Tag: gadgets

Attached To Technology And Paying A Price

When one of the most important e-mail messages of his life landed in his in-box a few years ago, Kord Campbell overlooked it.

Not just for a day or two, but 12 days. He finally saw it while sifting through old messages: a big company wanted to buy his Internet start-up.

I stood up from my desk and said, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God,’ ” Mr. Campbell said. “It’s kind of hard to miss an e-mail like that, but I did.

The message had slipped by him amid an electronic flood: two computer screens alive with e-mail, instant messages, online chats, a Web browser and the computer code he was writing.

While he managed to salvage the $1.3 million deal after apologizing to his suitor, Mr. Campbell continues to struggle with the effects of the deluge of data.

Even after he unplugs, he craves the stimulation he gets from his electronic gadgets. He forgets things like dinner plans, and he has trouble focusing on his family.




His wife, Brenda, complains, “It seems like he can no longer be fully in the moment.”

This is your brain on computers.

Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.

These play to a primitive impulse to respond to immediate opportunities and threats. The stimulation provokes excitement — a dopamine squirt — that researchers say can be addictive. In its absence, people feel bored.

The resulting distractions can have deadly consequences, as when cellphone-wielding drivers and train engineers cause wrecks.

And for millions of people like Mr. Campbell, these urges can inflict nicks and cuts on creativity and deep thought, interrupting work and family life.

While many people say multitasking makes them more productive, research shows otherwise.

Heavy multitaskers actually have more trouble focusing and shutting out irrelevant information, scientists say, and they experience more stress.

And scientists are discovering that even after the multitasking ends, fractured thinking and lack of focus persist. In other words, this is also your brain off computers.

The technology is rewiring our brains,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse and one of the world’s leading brain scientists.

She and other researchers compare the lure of digital stimulation less to that of drugs and alcohol than to food and sex, which are essential but counterproductive in excess.

Technology use can benefit the brain in some ways, researchers say. Imaging studies show the brains of Internet users become more efficient at finding information. And players of some video games develop better visual acuity.

More broadly, cellphones and computers have transformed life. They let people escape their cubicles and work anywhere. They shrink distances and handle countless mundane tasks, freeing up time for more exciting pursuits.

For better or worse, the consumption of media, as varied as e-mail and TV, has exploded. In 2008, people consumed three times as much information each day as they did in 1960.

And they are constantly shifting their attention. Computer users at work change windows or check e-mail or other programs nearly 37 times an hour, new research shows.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

From Samurai Swords To Impressive, Handmade Kitchen Knives.

If you do a bit of kitchen knife research, you will soon discover a recurring theme, as well as some odd advice. The recurring theme is that the three key knives everyone must own are a chef’s knife, a paring knife, and a bread knife.

The odd advice is after those three, what you choose to add to your collection is personal. As someone whose job it is to definitively point people toward the best next thing, this “personal choice” business is disconcerting. Also, it’s true.




The two offerings from Kikuichi Cutlery are a Japanese take on a Western-style chef’s knife known as a gyuto, and a six-inch bunka which resembles a santoku with a more aggressive snout.

First, they’re beautiful. The Shun had an elegant a shimmering blade and a black handle made of resin and hardwood, while the Kikuichis had such a stunning simplicity that they clearly meant business.

 

The latter, made by a team of elderly expert blade smiths known as the “young knife makers” association’ in Japan’s Sakai City, were sure to be special.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Google Unveils Latest OS, Out NOW On Pixel Phones

Android 9 Pie: If you have the right phone, you can get the new Android right now.

Android fans can today download the latest version of Google’s hugely popular mobile OS.

Android Pie, the ninth iteration of the operating system, has been officially unveiled by the search engine giant today.

Android 9 introduces digital wellbeing features, better notifications and promises to extend battery life for devices. And it’s available to download today via an over-the-air update for Google Pixel devices.

In a blog post, Sameer Samat, the VP of Product Management for Android and Google Play, said: “The latest release of Android is here!

“And it comes with a heaping helping of artificial intelligence baked in to make your phone smarter, simpler and more tailored to you. Today we’re officially introducing Android 9 Pie.




We’ve built Android 9 to learn from you—and work better for you—the more you use it.

