Jeff Horwich is the interim host of Marketplace Morning Report and a sometime-Marketplace reporter. He is the former host of "In The Loop" from Minnesota Public Radio and a former business and economics correspondent for MPR. He is a graduate of Duke University and has a Master's in applied economics from the University of Minnesota.


Features by Jeff Horwich

The rise of “age-guessing” software: the end of the fake ID, among other things?

Bit of buzz at the moment around the company, which has developed software that uses facial recognition technology to assign minimum, maximum, and best-guess ages based on your face. Could be handy for stopping underage booze sales, and we know it's a fun shortcut for tagging people in photos, but those hardly seem like the most lucrative applications. Imagine if cameras that pinpointed your age could customize the ads you see on store display? Scary-cool.

Wonder what else might have in mind for their tech. Got any suggestions for 'em?

The coming wave of “election spam”: what’s in store, and what’s the danger?

Social web security company Impermium has run the numbers for a nifty infographic on the budding explosion in nefarious web traffic tied to the 2012 election. To Impermium, this largely means fake comments, fake blog posts, and spam emails meant to influence the political process. Spambots are engaging in giant surges of hateful comments about particular candidates, for example, then disappearing. Looking at where the spam comes from showed it’s being propagated in part by the same people who spam you for everything else.

Government going to protect you from employer Facebook snooping? Not so fast.

The U.S. House has killed an amendment designed to prevent this whole “prospective-employer-demands-your-Facebook-login-info” thing. The Democrat-introduced amendment, added to an FCC reform bill, basically gave the FCC the right to craft regulations to prevent that sort of activity. To House Republicans, though, it evidently posed the danger of opening the door to creative FCC regulation of all kinds, giving the agency too much power. (In the Senate, the approach has been different, simply calling on the DOJ and EEOC to investigate whether laws have already been broken.)

Instead of putting chips in your stomach, how about putting your stomach in a chip?

Yeah... I’m not going to claim that I really understand what the heck is going on here. But I do know "nifty" when I see it. Evidently it’s possible to build working simulations of human organs on something that looks like a piece of plexiglass the size of a USB stick. Folks at Harvard's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering have just unveiled the “gut-on-a-chip.” Real intestinal cells, real “wave-like peristaltic motions” that move stuff through the tiny digestive tract -- no word on whether there’s a tiny toilet attached to the end of it. Here it is, in language much more accurate than any attempt at my paraphrasing it:

The new device mimics complex 3D features of the intestine in a miniaturized form. Inside a central chamber, a single layer of human intestinal epithelial cells grows on a flexible, porous membrane, recreating the intestinal barrier. The membrane attaches to side walls that stretch and recoil with the aid of an attached vacuum controller. This cyclic mechanical deformation mimics the wave-like peristaltic motions that move food along the digestive tract. The design also recapitulates the intestinal tissue-tissue interface, which allows fluids to flow above and below the intestinal cell layer, mimicking the luminal microenvironment on one side of the device and the flow of blood through capillary vessels on the other.

What's the point, you say? Implications include investingating intestinal ailments like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, and testing new drugs to treat them. The gut-on-a-chip follows 2010's lung-on-a-chip project, which appears to be part of a larger effort to bascially make all of your organs -- you guessed it -- on-a-chip.

One small step toward erasing the trade deficit: awesome, expensive, robotic toilets

Given my previous post, I kind of hate to drag things further into the... you know. But American technical ingenuity has spawned a popular new export to the very place that typically exports everything to us: iconic Wisconsin plumbing company Kohler is doing gonzo business in China with the “Numi,” a $6,400 robotic toilet with a remote that looks more complicated than your home entertainment system. The Numi features “leg-warming porcelain, a built-in stereo system and three bidet settings.” And it's now on backorder, as evidently Chinese demand has far surpassed projections.

Hey, in the modern economy, we need to exploit every technical edge we can find -- and this is a great example of applying American technological and scatological know-how, which also happens to boost American manufacturing.

Now the Chinese can literally continue to crap all over us... but it’s all good.

What else are Americans good at? Advertising. Now if this doesn't make you want to rush out and either buy a Numi, or make out with one, you are a cold, cold consumer indeed. (Not that I have that kind of money to flush down the toilet.)

Amid all connected devices, Android should top Windows by 2016 (projection)

A new forecast from IDC looking at all the ways we compute and connect -- stationary and on-the-go -- dubs Android the soon-to-be king. Android will dominate mobile given its wide accessibility to hardware makers, and mobile will continue to supercede PCs as we’ve known them. (Apple? Destined to remain a fairly distant third. All that proprietary-ness means mountains of cash, but not world domination.)

Windows 8: Big changes, big challenges

Windows still runs more than three-quarters of the world's PCs. And the upcoming Windows 8 is about Microsoft using that existing heft to power its way onto smaller screens too.
Posted In: windows 8, Microsoft, preview, metro, user interface, business computing

GPS unit, meet car insurance

Some relationships are just meant to be. The idea is pretty basic: drive safer, get better rates. We’re watching you.
Posted In: insurance, navigation, gps, big brother, car, Auto, tracking, telemetry


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