchase at Amazon.com for $39.99.

Tablet: Sony Xperia Z2

Sony

Not every student needs a laptop. A tablet can be a better bet if your child needs to take notes or do some word processing and web-basesd research. Plus, a tablet can do double duty as an entertainment device. For a sturdy, solid device that best mixes work with play (and isn’t an iPad), we like the 10.1” Sony Xperia Z2 Android (4.4 Kit Kat) tablet.

The waterproof and dustproof (IP55/58) Xperia Z2 is just 0.24 inches thick and 15.5 ounces, giving it a sleek and easily portable design that’s great for going to class or around the house. It packs a powerful 2.3 GHz quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM for demanding gamers.

Sony.com is currently offering the 16GB version of the Xperia Z2 tablet for $499.99, which includes a free charging dock for a limited time.

Smartphone: Motorola Moto G

Motorola

Here’s a pretty common problem: Your teen is finally the right age for his or her first cellphone, but the thought of a $650 device being stolen from a locker or left on the field after practice has your heart racing with panic. What’s a parent to do?

We like the off-contract Moto G 4G ($99 off-contract at Verizon; $219 unlocked at Amazon) – it’s the perfect nexus of power and value. It’s a full-featured 4G LTE phone that runs the most recent build of Android. The device has Gorilla Glass for scratch resistance, and is water resistant enough to handle a few spills in the cafeteria. Kids, meanwhile, will appreciate the selection of $14.99 OEM shells that allow you to easily and seamlessly change the color of the phone to suit any style.

Portable Charger: myCharge Hub 9000

myCharge

If you send your kids to school armed with a phone “in case of emergency,” then it’s important to make sure his or her phone has enough juice when it really counts. That’s why we like the myCharge Hub 9000, Techlicious’s pick for the best portable battery charger.

The myCharge Hub 9000 has micro USB and Lightning connector jacks built in, so there’s no need to clutter backpacks up with easily tangled cables. The 9000 mAh battery charges in just five hours when plugged in to a standard electrical outlet, storing enough power to recharge most smartphones four to six times.

You can find the myCharge Hub 9000 at Amazon starting at $116.99; 3000 mAh and 6000 mAh versions are also available at a lower cost.

Backpack: Tylt Energi+

Tylt

Obviously, no back-to-school list would be complete without a backpack to haul all those books (and gadgets) to and from class. For tech-focused older students, we like the Tylt Energi+ backpack. It’s an attractive carry-all that doubles as a mobile recharging station.

The key feature of the Tylt Energi+ is its powerful 10,400 mAh lithium-ion battery and two USB ports, which allow your kids to charge their power-hungry devices as they move around from place to place. The backpack has a hard-lined pocket for sunglasses, a specially lined laptop pocket that fits and protects computers up to 15 inches, a side hydration sleeve and plenty of secondary tech pockets for phones and tablets. And yes, the 1,450 cubic inch backpack has plenty of room for books and pencils, too.

The Tylt Energi+ is available at Amazon for $128.99, and direct from Tylt.com for $199.99.

Headphones: UrbanEars Humlan

Urbanears

Most kids are experts when it comes to getting dirty. That means their tech gadgets get dirty, too. And while it’s easy to wipe down a sticky smartphone screen or a set of laptop keys, cleaning a pair of headphones can be incredibly difficult.

Incredibly difficult, that is, unless you own a pair of UrbanEars Humlan over-the-ear headphones. The colorful, stylish Humlans quickly disassemble, allowing you to throw the ear covers and headband in with the laundry. Humlans also come with a “Zoundplug,” which allows a friend to plug their headphones in and share the tunes.

You can find UrbanEars Humlan headphones in a wide variety of bold colors for $45 each at Amazon.com. For younger kids, you may want to check out the Etymotic Research EtyKids Safe Listening in-ear headphones ($39.99), which limit sound volumes to kid-safe levels.

