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NASA forms a coalition to look for life on other planets

NASA art depicting everything from Earth to a distant galaxy

NASA knows that it can’t rely solely on astronomers and robotic rovers to find life on other worlds, so it’s recruiting some help. The space agency has formed the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS), a coalition of scientists who study astrophysics, Earth, other planets and the Sun. The group will use its collective knowledge to search for alien lifeforms using perspectives that NASA wouldn’t always have — how does the loss of atmospheric chemicals affect the chances for life, for example? NASA hopes that the group will not only determine the habitability of planets, but develop technology to study those planets in greater detail. There’s no guarantee that NExSS will discover organisms, let alone organisms that you might see within your lifetime, but the odds of success are now a bit higher.

[Image credit: NASA]

Filed under: Science


Source: Jet Propulsion Laboratory


Three’s launching Voice over LTE support this autumn

Three’s hellbent on continually improving network reliability and coverage, and as part of that, the carrier has today announced it’s gearing up to add Voice over LTE (VoLTE) support to its network this autumn. The provider is currently on track to switch its VoLTE service on in September, facilitated by tagging additional 800MHz spectrum onto its existing 1800MHz network. This new slice of bandwidth is expected to significantly improve coverage in problem areas, particularly inside buildings, where 800MHz airwaves can penetrate more easily than other frequencies. Three expects roughly 1 million of its 8.5 million customers to be reaping the benefits of VoLTE by the end of the year, taking calls in places 2G and 3G signals can’t reach. The only catch is you’re going to need a VoLTE-compatible handset, such as the iPhone 6 or Galaxy S6. Any relatively new handset should do, though.

Three isn’t the only carrier readying VoLTE support, of course. EE and Vodafone are set to go live over the summer, which would make Three a little late to the party (O2 has misplaced its invite, it would seem). Three also touched on WiFi calling during today’s announcement, which it currently offers through its inTouch smartphone app. The plan is, in the not-too-distant future, to take the app out of the equation and make the feature native and seamless in exactly the same way EE has done it, and Vodafone intends to. WiFi calls handled in this way can jump over to VoLTE networks and vice-versa, meaning your conversation won’t end abruptly when moving from hot-spot to not-spot (or rather, former not-spot).

Filed under: Wireless, Mobile



Scientists turn old smartphones into all-seeing eyes

That clunky old Android phone sitting in a drawer may be more useful than you think. A team from Carnegie Mellon University has created a program called Zensors that uses connected smartphone or surveillance cameras to track your environment, figure out what’s going on and give you valuable alerts and statistics. The team showed how a user can point a smartphone outside a window, circle an area of interest, and pose a natural-language question like “how many cars are in the parking lot?” Zensor then proceeds to track cars as they enter and leave, giving a business data about its customers.

Such tasks are way beyond the means of regular smart home cameras and sensors, but the tech isn’t quite as magical as it sounds. The researchers are relying on crowd-sourced workers to for complex tasks like counting cars, while easier tasks are calculated by algorithms. However, they hope that computers will gradually take on the more difficult jobs thanks to machine learning systems, eliminating the human factor.

Asking a machine to make complex observations sounds a bit far-fetched, given that IBM’s supercomputer-based Watson has only just learned to make a Bruschetta. On the other hand, machine vision is getting pretty darn good, and artificial intelligence has advanced enough to scare Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. Right now Zensor is still in beta testing, but if it ever becomes a thing, it could open up a new way of monitoring your life without sticking chips into everything.

Filed under: Cellphones, Science


Source: Chris Harrison


A radioactive drone landed on the Japanese Prime Minister’s office

Officers cover up the drone on the Japanese Prime Minister's office

Japan has a mystery on its hands. A worker has discovered a drone on top of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office that was not only carrying a water bottle, but was marked with a radioactive sign and carried a “miniscule” amount of radiation, according to officials. While the quantity wasn’t enough to harm anyone, the landing raised more than a few alarms, as you can see by the giant tarp and swarm of police in the photo here. Who was behind it? And how did they get on to the roof undetected?

There aren’t any dead giveaways as to who’s responsible, but the drone landing comes right as a court approved the restart of a nuclear power station. Abe has been keen to revive nuclear power in the years since the earthquake and tsunami that ruined the Fukushima nuclear reactor, but he still faces a lot of opposition — this may well be an attention-grabbing protest. Whoever’s responsible, the touchdown could have Japan thinking about tighter restrictions on drone flights around government offices.

[Image credit: Jiji Press/AFP/Getty Images]

Filed under: Robots


Source: Reuters


‘GameLoading’ documentary charts the rise of indie gaming stars

The indie game community has exploded in the last few years, especially as development tools and digital distribution channels have become more accessible. StudioBento filmmakers Lester Francois and Anna Brady wanted to document the movement and, in 2013, raised almost $58,000 on Kickstarter to make a new movie. Now, almost two years later (and a second Kickstarter) GameLoading: Rise of the Indies has finally arrived. It was filmed over three years and features prolific developers such as Davey Wreden (The Stanley Parable), Rami Ismail (Vlambeer) and Zoe Quinn (Depression Quest). You can grab it now through the GameLoading site, as well as iTunes, Steam, PSN and Xbox Video.

