Last February, Google sent out invitations for developers and consumers to “test drive” its new Google Glass technology – a head mounted computer that can access email and is equipped with a camera. The winners of the “Glass Explorer” program were required to attend an event in New York, San Francisco, or Los Angeles before purchasing the wearable eyeglass computer for fifteen-hundred dollars. Reviews for the cutting-edge gadget have been mixed – there are concerns about safety, distraction, and privacy in Congress, along with more sartorial complaints about Google Glass being inexcusably geeky.
Patent wars are now standard in the tech industry, so is fierce competition for markets. But what would happen if two Silicon Valley superpowers made the jump to all-out war?
“Though the feud with Apple has been escalating for months, Google CEO Larry Page has never given serious consideration to the plan known internally as Operation GhostFruit. Then Apple decided to test him, first by removing Google as the default search engine on the iPhone and iPad, and then …by blocking Apple devices’ access to Google.com entirely. Larry Page has no choice but to go nuclear.”
That’s an excerpt from Slate’s totally fictional, not remotely thought out experiment called “Wargames: Apple Versus Google,” a highly entertaining ten-part series imagining what might if happen if the two behemoths used all their power, resources, and money to destroy each other. Matt Yglesias is Slate's Business and Economics Correspondent and he spoke with us about the potential battle: Google vs. Apple.
Whether you have a well-worn green thumb, or are making your first foray into home gardening, rest assured: there’s an app for that. New York Times Smart App Columnist Kit Eaton confesses he’s not an experienced gardener, but he dug in to the wide variety of garden-related apps on the market and joins us with some winners.
You may have heard the news earlier this week that taste-testers and scientists in the U.K. sampled the world’s first lab-grown burger. One food researcher said that the burger tasted “close to meat, but not that juicy”. Another quipped, “what was consistently different was the flavor”. Not a great review for a patty costing somewhere around three hundred and thirty thousand dollars, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Henry Fountain, science reporter for the New York Times, tells us about the science under the bun.
It’s been a pretty big couple of weeks for Amazon.com. First, President Obama chose one of the company’s fulfillment centers as a backdrop for a speech on raising the minimum wage. Then, news broke that Amazon’s founder, billionaire Jeff Bezos, had purchased the venerable Washington Post. Amazon now has one hundred and twenty-six million monthly users. But they might want to start reading product reviews with a grain of salt. Cited as the largest single source of internet consumer reviews in 2010, the online giant is susceptible to a deceitful practice called astroturfing. When Susan Crawford’s book “Captive Audience” about the Telecom Industry was published in January, it attached a number of bad reviews later revealed to be fake…with a political agenda behind them. Our guest Mike Masnick weeded out these fake reviews and published an expose for Techdirt that reached the front page of Reddit. Masnick is the founder and CEO of Floor64 and editor of the Techdirt blog, we spoke with him about his findings.
As we learned from Joe Hanson, space weather can be an amazing thing. As receiving real-time space weather forecasts is becoming more of a reality, it would be good to familiarize yourself with some of the weather events you can expect to see. We’ve compiled a list to test your space weather knowledge. All of these events sound fantastic and have been the fodder for many a Sci-Fi plot, but do you know which one of these 4 space weather events isn’t real?
People often lament that handwriting is a lost art. But if the creators of a new educational tool have their way, calligraphy will never die out completely. The Lernstift – or “learning pen”– is a working computerized pen which uses vibration to help improve handwriting, and is projected to go into production this fall. Word of Mouth’s Molly Donahue spoke with Daniel Kaesmacher who helped develop the Lernstift, to learn a little bit more about it.
Our favorite content, curated in one amazing hour of radio. This week, the science behind J.K. Rowling's unmasking, a guy who played Mr. Darcy at a Jane Austen Summer Camp, the Libertarian festival for Seasteaders, a new telescope technology that will send balloons into space, regular folks drive NASCAR cars, and a musician who writes songs based on the New York Times column, "Modern Love."
Last week, author J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame was uncovered as true author behind The Cuckoo’s Calling, a mystery novel written under the pen-name Robert Galbraith. Signed first editions of the book are now selling for over six thousand dollars, a testament to the value of a name. The reporters at the Sunday Times who broke the Rowling story consulted several academics whose methods of determining authorship relied heavily on software they had developed for that very purpose.
The state of New Jersey is still recovering from destruction left by super storm Sandy last October. Billions have been spent rebuilding property and restoring infrastructure. There is one amenity that some Jersey Shore residents will never again enjoy…old-fashioned telephone land lines. The AP reported last week that the Ocean County borough of Mantoloking lost its copper wire telephone infrastructure in the storm, and that Verizon – which services the area -- refuses to replace it. The story cited Mantoloking as “one of the first places in the country where the traditional phone line is going dead.” Rob Fleischman doesn’t see it that way. He’s an internet infrastructure entrepreneur, CTO at Xerocole, and Word of Mouth’s explainer of all things wired, or in this case…wirelesses.
At any given moment invisible information is traveling all around you. There are two obvious examples: radio waves…or if you’re listening online, the wireless signal emitted by your router. Researchers at MIT have been experimenting with these signals and they’ve developed a type of radar that uses Wi-Fi signal that can be seen – and used to detect movement and even see through walls. Dina Katabi, is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT, and she spoke with us about her new project, what she’s calling “Wi-Vi.”
Egyptian troops fired on supporters of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in Cairo last week. In June, anti-government protests in Turkey were broken up by what the Council of Europe deemed to be excessive force. In Brazil, weeks of demonstrations climaxed on June 21, when millions spilled onto the streets in more than 100 cities. More than 180,000 citizen-made videos captured the throngs in Brazil alone and some were uploaded to support charges of undue police violence made by Amnesty International and other civil rights groups. As amateur media grows increasingly integrated into protest coverage, software developed by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley could support and protect activists against unjust persecution. Called the “Rashomon Project,” the program synchronizes films taken from multiple angles to creating a complete timeline that could to be used as evidence of abuse during human rights trials. Ken Goldberg is professor of engineering at UC Berkeley and leader of the Rashomon Project, and he spoke with us about the project.
Facial recognition databases containing millions of are being scanned by local and federal government agencies to help curb everything from driver’s license fraud to terrorism. The growing library of faces also consists of non-offenders and innocent witnesses; many of the photos were taken without the subject’s consent or knowledge. For some, this accumulation of facial data is adding to growing concerns over individual privacy rights.
Craig Timberg is the Washington Post’s national technology reporter and has been covering this story along with Ellen Nakashima.
If you’ve ever felt like customer support from a call center is a hopeless case, there are now statistics to back that up. Forbesrecently reported that fifty percent of calls that go through call centers go unresolved. IBM hopes to change that by putting their new star employee on the job - a super-computer named Watson. You remember Watson, right?