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Six technologies changing the future of food

By Cat DiStasio

Food production, processing and transportation account for a tremendous amount of greenhouse gas emissions, and enormous amounts of food are wasted each year in some parts of the world while other regions suffer from shortages. Fortunately, agricultural engineers and scientists are working hard to increase food production, create cleaner agricultural processes and develop greener packaging. With technological advancements, it may be possible to sharply reduce carbon emissions from the agriculture and food industries while simultaneously addressing food supply issues.


Withings Body Cardio: A stylish scale for fussy health nuts

A scale is an odd thing to review. For one thing, it’s one of the few gadgets you have to be completely naked to test. It also sends you down a rabbit hole of fitness tech, with too many apps and too many connected devices that do too many things. The Withings Body Cardio scale is emblematic of that, giving you your heart rate, body-fat ratio, bone mass, water mass, the weather (!) and something you never knew you needed called the “pulse wave velocity.” Oh, and your weight.

However, Withings, now part of Nokia, aimed to make the Body Cardio as simple and elegant as possible in terms of both design and ease of use. And for the most part, the French company succeeded. Once the scale is set up, you just have to stand on it to get all that data, and it’ll look great in your bathroom or anywhere else. The petit problème is the $180 price tag, which makes it one of the most expensive scales on the market.

Designed by French partner Eliumstudio, the Body Cardio measures 13 by 13 inches and just 0.7 inches (18mm) thick, with a much more refined design than the company’s previous high-end model. The reason it’s that lean is that it doesn’t have any feet, which helps it work on just about any surface, including carpet. The tempered glass and aluminum body has a clean, dare I say Apple-like design, and the black or white models should blend in with most bathrooms. With a built-in rechargeable battery that goes nearly a year on a single charge, you don’t have to buy AA or AAA cells.

I set up the scale and Withings Health Mate app in about a half hour, but not without some fiddling and an aborted attempt. During installation, it also installs the MyFitnessPal partner app. Not counted in that time is getting both Withings and MyFitnessPal to play well with Google Fit. Doing so enabled me to send exercise data from my Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (and LG R watch) to Withings and import my weight, body fat other vitals into Google’s ecosystem. It also works with Apple’s Health app.

Once the setup is over, using it is simple: Just stand on the scale. Depending on your preferences, it gives you your weight, fat mass, total body water, bone mass, muscle mass, heart rate and the weather forecast (that’s pretty handy in the morning, actually). The more data you want, the longer the weighing sessions take. As for the vaunted “pulse wave velocity,” you have to stand on the scale five times before you get your first measurement, and it only shows the figure on the Withings app.

So what is pulse wave velocity? It’s the speed that your blood flows through your arteries, and supposedly a good indicator of your cardiovascular health. If the velocity is slow and regular, it means your arteries are flexible, and when they’re stiff and unhealthy, the speeds will be higher. The scale calculates PWV by measuring when blood is first ejected from your heart. The electrodes measure when it arrives at your feet and, knowing your height, can calculate the pulse speed. (You can’t turn the electrodes off, so the scale shouldn’t be used by pregnant women or folks with pacemakers.)

Withings tested the PWV against instruments used by cardiologists and found a “good correlation.” It’s not meant for clinical use, of course, as the FDA merely classifies it as a “wellness device.” Nevertheless, a high PWV could provoke some folks to see a doctor and possibly nip a serious issue in the bud.

The Body Cardio is a very accurate scale (it even takes the gravity at your location into account) and pegged my weight to within 0.2 pounds nearly every time. The bone, fat and water composition measurements were also consistent. Consistency is good, but bear in mind that impedance scales are notoriously inaccurate at gauging body fat.

My heart rate varied a lot, going from 55 bpm during one measurement up to 100 bpm in another. If I was extra careful to keep my feet in exactly the same spot on the scale, the range tightened up a bit, but still varied as much as 15 bpm. Withings told me that it’s normal for that measurement to vary because just standing up can make your heart rate jump considerably. However, after checking my pulse with my finger and a stopwatch, it’s clear that the device often misread it.

