Smartphones

Phone Makers and Carriers Agree to Add Anti-Theft Kill Switches to Smartphones

Smartphone users will be able to deactivate their handsets from afar. If enough people are actually able to do so, it might make thieves think twice.

Apple and Google already allow you to remotely lock a lost or stolen phone, but now more phone makers and carriers are joining in with promises to include “kill switches” by July of next year.

The voluntary commitment, outlined by the wireless trade group CTIA, includes four capabilities that all smartphones must include:

1. Remote wipe the authorized user’s data (i.e., erase personal info that is added after purchase such as contacts, photos, emails, etc.) that is on the smartphone in the event it is lost or stolen.

2. Render the smartphone inoperable to an unauthorized user (e.g., locking the smartphone so it cannot be used without a password or PIN), except in accordance with FCC rules for 911 emergency communications, and if available, emergency numbers programmed by the authorized user (e.g., “phone home”).

3. Prevent reactivation without authorized user’s permission (including unauthorized factory reset attempts) to the extent technologically feasible (e.g., locking the smartphone as in 2 above).

4. Reverse the inoperability if the smartphone is recovered by the authorized user and restore user data on the smartphone to the extent feasible (e.g., restored from the cloud).

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have all agreed to allow these features on the phones they sell. Apple, Google, HTC, Huawei, Motorola, Microsoft, Nokia and Samsung have signed onto the agreement as well.

The industry hasn’t always been so keen on kill switches. Samsung reportedly tried to offer this anti-theft feature last year, but said that wireless carriers had rejected the idea. At the time, the CTIA said mandatory kill switches could become vulnerable to hackers, who could then disable users’ phones remotely.

It’s unclear why the CTIA has changed its mind now, but the group may be trying placate lawmakers with a voluntary commitment under its own terms. Worth noting is that the commitment doesn’t require phone makers to enable the kill switch by default.

For that reason, some lawmakers such as California state Senator Mark Leno aren’t satisfied. In a statement to Recode, Leno said the kill switch will only deter thieves if they know most smartphones will be rendered useless. (It’s sort of like herd immunity, where even the non-immune are protected as the epidemic stops spreading.)

But there’s a balance to be struck here. Although opt-in kill switches won’t be effective if most users don’t take advantage, mandatory kill switches won’t help if users don’t know about the feature and don’ t know how to use it. Whether it’s opt-in or opt-out, the effectiveness really comes to down implementation.

Apple provides a good model for how the system should work. When users set up their iPhones for the first time, they’re given a prominent option to enable Find My iPhone, so new users should be well aware of the feature. As of iOS 7, Find My iPhone includes an Activation Lock feature that prevents thieves from erasing or reactivating the device. Google has taken similar steps recently with Android Device Manager, which gained a remote lock feature last fall.

The key is for phone makers and carriers to teach users about these features, so they know what to do when their phones are lost or stolen. But that’s a lot trickier to legislate.

Surveillance

The New Cop on the Beat May Be a Bot

Knightscope K5 promises enhanced policing capabilities, courts controversy

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Have we as a species learned nothing from Robocop?

A Silicon Valley company called Knightscope is currently testing a prototype robot designed to detect and monitor criminal activity, much the way a police officer or a security guard would.

The Knightscope K5 is a five-foot-tall autonomous robot (one presumes that its resemblance to a Dalek is merely coincidental) that roams around your neighborhood, observing and gathering data and trying to predict where and when criminal activity will occur.

It carries no weaponry, but it has a pretty complete sensor package that includes thermal imaging, license plate reading and facial recognition.

This takes public surveillance a step beyond stationary cameras, and the challenges to personal privacy are clear. The K5 could do a whole lot of good by deterring crime, especially in neighborhoods that lack the resources to field an adequate police presence.

But where do you draw the line?

technology

The Cops Are Going to Absolutely Hate This New Graffiti-Spraying Drone

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Now drones can be artists too. A graffiti artist named Katsu has equipped an unmanned vehicle with a spray-paint can so that he can remotely tag buildings in Silicon Valley. The drone moves through a combination of Katsu’s controls and autonomous maneuvers to avoid crashing into objects. That means the graffiti is a bit less nuanced than what you’d get from a human like, say, Banksy. But it does present opportunities to tag hard-to-reach locations.

