Uber buys deCarta to improve mapping and arrival estimates

Uber is acquiring deCarta, a mapping and location company that could help Uber to develop new types of services and also ensure its drivers show up on time.

DeCarta, headquartered in San Jose, California, holds a variety of data pertaining to mapping, local search and turn-by-turn navigation. Location services in cars from GM and Ford have been powered by deCarta’s technology, as well as devices from Samsung and Blackberry.

Now, Uber is buying the company for an undisclosed sum. It will allow Uber to improve services like UberPool and also give its users more accurate estimated times of arrival.

UberPool lets several people share the same ride, with multiple pick up and drop off points, so it involves more complex routing data than a regular Uber ride. But regular rides could benefit too, if deCarta’s technology can help Uber drivers know exactly where they’re supposed to pick you up.

Uber is acquiring the company for its engineers as well as its technology. About 30 of deCarta’s 40 employees will be joining Uber when the deal closes later this week.

Uber, which launched its service in 2010, has made a small number of acquisitions over the years but didn’t disclose them.

DeCarta could also help Uber with more futuristic efforts, like developing its own self-driving car technology.

Uber’s app currently gets its mapping from a number of sources including Google, Apple and Uber itself. Acquiring deCarta could signal a desire to lessen its dependency on some of those sources. Google, however, is a major investor in Uber, having put at least US$258 million into the company.

military laser weapon burned a hole through a truck a mile away

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A successful test of Lockheed Martin’s ATHENA military laser punched a hole through a running Ford F-150 pickup truck at more than a mile away, proving that military grade lasers are anything but science fiction.

In fact, ATHENA’s power is orders of magnitude higher than what the Terminator requested in the movie of the same name: instead of a phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range, ATHENA directs 30 kilowatts of energy downrange.

ATHENA is based on the Area Defense Anti-Munitions (ADAM) laser weapon system developed by Lockheed Martin in Sunnyvale, Calif., which has been proven to be effective against small airborne and sea-based targets, according to the company. It incorporates the 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative (ALADIN) fiber laser. Lockheed Martin said that the system combines multiple fiber lasers into a single, unified beam using a technique called spectral beam combining that’s much more powerful than the individual laser modules themselves.

“Fiber-optic lasers are revolutionizing directed energy systems,” said Keoki Jackson, Lockheed Martin’s chief technology officer, in a statement. “We are investing in every component of the system – from the optics and beam control to the laser itself – to drive size, weight and power efficiencies. This test represents the next step to providing lightweight and rugged laser weapon systems for military aircraft, helicopters, ships and trucks.”

The poor truck in question was apparently parked, motor and drive train running, to similar something akin to a real-world scenario. Lockheed said that the laser burned through the engine manifold in just seconds, from more than a mile away.

Based upon the photo of the truck that Lockheed Martin released, the pickup was undoubtedly not moving, and the laser must have been computer-guided to enable such as tight, compact hole. But whatever the scenario, it’s hard to argue with the result.

Google Glass Has Range of Applications in Plastic Surgery

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The world’s first plastic surgery procedure performed using Google Glass has shown promising use of the eye-wearable device in plastic surgery.

Google Glass has a wide range of possible applications in plastic surgery – with the potential to enhance surgical training, medical documentation and patient safety, researchers report.

“Google Glass is an exciting technology, attracting global interest from multiple industries, professions and individuals,” said surgeon Lorne K Rosenfield from the Stanford University.

Rosenfield performed the first plastic surgery procedure with Glass – an eyelid surgery (blepharoplasty) performed in combination with a facelift procedure.

This experience illustrated some challenges for future refinement, including the limited resolution of the video camera, technical difficulties in streaming and the need for the surgeon to keep the head in a fixed position.

In subsequent procedures, Rosenfield fashioned a head-mounted extra-wide LED light to improve clarity for video viewers as well as for the surgeon.

The ability to demonstrate surgical procedures, live or recorded, has obvious applications for training in plastic surgery and other disciplines.

