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Innovation

  • Amazon Echo crams a voice assistant into a $199 Bluetooth speaker

    After the Fire Phone became this year’s biggest hardware gaffe, Amazon felt it necessary to follow it up with the Echo — a speaker with a tiny voice assistant trapped inside. No one saw this one coming. The Amazon Echo is basically a Google Now or Siri clone encased in the mould of a Bluetooth speaker. You ask it a question, it spits out an answer (except it’s slightly cooler than that). For some reason, “Alexa” is the keyword that allows users to request music from Spotify, iTunes and Pandora, weather information, news, and other commands like adding events to a calendar...

  • Google X plans to take over you bloodstream with disease-detecting nanotechnology

    Remember Osmosis Jones — the movie in which Chris Rock plays an animated white blood cell hunting down a germ within Bill Murray’s body? It sounds gross, but it was pretty awesome. Google X, the Mountain View giant’s mad scientist division, clearly gained some inspiration from this flick, because it is now developing blood-borne nanotechnology that will seek out some of the most destructive diseases known to human beings, before the diseases have time to cause major damage. Google X isn’t exactly a stranger to sci-fi advances in the medical field either. Remember the glucose-monitoring contact lenses that were developed a...

  • Raspberry Pi founder teases official 7″ touchscreen, updated A+ board

    It’s not too difficult to understand why, but Raspberry Pi micro-computing boards are still selling like chocolate eclairs at a school cake sale. By now, most new devices fade into the background to some degree, but here they are, as fresh as ever. And they’re about to get even fresher. Showcased at TechCrunch’s Disrupt in London this week, Eben Upton — the Pi’s founder and spirit animal — unveiled a new touchscreen display for the company’s three boards and announced an upcoming, updated A+ board. We’re excited. Why? Well, because people can now build Raspberry Pi-based tablets for funsies. They won’t...

  • Ebola-combatting robots under consideration for West African deployment

    The world’s current Ebola outbreak is quickly turning into the planet’s worst nightmare, and a realization of some of Hollywood’s scariest post-apocalyptic movies, but an equally futuristic solution might be on the cards if robotics experts get their way. According to Computerworld, scientists are developing a new breed of robot that could act as “rolling interpreters, autonomous vehicles that could deliver food and medicine” and even specialised ones tasked with cleansing equipment and burying those who succumbed. This will remove the human element from the treatment and containment of the virus, which may lead to a more effective solution. Taking into...

  • Firefox Hello brings accountless video chat to browsers, future smartphones

    Firefox doesn’t get too much love here at Gearburn, even though it’s my favourite piece of software by a country mile. It’s especially sad considering that the Mozilla-built browser flaunts many bleeding-edge technologies, sometimes weeks before any other browser. Take it’s latest innovation, Firefox Hello, for example. It is essentially, a cross-platform HTML5-based WebRTC (an existing web video technology) calling feature, available in Firefox Beta builds from today. But how and why is this relevant? Unlike Skype, FaceTime or Hangouts, users needn’t sign up for an account to use the feature. Although Mozilla notes that to improve its ease of use...

  • DIY’er invents machine gun that folds and fires paper airplanes

    An anonymous inventor who looks like Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski recently posted a YouTube video in which he demonstrates a self-made machine gun that folds and fires paper airplanes that would make any grade schooler froth with jealousy. Flaring his eyes behind wire rimmed glasses, this DIY’er shows off his impressive invention constructed of 3D printed materials and an assortment of parts collected from several specialty hardware stores. He also states quite proudly that he “use a cordless screwdriver from China for driving .” The anonymous Walter Sobchak look-alike DIY’er calls his invention the Paper Airplane Machine Gun...

  • Samsung’s 60Ghz WiFi ‘removes the gap between theoretical and actual’, has 4.6Gbps transmission speeds

    WiFi speeds are a bone of contention in my home. They just never reach the speeds I expect of them, especially when I wander outside of the living-room WiFi zone range. Samsung wants to change that though, with its new 60Ghz WiFi technology, which should allow speeds of up to a theoretical 4.6Gbps, or 575MB per second according to the makers of mobile phones and washing machines. The current and possible maximum WiFi speeds are 866Mbps, or 108MB per second. These speeds are five times better than what we’re used to: the 2.4Ghz  and 5Ghz WiFi standard will be cast aside for...

  • Meet Flatev: the world’s first tortilla food replicator

    Nespresso coffee machines, with their fancy pods and sleek design have pretty much taken over the tech-hipster scene. Remember grinding coffee by hand, packing it, filling the coffee machine and hoping for the best? Us neither. The most appealing part of the process is the immediacy of it all. Drop in a coffee pod, press a button and and instant store-grade coffee. It’s time for the pod to make its way to other foods, and tortilla is next on the list. That’s the concept of the Flatev, a dough-filled pod that makes instant tortilla’s at the touch of a...

  • Kano custom PC makes coding awesome for kids, technically-challenged adults

    We’ve probably all heard the term “square-eyes” passed around a lot back in the Nineties, when TV and computer screens were still boxes spurned from the bowels of the devil himself. But two decades on and children are now encouraged to use computers to learn as much as possible. Kano, a novel Kickstarter project, takes this one step further. Kano is a computer that, according to the developers, anyone can build, learn to code on and “create the future”. It’s largely aimed at kids who love things with screens and electricity, but its now available for everyone. Powered by the ubiquitous...

  • Powering ‘The Internet of Things’ using ant-sized radio chips

    Researchers at Stanford have developed a radio the size of an ant that can transmit and receive radio signals the team hopes will someday wirelessly power and connect every object and device in the world. The device costs pennies to make and can even harness its own energy collected from incoming electromagnetic waves picked up by the chip’s tiny receiver. The three year project started in 2011 when Amin Arbabian, who is now an assistant professor of electrical engineering, was a PhD student working with Professor Ali Niknejad, director of the Wireless Research Center at the University of California, Berkeley. Amin was...

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