The pulse wave velocity measurement is taken independently of your heart rate and gave me consistent readings between 7.2 and 7.9, which is supposedly normal, though not optimal. Withings doesn’t give a lot of information about how to improve that, other than obvious things like exercising more and eating better.

However, the company’s researchers and doctors will study (anonymous) user data, compare it with other health factors, like activity level and diet, and eventually use those statistics to help users improve their health. Of course, Withings was recently purchased by Nokia and put in charge of its health division to compete against Apple, Google and other companies. So the Body Cardio will no doubt help it conduct research on cardiovascular fitness and other health factors.

The Withings app connects to the Body Cardio via Bluetooth, and if you connect the scale to your WiFi network, it will upload the data sans phone. You can then track and graph your progress to a T, either on your phone or a computer. If you also use MyFitnessPal and Google Fit or Apple Health, and a handset, fitness tracker or smartwatch, you can compare how exercise and diet affect your weight, BMI, pulse wave velocity, et cetera.

All that data is cool, but I prefer to just watch what I eat, exercise regularly and then weigh myself once a week to see if it’s working. And while the scale was consistent with most measurements, it often misread my heart rate (many smartwatches and trackers also fail in that are). I’d be more tempted by Withings’ Body scale, which launched along with the Body Cardio. It’s similarly sleek and gives you all the same data, bar the pulse wave velocity and heart rate, for $130.

If you’re not one to quibble over $50, the Body Cardio easily looks like it’s worth $180 thanks to the elegant, low profile design. And it delivers more health data than any other scale — which should put it high on the list for committed fitness junkies.


FirstBuild Prisma Cold Brew coffee maker First Take Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET

If you love coffee in its many delicious forms, then you’ve probably had the pleasure of drinking cold brew. This concentrated java drink is known for its sweetness, lack of bitterness and rich flavor. Making cold-brew coffee though takes a lot of time, at least 12 hours using traditional methods. Not so if you use the $299 Prisma Cold Brew Coffee Maker which its designers promise can whip up a carafe of the stuff in just ten minutes flat.

The Prisma was dreamed up by the engineers at GE’s FirstBuild Microfactory, the same group who brought to life the unique Paragon Induction Cooktop and Opal Nugget Ice appliances. According to FirstBuild, the Prisma is another example of its unconventional design and smart applied science providing real-world solutions consumers clamor for.

Get cold-brewed java fast with the Prisma…
See full gallery



12 of 6


Fancy drip facade

At first glance, the Prisma looks very much like a standard home drip coffee brewer, admittedly an expensive one judging by the premium copper and glass materials in its chassis. Keep in mind, the Prisma units I looked at in person were a series of engineering prototypes, some functional and some not. That said, FirstBuild explained that what I saw is very close cosmetically to what customers will likely be able to purchase.


The Prisma almost looks like a fancy drip brewer.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The machine has a tall, hourglass shape with a flat top, and a wide upper body which tapers inward at its center then widens back out again toward the bottom. Up top under its flat lid is the main brewing chamber, which contains a metal retainer. At first I incorrectly thought the retainer was a regular filter basket — the sort you find in conventional drip coffee devices.


The bottomless retainer drum holds the paper filter in place.

Brian Bennett/CNET

In fact the retainer is really a bottomless drum perforated with large holes and is meant to stabilize paper filters (which you place under the retainer) within the brewing chamber. To make a batch of cold brew, put coffee grounds and water into the chamber, close the lid, then press a circular button on the Prisma’s base. Ringed by a color-shifting LED, the button will also glow in varying hues depending on the Prisma’s status (actively brewing, standby, etc.).


The button glows in different colors.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Cold-brewed via vacuum

There are many methods to make cold brew coffee but most involve immersing coarsely ground coffee beans in room temperature or chilled water. Compared with hot brewing, this style of steeping is low energy so is much slower. Instead of the four to six minutes a drip machine uses to makes pots of fresh joe, basic cold brew requires at least 12 hours to concoct. There are other techniques to speed up the process such as brewing your coffee in a pressurized vessel, for example a kitchen whipping siphon, which you place in the fridge.