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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TIME Computers

Apple Updates MacBook Pro Line, Drops Prices for Certain Models

MacBook Pro
Apple

More RAM, friends. That’s the real story here.

Apple has bumped its Retina MacBook Pro line to include eight gigabytes of RAM as the baseline for the 13-inch models. The 15-inch models sport 16 gigabytes of RAM, standard.

Think of RAM like a tool belt: The bigger the tool belt, the more tools you can have readily available when you need to use them. Or think of RAM like a desk: The bigger the desk, the more papers, pencils, tablets and calculators you can have within arm’s reach. This concludes today’s lesson on random access memory.

For those of you who are well-heeled, you’ll be happy to learn that the top-of-the-line 15-incher has gotten a $100 price drop. Its starting price is now $2,499. If you’re poorly-heeled, you’ll be happy to know that the non-Retina 13-incher has dropped $100. Its starting price is now $1099.

Processor speeds have been bumped across the Retina line as well, though the non-Retina version “has not been updated with faster internals and remains the same model introduced in June 2012,” as MacRumors reports.

 

TIME Computers

Samsung Chromebook 2 Review: Almost Worth the Price

Jared Newman for TIME

I really thought this would be the one.

When Samsung announced the Chromebook 2 a couple months ago, it seemed to be the mid-range device that we’d been missing since Samsung discontinued its Series 5 550 last year. The 13-inch version is currently the only Chromebook with a 1080p display, and it comes in a slick package that mimics Samsung’s most expensive Windows-based laptops. I was hoping these features would justify the $400 price tag.

After using Samsung’s 13-inch Chromebook 2 for several weeks, I’m conflicted. The Chromebook 2 is a solidly-built machine with an impressive balance of weight and battery life, but it also has a couple of problems that keep me from giving it a wholehearted recommendation.

Let’s start with the display. On paper, the 1920-by-1080 panel should be the Chromebook 2’s strongest selling point. Not only does it make everything sharper, it allows the taskbar and icons to be smaller, leaving more room on the screen for actual webpages.

But like so many other laptops that cut corners on price, the viewing angles on the Chromebook 2 are atrocious. As you shift your position, you have to constantly adjust the screen to avoid having the colors wash out. The screen looks especially bad when watching videos or looking at dark webpages. It’s by far the biggest problem with this laptop, and a huge letdown for what should be a killer feature.

One other minor complaint about the display: By default, the high pixel density made text a little small for my liking, and I have pretty good vision. Increasing page zoom to 125 percent in Chrome settings made things more readable; it should probably be set this way by default.

Aside from the display, the build quality of the Chromebook 2 is superb. The island-style keys have just the right amount of travel and snappiness, and the keyboard hardly flexes at all under heavy pressure.

Below the keyboard is a spacious trackpad that’s smooth to the touch. You can click on the trackpad almost all the way up to the top without having to apply too much pressure, and it supports two-finger scrolling and clicking. (You can also tap the trackpad instead of depressing it.) Overall, it’s fantastic.

The Chromebook 2 is fairly light for a 13-inch laptop, weighing in at 3.1 pounds. That’s 0.2 pounds lighter than Toshiba’s 13-inch Chromebook, though it’s the same weight as Asus’ 13-inch Chromebook that’s due out later this month. (Both of those laptops, however, have 1366-by-768 resolution displays.)

Jared Newman for TIME

Samsung’s Chromebook 2 is also one of the slimmest Chromebooks around, at 0.65 inches, and its bottom half has the same contoured edges found on Samsung’s Ativ Book laptops. Aesthetically, I’m not crazy about the “titan gray” finish–I’d prefer the white or black color options of the 11-inch model–and the faux-stitching makes less sense on a laptop cover than it does on Samsung’s Galaxy phones.

Unlike most other laptops, the Chromebook 2 uses an ARM-based octa-core Exynos processor, a lot like what you’d find in a high-end tablet. This allows it to run quietly with no fan, and despite the high-resolution display it still lasts for more than eight hours on a charge.

