Siri, an autistic boy’s best friend

From the Cnet.com Article ‘Siri, an autistic boy’s best friend’ by   ()

A writer describes how her 13-year-old son seems to talk with Apple’s digital assistant more easily than with her. Can technology design virtual humans as we’d wish real ones were?

Can technology release us from the need to demand perfection from others?

This thought might cross minds after reading an extremely touching New York Times story about a 13-year-old autistic boy who gets on with Siri seemingly better than with his own family.

“Just how bad a mother am I?” writes Judith Newman, as she watches her son Gus and Siri interact happily for hours.

She describes how Siri can chat with Gus indefatigably. Siri is a bottomless mine of the very detailed information he craves.

But there’s a more moving aspect to Siri — and this story might just as well be about any digital assistant (say, Cortana): Siri, says Newman, is patient, polite and kind.

She doesn’t stoop to the knee-jerk, I’m-a-jerk responses that emerge from human mouths. She doesn’t shout or show anger. And if she mocks, she does it in the most gentle, kind way, as opposed to the brusque, condescending or contemptuous manner that humans all too often adopt.

When technology takes the place of a human, it doesn’t always have a happy ending. A recent videodramatizing (as if it needed it) the sheer agony of getting past automated customer service shows the pain that machines can induce.

But humans are dangerous.

We’re a primitive species that thinks it’s very clever. We demand perfection of others, when we’re hopelessly inadequate ourselves. We expect politicians, lovers, even bus drivers to be consistent, then we’re blithely contrary and capricious every day.

Somewhere inside, we know that we’re fairly incompetent most of the time. We frequently hate ourselves and our very inadequacy.

Then along come intelligent designers, gods who we hope have some good in their hearts. They present us with alluringly clever virtual beings who serve to remind us of aspects to which we can only aspire.

Will their role be less to entirely replace us than to free us from the burdens that we place upon ourselves and have little hope of overcoming?

Will Siri, Cortana and the rest of the traveling sisterhood serve not to dominate us, but to help us relax a little, perishable as we are? Will they actually release a little more of the good humanity and allow some of the bad to subside?

For many AI designers, the aim is not merely to assist, but ultimately to predict our needs. Google, for one, would adore it if you’d take its advice as to your future desires. Just think of the ads they’d have prepared in advance to make your life complete.

At what point, though, might we be able to trust our Siris more than we trust our silly selves?

At what point might machines be able to point our way to — or at least to create the circumstances for — more pleasant, caring behavior?

Is the true test of a better world one in which people are nicer to each other because they can finally accept themselves and their true deficiencies just a little more?

It’s an alluring thought that technology can make people not smarter, not more productive, not more self-aggrandizing, but merely more pleasant.

 

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Microsoft reportedly ready to launch smartwatch in weeks

From the Cnet.com Article  ‘Microsoft reportedly ready to launch smartwatch in weeks’ by Seven Musil  ()

The device will sport a health-tracking features and work with multiple mobile platforms, Forbes reports.

Microsoft feels the time is right to enter the smartwatch sector, according to a Forbes report.

The tech giant is expected to launch a smartwatch in the next couple of weeks that will have health-tracking capabilities, including a heart-rate monitor, according to the report, which cited unidentified sources.

The device will reportedly be capable of syncing with devices running several mobile platforms, such as Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems, and last more than two days with regular use. The gadget is expected to be available to consumers by the end of the year, in time for the holiday shopping season.

Microsoft has been linked to current smartwatch efforts as far back as April 2013, when the company was reportedly shopping around suppliers in Asia for components to build a potential touch-enabled watch device. Reports earlier this year indicated that the device would physically resemble Samsung’s Gear Fit with a full-color touch screen viewable on the inside of your wrist.

Microsoft has dabbled in the sector before, marketing devices running its once-hyped Smart Personal Objects Technology (SPOT). After pouring a lot of money into the effort and partnering with watchmakers such as Fossil, Suunto, and Swatch on high-end, touch-screen models that cost as much as $800, Microsoft pulled the stem out of the project in 2008.

Wearable devices such as smartwatches and smart glasses have commanded a great deal of consumers’ attention and manufacturers’ imagination in recent months. To differentiate their products from competitors, electronics makers have strived to create devices with varying options. While many smartwatches sport square faces reminiscent of digital watches of the 1970s, Motorola and LG have opted for traditional circular watch faces for greater fashion appeal.

But Microsoft seems to be focused on one of the key selling points that other players in the crowded smartwatch arena have already seized upon: health. Samsung’s Gear S — its sixth smartwatch launch in the past year — was unveiled in August and includes a heart rate monitor, pedometer, and sleep tracking.

Meanwhile, Samsung rival Apple unveiled the highly anticipated and much-speculated Watch last month. The new smartwatch taps into apps that can track heart rate, calories burned, activity level and certain fitness activities. It also works with other fitness apps, such as Nike+.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report.

 

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Lenovo builds a projector into the Yoga Tablet 2 Pro

From the Cnet.com Article by Dan Ackerman

Lenovo has made some minor updates to its 8-inch and 10-inch Yoga 2 tablets , changing the kickstand design and adding a Windows 8 version, but it’s another new Yoga tablet product that really stands out as different.

