As developers for tablets and smartphones we like to keep abreast of the latest mobile technology developments . This is a daily digest of mobile development and related technology news gathered from the BBC, the New York Times, New Scientist and the Globe and Mail to name a few. We scour the web for articles concerning, iPhone, iPad and android development, iOS and android operating systems as well as general articles on advances in mobile technology. We hope you find this useful and that it helps to keep you up to date with the latest technology developments.
UK and US to stage 'cyber war games'
The UK and US are to carry out “war game” cyber attacks on Wall Street and the City of London as part of a new joint defence against hackers.
VIDEO: Turtle robot draws giant sand art
BBC Click looks at some of the week’s technology highlights
VIDEO: The belt that tracks your fitness
A smart belt that adjusts automatically as you sit and stand and offers fitness advice is in development.
Bringing computer history to life
Telling the history of computing by reviving old kit
Drones taking off as prices plummet
Prices Plummeting, Drones Start To Take Off
Before They Break: Biggest Crowdfunded Gadgets of 2015
We’ve scoured the web sifting through hundreds of unreleased products to uncover those with the ‘coolest’ crowdfunding potential for 2015. In other words, hardware products with the potential to replicate, or outdo the Coolest Cooler’s 2014 success.
As Coolest’s founder Ryan Grepper learned, when it comes to the crowd, a great product isn’t enough. Having failed to meet his initial $125K Kickstarter funding goal, he spent the first-half of 2014 not revamping his product, but perfecting the science of crowdfunding. Eight months later the Coolest’s Kickstarter campaign brought in a record-breaking $13M.
The products we’ve chosen aren’t just innovative and awesome, but carry all the ingredients of a successful crowdfunding campaign: great timing, excellent exposure, solid financial backing, and that extra dash of the unexplainable.
Here’s who we’re excited about in the crowdfunding pipeline for 2015.
Release: January-February 2015
Where to Find it: Kickstarter
Where: Paris, France
Prynt seamlessly brings the polaroid camera into the 21st century (and beyond). By pairing smartphone technology with a case that doubles as a photo printer, users can capture and print photos in seconds. This alone is sweet, but there’s more: enter, augmented reality.
The printed photograph, when held under a smartphone with the downloaded app, will replay the video recorded before the shutter button was hit. In other words, as long as you’re video recording before snapping your pic, you’ve got a printed photo that can move and speak.
You’ll need to see it to believe it.
Why Prynt’s a Top Pick: Prynt juices up an outdated technology with an unexpected and playful spin. With an accelerated year of development, a successful demo at HAXLR8R, a hefty number of social followers, and a strong media presence, Prynt is well-situated to take 2015′s crowdfunding cake.
Release: January-March 2015
Where to Find it: Kickstarter
Where: Santa Clara, California
Podo gives the selfie-pole the final nudge it needs to fall off the ‘cliff of no return’–where bad trends go to die. Controlled by the downloadable app, Podo is a “stick-and-shoot” camera that suctions onto any flat surface, and resolves ever needing an extendable pole again–like for any reason, ever.
Connected by bluetooth, the photos taken by Podo are immediately uploaded to your smartphone, and the external camera itself is entirely controlled by the mobile app. Your phone’s camera acts as viewfinder, allowing you to preview and trigger photos. In addition, the app enables timelapse, videos to be shot, and photos to be set to an automatic timer.
Why Podo’s a Top Pick: Let’s face it, the selfie isn’t going anywhere and Podo manages to alleviate a lot of douchebaggery associated with the whole process. In addition to solving this pressing global issue, Podo has gone through Highway 1, raised over $1M from top industry investors and angels, and won numerous global awards.
Where to Find it: Kickstarter
Where: Austin, Texas
Collecting unflattering photos of unsuspecting family, friends, and strangers has never been easier. Peeple is a camera that attaches to your door’s peephole, takes a photo of whomever’s at your door, and sends a push notification to your phone with the image. The device is an excellent way to track packages arriving, monitor your home while you’re away, and put a damper on any teen’s rebellious years.
The simple technology is easy to install and requires little maintenance. Since the device is only activated and connected to wifi when someone’s at your door, the battery is said to last an average of 6 months on a single charge–or maybe 12 months if you’re a vegetarian restaurant in Texas.
Why Peeple’s a Top Pick: Although photo blackmail may not be Peeple’s top order of business, this is an amusing side effect of a brilliant piece of hardware for security and general home monitoring. Peeple graduated from Highway 1′s latest batch and was deemed runner-up at CES in the 2015 Techcrunch Hardware Battlefield.
Where to Find it: TBD
Where: Palo Alto, California
Switchmate is a hardware product you can purchase with confidence that it won’t be stuffed in a closet within the week. Switchmate easily makes your lights and other appliances ‘smart’ by magnetically attaching to any standard switch and connecting to your smartphone.
You can control your light switches through Switchmate’s mobile app and hub, or by taking the old school approach and tapping the switch itself (boring!). The app and hub allow you to turn on the lights before you return home, put lights on timers while you’re away (fooling even the most lofty and hardened criminals), and most importantly, ensures you’ll never get out of bed to turn off a forgotten light again.