The Prisma Cold Brew takes completely different approach. This appliance uses a vacuum pump inside its base to degasify water within the brewing chamber. FirstBuild engineers say the treatment greatly increases the solubility of coffee compounds in the Prisma’s water tank, or rather the efficiency of its water supply as a solvent. Apparently this is precisely how the contraption can produce cold-brewed coffee in a fraction of the time simple steeping requires. Another factor aiding the Prisma’s ability to extract coffee is that it’s made to brew finely ground beans. A smaller grind increases the surface area of the coffee grounds, which further ups its solubility in water.


Cold brew is collected in a snazzy glass carafe.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

As for how the Prisma’s cold-brew quality stands up in real life, I’ll withhold judgment until I get my hands on the final version. I can say that what I tasted in person at the FirstBuild facility wasn’t bad, especially knowing it was made in an amazingly brief ten minutes. Still, the coffee used to prep these drinks was lighter roasts. I prefer to make my cold brew from darkly roasted beans, which tend to have more earthy, chocolate notes.

Home cold-brew addicts looking to score a Prisma Cold Brew Coffee Maker for themselves will have to be patient. While FirstBuild will launch a crowd-sourced funding campaign through Indiegogo in July 2016, the product isn’t expected to reach ordinary shoppers until the summer of 2017.

More facts about the Prisma Cold Brew coffee maker

  • Makes five 5-ounce cups (750 ml) at a time
  • Able to brew in a range of water-to-coffee ratios
  • Will have Wi-Fi and its own mobile app
  • Includes a premium glass carafe

iPad Mini 4 review – CNET

The Good Compact size, vivid display, works with split-screen apps in iOS 9. Basically, a shrunken-down iPad Air 2. Perfect hand feel for vacations.

The Bad Price is high for an 8-inch tablet. Slower graphics mean some apps and games don’t feel as zippy. Small screen makes for cramped typing and multitasking.

The Bottom Line Unless you’re absolutely in love with the iPad Mini 4’s smaller size, opt for the faster, larger, identically priced, and still pretty portable iPad Air 2.

The iPad Mini 4 is a tinier, slightly less powerful iPad Air 2. That’s basically all you need to know about this tablet, the 7.9-inch screen model which has been available since October 2015. I started sitting down the Mini 4 again, carrying it around every day in my bag, reading books — even using it to do work. This, after using Apple’s 9.7-inch iPad Pro as my general new go-to tablet. I even wrote this review on it. Which…wasn’t fun.

In a world of larger phones and more-capable hybrid laptops and tablets, the iPad Mini feels less relevant than it used to. And while it’s the best of Apple’s small iPads, with a still-really-nice design, it’s not the tablet I’d choose to carry around anymore. And Apple’s iPad pricing no longer favors it.

Since I first reviewed it last year, Apple has adjusted the pricing in its iPad line, pitting the iPad Air 2 as an identically priced alternative. And with that value change in mind, I wanted to ask the question: Is the Mini 4 a tablet you should still consider?

To that end, here’s what you should know.

View full gallery

iPad Mini 4 next to the Air 2.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It’s the more powerful, better featured of Apple’s two Mini iPads. Compared to 2014’s iPad Mini 2, the Mini 4 has a better screen, better camera, faster processor and a Touch ID fingerprint sensor. (According to Apple, the 4’s CPU is 1.3 times faster, and its graphics performance is 1.6 times faster than those of the Mini 2.) It can also handle split-screen apps, which can come in handy for checking email or Twitter while working. It’s not my favorite iPad. But if you want something small, this is the best option.

It’s slower than the iPad Air 2. The iPad Mini 4 has nearly the same specs as the larger Air 2 — except for its graphics processor, which is more than one-third slower. You can feel it when playing some games (the frame rate is a little slower on some titles), and even when switching apps. Things that feel a little more buttery-smooth on the Air 2 don’t always feel as zippy here. And while it has 2GB of RAM, multitasking doesn’t feel as snappy or responsive as it should for a year-old tablet. It’s a good tablet. It’s not a great one.