According to Rosenfield, the recordings also have unique value for self-evaluation by the surgeon.

In the future, Google Glass technology can enable surgeons to receive remote consultations and even “virtual assistance” during actual procedures.

Introduced on a limited basis in 2013, Glass is a hands-free, computerised eyewear that can present information to the wearer and enable recording and sharing of video.

Glass may also be useful in providing rapid access to medical documentation – for example, doctors could call up and view necessary medical records, imaging studies, or checklists.

This might even reduce the spread of infection from handling pens and paper, computers and other sources.

Although Glass is not currently available to the public, the technology is still being developed in several markets, including healthcare.

The article by Rosenfield and co-author Christopher R Davis, MD, appeared in thejournal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

[source : gadgets.ndtv.com]

Pebble Time Steel Launched, Looks Like the Apple Watch

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With over $12 million (roughly 75 crores) in funding and pre-orders for more than 65,000 smartwatches, you’d assume that the Pebble Time was all that the company, Pebble had to offer. However this changed with the announcement of the Pebble Time Steel, which bears a striking resemblance to the Apple Watch.

As the name suggests, it’s made of stainless steel. Due to this it’s thicker and heavier than the Pebble Time that’s mostly made of plastic. There are three colours to choose from. These include Black, Gold, and Stainless Steel. It will ship with a metal bracelet and a leather strap. Much like the Pebble Time, it will be available through the company’s highly successful Kickstarter campaign.

pebble_steel_colours_pebble.jpgWith a regular retail price of $299 (around Rs. 18,500), Kickstarter backers can get it for $250 (around Rs. 15,500). And if you have already backed the Pebble Time but want to upgrade to the Steel, you can do so without losing your spot in queue. What this means is if you backed Pebble Time on February 24, you’ll be one of the first to receive the Steel when it ships in July.

In addition to this, the company announced smartstraps. These are straps that contain sensors and electronics can be used with apps on the Pebble Time. The possibilities are intriguing to say the least with the company stating that you could use them to enhance battery-life, make payments via NFC, or even use them as pollution sensors.

Apple Watch’s impending launch in April has certainly spurred major manufacturers to come up with their own wearable offerings, and Huawei and HTC are some of the latest entrants into the smartwatch and fitness tracking club.

[source : gadgets.ndtv.com]

Israel’s TowerJazz to Produce Sensors for Intel’s 3D Cameras

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TowerJazz has won a contract from Intel Corp to produce infrared sensors for Intel’s 3D cameras, the Israeli chip manufacturer said on Tuesday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but a market source who asked not to be named estimates that the agreement could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars within four years.

The 3D cameras installed on laptops recognise gestures, enabling users to control their computers with hand and head movements.

The technology was developed by Intel’s Israeli subsidiary close to TowerJazz’s manufacturing plant in northern Israel.

Avi Strum, general manager of TowerJazz’s CMOS image sensor business, said the technology has numerous potential uses, such as the ability for the likes of cooks or car mechanics to operate a computer with gestures rather than having to touch it with dirty hands.

The camera can also capture images of an object and quickly create a model for use in 3D printing.

“Intel sensing solutions will bring consumers new experiences and will change the way people capture and share 3D images,” Strum said.

“That Intel chose us for mass production of such sensors is very positive.”

While gesture control is most common in laptops or gaming systems, it is expected to become more widely used in mobile devices such as smartphones.

[source : gadgets.ndtv.com]

Samsung Gear VR Headset Upgrade Launched for Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge

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In addition to launching the new Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, Samsung slipped in a new version of its Gear VR Headset at MWC 2015. While it has no new name, it sports a host of welcome additions along with support for the aforementioned just announced handsets.

The updated Gear VR Innovator Edition now lets you charge it while in use. This should let you be able to use it longer. It’s 15 percent lighter and sports a larger field of vision as well.