Why Switchmate’s a Top Pick: Without even touching on the professional-grade ghost pranks you’ll be able to play, it’s obvious that Switchmate is a win. The design is simple, sleek and relentlessly practical. The company also has an excellent social following, great PR, and solid industry exposure.
Where to Find it: TBD
Where: Oakland, California
Riding the wave of 2015′s hottest hardware trends, Looksee is a customizable wearable with edge. Geared towards a female audience, Looksee, like Ringly, manages to make feminine wearables that are both functional and fashionable. The Looksee bracelet uses bluetooth connectivity with your smartphone, and through their app, uploads any design, image, or chosen applications onto the band display in seconds.
Although the bracelet display is always on, the circuitry is normally off, allowing the bracelet battery life to last one year without recharge; not bad for a band that displays moving maps, phone notifications, QR codes and more.
Why Looksees’s a Top Pick: Masking its nerdy undercurrent, Looksee manages to be a beautiful, standalone piece of contemporary, smart jewelry–no silicon or oversized digital display required. Looksee also graduated from Highway 1′s incubator program and competed in the 2015 Techcrunch Hardware Battlefield.
Others to Watch For
In addition, we’re excited about Connected Cycle, an easy-to-install bike pedal that generates its own internet connection, updating your bikes location into its downloadable mobile app; Brilliant, bikes delivered to your door that are that are simple, sleekly designed, and ethically manufactured; and Fogo, a smart all-in-one flashlight that can talk, text, and acts as a GPS.
While crowdfunding campaigns may seem like an organic, spontaneous attempt at funding, the truth is that months of planning, strategy development, and logistical precision are behind those most successful.
Check out the full-length article at Celery, a pre-order platform that helps you sell more, better.
UCB's 'Catchy' Trailer Shows The Real Danger Of Songs That Get Stuck In Your Head
Friends don’t let friends get songs stuck in their heads.
It starts innocently enough. “Hey listen to this,” your friend says. “You’ll like it,” they say. Now it’s in your head. Then you play it for someone else, and it’s in their head. Pretty soon it’s in the heads of everyone you care about, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
With the faux movie trailer “Catchy,” UCB’s video music team The Backyard paints us an all too vivid picture of this nightmare scenario, when one song makes its home in our brains and body, and stays there … for good.
Taxis To Use Uber-Style Apps In Los Angeles
By Michael Fleeman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Taxi drivers in Los Angeles will be required to use an Uber-style app allowing riders to hail cabs from mobile phones, city officials decided on Thursday, in a move to help licensed taxis compete against ride-sharing services.
The so-called “e-hail” app requirement is the latest response to the shockwaves sent through the taxi industry by the growing popularity of ride-sharing services like Uber, Lyft and Sidecar that often have cheaper fares and more efficient customer service.
“It’s probably not going to be a panacea but it’s going to improve things,” said Los Angeles Board of Taxicab Commissioners President Eric Spiegelman. “At the very least, it’s a gigantic first step.”
Los Angeles cab companies, which operate 2,300 licensed taxis, reported a 21 percent drop in rides last year and complain that they are bound by regulations on issues such as safety and fare structure that do not apply to ride-share companies.
A taxi app could be particularly popular in Los Angeles, where it can be difficult to hail a cab from the street. Except at Los Angeles International Airport or major hotels, riders usually must call a dispatcher and often face long waits.
In a vote on Thursday, the five-member Board of Taxicab Commissioners opted to begin an app program on Aug. 20 and could impose immediate fines of $200 a day on drivers who do not use an “e-hail” app.
But some details remain to be worked out, including whether to include flexible fares instead of current fixed rates, whether to build a new app or use an existing one, and whether to use one or multiple apps for different companies. Certain fare structure changes would also require Los Angeles City Council approval.
Cab company representatives voiced no opposition to the app concept at the board meeting, but asked to be included in a working group that will make recommendations on app features.
“We’re not against it,” said Jano Baghdanian, general manager of MTS Management Inc, which operates several cab services in Los Angeles. “It’s just the practical question of how does that make it a change, how does that make it a level playing field?”
While popular for its ease of use, Uber has faced scrutiny in the United States and other countries because of concerns over passenger safety. The district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles said last month they had filed a lawsuit against Uber for misleading customers about its background checks on drivers.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)
Google Glass As You Know It Is Gone
It looks like Google may be giving up on getting people to buy Glass — for now.
The company is shifting strategies, shuttering the Google Glass “Explorer” program and halting sales of the $1,500 gadget, according to a blog post published Thursday.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Google is moving Glass from its Google X research lab to a separate unit led by Ivy Ross that will report to Tony Fadell.
Fadell leads Nest Labs, which produces “smart” technology like thermostats and smoke detectors. Google bought it last year for more than $3 billion.
The move seems to signal that Google Glass may be struggling to connect to consumers, which you may have guessed given that some Glass ambassadors have been physically attacked just for wearing the thing. Certain bars have also banned the wearable, which allows individuals to easily record their surroundings and get information delivered straight to their eyeball.
A representative for Google said the company had no information to share beyond its blog post.
“We’re continuing to build for the future, and you’ll start to see future versions of Glass when they’re ready,” Google wrote.
Even if the product isn’t yet a hit with consumers, Business Insider notes that businesses have embraced it.
