Tag Archives: Gadget Reviews

Recommended Reading: ‘Lucy’s’ bad science and space movie inaccuracies

Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you’ll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.

Lucy’s Based on Bad Science, and 6 More Secrets About the Film
by Angela Watercutter,
Wired

Pocket

A quick Google search will reveal quite a few articles pointing out the inaccuracy of the main premise of Lucy. By ingesting drugs stuffed inside her belly by traffickers, a woman is able to access not just the 10 percent of her brain regular humans can supposedly access, but also the other 90 percent. That whole 10 percent figure is of course a myth, but that didn’t stop Luc Besson from using it as the base for his fictional narrative. Besson uses his knack for creating great female leads with some out-of-order storytelling to make the whole thing a bit more believable, and Wired has a quick rundown before this weekend’s debut.

6 Ways Movies Get Space Wrong
by Mark Hill, Cracked

Look, I’m well aware that reality gets suspended in Hollywood more often than not in the interest of constructing a compelling story. Cracked recently spoke with Chris Hadfield about his time in space, revealing a handful of topics that galactic movie makers tend to glance over. Stuff like the trip from Earth makes you throw up and the difficulty walking or jogging upon return.

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Putting Magic in the Mundane
by Penelope Green, The New York Times

Enchanted Objects author David Rose and other researchers spill the details on how high-tech devices spice up everyday life. Items like Narrative’s wearable life-logging Clip camera keeping an eye on cellphone use, for example. There’s also a project that makes CityHome’s 200-square-foot space highly modular with voice- and motion-controlled robotic furniture (including a “date mode”).

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Inside the Life of a Pro Gamer
by Vlad Savov, The Verge

In the wake of The International — a $10 million Dota 2 tournament — The Verge offers a glimpse into the lifestyle of a pro gamer. There’s a look at making the leap from hobbyist to professional and how some teams live together for an entire year in order to build the chemistry needed to dominate events on e-sports’ biggest stages. Those events are even being televised on major networks, and being a pro gamer is becoming as legitimate an occupation as any.

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The Never-Advertised, Always Coveted Headphones Built and Sold in Brooklyn
by Casey Johnston, Ars Technica

If you’re into high-quality audio gear and you’ve yet to hear about Grado Labs, you should familiarize yourself. The tiny Brooklyn-based company cranks out some of the most highly sought-after cans around, all while doing little to advertise its chops. Solid performance that’s tuned specifically for jazz music is favored over modern style, but that’s not stopping those in the know from splurging for a pair.

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Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/26/recommended-reading-7-26-14/?ncid=rss_truncated

China’s Baidu to challenge Google with its own self-driving car

General Images of Baidu Inc.

Baidu is often referred to as “China’s Google,” but it’s not quite the same. It’s true, the company is working on it’s own self-driving car, but it thinks Google’s no-wheel design is all wrong. According to Kai Yu, Baidu’s Institute of Deep Learning’s deputy director, autonomous vehicles need to be more like horses than robots. “A car should not totally replace the driver but should really give the driver freedom,” Yu told TheNextWeb. “Freedom means the car is intelligent enough to operate by itself, like horse, and make decisions under different road situations.”

The horse analogy sounds a little more like an advanced form of cruise control than a fully autonomous vehicle, but it’s an interesting idea — a horse will typically make a cautious, self preserving decision. There’s something appealing about a car designed to keep itself (and by extension, the passengers) from harm. Yu says that safety is a big part of the initiative, explaining to TNW that careless pedestrians are a major problem in Chinese cities. Unfortunately, we won’t see these equestrian-inspired vehicles too soon; Baidu won’t have any prototype available until some time next year.