The new Yoga Tablet 2 Pro is a 13-inch Android tablet with the same cylindrical edge/kickstand design, but inside that bulging hinge is a built-in pico projector.

It’s a surprising addition that makes this a unique product. The projector is activated by a physical button on the side of the chassis, or by a software button on the main interface screen. It projects a 16:9 image that Lenovo says will work up to 50 inches diagonally. A small focus slider is built into the rounded edge for adjusting the picture.

The speakers are a step above what we normally see in tablets, with 8 watts of output and a small built-in JBL-branded subwoofer. The tablet’s 13-inch screen has a better-than-HD resolution of 2,560×1,440 pixels, but the projector throws its image at a lower resolution.

As an Android tablet, the 13-inch Yoga Tablet Pro 2 is bigger than most, and the big, rounded edge makes it less portable than many other tablets — it’ll take up more room in your bag than a simple, fully flat tablet. That said, the rounded edge gives you something to grip when holding the tablet in your hand, and the kickstand makes it easy to set up as a display. Like the smaller Yoga 2 tablets, this version has a cutout in the kickstand that can be used to hang the entire device from a hook.

Lenovo says the battery life should be about 3 hours if you’re using the projector, or up to 15 hours without. The Yoga Tablet 2 Pro will go on sale around the end of October in the US and Europe, starting at $499 and €499, and £449 in the UK. In Australia, it’ll be on sale from mid-October in JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman for AU$799.

 

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A Wearable Drone That Launches Off Your Wrist To Take Your Selfie

From the Techcrunch.com article by Greg Kumparak ( @grg)

Oh man, this would make a great picture. I wish there was someone else here to take our picture for us so we didn’t have to take a selfie!”

Has this ever happened to you?

Of course it has. You’re a human being in the 21st century who reads tech blogs.

The Nixie aims to solve that. It’s, as crazy as it feels to type this, a wearable selfie drone. A flying wristband, with a camera built in. When you’re ready for your close-up, it launches off your wrist, reorients to frame you in the shot, and then hovers back over for you to catch it.

The bad news? It’s… still pretty conceptual. It looks like they’ve got a prototype that can launch off your wrist and float away — but it’s still early days. They have a long way to go (this thing looks about as fragile as can be right now) — but even as a concept, it’s damned cool.

The good news? It’s a finalist in Intel’s Make It Wearable competition — meaning they’ve just scored themselves $50,000 and all of the mentorship, design help, and technical support a company like Intel can throw at them in order to make it real.

The project is the brainchild of Christoph Kohstall (a physics researcher at Stanford), and is built in collaboration with team members Jelena Jovanovic and Michael Niedermayr.

 

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Farewell to Noisy Computers? Intel’s Latest Chip May Make Your Laptop Way Quieter

Intel wants to kick battery speed and battery life up while getting rid of fans that generate so much noise in laptop devices. Check our the full article HERE by Yahoo! Tech Columnist Rob Pegoraro ( @robpegoraro) :

‘Intel’s newest processor wants to shut your computer up.

To be more exact, the chipmaker hopes its smaller, more efficient Core M chip will allow laptop and tablet manufacturers to dispense with cooling fans and their background whir and whine.

Along the way, the Core M is supposed to upgrade speed and extend battery life — and hopefully allow Intel to make money from selling tablet processors instead of having to pay manufacturers to use them.

At a keynote at the IFA trade show here, Intel vice president and general manager Kirk Skaugen introduced the Core M as “a purpose-built processor” for the growing category of two-in-one devices that can transform into a laptop or a tablet by detaching or flipping the screen. Longer battery life, faster performance, and less noise are the three major benefits you should see as a computer buyer in the coming years.

Skaugen also noted that the Core M is “100 percent conflict-free,” keeping a commitment Intel made at the Consumer Electronics Show to ensure that the raw materials used in its chips don’t fund the long-running civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo ‘

To read the full article click the HERE link above.

 

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Alienware Area 51 Resurrected

From Cnet.com’s Dan Ackerman

“Dell’s Alienware gaming brand is reviving one of its classic desktop lines, with the new Area 51. While it shares a name with the big, boxy, desktop gaming systems of old, this version has an entirely new look and feel, and includes a just-announced high-end processor and chipset from Intel.

The system is built around Intel’s new Haswell-E CPU, a late entry to the Haswell generation of CPUs designed to give that fourth-gen Core i-series technology a final boost for enthusiast PC gamers. Intel’s Broadwell generation of Core i CPUs won’t be around until next year, and the new Core M family is aimed squarely at tablets, hybrids, and ultrabooks, so for now, this is likely to be the marquee processor for gaming desktops. It comes paired with a new motherboard chipset, called X99, that promises to support DDR4 RAM.

Like just about every Alienware laptop or desktop, there is an entire user-controlled light show built in, with nine separate zones, all controlled by the company’s AlienFX software.

In our brief eyes-on time with the system, it at least looked different and more sculpted than other gaming desktops, although the traditional market for these systems has been at least partially eroded by better gaming laptops, next-gen living room gaming consoles, and new devices such as Alienware’s own Alpha, a small form factor gaming desktop designed for living room use.”