Filed under: Gaming


Source: GameLoading


Things to know about Project Fi

Today Google announced a new project to help simplify your carrier plan: Project Fi. Google is looking to challenge the current mobile carriers such as Verizon and AT&T by revolutionizing how a plan is done, much like they’re doing with Google Fiber. So, how does someone get Project Fi? Well, there are some things you should know before you go looking to be a part of it.

Invite Only

At the moment, Project Fi is still in the development stages with an Early Access Program, and Google wants to slowly roll it out to test it before allowing public access. At the moment, you cannot simply sign up for the service and give them your credit card. As in the past with previous Google projects, you have to sign up for an invitation at first. Once you have an invite, there are some other things to consider.

Nexus 6 Only

Once approved for service via an invite, you must purchase, or already have a Nexus 6 smartphone. If you have previously purchased one, it will work. Google will send you a special SIM card.

If you do not have a Nexus 6, you can purchase one through Project Fi, and either buy it outright, or pay for it over 24 months. Paying for it over 24 months will be very similar to T-Mobile Equipment Installment Plans, where you can pay for as much of the phone at any time as you’d like.

$10 per Gigabyte

Tired of paying for overages with your current carrier? Or, are you tired of paying for data that you don’t completely use and goes to waste? Google will only charge you at a rate of $10 per gigabyte, regardless of how much of it you use. If you don’t use all of it, you’ll get credited for it. So if you pay $30 for 3 GB, and only use 1.5 GB, you’ll get a $15 credit to use on your next bill.

Otherwise, the service starts at $20/month, and that includes unlimited talk, text, Wi-Fi tethering, and international coverage. So, $30/month will get you all of that and 1 GB of data, $40/month gets you 2 GB a month, $50/month  gets you 3 GB a month, and so on.

You can port your number

Google will let you bring your existing phone number to Project Fi. No need to worry about changing numbers and making sure all your contacts get your new information.

Access your plan from any device

Another cool feature of Project Fi is the ability to access your plan from any device. Whether it be your phone, your tablet, or your computer! You can make calls and text, even if you don’t have your phone. So no need to worry about losing your phone and not being able to make and receive calls.

No Contract

Project Fi not suiting you the way you imagined? No worries. You can drop your plan and walk away anytime you’d like. The only thing you’d need to worry about is if you are paying for a Nexus 6 over the course of 24 months, you’ll need to pay that off in full before canceling your service.

Google won’t pay Early Termination Fees

Speaking of canceling service, assuming you break your contract with another carrier, you can port your number into Project Fi. However, Project Fi won’t pay off your cancellation fees like T-Mobile and Sprint have been advertising. You’ll still be stuck with those. So make sure you look into what it takes to leave your carrier before you try to go to Project Fi.

Network coverage

Unlike with other carriers, you will have a secure network coverage in more places than just Project Fi’s reach. Project Fi will mostly look for Wi-Fi hotspots that Google has opened up for your phone to connect to, but if that’s not available, then Project Fi will connect you to either T-Mobile or Sprint, depending on who has the best available service at the time. This makes Project Fi have an amazing outreach in service, since it depends on Wi-Fi hotspots, and two carriers.

The post Things to know about Project Fi appeared first on AndroidGuys.


HTC and Valve to give Vive VR headsets to select developers for free

With tepid reviews of the HTC One M9 abound, and the HTC GRIP, the new wearable created with Under Armor, the HTC VIVE, the company’s new VR headset could be HTC’s ace in the hole it’s using in order to branch out from the smartphone industry. The HTC VIVE operates like the GEAR VR from Samsung, however, unlike Samsung’s unit, this headset does not require the user to strap their phone into the headset for it to work. This device is an all-inclusive virtual reality experience, like the Oculus Rift. The VIVE sports what some people have described as “a more immersive experience”.

The smartphone manufacturer’s VR headset is available to select developers through an application process. To be eligible for the headset, you must have a registered account with Valve. Valve has announced on its website that the developer program for the VIVE is now open. Oculus currently sells the developer versions of its Rift headset to the public for a price of $350. However, in this case, Valve and HTC will choose the developers who will receive early access to the VIVE, free of charge. After all the time and attention this product got at MWC this year with it’s enclosed system and great performance, this could be HTC’s key to success by generating much-needed revenue for the struggling company.

So, if you’ve got a great idea for an application to use the VIVE headset that could be innovative and interesting to Valve and HTC, apply over at the Steam Community website.

Source: Valve


The post HTC and Valve to give Vive VR headsets to select developers for free appeared first on AndroidGuys.


‘Knock’ Aims to Let You Unlock Your Mac With Your Apple Watch [iOS Blog]

Knock, the iOS app that lets you unlock your Mac with Bluetooth instead of a password, is today being updated with Apple Watch support, bringing the same unlocking capabilities to Apple’s upcoming wrist worn device.

