Learning

Text-to-Speech Reads to the Blind, But What More Can Tech Do?

The author's father using the Stereotoner to read.

Back in the 1970s, before a personal computer was on every desk or lap and a smartphone in every pocket, blind people read printed material—books, newspapers, bills—with reading machines. Harvey Lauer at the Blind Rehabilitation Center in Hines, Ill., was a pioneer in developing reading machines for the blind, and my father, Richard Bennett, a researcher at the Veterans Administration in Palo Alto, was one of his colleagues. “Blindness,” Lauer once said, “is something more than a nuisance, but a lot less than a major catastrophe.” The phrase aptly sums up the challenge of reading for blind people: It takes effort, but it’s not an insurmountable problem.   More

Business

Video: Kirkpatrick on Facebook Shareholder Unrest

Techonomy's David Kirkpatrick appeared yesterday on Bloomberg TV to comment on Mark Zuckerberg's reaction to angry investors at Facebook's first shareholder meeting. Kirkpatrick asserts that Facebook's formidable reach will ultimately bolster its long-term outlook, citing the use of Facebook by organizers of protests in Turkey as an example of the social network's pervasiveness. Zuckerberg's involvement in the FWD.us campaign for immigration reform, says Kirkpatrick, reinforces how Facebook "has put itself at the center of global developments." But can the company turn around its Wall Street fortunes by figuring out a way to monetize mobile ads?   More

Bio & Life Sciences Business

Genes Can’t Be Patented, Supreme Court Tells Myriad

"A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated," the Supreme Court has ruled today unanimously. The 20-page decision written by Justice Thomas added that synthetic DNA, also known as complementary DNA or cDNA, "is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring."   More

Security & Privacy Startup Culture

How Startups Helped the NSA Build PRISM

IQT_logo

In 2004, while working for USA Today, then based in part of an Arlington, Va., office tower, I wanted to do a story about the CIA’s then-experimental venture capital unit called In-Q-Tel. I got the OK from In-Q-Tel to visit its office. But the CIA was so concerned about secrecy and terrorism, I had to agree to not reveal where the office was located. So I met a man on the ground floor of an office tower that had once housed USA Today, and he promptly took me back up the elevator. In-Q-Tel’s office was in the same building. I may be one of the only journalists to go there. In-Q-Tel has since moved down the street. You can find its address on the Web—though not on its own web site. And now that the National Security Agency’s PRISM data-collection system has been outed, In-Q-Tel is more visible than it's ever been.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

What Would You Do If Hackers Downloaded Your DNA?

Micah's DNA: micahb37 via flickr

Hacked customer accounts are a bane of modern existence. LivingSocial might have been the latest major hack victim, but by now, most people with any kind of online life know what to do when notified by a vendor, bank, or e-commerce site that "unauthorized access to some customer data" has occurred: reset your passwords, check your bank accounts, monitor your credit report, perhaps freeze your credit or cancel your credit cards. But what if hackers access your DNA? There's no resetting that code.   More

Security & Privacy

Could We Lose Control of Drones?

Drone image via Shutterstock

Is any technology inherently “good” or “evil”? The deciding factor would be how it's used (or misused), right? Consider drones. Drones—unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) or aircrafts without human pilots on board—have been around since the early 1900s, and the U.S. Air Force was developing them in earnest as early as 1959. Today, the use of drones has grown dramatically. National Geographic reported this past March that at least 50 countries now use drones, and several—Iran, Israel, and China, for example—make their own.   More

Internet of Things Security & Privacy

Reputation.com’s Fertik: Put Humans Back at the Center of the Internet

Alongside Techonomy's recent mini-conference on the Internet of Everything in Menlo Park in May, we interviewed Michael Fertik, CEO of Reputation.com. Fertik is one of the world's most successful innovators focusing on a topic of great concern globally—privacy on the Internet. Reputation.com can sanitize and improve the way one is viewed in Google searches and other online contexts, and Fertik has given more thought than most to what we are doing as the Net evolves and more and more info about us is exposed in disparate contexts. In this video interview he talks about his hopes and fears, and waxes surprisingly philosophical about the relative importance and value of being human, and being a machine.   More

Manufacturing

The Next Manufacturing Revolution Is Not 3D. It’s Software

(image via Shutterstock)

A major challenge to creating and filling manufacturing jobs in the U.S. is the ever-increasing skills gap. There is a widespread misconception that these jobs are low-skill. To the contrary, a large portion of U.S. manufacturing is complex, requiring a high level of expertise that is hard to find. Investment in improved education and training is surely needed to fill more jobs. But the long-term solution is to lower the barriers of entry to manufacturing work through technology—specifically by using widely accessible, easy-to-use automation software that grows revenues, increases efficiencies, and reduces costs for manufacturers and their customers.   More

Global Tech

China: Baidu-Qihoo Search War Returns With Lawsuit

After disappearing from the headlines for a few months, the ongoing search war between industry leader Baidu and challenger Qihoo 360 has jumped back into the news with reports that the former has sued the latter. This new lawsuit is most likely just the first phase in a new stage of the battle between these two companies, and I fully expect Qihoo to file a countersuit within the next few weeks.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

Are Flash Sales Coming to Consumer Genomics?

Could consumers be persuaded to snatch up DNA sequences as must-have accessories? With former Gilt Groupe President Andy Page in a new leadership role, 23andMe might be able to swing that. The personal genetics company began late last year offering its Personal Genome service for $99 and set a goal to serve 1 million customers in 2013.   More

Government Opinion

Did Obama Just Destroy the U.S. Internet Industry?