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The ALS Icebucket Challenge, What is it?

So by now you have seen a million ice bucket challenge videos show up on your social media feed and it seems like a gimmick to self promote but it has raised a lot of money for the ALS Association. As of Today, 8/19/2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge has helped the ALS Association raise a whopping $22.9 million dollars in donations in less than three months compared to this same period last years’ $1.9 million dollar. Due in large part to the Ice Bucket Challenge there have been 453,210 new donors to the ALS Association.

There are some fun videos out there for the Ice Bucket Challenge from Celebrities like:
Bill Gates – Founder of Microsoft – Watch It Here
Chris Pratt – Actor: Andy (Parks and Rec)/Starlord (Guardians of the Galaxy) Watch It Here
Ben Stiller/Christine Taylor – Actor (Night at the Museum Series)/Actress (Zoolander) Watch It Here
Jeff Bezos – Founder of Amazon – Watch It Here
Dwyane “The Rock” Johnson – Actor (Fast and Furious series) Watch it Here
Plus many more including: Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Robert Downey Jr, and Chris Hemsworth.
Now that you’ve seen the videos, you may be wondering what is ALS and why are so many people dumping ice on their heads. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.
For more information visit the ALS Information Page HERE.

If you’d like to make a donation to help with ALS research goe to asla.org and click the Big Red Donate Button or Click HERE

 

Xbox One users can now buy and download games remotely

From Cnet.com’s Lance Whitney

Xbox One users now can remotely buy a game and have it automatically downloaded to their console, courtesy of the latest update.

With a rollout that started Sunday, the Xbox One August update offers “one of the most requested features” based on Xbox feedback, according to Xbox Live chief Larry Hryb, aka Major Nelson.

Specifically, gamers will be able to use the Xbox SmartGlass app or access the Xbox.com website to remotely buy games and add on content. Assuming your Xbox One is set up to automatically accept updates, that means your console will start downloading the game or other content right after you purchase it.

To keep current Xbox One owners happy and potentially draw in more buyers, Microsoft updates the console each month with new features and enhancements. Those updates are based on feedback from current users. The next major update for September has already started rolling out to members of the Xbox Live preview program, and promises a slew of new features, including a revamped Party App, a new Friends section, a boot-to-TV option, and updates to SmartGlass.

Also packaged into the August update is a change to your activity feed, specifically in the way you interact with your friends. Tweaked with a new one-column layout, the activity feed will let you post text to your feed and like or comment on other items in the feed. In turn, you’ll be notified if someone likes, comments on, or shares the items that you post. You can share game clips and other items with your friends either publicly or privately, according to Hryb.

What else does the August update carry?

Your friends list now shows you how long a specific friend has been online. The Blu-ray player app supports 3D Blu-ray. A notification pops up when your controller’s battery gets low. And finally, you can turn off notifications while watching videos.

“Today (Sunday), we will begin rolling out the next Xbox One system update to fans around the world, which will include improved social features to make sharing your gaming experiences with friends better and easier,” Hryb said in his blog post. “These new features are a result of your invaluable feedback, including some of the most requested features seen on Xbox Feedback.”

The update is scheduled to reach all Xbox One users over the next few days.

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Google Does It Again… Well AT&T Did?

As we reported last week about TWC/Comcast improving speeds fro clients to directly compete with Google Fiber in KC Markets, AT&T has stepped up their networks to gigabit speeds in a Google Fiberhood in Austin, TX . In April of 2013 AT&T U-verse offered GigaPower Service and at the time it could only deliver 300mbps. Both Google Fiber and GigaPower from AT&T charge $70 per month for the service which is a step in the right direction for ISP’s seeing as the USA falls behind all other developed nations in speed and speed/price ratios.  AT&T’s price tag does have a few stipulations however such as a 1 year contract (rate good for 3 years) and data tracking on devices using its network (opt out available after first year of service).

But don’t think the good news of affordable internet is just for the Austin, TX area, AT&T in an effort to better compete with Google Fiber will be deploying in Overland Park, KS as part of its expansion so keep your eyes peeled for awesome prices and maybe use it to bring your bill down a little.

Hopefully we will see more competitive prices as faster speeds become available and Google Fiber continues to light a proverbial fire under the butts of the competition.

 

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The iPhone 6 Rumors, According to CNET

Cnet.com recently published information regarding the new iPhone 6 by Apple. While all of the aforementioned information is stipulation and rumor cnet.com has been pretty good with their info during the last iterations of Apples hardware.
Here’s what we know so far:
1) The iPhablet 6 : You read right, according to cnet.com, the iPhone 6 will be available in its standard 4.7″ and a new 5.5″ to keep up with its bigger screen competition.
2) Released by the Holidays? :  That’s right, if Apple follows its history we will see the formal announcement in September and on shelves just in time for the holidays.
3) Sapphire Glass : Still a rumor but there are already videos on the web showing this super strong glass, even stronger than 3M’s Gorilla Glass. Could this mean fewer broken i-screens, we will have to wait and see.

 

 

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