The battery life’s not quite as good as the other Mini. Apple has two iPad Minis, but if you care about the longest battery life, get the Mini 2. Apple claims 10 hours across all its iPads, but the actual results on our video-playback tests in airplane mode show some differences. The Mini 4 lasted 9 hours 34 minutes. The Mini 2 lasted 11 hours, 20 minutes.


How to back up your music files to your computer or online storage


How do I transfer music from my Android phone to my computer?

If you have all your beloved music on your Android phone, then it’s probably a good idea to back it up, especially if you plan on buying a new phone. You can choose to back up your music to a computer or you can back it up to the cloud so that you can access it from virtually any device (pun intended).

We have a few apps that we like to use to make backing up music easier. Here’s how to back up your music (just in case).

How to back up your music files to online storage

Backing up your music to the cloud is the first logical step if you want to make sure that if your phone craps out, your music doesn’t go down the toilet with it. There are two awesome apps you can use that your music files can follow you wherever you go.

Google Drive


Google Drive is where it’s at when it comes to file storage. You get 15GB of free storage space! Depending on file sizes, 15GB is nearly 4,000 songs. Just like Dropbox, Google Drive is ubiquitous; if you have a device with an internet connection, you can access your Google Drive, thanks to the cloud. If you have a Gmail account, then you have Google Drive.

You can listen to the music you upload right in Google Drive or you can download it for offline listening and you bet your sweet patoot that you can share anything and everything via a link to that file or folder, even with non-Google users (the heathens!).

If your Android phone didn’t come with Google Drive, it’s a free download on the Google Play Store.

To set it up, you just sign in with your Gmail address and password. From there, you just tap the big ol’ + button to upload files or folders. To upload music, just choose Audio from the list of options. You can upload as many songs as you’d like (or your 15GB limit will allow). If your Google Drive starts to fill up, just download files to your computer and transfer them to an external hard drive, if that’s your fancy.

To access Google Drive on your computer, just hit up and sign in. You’ll walked through a simple setup process and then you’ll be ready to go. Google Drive is seamless, so you can enjoy your favorite music on just about any device.



A basic Dropbox account is free and comes with 2GB of storage. All you need to sign up is an email address and a pocket full of dreams (pocket full of dreams is optional). Visit, enter your name, email and a password and you’re on your way.

2GB isn’t exactly a ton of storage, so you may want to download music to your computer as you transfer more into your Dropbox folder.

Here’s how to intstall Dropbox on your computer:

Launch your web browser on your computer.
Navigate to
Click create an account.
Enter your first name, last name, and email address into the fields. You can also choose to Sign up with Google.

Click the checkbox to agree to the terms and conditions.


Click Create an account.

Click the Free Download button to install Dropbox on your computer.


Next, you’ll want to install and set up Dropbox on your Android phone if it isn’t already. Here’s how:

Download the Dropbox app from the Google Play Store.
Launch Dropbox from your home screen or the app drawer.
Tap Sign in.
Enter your email address and password.

Tap Sign in.


You can tap Not Now through the “Set up Dropbox on your computer” stuff, since you’ve already done that.

Now when you want to upload files, create folders, take photos to upload, and a lot more, you just press the big + button. To add your music to your Dropbox folder, just select Audio from the list of options that pops up.

Once your music is in the cloud, you’ll be able to access it from any device that has Dropbox on it and, even better, you’ll be able to share it all with friends, even those without Dropbox! They’ll simply receive a link and will have full access to the music you’ve shared.

Dropbox isn’t just for music; you can upload video, photos, text files, and just about everything in between. It certainly beats the hell out of having to connect a USB cable from your computer to your phone and you can easily make files available offline by downloading them from your Dropbox folder.

Android File Transfer


If you’re a Mac user and a cloud hater, you have a somewhat easier solution when it comes to getting music from your Android phone onto your computer: Android File Transfer. It’s not the greatest app in the world, but it gets the job done.

There isn’t much to the setup process; you just download it, install it, and that’s it. When you connect your Android phone to your Mac via USB, Android File Transfer will open automatically. You may have to tap Allow on your phone before you’re able to access its contents on your Mac.