Along with this, it’s easier to use over extended periods of time thanks to modified straps. Slicker ergonomics aside, thanks to the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, Samsung claims this newer version of the Gear VR headset will sport better graphics and improved performance.

While the Gear VR is a result of the Korean company’s partnership with Facebook-owned virtual reality pioneer, Oculus VR – whose primary focus is gaming, Samsung believes there’s use for it in terms of general media consumption as well such as videos. This should come as no surprise what with the company launching the Milk VR app earlier in the year to supplement this endeavour.

The virtual reality space is heating up. Aside from Sony with Project Morpheus, Oculus, and Razer, HTC threw its hat into the ring announcing its partnership with Valve for the HTC Vive VR as well. With immense competition, this latest revision to the Gear VR just further cements Samsung’s commitment to virtual reality.

[source : gadgets.ndtv.com]

SanDisk Unveils 200GB microSDXC Card, USB Drive With Type-C Connector

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Pushing the boundaries of portable storage, SanDisk has unveiled a new microSDXC memory card with an astonishing 200GB capacity. This is particularly impressive because SandDisk has continued to push more and more gigabytes onto a storage medium that is the size of the average human fingernail.It’s interesting to note that despite paying the cost of an average smartphone ($400) for the SanDisk 200GB Ultra microSDXC UHS-1 Premium Edition card, users may not actually be able to use it with anything just yet. Most devices that support microSD are rated to support up to 128GB cards for the time being, including the just unveiledHTC One M9. The new Samsung Galaxy S6 does not even support expandable storage, departing from Samsung’s typical strategy of flagship phones supporting microSD cards. SanDisk rates the card speed at 90MB/s, which means that it will take in excess of 30 minutes to actually fill it up with data.

Also launched by SanDisk is a new 32GB dual-USB drive with a reversible Type-C USB 3.1 connector, and one USB 3.0 connector. Again, here isn’t anything you can actually connect the Dual USB Drive to, with Type-C compatible phones and tablets expected to launch in the coming months. Whenever they do, this card will keep you ready though, and in the meantime, you can always use the regular USB plug to connect it to the vast majority of computers available in the market.

Neither of these products are actually launching just yet, with SanDisk just content to showcase the fact that it’s ready with the next generation of products. Both will be available in the coming months, with the Type-C USB drive also expecting storage capacities higher than 32GB.

SanDisk has also revealed a new 128GB version of its popular iXpand Flash Drive range, designed to quickly transfer pictures and video from iOS devices to Mac computers or PCs. There are also updates to the iXpand Sync app, which now supports Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the new iPhones and iPads. The new 128GB capacity costs $150 (roughly Rs. 9,300) and is already retailing via Sandisk.com.

[source : gadgets.ndtv.com]

MWC 2015: Mad Catz Unveils S.U.R.F.R and L.Y.N.X. 3 Controllers

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Not content with unveiling the quirky L.Y.N.X. 9 at CES 2015, Mad Catz announced the S.U.R.F.R, a controller that manages to cram a full QWERTY keyboard, and mouse pointer input along with a smartphone clip for Android device.

Furthermore it includes palm grips for comfort, trigger buttons, and will be available in three colours when it retails in May for $79.99 (roughly Rs. 5,000). There are integrated media controls as well which makes the Mad Catz S.U.R.F.R extend its use beyond gaming, allowing you to surf, text or navigate media.

“Today’s living room is rapidly evolving beyond proprietary cable boxes and gaming consoles. While consumers continue to gravitate towards connected devices as their preferred platform for streaming digital media content, gaming, surfing the web and social media, current controllers just don’t deliver on the experience they desire. The S.U.R.F.R has been designed to get the most out of these different devices we are now accustomed to in our daily lives,” said Darren Richardson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mad Catz.

lynx_3_mad_catz.jpgIn addition to this, the company also announced the L.Y.N.X. 3 (pictured above). It’s a smaller version of the Mad Catz L.Y.N.X. 9 shown off at CES 2015 sporting the same fold-out design. It retains the console controller layout and phone holder but forgoes the keyboard and tablet holder of its bigger brother. The L.Y.N.X. 3 will retail for $69.99 (roughly Rs. 4,300) and be available in May.

