Distance Detector May Make Routers Safer; Transparent Wood Could Replace Glass

Whether it’s someone outside a cafe stealing WiFi, or concerns about someone snooping or hacking into your home system, geniuses at MIT have developed a slick solution. Engadget.com says that in the past, it took multiple routers to triangulate in order to figure out if someone was outside a business or your home, but the MIT engineers calculate ‘time of flight’ for the signal and then multiply by the speed of light to get the distance. It’s 20 times more accurate than triangulation, and can pick out a correct room in a home 94% of the time and if someone is outside a cafe 97% of the time. It also works with drones with a 2 inch margin of error. There’s already a working prototype, so your next router may be much better at keeping out thieves or hackers.

Transparent wood? What are those Swedes smoking? Actually, scientists at the Royal Institute of Technology have found a way to make transparent wood that is suitable for mass production. It can not only be used for eye catching architecture, but could lead to cheaper solar panels and windows. According to gizmodo.com, they strip out the organic compound that makes the wood brown, then add a polymer to increase strength and provide transparency. Veneer can be made from the material, and it can be laminated to make load bearing panels and beams. Hail resistant skylights could let in more natural light, and lower your heating bills. You may be spending more on curtains or blinds, though!


Microsoft- ‘Conversation as a Platform’; Apple Patents Stackable Magnetic Connector

A major theme of Microsoft’s Build conference is artificial intelligence…essentially chatbots being utilized as what they are calling conversation as a platform. Geekwire.com notes that a preview millennial chatbot Microsoft rolled out had to be pulled from the web when it was taught to be racist, so the tech is in a very early stage. Nonetheless, Microsoft is pushing forward with conversation as a platform. As we’ve reported, Microsoft, Google, and Apple are all working towards what may ultimately become the next big operating framework…augmented reality…and AI could play a very big part in that.

Meanwhile, at Apple, they have patented a stackable magnetic connector. Think of the mag safe connector MacBooks have used for power, only allowing for power, data, and peripherals to be daisy chained to the same base device simultaneously. Theverge.com notes that it could be used for more than just connecting a keyboard to a tablet. Theoretically, you could mount your iPhone or iPad like a drive on the desktop of your laptop…and conversely, access files and information on your laptop on a connected phone or tablet. Stay tuned…this could be a cool feature from Cupertino.


Facebook Messenger Getting In-Store Purchasing and ‘Secret Conversations’; Kuvee Making a ‘Keurig for Wine’

Facebook is looking to roll out new features for its Messenger app. Thenextweb.com reports that someone has spotted code in the iPhone version that points to in-store payment for goods and services. There are also references to secret conversations…but it’s not clear if they would be encrypted, or it’s just a way to hide conversations on a smart device using the app.

Here’s a concept that grabbed my attention immediately…a Keurig for wine. According to engadget.com, Kuvee plans to roll one out by October. The prototype looks like a large square bottle with a touch screen on one side. Spun metal canisters of wine go inside, and it pours the selected wine, but keeps air out of the refill canister. Wine supposedly lasts a month! It will be $200, and only available initially in California and Massachusetts. Also, they will have 50 varieties of wine at launch, but you can only use their choices they sell in the canisters.


Future iPhone May Have Curved Glass Case & 5.8’” AMOLED Screen; Your Free Future Fridge

Over the weekend, appleinsider.com got hold of a note to investors from KGI Securities saying the 2017 iPhone may use curved glass front and back…similar to the iPhone 4S, but curved. It will also allegedly have an AMOLED screen…which, as we’ve noted, gives brighter colors and blacker blacks. The screen would be 5.8 inches, a little bigger, but smaller bezels would let Apple put it into the same sized phone. Wireless charging and face and iris scanning for security also may be incorporated.

A new fridge for free may be in your future. At least some people think so. At this year’s CES, Samsung introduced a refrigerator touted as truly “smart,” with connected cameras inside the fridge, an ability to run Pandora with built-in speakers and even grocery shopping through Amazon’s Alexa or a new, dedicated app called Groceries by MasterCard.Techcrunch.com reports that as an effect of the internet of things, and refrigerators like this one, your consumption can be tracked…and the fridge could automatically reorder the foods for you. Grocery sellers and manufacturers would subsidize this, as it locks in customers…like you are for the ink cartridges that go into cheap, subsidized printers. Are you ready for a fridge that makes recommendations, and has a subscription service for auto purchase of the foods? It looks like that’s coming!


Leak-HTC 10 More Powerful than Galaxy S7 and iPhone 6S; Google’s Echo Clone & Nest Security System

After disappointing with the M One 9, HTC looks poised to come roaring back and nip at Samsung and Apple with the HTC 10. The 10…they’ve dropped the ‘M’ designation…will be revealed April 10th, but a couple of big leaks shed a great looking phone, and one that tests out better by benchmarked AnTuTu than either the Samsung Galaxy S7 or Apple’s iPhone 6S. It has a 5.1 inch screen, 12 Mp cam with laser-assisted autofocus, and 4 gigs of RAM.

Google is apparently working on a voice recognition device that competes with Amazon Echo…basically Siri in a box. According to arstechnica.com, Google already has the voice tech in place from Android and google.com, so now they’re working on baking it into a box. It’s code named ‘Chirp.’ They are also working on a security system from Nest with a wireless hub dubbed ‘Flintstone’ for now. The hub would connect with window and door sensors using the low power Thread communication standard. As with a lot of projects, these may or may not be released by Google.