“What does it mean that I’m able to be throwing these strokes up and across a canvas that is 30 feet wide and is suspended 25 feet in the air?” Katsu asked in an interview with the Center for the Study of the Drone at Bard College. “Painting in these ways just wasn’t previously possible.”

Katus plans to make the development tools for the graffiti drones open source, so we may one day have a whole legion of robotic vandals tagging urban landscapes. Cops should love that.

Security

LaCie Joins Ranks of Hacker-Breached Companies, Says Credit Card Info Possibly Stolen

The France-based storage manufacturer says its website may have been compromised for the better part of a year.

I’ve always thought of LaCie as more of a boutique storage-maker, the sort of outfit you’ll pay a little more to get something in orange, because hard drives always look better in orange.

The company sells storage devices with names like Blade Runner and Quadra and Porsche. I have one of the latter sitting on my desk right now, an aluminum brushed-nickel-finish brick with the company logo — all caps, the “C” bigger still — grandiloquently etched into the side. LaCie even sells a one-terabyte thingamajig audaciously dubbed the Christofle Sphère (Christofle being the French designer’s name, Sphère apparently being the French word for something that looks like it’d be right at home in Miss Cleo’s parlor) that’ll set you back $500. For one terabyte.

Now it seems the company has been hacked, or at least it’s pretty sure that’s the case. It’s put up an “incident notification” explaining that the FBI told it evidence has been found that someone used malware to breach its website and potentially accessed transactions occurring between March 27, 2013 and March 10, 2014. That’s no typo: the company’s basically admitting its site may have been exposed for the better part of a year, and during that year, the ne’er-do-wells may have accessed names, addresses, email addresses, account usernames and passwords, as well as credit card numbers and expiration dates.

It’s ultimately bad news for Seagate, a hard drive maker U.S. buyers are probably more familiar with: Seagate announced plans to snap up LaCie in May 2012, and the acquisition was completed in August 2012.

It’s also bad news for LaCie’s reputation as a purveyor of security wares. The company makes something called “Private-Public,” for instance, a Mac/PC-based encryption tool it markets to customers looking to encrypt files (documents, personal photos, passwords, etc.) on mobile devices. The breach didn’t involve access to the software, as far as anyone knows, but the last thing you want, obviously, is an albatross like this when you’re trying to present yourself as a credible security firm.

If you have a LaCie web account, the company has a “what you can do” to protect yourself FAQ (while it conducts a forensic digital analysis) here.

Apps & Web

The Best White Noise Apps and Sites

The science of sound can help you in many aspects of your life, from increasing concentration to creating the right atmosphere for a better night’s rest. The key is to know which kind of sound will do the trick and the easiest way to access it. Fortunately, there are plenty of websites and apps that do just that.

Pink noise generators for better sleep

Do you notice that you sleep better when the rain falls steadily outside or the wind blows gently through the trees? That’s what researchers call pink noise, a combination of sounds that contain all of the frequencies that people can hear, with volume decreasing in high frequencies. This kind of pink noise “has significant effect on reducing brain wave complexity and inducing more stable sleep time to improve sleep quality of individuals,” according to a Journal of Theoretical Biology study. In comparison, white noise keeps the volume consistent across all frequencies and most people don’t find it as restful.

There are many apps that offer noise generation for better sleep, but be sure to only use the features that provide a steady, consistent sound, not intermittent noise.

Lightning Bug

Lightning Bug provides relaxing nature sounds that will help you sleep better at night. Make sure to enable plug-ins and download the free White Noise pack. In the pack, you can choose from white noise and pink noise. Bonus: it also comes with an alarm, snooze button and sleep timer.