Once you do have access, you’ll be able to access all of the files that are stored on your Android phone, as well as any that are stored on your microSD card, if you use one. From there, you can just drag and drop music at will into folders on your computer . The best part is that you can drag out entire folders, instead of having to tap, hold, and select all, like you do on your phone.

One caveat: do not try to move too much music at once. One of the reasons Android File Transfer isn’t so great is that it seems to just crap out if you overload it. When transferring music, do so in smaller batches under 1GB. Otherwise, you might get halfway through transferring a batch and it’ll just stop and you’ll have to dig around and figure out exactly where it stopped and where to start again.

It may be a bit of a pain in the hiney, but if you want music from your Android phone on your Mac and you refuse to use a cloud-based service, then it’s the only way.

Windows users have it even easier

If you’re using a computer running Microsoft Windows (version 7 or later) all you need to do is plug in your phone to a USB port using the supplied cable. A regular Windows Explorer window will open with your phone’s contents right there for the taking.

The bottom line

Using a cloud-based service to transfer music from your Android phone to your computer is definitely the best practice since you can access your music from just about any device with an internet connection and you can download your tunes for offline listening.

The sharing feature is also a great reason to use Google Drive or Dropbox since most songs are too large to email normally and the folks you share with can choose to download the music you send or play it right there in the Google Drive or Dropbox link.

If you’re tinfoil and fear the cloud and have a Mac, then use Android File Transfer. But only if you have to.


Get a refurbished UE Boom Bluetooth speaker from Amazon for just $57

If you’re in the market for a portable Bluetooth speaker, you should check out Amazon’s latest deal on the Logitech UE Boom. For a limited time, you can get a refurbished speaker in black for $56.94.


The UE Boom from Logitech offers up to 15 hours of music playback over Bluetooth through its 360-degree speaker. The model on sale is Logitech Certified Refurbished, and as such comes with a 90-day warranty. The speaker will ship on July 7, 2016.

See at Amazon


Recommended Reading: Life lessons from Mario

Mario is living the
American dream

Rob Harvilla,
The Ringer

This week The Ringer has been discussing that unique group of people and things that we can all agree are enduring and iconic parts of culture. We’re talking the likes of Google Maps, Woz and The Rock — all on the list, by the way. One particular selection caught my eye: Mario. Yes, the Nintendo Mario. When you stop and think about it, that plumber can teach us a lot about life.

The tumbler Tumblr
Elspeth Reeve, New Republic

This is an interesting look at how bloggers and podcasters are changing the way gymnastics is covered, and they’re doing so from a fan’s perspective. Consider it your Olympic primer.

Instagram’s Kevin Systrom, unfiltered
Alexandra Wolfe, Wall Street Journal

The filter-driven photo and video app’s CEO chats about the past, present and future of his visual social network, including how Instagram has some things in common with the printing press.


ICYMI: Lung cancer detector and smart tape measure

ICYMI: Lung cancer detector and smart tape measure

Today on In Case You Missed It: A new device is being tested to detect lung cancer by having patients breathe into it. A new tape measure that syncs to a mobile app can calculate distances by simply running it over an item, or using a laser to calculate height.

We are super interested in this AI-written show from PBS, and VR fans might be interested in the news out of the Olympics. As always, please share any interesting tech or science videos you find by using the #ICYMI hashtag on Twitter for @mskerryd.


Get served by this tennis-instructing drone

If tennis is your game and you’re looking for help that a ball-spitting machine can’t provide, luxury gym chain Virgin Active has your back. They’ve built a drone to drop your racquet’s prey from above so you can work on your awful smash without any witnesses.

Jokes aside, any effort to integrate UAVs with training expands the frontier of technology and sports. The tennis drone hangs the ball via extremely thin string and drops it on command. It also has a downward-facing 4K camera for coaches to monitor the player’s form and technique.

Is it gimmicky? Yes in fact, it’s just a DJI Phantom 3 commercial drone with a Virgin Active sticker on it. But it’s also a step toward drones that could fire balls toward players at angles and velocities simulating professionals’ shots. The drone is being trialled at Virgin Active’s Northwood location, so head there if you fancy trying out the future of sports training.