That processor does have a downside, in that it’s less powerful than your average laptop. Depending on your needs, this might not be a major issue. I generally didn’t have a problem scrolling through webpages, editing Google Docs or juggling a bunch of browser tabs. But I did notice occasional sluggishness when loading heavy pages and switching between tabs. Compared to Samsung’s original Exynos-based Chromebook, which had a slower processor and just 2 GB of RAM instead of 4 GB, the Chromebook 2 is still a big step up.

For connectivity, the Chromebook 2 has two USB ports–one on each side–along with HDMI output and a headphone jack. There’s also a microSD card slot, though I wish Samsung had included a full-sized SD slot instead. The speakers are loud and clear enough for video, but like most laptops, you won’t get much bass when listening to music.

If Samsung had only shipped a higher-quality display with the Chromebook 2, I could have fallen in love with this laptop. I’m a sucker for build quality, especially when it comes to the keyboard and trackpad, and I could have forgiven the middling performance, given that it’s still good enough for most basic web browsing. Chromebooks can’t do everything that a Windows laptop or MacBook can–you can’t install desktop software, which rules out programs like Office and iTunes–but the simplicity of a browser-based operating system has its own advantages. The Chromebook 2 could have been the perfect machine for users who want to spend a little more.

Instead, I’m wishing Samsung had tried just a little harder to make the ultimate mid-range Chromebook. This one is frustratingly close.

TIME Apple

Apple’s New iMac Is $200 Cheaper

Apple

The new all-in-one trims a few specs to hit $1,099 price tag

Apple just released a cheaper version of its iMac all-in-one computer, with a $1,099 price tag.

That’s $200 less than the previous baseline iMac, but it makes a couple of sacrifices to get there. The Intel Core i5 processor is a 1.4 GHz dual-core chip, compared to the 2.7 GHz quad-core chip in the $1,299 iMac, and it uses Intel HD 5000 graphics instead of Intel’s beefier Iris Pro integrated graphics. Storage space is also cut in half, from 1 TB to 500 GB.

A computer with those specs won’t be a gaming or graphic design powerhouse, but it should be good enough for everyday computing. If you’re keen on Apple’s software, build quality and design, but want to spend as little as possible, at least there’s an option for you now.

TIME Innovation

This Computer Wants To Teach Itself Everything About Anything

The more it learns, the better it gets at sifting the web for the content we've always wanted

The world’s most curious computer is now scanning millions of online books and images in an attempt to understand all of the web’s images the way a human might.

Computer scientists at the University of Washington say the new program, called Learn Everything About Anything, or LEVAN, could produce more intuitive responses to image searches. The program begins with a basic search term like “shrimp.” It searches for the word across millions of Google Books, taking note of every modifier, be it “boiled,” “fried” “steamed,” or “peppered.” Armed with a Bubba Gump-like knowledge of shrimp, it searches the web for shrimp pictures, grouping them by appearance under the categories it has just learned. The result? A visual grouping of pictures that’s a feast for the eyes.

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 1.43.02 PM
Source: LEVAN, University of Washington

The search results spare users from clicking through page after page of nearly identical looking pictures. And unlike current visual groupings, no human curator is needed. “The new program needs no human supervision, and thus can automatically learn the visual knowledge for any concept,” said research scientist Santosh Divvala.

There’s just one drawback — LEVAN has a lot to learn. It currently has the vocabulary of a toddler and takes upwards of 12 hours to learn broader terms, such as “angry.” As a result, researchers have invited the public to pitch their own one-word concepts to LEVAN, because evidently it takes a village to raise an artificially intelligent algorithm.

TIME Artificial Intelligence

Why I’m Not Impressed By the ‘Thinking’ Computer

Sorry brainiac, you're not fooling anyone
Sorry brainiac, you're not fooling anyone Laguna Design; Getty Images

A machine finally passes the legendary Turing test and convinces users they're communicating with a real person—but the achievement is less than it seems

Huge news for people raising 13-year-olds who can’t get enough of that particular hell. Now there’s a computer program that can simulate the experience too!