Price: Free with premium plug-ins available at Google Play

Sleep Fan

Sleep Fan

Similar to falling rain, the noise of an electric fan also helps many get a better night’s sleep. This app, a favorite here, generates that exact sound for you. You can play a fan sound at low, medium or high speed and also set a time for how long you want the noise to play. It even plays as a background app, allowing your phone to go into sleep mode but still play fan sound through the night.

Price: $1.99 on iTunes

WhiteNoise

If you don’t like fan noises, try WhiteNoise. It has pink noise, brown noise (low frequency sound masking) and many more soothing sounds. Plus, it gives you great flexibility for painting your own soundscape, mixing up to five sounds at once. Pay a little extra to get a recorder and generator to create your own sounds.

Price: $1.99, $0.99 each in app for recorder and generator at iTunes

Sleep Bug: White Noise Soundscapes

Here’s your Windows Phone alternative. Sleep Bug offers an interesting twist on mixing your own sounds by providing auxiliary tracks that you can turn on or off on top of main tracks.

Price: Free or paid upgrade for additional content at Windows Phone; also available for iPhone on iTunes

Finally, if you are looking for an all-around effective noise generator, not just an app or sound file that mimics sounds, we highly recommend the Original Sleep Sound Generator from Hammacher Schlemmer. It creates a soothing sound that helps block other sounds in your environment that may be distracting you.

Sound for better focus and concentration

No matter how many times experts remind us to turn off the distractions when we’re trying to get things done, most of us enjoy listening to music on the job. A little bit of whistle-while-you-work can boost flagging energy and bolster creativity — but too much of a good thing is a definite no-no.

What you need is the right noise for the job: ambient sound for creative focus, white noise for tight concentration or more relaxed soundscapes for calm efficiency or relaxation. If you’ve always suspected you do better and more rewarding work when you cart your laptop down to the local shop, research is on your side. When you’re trying to coax creativity out of hiding, moderate levels of ambient noise can provide just enough of a distraction to free the rest of your brain for broader thought.

A study in The Journal of Consumer Research shows that background noise as mundane as the hum of a coffee shop in full swing or the muffled chatter of a television in the other room can enhance performance. Apply that knowledge with discretion: Higher noise levels are too distracting, and tasks that require concentration and focus on detail are better performed in a quiet environment.

If your surroundings are already littered with distracting sounds and conversations, you might need white noise to mask the chaos. Be careful about playing these sounds too loudly, too close to you or for too long. A recent study shows that white noise used to keep babies drifting in a peaceful slumber could in fact damage their hearing.

Options for laptop, desktop and mobile browsers

Ready to download some sound apps to help tune up your life? Not so fast. Our favorite sources for ambient sound, white noise, meditation gongs and calming music aren’t apps at all — they’re free websites you pull up right in your browser.

Coffitivity

Coffitivity

Here’s the hottest spot to find that coffee shop ambience — what Coffitivity calls a “combination of calm and commotion” that inspires and supports creativity. Choose from several different vibes: “Morning Murmur” gives you the traditional hustle and bustle of the corner café; “Lunchtime Lounge” carries a little more energy; and “University Undertones” soothes you with the calmer sounds of a campus café.

Price: Free at coffitivity.com or for Mac desktop at iTunes; Coffivitity app free at Google Play and iTunes

Noisli

This ambient sound generator plays to maximum advantage on a second monitor because it includes a color generator that helps set the mood. Research also backs the role of color in influencing productivity. Using a blue desktop background, for example, can enhance creative performance, while red helps you attack and focus on nitty-gritty details.

Noisli lets you toggle and layer as many sounds as you like to create your own tapestry of sound. Choose among coffee shop chatter, three types of white noise and nature sounds including rain, thunderstorms, waves, crackling fire and more. Still distracted? There’s also a text editor for distraction-free writing.

Price: Free at noisli.com

myNoise.net

Here’s some serious noise. “Welcome to the convergence of serious audio engineering, creative sound design and the scientific understanding of human hearing,” reads myNoise’s introductory text. “The site you are about to enter is not just another of those soundscape websites but a serious tool oriented toward the needs of hearing professionals, sound therapists and people interested in noise machines in general.”

