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An inflatable 'Like' vest

I know I get an inflated sense of myself when people click "like" on my Facebook posts. Now folks at the MIT Media Lab have an article of clothing to translate a social media experience into the real world. The vest inflates when you get "liked" online. No, it's not a hat to swell my head even further, but instead an experimental vest that puffs up, sorta like it's hugging you. Just like a real embrace, only cold, plastic, and lifeless. 


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Oct 8, 2012

Star Trek: The Next Generation Turns 25

OK Star Trek fans: before you start yelling at us for saying "Warp speed, Mr. Scott" on today's show instead of Mr. Sulu, know this: we were referencing a specific clip. It was something we found while searching for sound of the starship warp drive. And while we decided ahead of airing the show that the usual guy to "engage"--at least on the earlier version--was indeed Hikaru Sulu, we figured, what the heck. Can you name what show/movie the clip we're referencing is from? 

Either way, tomorrow marks 25 years since the debut of "Star Trek: NEXT Generation." And at this quarter-century mark there's been a couple of pieces of recent Star Trek inspired tech news.

Remember Dr. McCoy's Tricorder to diagnose ailments? The Qualcomm Foundation has announced a competition for researchers who come up with the best real Tricorder...a hand-held wireless device that monitors your health and figures out what's wrong with you. The foundation hopes to advance technology for wireless sensors, imaging, molecular biology, and artificial intelligence. The 10 million dollar X prize could be awarded in 2016.

Chances for a Star Trek-style, faster-than-light real warp drive for inter-galactic travel may be slightly better this month.That's after a NASA scientist proposed a warp drive that looks like a donut. The new shape, in theory, requires much less energy than earlier concepts."There is hope," for warp drive, said the scientist, Harold White. "Hope," of course, does not equal "feasible."


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Sep 27, 2012

PETA Speaks for the Frogs On The Dissection Table

Wouldn't it be better for frogs if students dissected a virtual frog on a computer screen rather than actually taking an X-Acto knife to a dead one?

The animal rights group PETA is paying to get frog dissection software to students in India, where an official commission called for schools and colleges to phase out  the chopping up of actual animals. And if you miss the smell of formaldehyde in the morning, the 3D dissection app can be purchased for the iPad.


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Sep 24, 2012

Apple's iPhone 5 Maps Fail

If someone asks you for directions this week, they may have just updated to iPhone's new operating system, iOS 6.

Apple's attempt at leaving Google maps in the dust has been, in internet slang, an epic fail. There's already a blog on Tumblr dedicated to showcasing the worst examples--from the misplaced Washington Monument to satellite views that look apocalyptic.

But a rare misstep for Apple is good news for at least one man. Frank Jacobs curates a website featuring strange maps from all over. The Guardian in London had him pick some of his faves, including a map of the U.S. that looks a bit like glowing intestines. What is it charting, you ask? An incredible constellation of McDonalds restaurants, of course.


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Sep 24, 2012

Cell Phone-Capable Airplanes Coming in 2013

You will remember those clumsy airplane phones in the back of the center seat which, for a hefty price, could let you reach out and touch someone from 30,000 feet. What you get these days is an announcement about turning off all your battery-powered stuff until you reach altitude. And don't even think about making a call. The tide, however, could be shifting. The new Boeing 747-8 Dreamliner, now in production, could let people use their cell phones as soon as next year, although at the moment FAA rules won't allow this over U.S. airspace. So there is First Class, Business Class, and here an idea: Quiet Class.


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Sep 23, 2012

Dark Matter Survey Camera: Looking Through the Lens

A super cool camera with super-cooled components has taken its its first photos. Scientists at Fermilab created a digital camera with 570 megapixels, and it's just captured a nice shot of star clusters 17,000 light years away. 

Josh Freeman, director of the Dark Energy Survey says the camera is pretty unique -- attached to a telescope with a 13-foot mirror on it. Beyond the value of basic scientific research, this thing also offers a lesson for anyone buying a digital camera: It's not all about the megapixels.  The Dark Energy camera doesn't just have LOTS of light-gathering pixels, pixels stuck on a massive sensor bigger than your head. 

"Even if you have a good digital SLR camera," says Freeman, "it's maybe a couple of inches across. This camera is more like two feet across."