Organizations like Virgin Airlines have experimented with the product, and one analysis said smartglasses could significantly increase workplace efficiency in a variety of industries.
How Technology Will Eat Medicine
The most significant announcement that Apple made in 2014 wasn’t a larger-sized iPhone. It was that Apple is entering the health care industry. With HealthKit, it is building an iTunes-like platform for health; Apple Watch is its first medical device. Apple is, however, two steps behind Google, IBM and hundreds of startups. They realized much earlier that medicine is becoming an information technology and that the trillion-dollar health care market is ripe for disruption.
My prediction is that 2015 will be the year in which tech takes baby steps in transforming medicine. The technologies that make this possible are advancing at exponential rates; their power and performance are increasing dramatically, even as their prices fall and footprints shrink. The big leaps will start to happen at around the end of this decade.
The health devices that companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Samsung are developing are based on MEMS sensors, which are one of the exponential technologies. These enable the measurement of things such as heart rate, temperature, blood pressure and activity levels and can feed data into cloud-based platforms such as HealthKit. They will be packaged in watches, Band-Aids, clothing — and contact lenses. Yes, Google announced in January that it is developing a contact lens that can measure glucose levels in a person’s tears and transmit these data via an antenna thinner than a human hair. In July, the company said it was licensing the technology to Novartis, enabling it to market it to people with diabetes.
We will soon have sensors that monitor almost every aspect of our body’s functioning, inside and out.
Advances in microfluidics are making possible the types of comprehensive, inexpensive diagnostics that Theranos is developing. In a single drop of blood, it can test for things such as cancer, cholesterol and cocaine. Newer technologies coming from nanobiophysics will soon make Theranos obsolete by providing immediate analysis at the point of care, rather than in a laboratory as Theranos does. One of the most promising of these, from Nanobiosym, is Gene-Radar, a portable nanotechnology platform that uses biological nanomachines to rapidly and accurately detect the genetic fingerprints of organisms. It will enable the detection of diseases such as HIV and Ebola and deliver the results to a mobile device within minutes — for a hundredth of the cost of conventional tests.
By combining these data with our electronic medical records and the activity and lifestyle information that our smartphones observe, artificial intelligence-based systems will monitor us on a 24/7 basis. They will warn us when we are about to get sick and advise us on what medications we should take and how we should improve our lifestyle and habits. Watson, the technology that IBM developed to defeat human players on the TV show Jeopardy, has already become capable of diagnosing cancer more accurately than human physicians can. Soon it will be better than humans are in making every diagnosis.
With the added sensors and the apps that tech companies will build, our smartphone will become a medical device akin to the Star Trek tricorder. Indeed, there are already 10 finalists for the $10 million Qualcomm XPRIZE to build a device that can “diagnose patients better than or equal to a panel of board certified physicians.” Watching one of these, Scanadu, in action, I have little doubt that we will see many revolutionary technologies by the time XPRIZE winners are selected in early 2016.
With health data from millions of patients, technology companies will be able to take on and transform the pharmaceutical industry — which works on limited clinical-trial data and sometimes chooses to ignore information that does not suit it. These data can be used to accurately analyze what medications patients have taken, to determine which of them truly had a positive effect; which simply created adverse reactions and new ailments; and which did both.
And then there is the genomics revolution. The cost of sequencing a human genome has fallen from $100 million in 2001 to about $1,000 today and will likely cost as much as a blood test by the end of this decade. What this means is that the bits and bytes that make up a human being have been deciphered; for all intents and purposes, we have become software.
Genome analysis is already being used to guide the treatment of cancers of the brain and the breast. Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, explained to me that a decade ago, scientists focused on using DNA-sequencing and computational technologies to interpret the genome and understand its biology. Now they are using them to improve diagnostics, medicines and clinical practice. Green predicts that, before long, doctors will tailor treatment for diseases on the basis of an individual’s genomic information. This is what becomes possible by understanding the correlation between genome, habits and disease.
That is why Google and Amazon are competing to offer a repository for genomics. They are charging practically nothing ($25) to store your genome — so that they can peek at the data just as they peek at your emails and web searches.
Google is, as well, developing nanoparticles that combine a magnetic material with antibodies or proteins that can attach to and detect cancers and other molecules inside the body and notify a wearable computer on the wrist.
Entrepreneurs have far greater ambition than just diagnosing and curing disease, however.
Craig Venter, who was a pioneer of genomic sequencing, announced, in March, that he was starting a company, Human Longevity, to develop cell therapies using genomics to extend the healthy lifespan of humans. Google made a significant investment in a company called Calico to research diseases that afflict the elderly, such as neurodegeneration and cancer. It wants to understand ageing and, ultimately, extend life.
In an emerging field of synthetic biology, which allows the “writing” of DNA, researchers are creating new organisms and synthetic life forms. Entrepreneurs have developed software tools to “design” new organisms. As scary and risky as this may be, they are “designing” new drugs, therapeutic vaccines and microorganisms. They hope to completely eradicate deadly diseases.
Tissue-engineering and 3D-printing technologies are beginning to merge and make possible the “printing” of personalized organs and enhance the human body. Imagine exoskeletons and bionic enhancements of strength, vision and hearing as we saw in the ’70s TV series The Six Million Dollar Man. This too is becoming possible.