At myNoise, choose from sounds designed specifically for noise blocking, healthcare, sound therapy, meditation and tonal sound. The site allows you to calibrate much of the sounds to your own computer and hearing. Because the website is so robust, playing the noise generators from Mobile Safari (iOS) requires the larger RAM sizes of the newer iPads and iPhones; on Android tablets, Firefox 22 has been confirmed to play well. An iOS verson is anticipated to launch within the next month.

Price: Free at myNoise.net

App options for mobile productivity

If you’d prefer an app for your mobile device, you have plenty to choose from. Just remember to use earbuds or headphones if you’re going to use an ambient sound or white noise app on a mobile device; you’re seeking immersion in sound that surrounds you, after all.

Ambiance

Ambiance

For your iPhone or iPad, we like the capacious sound library of Ambiance. With this polished app, you get more than 2,500 free sounds, from ambient and urban environment (the traditional coffee shop mix plus many alternatives), binaural beats and more. You can mix multiple sounds to blend just the right custom sound.

Price: $2.99 plus $0.99 for premium sounds on iTunes

Naturespace

While the whole idea of these apps and tools is immersion, if you’re really committed to going deep, go Naturespace. Naturespace attempts to reproduce soundscapes in a 3-D environment; you hear the birds in the trees above you as well as what’s before and behind you. This is some of the best sound quality out there.

Price: Free with limited previews or purchases from $0.99 and up on iTunes and Google Play

White Noise Box

Looking for something free? White Noise Box is the ticket. You get all the basic sounds and features you need and expect.

Price: Free or $0.99 for premium (removes ads and pointer to the store) on iTunes and Google Play

If what you really need is pure, sweet silence, try a pair of noise-cancelling headphones; Techlicious’ guide shows you the best.

This article was written by Lisa Poisso and originally appeared on Techlicious.

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Technology & Media

Samsung Okayed Vicious Apple Ads Two Days After Steve Jobs Passed Away

Ouch

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The Apple-Samsung patent infringement suit has unearthed gobs of interesting, normally private information. There was Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ “Holy War” with Google, a possible “magic wand” in the works to control your TV, not to mention all manner of back and forth over who was winning the ad war.

But the latest may be the most incendiary: it appears Samsung green-lit its mocking anti-Apple ads just days after Jobs died. Here’s a timeline:

Oct 4, 2011
From Samsung’s VP of U.S. sales Mike Pennington to Samsung America CEO Dale Sohn and CMO Todd Pendleton:

“As you have shared previously, we are unable to battle [Apple] directly in our marketing. If it continues to be Samsung’s position to avoid attacking Apple … can we go to Google and ask them to launch a campaign against Apple…”

Oct 5, 2011
Steve Jobs dies.

Oct 7, 2011
Pendleton to Pennington:

“Hey Michael, We are going to execute what you are recommending in our holiday [Galaxy S2] campaign and go head to head with iPhone 4S.”

Digging deeper, AppleInsider claims Samsung executives discussed Jobs’ passing in even starker terms, saying it might have “unintended benefit for Apple.”

[Apple 2.0]

This Is What’s Really Powering Google’s Ambitious, Long-Shot Projects

The Google logo is spelled out in heliostats during a tour of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert near the California-Nevada border
The Google logo is spelled out in heliostats (mirrors that track the sun and reflect the sunlight onto a central receiving point) during a tour of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert near the California-Nevada border February 13, 2014. The project, a partnership of NRG, BrightSource, Google and Bechtel, is the world's largest solar thermal facility and uses 347,000 sun-facing mirrors to produce 392 Megawatts of electricity, enough energy to power more than 140,000 homes. Steve Marcus / REUTERS

Tech stocks have declined lately, but Google's core business remains strong as the company powers ahead with futuristic "moonshots" from wearable devices to robots and drones

Google’s core online advertising business continues to generate gobs of cash, allowing the company’s braniac founders to pursue all manner of futuristic initiatives. From computerized eyewear to self-driving cars to robots and drones, Google continues to push the boundaries of technology in pursuit of “moonshots,” as the company calls its most audacious projects.