[source : gadgets.ndtv.com]

Uber Slashes Fares Up to 40 Percent Across India

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Uber has slashed taxi fares up to 40 percent across various cities in India that includes Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Mumbai, New Delhi, and Pune. Notably, Kolkata has not seen any price drop yet, but is expected to shortly.The prices are have been dropped on all Uber Products – UberGo, UberX and UberBlack – depending upon the region. The lowest of all prices across cities is now on Jaipur where the UberGo and UberX base fare is Rs. 15 and per kilometre charge is Rs. 7 and Rs. 8 respectively.

“We’re dropping our prices so everyone can now try the full Uber experience. Nothing can beat the fares and the convenience of moving around in an Uber. Press a button and the cheapest ride in town will come to your doorstep,” said company on its blog.

In Ahmedabad, base fare of UberGo and UberX is dropped to Rs. 20 with per kilometre charges of Rs. 7 for both. In Bangalore, Uber operates all three products – UberGo, UberX and UberBlack – with a base fare Rs. 25, Rs. 30 and Rs. 60 along with per kilometre charges of Rs. 7, Rs. 8 and Rs. 13, respectively.

In Chandigarh, UberGo and UberX base fare is Rs. 20 and Rs. 25 with per kilometre charge of Rs. 5 and Rs. 7 respectively, which is cheapest per kilometre charges across India. Uber in Chennai has dropped the UberGo and UberX base fare to Rs. 30, and per kilometre charges to Rs. 8 and Rs. 9 respectively.

In New Delhi, where Uber has had the most tough ride so far, UberGo now has a base fare Rs. 25 and charges of Rs. 7 per kilometre, while the UberX base fare is now Rs. 40 with charges of Rs. 9 per kilometre, and the premium UberBlack now has a base fare of Rs. 60 and charges of Rs. 12 per kilometre.

In Mumbai, Uber now has base fares of Rs. 60, Rs. 100, and Rs. 150 for its UberGo, UberX, and UberBlack services respectively, corresponding with Rs. 8, Rs. 10, and Rs. 13 per kilometre fares.

Finally, in Pune, UberGo and UberX are now Rs. 25 base fare and have charges of Rs. 8 and Rs. 9 per kilometre respectively. UberBlack is priced Rs. 80 base fare and has charges of Rs. 15 per kilometre.

[source : gadgets.ndtv.com]

World’s First ‘Non-Intrusive’ Smartphone Announced

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Tired of smartphone’s intrusion in your personal space? A new device may be your new hope to stay connected without much hassle.Monohm Inc. has announced the creation of Runcible – a personal device modelled on the pocket watch.

Flaunting a high resolution, round screen, the device includes a high-performance phone and camera which is meant to “refocus users’ attention on real people and the real world”.

“People need something to let them control their digital lives in clean, quiet, simple ways,” said Aubrey Anderson, CEO and co-founder, Monohm Inc in a statement.

“Runcible is the alternative to the increasingly invasive and commodified smartphone whose app-centric approach distracts us from our lives instead of helping us live them,” Anderson added.

Runcible is built on top of Mozilla’s Open Source Firefox OS, and KDDI Corporation is Monohm’s first carrier partnership.

runcible_official_2.jpgRuncible’s operating system is based on Open Web standards.

Unlike other systems which rely upon complicated middleware and cannot integrate across platforms, applications and devices, Runcible users can simply access the power of the web to command and control the growing number of IoT devices and connected things around us.

What’s heartening is that unlike smartphones which become obsolete within two or three years, Runcible’s parts can be removed, repaired and upgraded, enabling the device to be kept for decades.

Runcible will never beep, alert or otherwise interrupt us, enabling us to keep our attention where it was always meant to be.

The device would be available by the end of this year.

[source : gadgets.ndtv.com]