Perhaps the greatest leap of all is being attempted by Google. It is learning how the human brain works. One of its chief scientists, Ray Kurzweil, is bringing to life the theory of intelligence expounded in his book How to Create a Mind. He believes that we will be able to enhance our intelligence with technology and back up our brains on the cloud.
2014 marked an inflection point in the technology curve for medicine. It isn’t yet clear which technology advances will indeed impact humanity and which will be nothing more than cool science experiments. What is clear is that we have entered an era of acceleration and there is much promise — and risk of peril — ahead.
This Will Be The Best Year To Ditch Your Cable Subscription
One day we may look upon 2015 as the year that pay TV began embracing the cord cutter’s dream: to pay only for the channels you actually watch.
January kicked off with Dish’s announcement that it would offer a streaming television service called Sling TV that requires no cable or satellite subscription and costs a reasonable $20 a month. You watch live TV via an app, not a cable box. There’s no contract and no equipment to install. And you’ll have a very slimmed-down lineup of a dozen TV channels, including ESPN, TBS and Adult Swim.
It looked as if “a la carte” pay TV, where you don’t shell out for a lot of channels you’ll never watch, was one step closer to reality.
The day after Dish’s announcement, Verizon shared additional details about its own streaming TV service, including a potential launch date in the second half of the year. Verizon Chairman and CEO Lowell McAdam said the service would be “mobile-first” and offer 20 to 30 channels, according to a transcript of his remarks at an investor conference.
This is the year you’ll also be able to watch HBO and Showtime without subscribing to cable. The two premium networks have for years been staples of expensive cable packages. But they said last fall they’d begin to offer stand-alone Internet subscriptions to their programming in 2015. This means you won’t have to subscribe to expensive TV bundles to watch “Game of Thrones” or “Homeland.”
Established TV players have seen the rise of Netflix’s streaming service, which now boasts more than 50 million members around the world, and realized they can no longer ignore changes in the way Americans watch TV. Overall, subscriptions to pay TV are declining slightly. But those under 35 — millennials — are leaving cable at a faster rate or never even signing up. A recent report from the analytics company comScore said that nearly a quarter of those between 18 and 34 don’t subscribe to pay TV.
TV executives say that these cord cutters and “cord nevers” are the customers they’re aiming for with the new streaming services. Asked by HuffPost about Sling TV’s target demographic earlier this month, CEO Roger Lynch said simply, “It’s millennials.” He noted that young people moving into their own homes are not subscribing to traditional cable like they used to.
The number of U.S. households that subscribe to broadband Internet but not pay TV grew to more than 10.5 million in the third quarter of last year, up 16 percent over the same period in 2012, according to research firm SNL Kagan.
Greg Ireland, a research director at the market research firm IDC, said the latest offerings show that the pay TV industry is waking up to the new landscape. He called the collection of announcements “the biggest developments in streaming since the embrace of original content creation by Amazon and Netflix.”
That new content has been impressing critics and garnering awards.
Amazon earlier this week picked up a couple of Golden Globes for “Transparent,” a dark comedy that’s only streamed online and only available to subscribers of the company’s $99-per-year Prime service. Amazon beat out established players like HBO and The CW, as well as streaming rival Netflix, for the award for the best TV series in the musical or comedy category. And Jeffrey Tambor, who won as best actor in a musical or comedy TV series for his role on “Transparent,” took the award over actors from series that run on FX, Showtime and Netflix.
On Thursday, Netflix, which had also won a Golden Globe, was nominated for its second Academy Award.
Despite all these developments, pay TV isn’t going away anytime soon. Many people won’t want to replace cable subscriptions with Dish’s service, which has just a few channels, lacks DVR capabilities and can be watched on only one device at a time.
As some analysts and observers have noted, obtaining your nightly entertainment from multiple individual subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Sling and others — in addition to paying for the Internet each month — will add up quickly. For some people, it will cost more than a cable and broadband package.
In a research note published after Dish’s announcement, Nomura analyst Anthony DiClemente wrote that the typical Internet-and-TV package costs between $100 and $120 a month, while a cord cutter who subscribed to broadband, Sling TV, Netflix and Hulu Plus and bought a few movies from iTunes or Amazon would pay between $86 and $116 a month.
IDC’s Ireland cautioned that the success or failure of the new streaming products shouldn’t be judged based on early subscriber figures.
“Just the fact that these services will launch this year is what makes this year a significant year of transition for the market, irrespective of where the subscriber numbers come out,” he said.
Prisoners Sending E-Cards Actually Makes A Lot Of Sense
It’ll be a long time before Bretton Link can be with friends and family again. The 47-year-old is locked in the North Dakota State Penitentiary on a 40-year sentence for dealing meth, with an expected release date of 2030. Compared to his previous stints in prison, though, it’s easier this time for Link to stay in touch with loved ones.
In his cell, he drafts emails on a specialty tablet, designed for use by inmates, that can also download books and music. In common areas, he connects to one of the kiosks that sends and receives messages.
“I’ve done time at other facilities and we had nothing like this,” Link told The Huffington Post by phone from Bismarck. “It’s nice to get an instant response during the week.” In the ’90s, he added, he would send letters home by regular mail, and it would take “a minimum of two weeks” for a response to come back.