On Wednesday, Google will report earnings results for the first three months of 2014, and Wall Street analysts are hoping that good news from the company will be a positive sign for technology stocks, which have suffered recently. Over the last month, the tech-heavy Nasdaq index has fallen by 6%, with many big name companies, including Amazon, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter suffering double-digit declines.

Google hasn’t avoided the sell-off—it’s down 8% over the last month—but the company hasn’t been battered as hard as other tech companies, in part because investors remain confident about the company’s core strength in online advertising. “Google has actually hung in there quite well,” Paul Sweeney, a senior analyst at Bloomberg Industries, told told Bloomberg West. “That reflects the fact that their core business continues to put up very good top-line revenue growth.”

Google continues to benefit from the relentless shift of ad dollars toward online platforms. Last year, U.S. online advertising revenues increased by 17% to hit an all-time high of $42.8 billion, exceeding broadcast television advertising revenues for the first time ever, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). In search advertising, which accounted for 43% of online ad revenue last year, Google remains dominant, with 67.5% of the search market, according to comScore. The next closest competitor is Microsoft, with 18.6% of the market.

Google is also a beneficiary of the ongoing shift away from traditional desktop computers and toward mobile devices. For the third year in a row, mobile advertising revenues experienced triple-digit percentage growth according to IAB, increasing to $7.1 billion during 2013, a 110% jump from $3.4 billion in the 2012. Mobile advertising accounted for 17% of 2013 revenues, compared to 9% in 2012. Google’s Android mobile operating system accounted for 79% of global smart phone market share in 2013, according to Strategy Analytics.

“We continue to believe that Google is one of the best-positioned stocks for many of the secular growth drivers in the Internet space: the dramatic Mobile shift, the migration of TV ad budgets online, the growing importance of local Internet, and the Internet of Things,” Mark S. Mahaney, a technology analyst at RBC Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients this week.

Wall Street analysts estimate the Google will report earnings of $6.39 per share, which would be a 10% increase compared to last year, on revenue of $15.52 billion, which would amount to an 11% increase, according to a Thomson Reuters survey. That would be a solid showing, but some analysts have expressed concern about Google’s profit margin, which has been under increasing pressure as the company pours money into its far-flung advanced research projects.

It’s those so-called “moonshots”—developed by the company’s secretive Google X lab under the leadership of co-founder Sergey Brin—that offer the most intriguing indication of where Google is headed in the future. This week, Google offered its Glass wearable computing product to the general public for the first time. At $1500 per unit, Glass remains out of reach for many consumers, and it remains unclear if the device will catch on with the broader public.

But Glass may only represent a glimpse of things to come. Earlier this year, Google filed a patent application for a contact lens with a built-in micro-camera that could be controlled by blinking. Such a product is most certainly years away from the market, but the patent application offers an indication of the scope of Google’s ambitions. In the nearer term, Google plans to focus on more conventional forms of wearable computing. Last month, the company announced Android Wear, an initiative that extends the operating system to wearable devices, starting with watches.

Google has also made clear that it plans to focus on robots and drones. Google’s self-driving cars have been well documented. Late last year, the company acquired Boston Dynamics, an engineering firm that has developed robots for the Pentagon. (Google said it will honor existing military contracts, but it doesn’t plan to take on new ones.) It was Google’s eighth purchase of a robotics company in six months, and while the company’s robotic ambitions remain vague, potential applications include manufacturing and logistics.

And this week, Google purchased Titan Aerospace, which manufactures solar-powered drones designed to stay aloft for years without landing. In a statement, Google said that such atmospheric satellites “could help bring internet access to millions of people, and help solve other problems, including disaster relief and environmental damage like deforestation.” Facebook, which is also interested in using drones to deliver Internet access, had been in talks with Titan, but was outbid by Google.