Freeman's team of 200 international scientists has a five-year mission: to boldly use the camera perched in a Chilean observatory to learn about origins of the universe. Not a bad goal -- and one that may be attainable, with that kind of gadget. 


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Sep 19, 2012

From Silicon Valley to Silicon Alley, it pays to work in high tech

The Internet, high tech and computer manufacturing industries continue to boost local and state economies with competitive jobs and high wages. On average, a high-tech worker in the private sector earns 77 percent more than a worker with a non-tech job, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics compiled by the industry trade group TechAmerica.

But not all states are created equal. Explore the U.S. by the number of jobs and businesses in the high-tech industry, and see how each state ranks in terms of average wage for a high-tech career in this interactive map from the desk of the Marketplace Tech Report.

All week, we'll be exploring the technology industry from heart of the third-largest state in terms of the tech jobs economy - New York City, also home to the new Tech Report with Host David Brancaccio.

Innovation Nation. Click through to see how your state ranks in terms of high-tech jobs and wages. Explore the interactive map.

 


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Sep 17, 2012

Phone Companies Could Be Overcharging You for Data

Turns out, the phone company could be overcharging you for going online while you're mobile. Researchers at UCLA compared how much data smartphones used while connected to the internet to what the phone company was charging (read their paper here). In areas of lousy coverage, some customers were billed for data that never showed up. Tom Simonite at MIT's Technology Review says one researcher was trying to watch a video on his phone while riding the train...

"And then the train went into a tunnel, he lost the signal, and the video cut out and he didn't get to watch any more of it, but the carrier kept sending data his way. As far as their system could tell, data was being streamed to his device. And so when the bill came in, there was about 7 percent more data on his bill than he had actually been able to use on his device."

According to paper co-author Chunyi Peng, it's an architectural problem--an issue of how carriers measure data--and maybe not a malicious one. But considering how confusing a cell phone bill can be (have you ever looked at all those separate line items?), it's a problem in need of a solution. Especially now that nearly half of us are using the kind of phones that could potentially play video and use other streaming capabilities. 


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Sep 16, 2012

Will Amazon announce a phone today?

Amazon is hosting a big announcement today and for quite a while we’ve been expecting some combination of Kindles and Kindle Fires to be on the launch pad. Late last week, the company said that it was “sold out” of the Kindle Fire, which is a slam dunk indication that the old model, which showed up less than a year ago, is being replaced.

From ABC News:

The next version of the Fire has been rumored to have a faster processor and an updated design. There have also been rumors that Amazon might release a larger 10-inch tablet this week.

The thing to really watch for here is whether Amazon also announces a smartphone at this event, something that The Verge says is very possible:

Multiple sources have confirmed to The Verge that Amazon is working on a smartphone that runs a variant of the Kindle Fire's Android-based operating system, and we're now hearing that the device will be shown to the press tomorrow.

The Verge also reports that Amazon’s new Kindle will feature a “Paperwhite” display - even clearer - and have an 8-week battery life.


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Sep 6, 2012

FCC to test wireless speed

If you ask any salesman at the wireless stores and kiosks at the mall how fast their company’s network is, you’ll likely get some variation on, “Oh, it’s REALLY fast”, which doesn’t ultimately help you all that much. The company’s advertisements aren’t much better, each boasting about speed without providing much in the way of quantification.

The FCC is going to do something about that. The Commission will hold a meeting on September 21st to begin to develop a program for monitoring mobile network speeds. The FCC has been doing that with broadband networks for some time. 

All Things D quotes FCC Chair Julius Genachowski:

“We know from experience: Transparency on broadband speeds drives improvement in broadband speeds. Our new mobile broadband measurement initiative extends the program to smartphones and other wireless devices. It will empower consumers and encourage improvements in mobile networks and programs, benefiting millions of Americans.”

It will be interesting to see if the Verizons and AT&Ts of the world embrace this testing or if they lobby against anything that could put their claims at risk of being defied by reality.


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Sep 6, 2012

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About this collection

The Mid-Day Update is a five-day-a-week podcast from the Marketplace Morning Report hosted by David Brancaccio that wraps up the morning news in a fun little package. Listen here every day at 10 a.m. PT or download it to your iPod by subscribing to the Morning Report Podcast.