The email access and the tablets are sold by JPay, one of many for-profit companies that offer email, phone and video messaging services to incarcerated people.
JPay’s latest innovation is digital greeting cards, which the company unveiled in December. E-cards hit the Internet at least 20 years ago, and their cutesy imagery and saccharine sentiments mean they’ve long been out of vogue for many people. But for someone in prison — or someone who loves someone in prison — e-cards can seem like exactly what’s needed. JPay appears to be the first business to make them available to men and women behind bars, where Internet access remains restricted.
“We provide services that help families and inmates communicate better,” said JPay CEO Ryan Shapiro. “If [an inmate] didn’t have these resources to communicate, he’s far less likely to succeed when he’s released.”
One of the 30 e-cards available to inmates and their families through JPay.
For 35 cents apiece, Link was able to choose from 30 pre-approved e-cards to send his sister and friends during the holidays last month. The selection includes a card showing a wrinkly-faced pug holding a chalkboard that says “I miss you.” Another card shows a child’s hand coloring hearts next to the words “Happy birthday Daddy.”
Before the introduction of e-cards, Link’s only option was to request complimentary greeting cards from the prison chaplain.
“They were all religious. I [was] stuck with that,” Link said.
Inmates in 10 states can purchase the e-cards, as can their families, and about 32,000 cards were sent on the first day of the service, according to JPay officials. The company hopes to enlarge its selection of cards in time for Valentine’s Day and to get approval from regulators to introduce them in other states.
JPay’s email kiosks in North Dakota’s four adult prisons are extremely popular, according to a deputy warden who told HuffPost that roughly 90 percent of inmates use them. The e-cards’ popularity has reduced some of the work for corrections staff tasked with intercepting and rejecting mail that contains contraband or violates other rules.
“Our rejection rates are extremely low on JPay messages compared to what they are for Hallmark greeting cards,” said Troy Schulz, deputy warden at the North Dakota State Penitentiary. “It really expedites that process.”
Inmates can’t modify or personalize the actual images on the e-card, but they can write a message in an email and include the card as an attachment. Prisoners’ email communication can be screened, although this is not universally enforced, and some states filter emails for words that suggest criminal activity.
JPay officials argue that the e-cards and email are ingredients in a rehabilitative recipe that keeps inmates connected to their families. They point to research showing that inmates who maintain close contact with their family members tend to perform better upon release, with higher odds of finding stable employment and housing.
But critics take issue with the fact that JPay’s services are only available to those who can pay. They also say the company’s basic business model is problematic, since it relies on men and women being incarcerated in large numbers.
“JPay and other companies like it have grown up in the shadow of the mass incarceration epidemic,” said Carl Takei, a staff attorney for ACLU’s National Prison Project. “They depend on and profit from the fact that we incarcerate more people than any country on earth.”
Shapiro counters that without JPay’s technology, inmates and their families would have to rely on the post office, which is more expensive and time-consuming for everyone involved.
“Every [electronic] communication is less than if you buy an envelope and a stamp,” he said.
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Apple Wants To Beam Your Fingerprint To New Devices
Apple may be envisioning a world where buying a latte is as easy as holding up your index finger.
A patent application published online Thursday by the United States Patent and Trademark Office would allow the iPhone maker to share your fingerprint data between devices via the cloud.
Apple already uses fingerprint technology in Touch ID, which allows individuals to unlock their phones and iPads with a fingerprint. The process is supposedly more secure and convenient than typing in a password.
The new patent, which Apple has not officially been granted, extends this idea to cover uploading and storing fingerprint data. The patent describes downloading fingerprint data to a second device after it’s been collected. That second device would have a biometric sensor of its own, which it would use to match the fingerprint data you’ve already offered.
It’s an appealing idea because, in theory, your fingerprint could be associated with a profile including relevant information and settings. Perhaps you could easily set up a new iPhone to make it feel like your old device with the touch of your fingerprint. The patent also suggests that vendors equipped with touch devices could charge you for products — like coffee — using your fingerprint.
Apple Pay already lets you buy things using your fingerprint on your own device, but the new patent opens the door to making purchases without pulling anything out of your pocket. It’s possible you could just touch a vendor’s iPad or iPhone instead.
The patent seems to represent something of a reversal from Apple’s current status quo with Touch ID. When the fingerprint scanner made its debut in 2013, the company explicitly stated that an individual’s fingerprint data is “never stored on Apple servers, and it’s never backed up to iCloud or anywhere else.” The new patent, which covers a cloud computing device capable of “uploading and storing the enrollment finger biometric data,” would seem to be a different approach.
A representative for Apple told The Huffington Post via email that the company does not comment on patents. Some experts and politicians have expressed concern over the idea of storing fingerprint data.
When Touch ID was first announced, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said he was worried about security, noting that compromised fingerprints could spell disaster for individuals — you can get a new credit card, but you can’t exactly replace your fingerprints.
“There is an additional security concern. Someone could steal your credentials. If hackers steal credit card numbers, they can steal fingerprints,” Bruce Schneier, a security technologist, told HuffPost via phone.
However, Schneier noted an important point: Apple doesn’t store an image of your actual fingerprint. Instead, the company uses a “mathematical representation” of your fingerprint. In other words, hackers wouldn’t be able to lift a picture of your fingerprint, but they could perhaps take the data that represents it.