“From predicting your next task so you can jump right into the action you want to take, to prioritizing battery power for the apps you use most, to helping you disconnect from your phone at the end of the day, Android 9 adapts to your life and the ways you like to use your phone.”

Google described Android Pie as an experience “powered by AI” and said it will adapt to how individuals use their phones and learn user preferences.

Personalised settings include the new Adaptive Battery and Adaptive Brightness modes.

These former setting, as the name suggests, adapts to how users use their phone so apps which aren’t used don’t drain the battery.

While the latter setting automatically adjusts the brightness level to how the user prefers it.

App Actions also predict what users are going to do next based on the “context and displays that action right on your phone”.

Slices, a new feature which is launching later this year, shows relevant information from users’ favourite apps when they need it.

So, for instance, if a user starts typing the name of certain taxi apps it will also show prices for a ride home in the search results screen.

Android Pie is also introducing a new system navigation featuring a single home button.

But one of the biggest additions will be the digital wellbeing features previously announced at Google I/O earlier this year.

Google said: “While much of the time we spend on our phones is useful, many of us wish we could disconnect more easily and free up time for other things.

In fact, over 70 percent of people we talked to in our research said they want more help with this.

“So we’ve been working to add key capabilities right into Android to help people achieve the balance with technology they’re looking for.”

The digital wellbeing features are officially launching later this year, but are available right now for Pixel phones in beta.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Nikon Confirms New Full-Frame FX Mirrorless Cameras And Lens Mount

It’s official: Nikon will soon launch a full-frame mirrorless camera system with a brand a new lens mount.

In a press release, it announced that it’s developing a “next-generation full-frame (Nikon FX-format) mirrorless camera and Nikkor lenses, featuring a new mount,” adding that “professional creators around the world have contributed to the development.

As expected, it’s also working on an adapter that will let you use existing full-frame Nikon F-Mount DSLR lenses with the cameras.

Nikon hinted that the new mount would allow it to make the lenses and cameras slimmer and smaller.

The new mirrorless camera and Nikkor lenses that are in development will enable a new dimension in optical performance with the adoption of a new mount,” says the press release.




Nikon is just confirming what we already strongly suspected, considering that yesterday, its European division unveiled a teaser video with shadowy glimpses of the camera.

It also set up a website called “In Pursuit of Light,” which had the apparent launch date of the camera (August 23rd) hidden in the HTML code.

However, Nikon has yet to confirm the specs, date and price, or even shown an official image of it yet. More details will reportedly come on a dedicated website at a later date.

For the rest of the story, we’re relying on sites like Nikon Rumors, which have been pretty accurate up to this point.

Nikon will supposedly release two cameras, a $4,000 48-megapixel model, and a $2,500, 25-megapixel “budget” version.

Those compare roughly to Sony’s 42.4-megapixel A7R III and the 24-megapixel A7 III, though both Nikon models would be more costly and have higher resolution.

Nikon and Canon are under extreme pressure to catch Sony in the mirrorless category. Both companies are way, way late to the game, so Nikon will have to at least match Sony’s current models to have any kind of a chance.

The $2,000 A7 III, for one, is a stellar performer, and there are 63 native FE lenses for it, while Nikon is starting from scratch with its own system.

The adapter will help, but could degrade optical and mechanical performance compared to native lenses.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Water Resistant Gadgets Aren’t Waterproof

The terms water-resistant and waterproof get bandied around quite a bit in the gadget market, but that doesn’t mean you chuck your gadgets into the nearest pool with impudence.

Water-resistance is most definitely not waterproof by any measure.

Last week we dove deep into the nomenclature and standards surrounding the testing and production of water-resistant gadgets.

This week we’re back with a lighter overview that’s perfect for people looking for a broad overview of water-resistant gadgets without so many tables and technical specifications.

Let’s take a look at the most important things you need to know about water-resistance and your gadgets.




What’s the Difference?

Every year thousands upon thousands of consumers fry their supposedly “waterproof” gadgets because of a poor understanding and poor marketing.

Understanding the basics of water-resistance is key to keeping your gadgets safe as well as purchasing the right gadgets for your outdoor and sport needs.

The most important thing you need to understand about the entire concept of “waterproof” is that it isn’t a real thing outside of very misleading marketing material.