Knock for iOS lets an iPhone pair to a Mac to bypass the need to enter a password, and Knock for Apple Watch will work in the same way. It will no longer be necessary to dig an iPhone out of a bag or a purse, because the Apple Watch with Knock Glance will also let users log into their Macs.


When we saw Apple Watch, we knew immediately that we had to make Knock one of the first apps available for it. Knock and Apple Watch are a match made in heaven. With Knock 2.0, leaving your iPhone in your bag or the other room isn’t a problem. Whenever you open your Mac, Knock is right there at your wrist, ready to go. And with the Knock Glance, you can even unlock your Mac while you walk over to it — or lock it as you walk away.

Today’s Knock update also includes Touch to Unlock, which aims to introduce an extra layer of security for those who need it. With Touch to Unlock, unlocking a Mac with an iPhone also requires a finger to be placed on Touch ID, so it’s no longer possible to unlock the Mac with just the iPhone in the event of a theft.

The new Touch to Unlock feature works in conjunction with the Apple Watch in a unique way that’s similar to how Apple Pay works. When the Apple Watch is placed on the wrist, users are prompted to use Touch ID or a PIN code to unlock a Mac, and that enables the Apple Watch to continue to unlock the Mac as long as it remains in contact with skin on the wrist.

When removed from the wrist, the Apple Watch will no longer be able to unlock the Mac, effectively preventing it from being used to open a Mac with Knock installed without the owner’s permission. Touch ID Apple Watch verification through skin contact lets Knock users take advantage of two-factor security without the hassle of needing to place a fingerprint on the iPhone each time a connected Mac is unlocked.

Knock for iPhone has received some criticism because it often takes longer to unlock a Mac with the iPhone than it does when entering a password, but some users have found it to be a fun alternative to the standard password entry for Macs. It’s not clear if the Apple Watch will speed up the unlocking process, but Knock provides an interesting look at one of the ways the Apple Watch can be used by developers.

Knock can be downloaded from the App Store for $3.99. [Direct Link]


Some Apple Watch Pre-Orders With 4-6 Weeks or June Delivery Estimates Already ‘Preparing for Shipment’

With less than two days until the Apple Watch launches in the United States and eight other countries, customers who pre-ordered the Apple Watch and received shipping estimates of 4-6 weeks or later are beginning to see earlier than expected movement on their orders placed through the Apple Online Store.

A growing number of people have turned to the MacRumors discussion forums and tipped us individually about their Apple Watch pre-orders with 4-6 weeks or June delivery estimates changing from “Processing Items” to “Preparing for Shipment” on Apple’s order tracking page for various aluminum and stainless steel models.

June Apple Watch Preparing for Shipment
A portion of those that pre-ordered have also seen credit or debit card charges from Apple appear on their statements, although it is likely that the majority of those charges are Apple preauthorizations to ensure a customer’s bank account is in good standing. Apple’s payment and pricing information on its website provides further details about the steps that are taken.

“When you place an order, Apple will contact your credit or debit card’s issuing bank to confirm it is a valid account. Apple requests an authorization, which holds the funds for the full or partial purchase amount. As Apple prepares your items, authorized funds will be unavailable and may display as “pending” on your credit or debit card’s online statement.

If you are shipping an item, your card will only be charged after the item has shipped. For pickup items, you will be billed before your item is ready for pick up. If your order contains multiple items, you may see multiple charges on your credit or debit card statement.”

It remains unknown how many customers will receive their Apple Watch pre-orders on April 24, the day the wrist-worn device officially launches in the United States, Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan and United Kingdom. Any movement on pre-orders, however, such as order status changes and credit and debit card charges, is a good sign for those patiently anticipating the arrival of their Apple Watch.

MacRumors reported earlier this month that Apple Watch pre-orders could arrive sooner than expected based on an email exchange with Apple’s executive relations that said extended shipping estimates are set purposefully to avoid disappointment through false guarantees. At the same time, the exact number of Apple Watch pre-orders fulfilled on day one remains to be seen.


Apple Retail Store Logos Go Green for Earth Day

Today is Earth Day and in celebration of the occasion, Apple has updated the logos of some of its retail stores with green leaf accents, as it does each year on April 22. The green leaves mark a departure from the standard white logo, and Earth Day represents one of the few occasions each year where Apple tweaks its store logos.


Along with installing green-leafed Apple logos at retail stores Apple may also be planning to hold a special Earth Day celebratory event at its Cupertino campus, as it did last year.

In a tweet about Earth Day, Tim Cook linked to Apple’s environmental website and highlighted the company’s efforts to “leave the world better than we found it.” Apple updated the website two days ago with its most recent Environmental Responsibility Report, noting that 100 percent of its U.S operations and 87 percent of its global operations are now run on renewable energy.

Under Tim Cook’s watch, Apple has ramped up its environmental conservancy efforts, heavily pursuing improved recycling, renewable energy through solar farms, a reduced carbon footprint, and most recently partnering with The Conservation Fund to protect and create the forests that supply its packaging materials.

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