Part speaker and part personal assistant, Amazon Echo is music to your ears

To everyone’s surprise, Amazon came out with a voice-controlled speaker that tells you what you want to hear

Seemingly out of nowhere, Amazon announced that it’s building a speaker that can be controlled with your voice. Called Echo, it acts like a personal assistant that’s similar to Siri or Google Now – just crammed into a speaker. By using seven microphones equipped with sensors that use beamforming technology, it listens for user requests, and can even understand you while it’s pounding out 360-degree audio to fill the entire room.

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Standing 9 inches tall, Echo looks and serves just like any speaker would. But playing your favorite tunes from your cloud library isn’t the only thing it can do. Designed to make your life a little bit easier, Echo, which responds to “Alexa,” can tell you the weather and answer general questions with facts from Wikipedia. Read More

A high-tech way to monitor your dog’s health

Wearable tech for canines is equipped with physiological and behavioral sensors

U.S. engineers have invented a new technology that can help you better communicate with your dog, and they’re hoping to make it available to everyone from service dog handlers to owners interested in training their furry companions more effectively.

Developed at North Carolina State University, the new wearable device, which your dog wears like a harness, is set to improve the way you communicate with your dog. Because it’s fitted with physiological and behavioral sensors, the harness gives owners a real-time picture of their dog’s mental and emotional state, and allows them to more effectively send back signals and commands, even if the dog is out of sight.

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No bigger than a deck of cards, the device inside of the harness works using two types of communication technologies. Read More

Google Glass user treated for Internet addiction

Patient suffered withdrawal symptoms when prevented from using Google Glass

After using Google Glass for about 18 hours a day, a man was admitted to a substance and recovery program for Internet addiction disorder. He’s believed to be the first patient with Internet addiction disorder triggered by the overuse of Google Glass. Although the disorder is not officially recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it’s becoming increasingly problematic.

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In the two months since he bought the device, the user, who remains anonymous, only removed it to sleep and take showers, and said he felt argumentative and irritable when he wasn’t wearing it. He also experienced dreams as if viewed through the device’s small window.

The 31-year-old man was serving the U.S. Navy when he was admitted to the program, where he was using Google Glass for his job making inventories of convoy vehicles. When he entered the Navy’s treatment center, he was suffering from involuntary movements and memory loss, and doctors observed him tapping his fingers at his temple as if he were using the Google Glass touchpad. Read More

London’s Tube trains are getting Wi-Fi and are going driverless

By 2020 London will see 250 air-conditioned driverless subway cars with onboard Wi-Fi

Transport for London’s 19th-century Underground is in for a modern-day upgrade. By 2020 the city will have 250 new air-conditioned, driverless subway cars equipped with onboard Wi-Fi operating on the Tube for the first time.

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Image via Tech Times.

Initiated by London’s mayor Boris Johnson, the idea behind the revamped Tube system is to increase rider capacity from 8.4 million people to 10 million by 2030. In order to accommodate more passengers, each train will feature walk-through carriages that allow more people on a line, along with double doors to allow commuters to get on or off the trains faster.

Instead of paper advertising boards inside each carriage, the new trains will display screens that can be automatically updated with Tube statuses and real-time travel updates. Read More

40-kilowatt, 140-panel system generates solar energy to power up a brewery

Michigan-based brewing company is brewing up solar energy

You can never go wrong with some sunshine and a glass of beer, right? That was the thinking behind the Michigan-based Dark Horse Brewing Company when it decided to green up its operations. Because brewing beer requires an abundance of refrigeration, compressed air, water, and light, it’s no surprise this progressive microbrewery became interested in making more beer with less energy.

Fitted with 140 solar photovoltaic panels in the form of two “farms” on its production facility, the brewery uses the harnessed energy to power its everyday operations. In the event that more energy is harvested than needed to power Dark Horse’s home grid, the excess power goes into the city grid for redistribution. Also in the works is the installation of a new dual compressor chiller, which is used to circulate glycol, a food-grade antifreeze, throughout the brewery’s pipes to keep beer cool and temperatures stable.

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Dark Horse Brewery’s solar system. Image via Design News.

Because the project was triggered by the need to upgrade the old chiller, the brewery opted for an energy-efficient upgrade, since it needed to invest anyway. Read More

European scientists developing energy efficient robotic tree

Plant-inspired robotic devices are being studied as part of an EU-funded project

We’ve seen plenty of animal-inspired robots these past few years — a lightning-fast cheetah, a super-swift snake, some pollution-sensing fish — but we haven’t seen much inspiration drawn from plants, because they just sit there, right? Well there’s more to plants than you may think. With that being said, Europe’s PLANTOID project consortium is currently in the process of creating a tree-like robot. And get this: its descendants may one day find use in the exploration of other planets.

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The PLANTOID robot on display.

Inside the 3D-printed plastic trunk that serves as the base of the PLANTOID robot is a microprocessor to guide the robot’s motions. Extending from the sides of the trunk are four plastic branches, each with leaves, which are actually sensors capable of detecting and measuring factors including temperature, humidity, touch, gravity, and chemical elements. Though that’s more than impressive, down in the robot’s roots are where the real action happens. Read More

London’s red phone booths are becoming green charging stations

Smartbox provides a quick and free battery charge for your smartphone or tablet

Although many manufacturers emphasize all-day battery life, watching your handset slip away to a measly 0% before the day’s end is still a common problem. In an effort to provide one of the world’s busiest cities with a carbon-neutral energy source, two graduates of the London School of Economics developed a solar-powered charging station for phones, tablets, and other devices.

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Created by Harold Craston and Kirsty Kenney, the Solarbox is a modern version of London’s iconic red telephone booths. With a fresh green paint job, they’re now being installed with 150-watt solar panels and are outfitted with USB and phone charging outlets. The first six kiosks were opened on October 1 in the Tottenham Court Road area, which is one of the city’s main shopping districts, and it was reported that 85 people used the charging stations in just a day. Read More