Wall Street analysts have occasionally expressed concern that Google’s futuristic projects—from wearable devices to robots to drones—could cause the company to lose focus on its core online advertising business, which is the main driver of shareholder value. But with Google continuing to dominate the online search market, and continuing to capitalize on the inexorable shift of ad dollars toward the Internet and mobile devices, investors seem content to go along for the ride.

Technologizer

Neil Young on PonoMusic, the Third Biggest Kickstarter Project of All Time

Neil Young
Neil Young is honored at a Grammy Week event in Los Angeles on January 21, 2014 Michael Buckner / Getty Images Entertainment

"The MP3 era is in for a shock," says the rock icon of his no-compromises portable player

Back in 2012, when legendary musician Neil Young started talking about Pono–his effort to build a portable player with an emphasis on audio quality above all else–it wasn’t particularly obvious that the idea had legs in the 21st century.

For a lot of us, after all, music has become something we listen to on our smartphones, streamed from a service such as Pandora, Spotify or Rdio at whatever quality the service in question chooses to give us. To riff on William F. Buckley’s memorable description of the conservative movement, Young seemed to be standing athwart tech history, yelling “stop!”

PonoMusic

Pono still hasn’t hit the market. The wedge-shaped touchscreen gadget–bigger than an iPod, but smaller than a Bluetooth speaker such as the Jambox–will sell for $399 when it shows up. (Once expected to ship last year, it’s now due this fall.) But enough people are excited about the concept to have made PonoMusic the third biggest Kickstarter project of all time. The campaign hit its goal of $800,000 in 10 hours, then went on to raise a total of $6,225,354 from 18,220 backers, who pledged anywhere from $5 (for a thank-you) to $5000 (for an invitation to a VIP dinner and listening party, plus a Pono).

I chatted with Young as the campaign was rocketing past its original target. He told me the idea that became Pono has been kicking around inside his head for years, and didn’t always involve a new portable player.

“First of all, I thought this would be an Internet thing, then I realized that’s not going to happen,” he explains. “The bandwidth isn’t there. We’d have to go back to the original model of the iPod, but with really, really top quality.”

With typical services, he says, “music has been downgraded to ‘content,’ It’s a Xerox of itself. When you see the original art compared to the Xerox, the difference is startling. Whatever the artist creates is what you hear when you hear Pono.”

Although Young talks about Pono as a movement as much as a business enterprise, and sought grassroots funding through Kickstarter, it is in fact a company, with veteran executives and technologists on board. “I’m pretty much the vision of it,” Young says. “I drive the purity and the quality and the transparency of the original artists’ intent.”

Part of Pono’s Kickstarter success was due to its artfully managed campaign, which involved the ability for backers to reserve limited-edition PonoPlayers with the engraved signatures of musicians who back the concept: Everyone from Elton John to EmmyLou Harris to Foo Fighters to Herbie Hancock to Pearl to Willie Nelson to Young’s own groups Buffalo Springfield and Crosby Stills Nash & Young.

“They get it immediately,” says Young of the response to Pono by other musicians. “There’s no learning curve. They’ve been waiting for something like this for a long, long time.”

But he says he’s aiming for mass-market success: “Anyone who thinks this is only for nerds and audiophiles is in for a surprise. Anyone can hear the difference. That’s why we’ve priced it low.”

The era of purely digital music got underway in the late 1990s with the arrival of apps such as Winamp and gadgets like the Diamond Rio, the first successful MP3 player. (I still have audio files I ripped from CD back then, opting for absurdly aggressive compression to conserve precious storage space on my 32MB Rio.) Today, some level of compression–the rate varies widely–is still standard practice for digital music. Which means that there are adults who may be largely ignorant of music in its pre-MP3 form.

Will those folks care about Pono? “The MP3 era is in for a shock,” Young says. “They’re going to realize what they’re missing when they hear this. One hundred percent of the time it happens. They hear it and can’t believe it: ‘I’m hearing things I’ve never heard in songs I’ve heard many times before. How can it be?’”