Apple Pay Coming to Websites by Holidays; Sony Bringing PS Games to Mobile

Apple is getting ready to move Apple Pay beyond apps to mobile purchases over the web. Recode.net reports that the service will be available on iPhones and iPads with TouchID using the Safari browser by the holidays this year. Paypal has already had a system called One Touch that more than 250 top retailers use, but Apple Pay will be quicker and cleaner at checkout, with just the touch of a fingerprint, and you’re done.

In other big mobile news, Sony has formed ForwardWorks corporation to develop games using PlayStation titles and characters for mobile games. 9to5google.com notes that they won’t be porting full blown PlayStation games over to Android and iOS, but even ‘lite’ versions of many titles will please mobile users…and considering that there are billions of them, that should be a huge market.


Amazon Hosted Secret Robotics Meeting; GM Starts Pre-Production of All Electric Bolt

This week in Palm Springs, Amazon hosted an invitation only conference for experts on AI, robotics, and space exploration. Geekwire.com reports the people from Toyota, Rethink Robotics, MIT, UC-Berkeley and others were present. Amazon not only has a big interest in robots….they have over 30,000 of them working in their warehouses, made by Kiva…a company they acquired in 2012.

General Motors has begun pre-production on the all-electric Chevy Bolt, just ahead of the showing Tesla plans for their Model 3. Both vehicles are intended for a mass market, with price tags under 30 grand. Thenextweb.com notes that pre-Production may mean GM isn’t far from full production, so the Bolt could possibly be out in the Fall as a 2017 model…at least 6 months ahead of the smaller sized Tesla Model 3.


Apple’s iPhone SE & Smaller iPad Pro, etc; Chromecast Becomes Googlecast

If there was a ‘one more thing’ at Apple’s event yesterday, it didn’t come from Apple. The FBI put on hold it’s demand for Cupertino to crack the San Bernardino terrorist iPhone, claiming it had outside help to do so. Since two former CIA directors have said the NSA could do it, that’s a pretty good guess. Meanwhile, back in Cupertino, Apple showed the 4 inch iPhone SE, the new 9.7 inch iPad Pro model, and new Apple Watch bands. the iPhone SE is pretty much an iPhone 6S squeezed into an iPhone 5S case. It starts at $399 for the nearly useless 16 gigs of memory, and is $499 for the more useable 64 gigs. Preorders start Thursday, and it’s available March 31st.

Apple has shoehorned its iPad Pro into a smaller 9.7 inch version. You get the same 4 speakers and Apple Pencil stylus support. It weighs less than a pound, and has it’s own version of the keyboard case. The smaller Pro…Pro-ette? comes in silver, gold, space grey, and rose gold, and starts at $599 for 32 gigs. A loaded up one with the Pencil will pretty well murder a grand. It is also available for preorders starting Thursday and out on the 31st.

As expected, Apple Watch gets a so-called ‘Spring lineup’ of bands, but the big news is the price cut from $349 to $299. It’s a good guess that an Apple Watch v. 2.0 will be out in the fall with this price reduction.

Over at Google, or if you insist…Alphabet…Chromecast has morphed into Googlecast. 9to5google.com says some Vizio TVs will come with Googlecast built in, and there are some new Googlecast enabled speakers. The app is also renamed Googlecast, and the updated version will be out on Android and iOS this week.


Looking Past Apple’s March Event; Google to Wire Cuba

There will be a bigger iPhone with a brighter screen in 2017 or 2018, according to applenws.com and Digitimes. Apple is reportedly going to go with OLED screens, which some competitors already use. They give users more vivid color and blacker blacks. The biggest phone will apparently grow from 5.7 to 5.8 inches, too. Apple giveth, and Apple taketh away…pictures have appeared online of Apple EarPods with a Lightening connector, instead of the standard everywhere else…including all iPhones up to now…1/8th inch phone jack. It appears that the rumor about iPhone 7 models losing the headphone jack are true. We’ll have a full recap of the Apple event today tomorrow morning.

The President is in Cuba, and announced today that Google has a deal to set up more WiFi and broadband across the island nation, immensely adding to the capacity of the state run system of public WiFi hotspots…which cost $4.50 an hour, and are out of reach to most Cubans anyway. Engadget.com reports that Cubans will still have to put up with government censorship of their internet.


Details on iPhone SE Being Shown Monday; Preorders and Update for PlayStation VR

The iPhone SE will look almost identical to the iPhone 5s on the outside. 9to5mac.com says the updated 4 inch iPhone, which will be shown Monday, does have less shiny edges and slightly curved glass, but otherwise is a dead ringer for the 5s. Inside, however, it’s a whole different thing…the SE will sport the fast A9 processor and M9 chip, so it will offer ‘Hey Siri’ always on support, as well as an NFC chip for Apple Pay and a 12 megapixel camera that records 4K video. It will have 16 and 64 gig memory, and include the Rose Gold color option of the 6 and 6s. Best….it starts at $450.

Sony has announced that you can preorder the PlayStation VR starting next Tuesday. We reported earlier this week that the VR would be $399, but that’s not including camera or controllers. Now, according to bgr.com, Sony has clarified that an official launch bundle will be available for $499 including PlayStation Camera, a couple Move controllers, and PlayStation VR Worlds game. The limited preorders start at 10am Eastern, 7am Pacific Tuesday, so get ready. Another preorder window will open this summer. The system should be here by the holidays 2016.