[Image credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]

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Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/25/chinas-baidu-to-challenge-google-with-its-own-self-driving-car/?ncid=rss_truncated

Firefox Android beta puts Instagram feeds straight into your browser

Firefox has already shown off an Android launcher and is now trying some spiffy personalization features for its Android browser. The latest beta flaunts a new class of “panel” add-ons with home page feeds like Pocket, Wikipedia, Instagram and more. Firefox has also released a new set of APIs for those plug-ins, letting any app developer create a home screen page. I tried it out with Instagram and Pocket and found it gave me a quick way to view photo streams and articles without touching the apps. But I’ve got similar features with my launcher (Terrain), which seems a more logical place to put third party feeds. If you’d like to try it, it seemed stable enough during limited usage, but like any beta, the risk is all yours.

Firefox Beta with Instagram feeds gallery

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Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/25/firefox-android-beta-instagram-feeds/?ncid=rss_truncated

Google wants to define a healthy human with its new baseline genetic study

Google’s got a big new project and it’s you. Well, not just you, but a genetic and molecular study of humanity that aims to grasp at what a healthy human should be. It’s in its early days, collecting anonymous data from 175 people, but it plans to expand to thousands later. The project is headed up by molecular biologist Andrew Conrad, who pioneered cheap HIV tests for blood-plasma donations. According to the WSJ, the team at Google X current numbers between 70 and 100, encompassing experts in physiology, biochemistry, optics, imaging and molecular biology.

The Baseline project will apparently take in hundreds of different samples, with Google using its information processing talents to expose biomarkers and other patterns – the optimistic result hopefully being faster ways of diagnosing diseases. Biomarkers has typically been used with late-stage diseases, as these studies have typically used already-sick patients. “He gets that this is not a software project that will be done in one or two years,” said Dr. Sam Gambhir, who is working with Dr. Conrad on the project. “We used to talk about curing cancer and doing this in a few years. We’ve learned to not say those things anymore.”
Information from the project will remain anonymous: Google said that data won’t be shared with insurance companies, but the shadow of privacy issues hang over pretty much anything the company touches. Baseline started this summer, initially collecting fluids such as urine, blood, saliva and tears from the anonymous guinea pigs. Tissue samples will be taken later. “With any complex system, the notion has always been there to proactively address problems,” Dr. Conrad said. “That’s not revolutionary. We are just asking the question: If we really wanted to be proactive, what would we need to know? You need to know what the fixed, well-running thing should look like.”

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Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/24/google-genetics-project/?ncid=rss_truncated

IBM Watson’s new job: reintroducing soldiers to civilian life

Handsome American soldier behind his computer -talking on the phone

Watson supercomputer has a new and very important job, one that’s a lot different from beating Jeopardy champions or whipping up BBQ sauce recipes: helping vets return to normal life. IBM has recently formed a partnership with the USAA (the financial services firm for soldiers and their families) to create an app that can answer ex-soldiers’ questions about finances and the like. For instance, a vet could ask Watson how he can get a job, what his benefits are, what his insurance covers or what the GI Bill entails. Even though Watson’s been wearing many hats for years, this is the first time anyone developed a consumer app based on the supercomputer. This app pulls data from more than 3,000 documents that deal with military transitions, in hopes of making things easier for the 155,000 soldiers who retire from service every year.

[Image credit: Getty/Mie Ahmt]

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Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/24/ibm-watson-soldiers-usaa/?ncid=rss_truncated

PS4 will add Blu-ray 3D support soon

That was fast. After Microsoft announced the Xbox One is going to get Blu-ray 3D support in an update soon, Sony’s PlayStation Europe arm has responded by finally revealing the same feature is coming to the PS4. There’s no word yet on any other other home theater related features we’d love to see make the jump from PS3 to PS4 (Bluetooth remote, DLNA, MP3 playback), or a specific release date, but software update 1.75 is the one we’re looking forward to. Hey, at least it’s not another stability update, and the news is coincidentally timed just as we’ve learned about Sony’s settlement in a class action lawsuit related to the 2011 PSN hack.

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Article source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/23/ps4-blu-ray-3d/?ncid=rss_truncated