Still, Apple has said not to worry.
“It isn’t possible for someone to reverse engineer your actual fingerprint image from this mathematical representation,” Apple says.
Hackers aside, fingerprint data can spell trouble in another way: You can’t conveniently “forget” it. A judge recently ruled ruled that cops can force you to unlock your phone using your fingerprints, even though they can’t ask for your password.
Crazy Slo-Mo Video Explains Why Rain Has That Distinctive Smell
Have you ever smelled that distinctive, sweet aroma that lingers after it rains?
Scientists call it “petrichor,” and since the 1960s, they’ve believed it comes from oils and chemicals that are released when raindrops hit the ground.
Now, for the first time, scientists at MIT have used high-speed cameras to show how that “rain smell” gets into the air — just check out the video above for a look at their footage.
“It’s a very common phenomenon, and it was intriguing to us that no one had observed this mechanism before,” Dr. Cullen R. Buie, a professor of mechanical engineering at the university and one of the researchers, said in a written statement.
For the research, Buie and post-doctoral researcher Youngsoo Joung filmed raindrops as they hit a variety of surfaces, including 16 different soil samples. They also varied the intensity and speed of the “rainfall”–from light to heavy–by dropping the water from different heights.
They found that when a raindrop hits a porous surface, tiny bubbles form inside the droplet. These bubbles grow bigger and float upward–like bubbles in a glass of champagne. When the bubbles reach the surface, they burst and release a “fizz of aerosols” into the air.
Buie and Jung believe these aerosols carry the rainlike aroma, along with viruses and bacteria from soil.
They also noticed that light and moderate rain, which falls at a slower rate, tends to produce more aerosols compared to the heavy rain–which explains why petrichor is more common after a light rain.
“Until now, people didn’t know that aerosols could be generated from raindrops on soil,” Joung said in the statement. “This finding should be a good reference for future work, illuminating microbes and chemicals existing inside soil and other natural materials, and how they can be delivered in the environment, and possibly to humans.”
The research was published on Jan. 14 in the journal Nature Communications.
The App That Could Be A 99 Percent Effective Form Of Birth Control
In many ways, family planning based on keeping track of one’s fertility is about as old-school as it gets. By paying attention to fluctuations in body temperature or cervical fluid, women can track when they’re ovulating and time intercourse so as to increase or decrease their odds of getting pregnant.
Currently, a slew of fertility tracking apps are working to bring family planning into the smartphone era. And now a new app aimed specifically at preventing pregnancy, called Natural Cycles, has hit the market, claiming to identify a woman’s non-fertile days when she is 99 percent safe to have unprotected sex without conceiving.
Created by two physicists in Sweden, the app uses — as the company’s website describes it — “statistics and analytics instead of chemicals or surgical procedures in order to prevent pregnancies,” by helping women pinpoint the handful of days per menstrual cycle when they have the greatest chance of getting pregnant.
In practice, that means users pay roughly $70 per year for a high-tech version of the temperature method of fertility awareness. First thing in the morning, before she moves too much or gets out of bed, a woman using Natural Cycles will take her basal body temperature and record it in her phone. She can also use ovulation-predictor strips or kits, which measure increases in luteinizing hormone — a potential predictor that ovulation is soon on the way.
The app works by warning the user about her fertile window — the stretch of days before ovulation when she is most fertile. Women’s resting body temperatures generally rise when they ovulate, and the app uses that information to tell the user when she is ovulating, when she has ovulated and when she is likely to ovulate. It divides her cycles into “red” days, when she’s more likely to get pregnant having unprotected sex; “green” days, when she’s outside her fertile window; and “yellow” days, when the app is unsure of a user’s fertility status because she hasn’t provided enough data. According to Natural Cycles, the “green” days are 99 percent safe to have unprotected sex without conceiving.
Raoul Scherwitzl, CEO and co-founder of Natural Cycles, told The Huffington Post that what sets his app apart is its “complex” algorithm, the details of which are slated for publication in a forthcoming study of more than 300 women that retrospectively gauges the app’s ability to identify ovulation. The app analyzes women’s biomarkers for them, said Scherwitzl, so all they have to do is insert their daily temperatures and results from the optional ovulation predictor strips.
“The problem that usually comes with [fertility charting] is that when women look at the charts, the data is usually fluctuating with data points going up and down,” he told HuffPost. “It can be very hard [for a woman] to look by eye and make objective decisions on whether she’s fertile that day or not.”
“We developed an algorithm that analyzes the data,” he continued, “so a woman doesn’t need to learn about ‘What does it mean if [temperatures] go up and down?’ She just needs to measure, then we tell her when she is safe or at risk.”
But outside experts warn that at least until the forthcoming study is published, it is too soon to weigh many of the claims about the app’s efficacy. And of course, the app does nothing to protect the user from sexually transmitted infection.
“Basal-body temperature, which is what their app is based on, and what their methodology appears to be based on, is a very accurate marker,” said Dr. Victoria Jennings, director and principal investigator of the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University, which she said is very interested in fertility awareness methods.