Photo: President Barack Obama talks with Michael Froman, then NSA deputy for international and economic affairs, during a working dinner at the G8 Summit, June 25, 2010. (White House/Flickr)

News about the National Security Agency's PRISM program and its privileged access to internal user data at nine U.S. Internet companies has unleashed a torrent of justified anger and hand-wringing. But the worries do not go far enough. Almost everybody is still looking at this through a narrow domestic lens. Our values and goals may be more challenged than you think.   More

Business

London Diners Taste the Future: Drone-Delivered Dishes

In a marketing ploy to demonstrate how “light, exciting, and fun” its new rice burgers are, Yo! Sushi in London yesterday made a splash with the first use of a drone in food service. Pedestrians in the city's Soho section stopped in their tracks to snap iPhone photos of the flying food tray delivering meals to sidewalk diners.   More

Internet of Things

The Increasingly Wearable Cloud

Google Glass image via Shutterstock

While Google Glass is the biggest and boldest wearable cloud technology on the market today, it’s still in the early-adopter phase. But according to a recent Forbes blog by Joe McKendrick, more and more on-your-person cloud offerings—including fitness monitors, smart watches, and lifelogging cameras—are coming out, and pretty soon they’ll become ubiquitous.   More

Energy & Green Tech Global Tech

Reason Comes to China-Western Solar Clash

Shanghai solar panels (image via Shutterstock)

After more than a year of antagonism, I’m happy to see that the voice of reason finally seems to be coming to the ongoing clash between China and the West in their prolonged dispute over Beijing’s state support for the solar panel sector. Germany seems to be the driving force behind this welcome change in tone, following German Chancellor Angela Merckel’s remarks last week that she opposed anti-dumping tariffs on Chinese solar cells being proposed by the E.U.’s trade office. Merkel correctly realized that a trade war over solar panels wouldn’t benefit anyone, and could potentially deal a crippling blow to a sector that will be critical to the world’s future energy security.   More

Bio & Life Sciences Business

Officials Respond Slowly to Deadly Virus, Quickly to IP Concerns

source: CDC

Bickering about intellectual property rights is interfering with a concerted global response to a dangerous new infectious disease. Middle East respiratory syndrome is a coronavirus that first emerged in that region last April and has a greater than 50 percent mortality rate. At least 54 people in Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France, Germany, Italy, Tunisia, and the United Kingdom, have now contracted the infectious disease known as MERS-CoV, according to the World Health Organization. Thirty cases have been fatal.   More

Bio & Life Sciences

With $35 Million and a Fan in Bill Gates, ResearchGate Tackles Social Networking for Scientists

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 11.19.01 AM

Social networking for scientists has been tried before, but not until recently have we seen investors placing big bets in this area. Earlier this year, the academic networking site Mendeley was acquired by scientific publisher Elsevier for somewhere in the ballpark of $70 million. And today brings a new data point: Berlin-based ResearchGate, a site designed to facilitate collaborations and data sharing among scientists around the world, has raised $35 million in a series C round from investors including Bill Gates.   More

Internet of Things

Why the Internet of Everything Includes the Internet of You

(From left) Techonomy's David Kirkpatrick, Qualcomm's Rob Chandhok, Dave Evans of Cisco, Paul Rogers of GE, and Ford's Vijay Sankaran (all photos by Asa Mathat)

When the tech industry talks about the Internet of Everything (IoE), it sounds so huge it’s almost intimidating. Executives toss around numbers like 50 billion connected devices by 2015 and hundred-billion-dollar opportunities. But at the recent Techonomy Labs IoE forum, an idea emerged that’s a little more embraceable on an intimate level. Listening to some of the presenters, it seemed clear that we’ll all soon have our private little versions of the IoE. No one, as far as I can tell, has named this yet, so I’ll call it the Internet of You ... or IoU.   More

E-Commerce Global Tech

Google Rethinks China E-Commerce

Six months after abruptly shuttering its China-based e-commerce search business, global Internet titan Google is reportedly rethinking that decision with plans to re-enter the market. The decision looks like the latest acknowledgement by Google that China is simply too big to ignore, following its high profile shuttering of its China-based general search business in 2010 after a spat with Beijing over censorship. If this latest story is true, the next logical question might be whether we could see Google return to the general China search market, where competition is suddenly starting to heat up after years of dominance by market leader Baidu.   More

Government Security & Privacy

Could a Drone Kill You on Its Own?

Drone image via Shutterstock

Drones are among the fastest-growing concerns of citizens and governments worldwide. The U.S. has taken the lead in using them militarily for attacks and assassination, generating extensive criticism and promoting a debate over whether the policy reduces or increases terrorism. Israel, too, has extensively used military drones, and China has admitted contemplating it. Now worries have emerged among rights activists and others that the decision over whether or not to kill may itself be delegated to the drones.   More

Business

Venturing Out with Memoto’s Lifelogging Camera

The author wearing her Memoto Lifelogging Camera

I’m sitting across from an older man in a navy blue coat and a red sweater in the crowded Stockholm metro, on my way to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Unremarkable, except that I’m recording it all with a Memoto Lifelogging Camera on my lapel. The man and I do our best to avoid eye contact. This is going well until I start fiddling with the camera, concerned it’s not shooting straight ahead. This catches his attention and for a second he takes in the small gadget. The prototype’s transparent shell exposes the components inside, but the man looks away and doesn’t seem overly concerned.   More