February 18 – 24, 2013

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This week’s headline story: The Era of the Human Brain

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 10.07.27 AMPresident Obama is planning a decade-long scientific investigation into the workings of the human brain. Similar in scope to the Human Genome Project, the Brain Activity Map Project will build a comprehensive map of brain activity providing insight into diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The project also holds the potential of paving the way for advances in artificial intelligence, where efforts like IBM’s Blue Brain project have been working to simulate the workings of the human brain in supercomputers. While the President’s project is expected to cost billions, he believes that the return on investment will be huge, similar to the Human Genome project that returned $140 dollars for every dollar invested.

and elsewhere in Tech News.

  • On January 24th of this year it became illegal to unlock mobile phones to run on different networks without the permission of the network carrier. Last week a petition was delivered to the Librarian of Congress containing 100,000 signatures of individuals who believe the new law is unconstitutional.
    100,000 Petition White House for Right To Unlock Phones [NewsFactor]
  • The U.S. House of Representatives hopes to pass a resolution this week that will establish a nationwide technology contest for students. The resolution is designed to foster interest in STEM degree programs and careers. It will initially challenge students to develop useful ‘apps’ for mobile, tablet, and computer platforms. Over time students from every congressional district will compete in the all fields of science, technology, engineering and math.
    House to launch nationwide contest encouraging students to develop mobile ‘apps’ [The Hill]
    A 3-D Printing Pen Wows Kickstarter [MIT Tech Review]
  • Massively Open Online Course providers Coursera and EdX have doubled the number of universities offering courses through their services. Coursera now represents 62 Universities and EdX, 12.
    Twice as Many MOOCs [Inside Higher Ed]
  • A Boston company named Wobble Works, has invented a pen called the 3Doodler that creates 3D images and constructs. The pen heats plastic “ink” to literally allow the user to draw in the air, cooling the liquid plastic to harden moments after it leaves the pen. The project has earned nearly $2 million on kickstarter.com. Check the video in the show notes.
    3Doodler: The World’s First 3D Printing Pen [kickstarter]
  • The FCC is planning to relieve growing congestion on Wi-fi networks by making a large portion of high-frequency airwaves, or spectrum, available for unlicensed use by devices like the Wi-Fi routers. The freed-up spectrum could bring the next generation of faster 802.11ac wi-fi networks and new innovative wireless services. The news is unfortunate for some researchers currently using the spectrum including the Intelligent Transportation Society of America which is conducting research on “connected driving” technologies. Connected driving systems allow cars to communicate with one another by radio signal, warning drivers of potential collisions and other hazardous road conditions.
    F.C.C. Moves to Ease Wireless Congestion [NYTimes]

and in Information Security news this week…

  • Twitter accounts belonging to Burger King and Jeep were hacked last week. The hacker switched Burger Kings profile photo to McDonald’s golden arches and tweeted that Burger King was sold to McDonalds. The recent high-profile hacking incidents has Twitter considering two-factor authentication, where additional information besides just a password is needed to access accounts.
    After Hacks, Twitter Looks to Two-Factor Authentication [NewsFactor]

and in Tech Industry news…

  • Microsoft’s hotmail.com is now Outlook.com. Microsoft thinks its new cloud mail service is better than any other available – especially Gmail which has nearly 50 percent more users than the new Outlook. Microsoft is beginning a huge media campaign to win over Gmail users.
    Outlook.com Now Ready To Scavenge for Gmail Users [NewsFactor]
  • 2013 may shape up to be the year of wearable computers. Google has announced that it’s Google Glass headset will be available by the end of the year selling for less than $1500. You’ll recall that Google Glass uses a tiny display that mounts in front of the corner of your eye on a pair of glasses frames, overlaying information on your view of the world. Google released a video last week that shows what life looks like when viewed through Google Glass. Users can issue voice commands such as “OK, Glass, record a video” or “OK, Glass, hang out with Tom” to initiate a video call, or “OK, Glass what’s the weather forecast” or “OK, Glass how do I get to Starbucks?” Google Glass connects wirelessly to your Android phone, or to wi-fi networks. Some beta testers of Glass have complained of headaches after using the headset.
    Confirmed: Google Glass Launches this Year, Under $1,500 [NewsFactor]
  • Apple and Samsung apparently have a different approach to wearable computing. It is rumored that both companies have smart watches in the works. Apple recently received a patent for what the company described as a “bi-stable spring with flexible display.” You may recall the old slap bracelets which would remain straight and ridged until slapped on a wrist to become a bracelet. Essentially, Apple’s patent is for a fancy slapbracelet that includes a flexible display.
    Apple Patent Application for Watch Points to Wearable Era [NewsFactor]

and finally….

  • Speaking of wearable computers, researchers at MIT are working on a new device named Tongueduino. Strapped onto a tongue the Tongueduino communicates data to the user through “small pulses of electric current across the grid, which the tongue “reads” as a pattern of tingles.” The researchers say that the brain quickly adapts to new stimuli on the tongue and integrates them into our senses. They believe that the Tongueduino could prove useful in augmented reality applications that deliver information to users inconspicuously, without interfering with their vision or hearing.
    Tongue-tingling interface lets you taste data [NewScientist]

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