There is no waterproof gadget on the market.

Every single phone, watch, sport band, GPS device, portable speaker, or the like that bills itself as “waterproof” should really bill itself as “Water-resistant within the parameters specified by the manufacturer.”

Think of it like “earthquake proof.” It is impossible to build a structure that is completely impervious to earthquakes.

No matter how well-built and over-engineered a structure may be there is always a combination of earthquake intensity and duration that will bring it to the ground.

Water-resistance is exactly the same. Every “waterproof” gadget has a point where the it has been submerged too long, too deep, or in water too hot or too cold, and the seals on the device fail allowing water inside.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Nerf’s New Laser Tag Guns Hook Up To Your Smartphone

If the only thing missing from your summer is the ability to play laser tag at home without a vest, then Hasbro has got you covered.

Today, the company announced its Nerf Laser Ops Pro blaster line, which shoot IR bursts and allow you to keep track of ammo, health and how your team is doing right from the device. Batteries are, of course, not included.

Each blaster comes with an armband that can hold a smartphone, which signals that this product isn’t aimed at children.

Using an app, players can customize their Nerf blaster, track performance, access real-time battle stats, get power-ups and locate opponents.




But there’s more! If your friends are too busy to come over to play, the Alphapoint version of the blaster allows you to play in solo mode using the app.

All you have to do is take advantage of the solo attachment, which comes with the Alphapoint blaster.

There will be two different types of blasters available. The Pro Deltaburst model fires a three-shot AR burst with an included LCD screen to keep track of how you’re doing.

The Laser Pro Ops blasters will be available starting in August 2018 at most major retailers and HasbroToyShop.com.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Google’s AI Sounds Like A Human On The Phone

It came as a total surprise: the most impressive demonstration at Google’s I/O conference yesterday was a phone call to book a haircut. Of course, this was a phone call with a difference.

It wasn’t made by a human, but by the Google Assistant, which did an uncannily good job of asking the right questions, pausing in the right places, and even throwing in the odd “mmhmm” for realism.

The crowd was shocked, but the most impressive thing was that the person on the receiving end of the call didn’t seem to suspect they were talking to an AI.

It’s a huge technological achievement for Google, but it also opens up a Pandora’s box of ethical and social challenges.




For example, does Google have an obligation to tell people they’re talking to a machine? Does technology that mimics humans erode our trust in what we see and hear?

And is this another example of tech privilege, where those in the know can offload boring conversations they don’t want to have to a machine, while those receiving the calls have to deal with some idiot robot?

In other words, it was a typical Google demo: equal parts wonder and worry.

Many experts working in this area agree, although how exactly you would tell someone they’re speaking to an AI is a tricky question.

If the Assistant starts its calls by saying “hello, I’m a robot” then the receiver is likely to hang up. More subtle indicators could mean limiting the realism of the AI’s voice or including a special tone during calls.

Google tells The Verge it hopes a set of social norms will organically evolve that make it clear when the caller is an AI.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

What To Expect From Apple’s WWDC 2018 Keynote — And What Not To

 

Apple’s WWDC hasn’t historically been a venue associated with a flurry of hardware releases, the 2017 one notwithstanding.

Given Apple’s recent focus on software technologies in health, augmented reality, and virtual reality, there is a decent likelihood that we’ll see very little in the way of new Iron.

Here’s a look at Apple’s current product lineup minus the iPhone and Apple Watch which will probably be updated in September, and what we’re expecting to see from each.

MacOS 10.14, iOS 12, tvOS 12, and watchOS 5 are coming

What says yes: Everything. Apple takes the opportunity it gets at WWDC to show developers, and the world, what’s coming in the next versions of the operating system. There is absolutely nothing suggesting otherwise this year.

It’s not clear how revelatory the new versions will be. Previous rumors suggested that these updates will be about refining the existing versions rolled out last year.




But, given that High Sierra was supposed to do that to Sierra, there’s some room for discussion.

Be careful about your old apps, though. At best, 32-bit apps will have “compromises” according to Apple, and at worst they may not run at all. It might be time to check which apps you rely on are, and aren’t 64-bit.

What says no: Nothing at all. It’s basically a guarantee that the revisions are going to be presented. Like we said, they’re likely to expand on Apple’s burgeoning ambitions in user’s health, and further expand Apple’s ARKit.