The problem, said Jennings, is that the progesterone spike that increases a woman’s resting temperature does not necessarily occur early enough in her menstrual cycle in order for her to effectively avoid pregnancy, because sperm can survive in a woman’s body for up to five days, limiting its predictive value. That is why researchers have not established clear-cut efficacy rates for methods like temperature tracking. (Generally speaking, Planned Parenthood estimates that 24 out of every 100 couples who use fertility awareness-based methods in a year will get pregnant if they don’t always use the method correctly or consistently. The organization notes that always practicing the methods correctly does make them more effective.)
Still, that doesn’t mean Jennings sees no value in apps that aim to help women predict when they should or shouldn’t have sex in order to achieve or prevent pregnancy. On the contrary.
“There are some claims that the inventors of this app make that I do agree with, and one is that many women would like to have a natural option, one that does not involve putting something into their bodies, and they’re willing to do something to make that happen,” said Jennings. “I think that really needs to be acknowledged, and the degree to which we can create things that will help women in that way, we need to do that.”
Baffled QVC Hosts Can't Quite Figure Out What The Moon Is
Here’s a video that has us more than a little bit concerned about the state of science education in America.
During Monday’s broadcast on the QVC shopping network, host Shawn Killinger and designer Isaac Mizrahi found themselves in a spirited discussion over whether or not the Moon is a planet. Just check it out above.
“Isn’t the Moon a star?” Killinger wonders aloud, having seconds earlier called it a planet.
“No. The Moon is a planet, darling,” Mizrahi croons in reply.
“The sun is a star. Is the Moon really a planet?” Killinger asks, to which Mizrahi responds, “I don’t know what the sun is.”
Face palm. The conversation continues as Mizrahi asks someone off-camera to “Google the Moon,” while Killinger contemplates whether or not the Moon might actually be a star after all.
We won’t lie to you; it only goes downhill from there, with Mizrahi standing firm on the Moon’s planethood, “because things live on it.” (Sorry, Neil Armstrong.)
Snark aside, thanks to QVC for this teachable moment. The Moon is not considered a star or a planet; it’s Earth’s only permanent, natural satellite. And on average, it’s just under 240,000 — not a bazillion — miles from Earth.
(h/t The Daily Dot.)
The Internet's Dirty Secret: This Isn't Dialogue
I’m over six feet tall, and I want to complain about it.
I’ve read blogs and articles detailing the horrific difficulties associated with being racial and ethnic majorities, and minorities. I’ve read complaints by both genders about their particular difficulties, and claims by various age groups about why their generation has it the hardest. Stay-at-home parents blog about their difficult days, while working parents counter with the struggle of maintaining a dual life. Corporate employees condemn their jobs, self-employed businesspeople deplore their lack of stability, and the unemployed hate the difficult job market.
Many of the complaints these groups report are entirely valid, no doubt. Others are less so, I’m sure.
But I want my turn, and I plan to focus on the issue of my height. I’m going to start with how difficult it is being the butt of jokes about “the weather up there,” move into the back pain caused by excessive bending, and wrap with the unique challenges of air travel. Along the way I’ll touch on theatre seating, standard doorway height, and the inconsiderate installation of Japanese subway signage. When I’m done, you the reader will have a complete and total picture of my struggle.Then I can claim that we’re having a dialogue.
That’s what we’ll be doing, right? Having a dialogue? After all, we’re currently having “national dialogue” on race issues, gender issues, ethnicity and religious differences, political and sexual orientation, and just about everything else. The internet, we like to say, is enabling our conversation like never before. That’s our story.
Hold that thought. Let’s pay a short visit to my garage.
Imagine that I’m standing there, in front of my bicycle, which is inverted on the floor. As you enter the garage, I explain that I need to remove the front wheel to have it repaired. You notice, because you’re clever and handy, that the wheel is affixed with a 9/16″ hexagonal nut. The obvious tool to remove this wheel would be a 9/16″ wrench. Closed end or open end would work. Even an adjustable wrench would suffice. In a pinch, you could probably do the job with the right pair of pliers. (You are, after all, clever and handy.)
The problem is, I’m holding a hammer. A good sized, curved claw, industrial weight hammer. With a rubber grip. It’s a really nice hammer. I’m trying to use it to remove the wheel, alternately banging on the nut and grabbing at it with the claw. It’s not working, and as I grow more frustrated, I’m hammering and clawing harder and harder. If at first I wasn’t making any progress, now I’m doing damage. The more I hammer, the more I damage the nut, and the further I get from my goal.
“Ack,” you exclaim in frustration. “Get a different tool. And even if you don’t have any other tools, for the love of all that is mechanical, STOP HAMMERING.” As it turns out, you’re clever, handy, and articulate.
Unfortunately, I’m too busy extolling the virtues of my new hammer as I’m hammering to hear you.
Now hold that thought, and let’s get back to my height. I’d like to join the national dialogue, but I happen to know the dirty secret.
If you’re in the habit of paying attention both to people who agree with you and people who disagree with you, you almost certainly know it too. You’ve noticed that we’re getting more polarized, not less polarized. The screaming from both sides — both sides of the political aisle, and both sides of any particular issue you care to select — has gotten louder, and the collective fingers have grown more firmly implanted in the collective ears.