That’s the headline that has set the computer world buzzing, as word comes out of the Royal Society in London that for the first time, a computer has passed the legendary Turing test, which had stood unmet since 1950. Named for computer pioneer Alan Turing—who famously declared that if a computer were ever developed whose behavior was indistinguishable from a human’s, the machine must then be said to be capable of thought—the test required at least 33% of human subjects to be fooled into thinking they were conversing with a human during a keyboard exchange with a computer that lasted five minutes.

So one computer finally achieved that, posing as a 13-year-old boy named Eugene Goostman who, like most kids, likes candy and hamburgers, and, like fewer kids, is the son of a gynecologist. That means he might have picked up a disproportionate amount of information about medical arcana or have other bits of knowledge more or less unique to him, but would otherwise be unremarkable. And that, in turn, pretty much describes the clumpy, uneven knowledge base of most kids—which was the whole idea. As Vladimir Veselov, “Eugene’s” developer explained, this allowed the program to “claim that he knows anything, but his age also makes it perfectly reasonable that he doesn’t know everything.”

But here’s the thing: the point of the Turing test is not so much to give the computer a pop quiz on medicine or current events, it’s to create a program that can follow the thread of a conversation in a believable way. And if you’ve chosen a 13-year-old as your model for that, you’ve set your bar pretty low. I’m raising a 13-year-old even as we speak, and I can tell you there is no age group on the planet as adept at the art of the unresponsive non-sequitur as hers. If I ask her if she’s done her home work, the answer could just as easily be “yes,” “no” or “tapioca.” If I ask what she wants for dinner she will hear that question—I’m sure she hears it—and then respond by complaining that her sister is annoying her. These are, you will note, technically answers. The fact that they are answers that have nothing to do with the question I asked seems not to be relevant to her.

Not that a computer modeled on my 11-year-old would be any more responsive—unless it was a computer built with eyes that could roll on cue whenever I say something the program considers embarrassing, which would be more or less all the time. And certainly, a 14-, 15- or 16-year-old computer program would be little better, since it wouldn’t be required to do much more than send out remote commands to slam doors and then sit in utter, world-weary silence no matter what you said to it.

So nice try, Turing guys. But if you really want a meaningful win, you’re going to have to aim a little further up the age spectrum. If you don’t believe me, ask my daughter. I predict her answer will be “purple.”

TIME viral

Watch Kids React in Utter Bemusement at the Sight of an Old Computer

"I don't get it, and I also don't get the 1970s"

+ READ ARTICLE

Kids these days are accustomed to smartphones and iPads and laptops they can tuck under their arms and tote around effortlessly. But show them a computer from the 1970s and they become much less tech savvy — and much more confused. Watch here as a group of young kids share their (totally hilarious) reactions to this seemingly ancient machine.

TIME Earnings

HP Will Cut Up to 16K More Jobs

Inside Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Indigo Commercial Printing Unit
An "HP" logo sits on display outside the Hewlett Packard Israel Ltd. production plant in Kiryat Gat, Israel, on Sept. 15, 2013. Bloomberg/Getty Images

The new cuts bring the total job losses to 50,000 under CEO Meg Whitman's restructuring plan

Hewlett-Packard’s second-quarter earnings report sent shares down 2% Thursday, as revenue disappointed investors. The world’s largest personal computer maker also revealed in a SEC filing Thursday that it would cut an additional 11,000 to 16,000 jobs, bringing the total job cuts under CEO Meg Whitman’s restructuring plan to 50,000 since 2012.

The company posted earnings of 88 cents per share (excluding items) on revenue of $27.3 billion. Analysts had expected revenues of around $27.43 billion on the same per share earnings. Revenue was down more than 1% in Q2, marking the hardware maker’s 11th consecutive quarterly revenue decline.

HP shares continued to drop in after-hours trading as news of the job cuts from the company’s SEC filing became public.

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