Pono is not without its critics and skeptics. They argue that the platform’s use of super-high-resolution data–it uses lossless files in the FLAC format, at up to 192 kHz and 24 bit sampling–is a pointless exercise in specsmanship, because going beyond CD quality doesn’t result in a difference human beings can actually hear. Even if that’s true, it doesn’t seem to me that it’s the last word on Pono, since focusing on audio quality might allow a company such as this to design hardware that’s capable of better audio reproduction than your average phone. And PonoPlayer will be able to work with CD-quality files as well as higher-resolution ones.

It’s no shocker that Young is dismissive of the Pono opponents, pointing out that they’ve reached their conclusions without having listed to the still-unreleased player. “They don’t have to waste their time. They can get another MP3 and keep on rocking.”

If Pono is erring on the side of lavishing music with more tender loving care than it may really need, that seems to me to be more admirable than giving it short shrift, as has often happened so far in this century. Other companies have tried to build a business on super-high-quality music and failed, such as MusicGiants; if nothing else, Young’s ambitious, high-profile effort should be the definitive test of whether there’s a market for this.

And it’s not just about the player and whatever music will be available at launch. He talks about, well, just about every song eventually being available for Pono: “The goal is to keep doing it until we’ve got it all—get the new stuff out there and the older stuff that’s still available to get.”

Young calls music “a window to the soul” and “a reflection of civilization.” Sounding like an archivist as much as a purveyor of hardware and software, he says that Pono’s mission “is to create an ecosystem that preserves the history of music for the world in its highest possible form. It’s something that the technological era we live in, the 21st century tech, is capable of delivering.”

“We wouldn’t have a museum where people listened to Frank Sinatra on MP3. It’s the 21st century’s most obvious idea.”

Technologizer

This Animated GIF of a 3D Bear Has a Secret

Spoiler: He's not as digital as he looks

I’ve become obsessed with the below animated GIF, which I discovered over at Amid Amidi’s Cartoon Brew. Stare at it, and you might be obsessed, too, at least for 30 seconds or so.

Bear Walking
Blue Zoo

It looks like something I might have seen as part of a 3D animation demonstration by a computer scientist when I attended the SIGGRAPH conference back in 1989. But here’s the remarkable thing: It isn’t computer animation. That bear may be made out of polygons, but he isn’t made out of bits. He’s a physical object–or, more precisely, 50 of them.

Two London-based companies, DBLG and Blue Zoo, created the animation, Bears on Stairs, which did begin with a computer-designed ursine protagonist. But rather than just rendering a bunch of frames, the companies printed out the sequence as 50 models. Then they photographed them as a stop-motion sequence, using the same basic technique studios such as Rankin/Bass used long before computers had anything to do with animation.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes video:

As Amid points out, the idea of using 3D printing to meld computer and stop-motion animation isn’t new. Laika (the studio behind Coraline and the upcoming Boxtrolls) is already doing it. But normally, the goal is for it all to be so seamless that the viewer doesn’t know or care that computers were used. What’s clever about “Bears on Stairs” is that it evocatively flaunts its use of computers–so much so that almost anybody would assume that it was a purely digital production.

Google

Google’s Microcamera Contact Lens Is Coming to an Eyeball Near You

Forget Glass. The tech giant has filed a patent application for a contact lens with a built-in micro-camera that could be controlled by blinking and would process data to help blind people "see"—and link—to smartphones

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After Google Glass, the next “moon shot” Google product might very well be a contact lens with a built-in micro-camera.

The tech giant has filed a patent application on a smart lens with sensors that could detect light, pattern of colors, objects and faces.

Those wearing the contacts would command the device through a sophisticated system of unique blinking patterns, as explained by the blog Patent Bold.

Google’s latest breakthrough could help blind people see certain moving objects around them, according to Patent Bolt.

“For example, a blind person wearing Google’s contact lens with a built-in camera may be walking on a sidewalk and approaching an intersection. The analysis component of the contact lens can process the raw image data of the camera to determine … that there is a car approaching the intersection.”

The lens would also have wireless capabilities to be hooked up to smartphones.

In January, Google revealed a prototypes of contact lenses that will make it easier for diabetes patients to monitor their blood sugar levels and stay healthy.

 

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