If you’re in the habit of only paying attention to people who agree with you, and dismissing out of hand anyone who doesn’t, you probably know it anyway. You’ve noticed that, as you’ve gotten older, the people who disagree with you have gotten dumber. Whether it’s one president or another, one religious group or another, or one anything or another, you’ve realized as you’ve aged that people who don’t understand what you understand are pretty badly misinformed. You can tell how dumb THEY are by how dumb WE say they are. Man, are they getting dumb.
Really, we all know the dirty secret, whether or not we want to admit it: We’re not having a national dialogue. We’re having a series of national monologues. Everyone is complaining, and nobody is listening. And it’s not working. We’re not getting much of anywhere on many real, serious issues. Worse yet, those same life-threatening, liberty-threatening, humanity-threatening issues are getting watered down by the petty and ridiculous yammering of guys like me complaining about their height.
Social media, blogs, comments, and shares as they exist today are our hammer. The dialogue we need is our hexagonal bolt. We can’t do what works until we stop doing what doesn’t work.
How can I stop hammering? What can I do, if I really want to engage in a dialogue about the difficulties of being tall, other than complain about it and post supportive comments to others who do?
I might, instead, think in terms of the particular advantages and disadvantages of being tall, and try to catalog both. I might, instead, listen carefully to someone else explaining the pros and cons of not being tall, and then add to that conversation with some pros and cons of my own. I might, instead, pose well-formed questions designed to generate solutions, such as asking whether it would be possible to design airline cabins to accommodate taller individuals more comfortably. I might, instead, avoid tossing around incendiary and useless questions that only cause more fake dialogue, such as asking why it’s so difficult for a tall person to find a comfortable seat on a plane. I might, instead, have conversations in the real world rather than on the internet.
Whatever I do, I had better start to pay attention to what’s important to those around me, and start to focus my own energy on helping to solve the biggest problems we face as a society, rather than on getting my own problem on the radar.
Otherwise, I’ll just be one more voice in the yammering sea, complaining to no one (and occasionally bumping my head).
Which New Amazon Original Pilots Should You Stream This Weekend?
Fresh off of winning two Golden Globes last week, Amazon Prime has a second batch of new original pilots. The seven new comedy, drama and docu-series pilots from the online streaming studio are definitely not the next “Transparent,” but there are a few with promising potential. HuffPost Entertainment watched each one to ascertain which are worth your time:
What’s It About? Earl J. Hickey is officially done with his good deeds. “Cocked” finds actor Jason Lee as a drug user whose missteps have landed his family’s gun business in trouble. Now, his estranged brother (Sam Trammell) is forced to return home to save the company from being bought by their uncle.
Who’s In It? Sam Trammell (“True Blood”), Jason Lee (“My Name is Earl”) and Brian Dennehy (“Ratatouille”).
Should You Stream It? You can pull the trigger on this one. Though it’s not perfect bulls-eye, “Cocked” has a special mix of drama and comedy that just about hits the mark. –Bill Bradley
“The Man in the High Castle”
What’s It About? Adapted from Philip K. Dick’s Hugo award-winning alternative history novel of the same name, this drama imagines a post-WWII era in which the Allies lost the war. The pilot follows a variety of characters living in the former United States where the Japanese control the West and Nazi Germany governs the East.
Who’s In It? Alexa Davalos (“Mob City”), Luke Kleintank (“Pretty Little Liars”), Joel de la Fuente (“Hemlock Grove”) and Rufus Sewell. Ridley Scott executive produced the pilot, which was written by Frank Spotnitz (“The X-Files”) and directed by David Semel (“Madam Secretary”).
Should You Stream It? Yes! The storyline itself is enough to keep any viewer intrigued, especially fans of Dick’s work and dystopian fiction. The dialogue and performances could be stronger, but the show definitely has potential if it’s picked up to series. –Erin Whitney
What’s It About? Based on a hit U.K. series of the same name, “Mad Dogs” follows a group of childhood friends who reunite in middle age to celebrate one friend’s early retirement in Belize. When they arrive, the story behind his newfound life of luxury begins to unravel, and the group gets caught up in a less than ideal situation.
Who’s In It? Steve Zahn (“Dallas Buyers Club”), Billy Zane (“Titanic”), Romany Malco (“Weeds”), Michael Imperioli (“The Sopranos”) and Ben Chaplin.
Should You Stream It? Sure, maybe, if you want to see a show whose tone fuses “Hangover” dude-friend vibes with elements of a murder-thriller. The characters aren’t much more than sketches right now, but could potentially grow into more interesting people. (Chaplin’s Joel particularly comes to mind.) There are some gorgeous shots of a beachside villa that are pleasant to watch even if you, like me, don’t find the relationships or developing mystery all that compelling. –Lily Karlin
What’s It About? Logan Wood breezes through life on looks, ladies and luck until his girlfriend, who also happens to be his business partner in a successful yoga studio, breaks up with him. Now he has to decide if he’ll give up and walk away or face reality and say Namaste.
Who’s In It? Josh Casaubon (“The Good Shepherd”), Paget Brewster (“Criminal Minds”) and Lyndsy Fonseca (“Kick-Ass”).
Should You Stream It? This sexy comedy isn’t necessarily a requirement to achieve inner peace; however, its fun storyline about the hijinks of a grown guy who is pretty much helpl