MacBook Pro

What says yes: After of over a following the 2015 MacBook Pro, Apple rolled out the 2016 MacBook Pro at the tail end of the year.

It refreshed the line in an uncharacteristic hardware bonanza at the 2017 WWDC, after less than a year in service. And, it’s been a year, so it might be time again.

The updates were relatively modest, with a slightly better CPU and GPU. It seems possible that Apple will do the same at the 2018 WWDC to hit the “back to school” period.

What says no: There isn’t a compelling engineering reason for Apple to do so today.

Instead, it could wait until later in the year or January 2019 for Intel’s chipset that will allow 32GB of LPDDR4 RAM —as the existing ones can’t have more than 16GB of RAM without switching to a more power-hungry chipset.

But then again, this chipset from Intel is two years late already. Apple may not want to wait.

iPad Pro

What says yes: A slew of filings from overseas regulatory agencies suggest that there are iOS devices imminent. Couple this with the last update to the product being a year ago, and the iPad Pro line seems ripe for a refresh.

Time marches on. The 2018 sixth generation iPad is very close to the 2017 iPad Pro lineup in speed, minus some hardware niceties. It might be time to open that lead with a new A11-based processor in the iPad Pro.

What says no: Generally, we’ve seen suggestions from the supply chain and rumors popping out beyond regulatory agency filings that a new model is coming.

This year, there’s been none of that, and a recent report seems to suggest the same.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

Charging Your Phone While Moving Around? Be Amazed By This Wireless Gadget Charger!

Scientists at Stanford University in the US have developed a device that can wirelessly charge a moving object at close range.

The technology could one day be used to charge electric cars on the highway, or medical implants and cellphones as you walk nearby.

“In addition to advancing the wireless charging of vehicles and personal devices like cellphones, our new technology may untether robotics in manufacturing, which also are on the move,” said Professor Shanhui Fan.

According to the study, published in the journal Nature, wireless charging would address a major drawback of plug-in electric cars their limited driving range. A charge-as-you-drive system would overcome these limitations.

“We can rethink how to deliver electricity not only to our cars but to smaller devices on or in our bodies. For anything that could benefit from dynamic, wireless charging, this is potentially very important,” Fan said.

The team transmitted electricity wirelessly to a moving LED light bulb but the demonstration only involved a one milliwatt charge, far less than what electric cars require.

The scientists are now working on greatly increasing the amount of electricity that can be transferred, and tweaking the system to extend the transfer distance and improve efficiency.

According to the research, the transfer efficiency can be further enhanced if both coils are tuned to the same magnetic resonance frequency and are positioned at the correct angle, but scientists found that was a complex process.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

 

5 Creativity Apps To Inspire Kids

Unleash your child’s creativity and imagination with these inspiring apps.

From arranging fruit to make faces to blowing an ink spot into a whimsical monster, this list is full of apps that will spark your kids’ creativity.

These apps will tickle your kids’ imaginations and encourage them to think outside the box.




1. Faces iMake – Right Brain Creativity

A fanciful and fun tool for creating faces out of everyday objects including food, toys, tools, and more.

Kids create faces using unusual collage materials, such as candy, toys, fruit, musical instruments, and more to make fanciful art.

2. MoMA Art Lab

Kids learn about modern art by playing with this unique set of art tools.

They can create their own artwork or follow step-by-step projects based on famous pieces of modern art during which they can add their own unique flair.

3. The DAILY MONSTER Monster Maker

Splat! An ink spot jiggles, hoping your creativity will turn it into a world-class monster.

This app provides inspiration to draw monsters by starting with a ink splat on the page. From there, kids add whimsical body parts by selecting and dragging them from a file labeled “Parts.”

4. Toontastic

Ready, Set, Action! With this set of intuitive digital tools, your kids will be creating and directing their own cartoons.

This app provides kids with a set of digital tools to create their own cartoons.

They choose their setting, add characters, move those characters around in the setting to create animation as they provide the voices, add music, and — Voila! they’re done!

5. Petting Zoo – Animal Animations

21 animals await your touching. Their responses to your touch, tap, or swipe are magical, endearing, and hilarious.

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Pass it on: Popular Science