Via: Mashable

Source: Virgin Active (YouTube)


Sennheiser PRESENCE wireless headset review

It’s funny that the “phone” part of “smartphone” has somewhat gotten lost. Many of us prefer typing to communicate rather than frightful human interaction. Then there are those who rely on vocal communication to function on a day-to-day basis. Especially for the business folk, phone calls are still crucial.

Bluetooth wireless headsets have been helping such users for a while now, but that doesn’t mean that aren’t improvements to be had. Today, we’re looking at a new one from Sennheiser, called the PRESENCE.


Sennheiser is a long-standing audio manufacturer most known for high quality, leading headphones, but it also has a say in the wireless communication space. The PRESENCE comes with the promise of functionality innovations and exceptionally effective audio. Let’s check out if it delivers.


The PRESENCE makes a nice impression right away, because it comes in a fancy and sturdy carrying case. Opening it reveals an organized layout of the headset components.



Laying it all out, we have the earpiece, four different ear tip sizes, a Bluetooth dongle (for use with a computer), short microUSB to USB cable, and car charger. It’s important to know that the PRESENCE is available in variants. If you don’t care for the carrying case or USB dongle, then you can pay less for what Sennheiser calls the PRESENCE Business. Our package is the PRESENCE UC.


The wireless earpiece has a functional but sleek-looking design. The materials aren’t the most premium feeling (it’s all plastic construction), but that in-turn makes the unit very lightweight.



Three are three physical buttons total – a primary button on the glossy strip that runs down the middle and two small volume buttons towards the back end. The center button initiates all the functions, like pairing and answering/ending calls.

The ear support arm is attached sturdily and rotates any which way, and it’s easily removable if you don’t care for it. You’ll also get ear support from three of the ear tips, which have a small extension (fin) that fit within your inner ear. The ear tips aren’t anything special; it’s typical silicone.

On the back end, you’ll see an exposed microUSB charging port (which I’m not sure is best in regard to durability; it could rain on you while you’re on a call) and an LED status light directly above it.



The PRESENCE has more to it than meets the eye. It doesn’t just throw in Bluetooth and call it a day. Sennheiser put a huge focus on a clear and distraction-free audio experience. The unit has various technology to filter out noise. The goal was to maintain sound presence (hence, the product’s name) in the midst of noisy office coworkers or a windy outdoor environment.

The microphone voice input is also efficient. A voice detector reacts when you begin to speak and utilizes three digital microphones to deliver consistently clear sound to the listener.

Sennheiser_Presence_10The earpiece wear is fairly standard. It’s not the easiest to don, but once you do, it stays put and is comfortable (you barely notice it). A nice feature is the boom arm (the silver rim around the unit extends out). You turn the earpiece on by pulling the arm out, and vice versa. I prefer this method over holding down a button.

The functions are pretty simple; it just takes a little playing around to figure out the what different presses of the primary button do. But it’s pretty intuitive if you’ve used a Bluetooth headset before. To get started, hold down the center button for a few seconds to initiate pairing and simply find the PRESENCE in your mobile device’s Bluetooth settings. Double pressing it will have it call the most recent phone number. And holding the button for one second will initiate the phone’s voice function (i.e. Google Now).

The battery is said to last up to 10 hours of talk time. If you do run out, fortunately, the charging speed is no slouch. 30 minutes replenishes half its capacity. And the Bluetooth range can go up to about 80 feet (depending on the environment).

As expected, the call sound quality is solid. Even with a noisy environment, the caller’s voice comes through distinctly and clearly, albeit, a little tinny-sounding. It’s pretty great when your surroundings aren’t able to drown out the sound that you’re trying to focus on. You’re able to give the caller your undivided attention.

Final Thoughts

Sennheiser did a fantastic job on this earpiece. It’s packed with a lot of behind-the-scene technology, which I think accomplishes the goals of efficient and clear audio. It’s not the cheapest Bluetooth headset out there (the price ranges from $100 to $150, depending the model), but if you really value communication performance, then look no further.

Sennheiser PRESENCE product page

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