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12 tech gifts for the geekiest people in your life

There’s one in every family: The uber geek who pretty much has it all when it comes to tech basics. They don’t need a laptop or a fancy TV. But don’t worry, there’s always some gap in their collection of gadgets that you can easily fill. And remember, the more niche the product, the better gift it is for these folks.

You could get them started on building out their smart home with a lock like August or Kevo. Or maybe they need a central hub to control their sprawling network of connected goods from, like an Amazon Echo Dot. If the nerd in your life is too young for a smart home, you can always pick them up a high-tech take on the paper airplane or a box of tinker toys like LittleBits, to get them start on their journey to become the next great inventor.

For our full list of recommendations in all categories, don’t forget to stop by our main Holiday Gift Guide hub.


Google’s mini radar can identify virtually any object

Google’s Project Soli radar technology is useful for much more than controlling your smartwatch with gestures. University of St. Andrews scientists have used the Soli developer kit to create RadarCat, a device that identifies many kinds of objects just by getting close enough. Thanks to machine learning, it can not only identify different materials, such as air or steel, but specific items. It’ll know if it’s touching an apple or an orange, an empty glass versus one full of water, or individual body parts.

It doesn’t take much to realize that the potential for computing breakthroughs is significant. Your phone could perform different actions depending on how and where you hold it. You might get a different interface if you’re wearing gloves, for instance. A restaurant would know to provide a refill the moment your drink is empty, and the blind could identify products in a store. It could be particularly useful for automatic sorting in farms and waste facilities, as well. The biggest obstacle is translating RadarCat from a clever concept to a practical product — that could take a while.

Via: FastCo Design

Source: University of St. Andrews


New neural interface restores severed spinal connections without wires

People suffering from spinal cord injuries could soon have another treatment option at their disposal — one that doesn’t involve strapping themselves into a mechanical exosuit. Rather than hardwiring an electronic bridge into a patient’s back, a new neural interface bypasses the damaged spine’s air gap and transmits motor signals from the brain to the legs wirelessly.

Researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale Lausanne (EPFL) collaborated with others from Brown University, Medtronic and Fraunhofer ICT-IMM to develop the system. “The system we have developed uses signals recorded from the motor cortex of the brain to trigger coordinated electrical stimulation of nerves in the spine that are responsible for locomotion,” David Borton, assistant professor of engineering at Brown, said in a press statement. “With the system turned on, the animals in our study had nearly normal locomotion.”

The research teams managed this by first implanting a pill-sized electrode array in the monkeys’ brains which recorded the signals generated by the motor cortex. These signals are then bounced by a wireless neurotransmitter to an external computer which translates the electrical impulses to mechanical commands. The computer then retransmits these commands to an electrical spinal stimulator implanted in the lower back, below the injury.

While the damage inflicted on the two test monkeys wasn’t permanent, it would have taken the primates over a month to recover full use of their legs. But with the neural interface active, they regained control nearly instantly.

This is heartening news to spinal injury sufferers but the research is still quite a ways away from human trials. The researchers must first determine how well test animals can use their restored appendages — in terms of balance and how much weight can be borne — before moving on to larger primates and, eventually, humans.


Can VR help to reduce police shootings?

VR is already used to help juries understand crime scenes, so it’s no surprise it could also be used to better educate police officers. That’s the idea behind BEST, a VR police training simulator that’s been built to try and reduce police-related violence. The company’s Jed Merrill explained that on average, in 2016, close to 2.6 people are shot by officers every single day. His hope is that, with more immersive training, those incidents can be avoided.

Merrill explained that police officers are really “peace officers,” and should be encouraged to “think more broadly” about that. The system is designed to emphasize deescalation methods as well as promoting key concepts like behavior, ethics, strategy and tactics (the BEST of the name). It’s hoped that with more exposure to nuanced situations in the simulator, officers will — when appropriate — be less hasty out in the real world. One example Merrill offered was calming people with mental health issues whose feelings of panic could be misinterpreted as a show of violence.

As well as potentially saving lives, there’s a practical, slightly harder-nosed element to all of this, which is the cost of each fatality. After all, the total cost to the taxpayer of a police shooting can frequently go up to $2 million when you include compensation, trial expenses and the loss of an officer while under investigation. With close to a thousand deaths each year, that’s a lot of money that could be saved with some reasonably inexpensive training.

Merrill wants to install a BEST setup at every police academy in the country, potentially in rooms similar to those created by VR entertainment firm The Void. That’s where blank, maze-like environments are constructed for VR players to feel their surroundings, which would be perfect for training rookie cops for specific scenarios. Officers will also get used to peeping around corners and avoiding nasty surprises wherever possible. The system can easily be widened to other first responders, giving EMTs and fire officers practical experience of rare events that could potentially save lives.

Of course, Merrill was more reticent to discuss how his system would, or could, address the notions of institutionalized racism within the police. While more caucasians are killed by officers in a calendar year, when adjusted for population demographics, African Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be shot. Although he did say that he hopes that by solving a “public problem,” he can help solve a private one too.

Source: BEST


Pandora Redesigns Website With New UI and Premium Playback Features for Pandora Plus Listeners

Pandora today began the rollout of a “completely overhauled” desktop site for its streaming radio service, coming on the heels of its rebranded iOS and Android apps last month. now has a couple of new features including an enhanced user interface and new additions for Pandora Plus listeners, which should begin appearing throughout the day as the rollout continues.

The changes begin with the music player on Pandora’s web platform, which is now a fixed bar at the bottom of the screen, ensuring that users will “never lose sight” of the currently playing track. Because of this shift, album artwork is at the center of the screen and provides prompts to artist information like tour dates, lyrics, bios, and more. The flat blue aesthetics of the site also now closely mirror that of the company’s mobile app and its logo.

Pandora has also streamlined a few navigation features when users create and organize stations, look at their favorite tracks, and use playback controls. The company said that “the updated features across the platform allow you to easily control your listening experience.”

Listeners on Pandora Plus can use the replay button to restart a song from the beginning, or even jump back in the current listening session and find an old track to replay. A skip option will also let them get to the next song quicker, as well. The ad-supported version of Pandora on the web supports these features too, but in a limited capacity. Whenever users on the free tier run out of skips or want to listen to a track again, the company said that they can “watch a video ad to get those extra features for added control” over the service.

Much like the app rebranding in October, the slight shift in Pandora’s web platform today is setting up the launch of the company’s impending on-demand music listening service, which CEO Tim Westergren has confirmed will arrive “later this year.” The service — which is believed to cost $9.99/month — will enter the music streaming race as an Apple Music and Spotify rival, with features expected of such a competitor, including on-demand music listening, playlist creation, radio access, and more.

Tag: Pandora
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New MacBook Pro Has Already Outsold All Competing Laptops This Year

Apple’s latest MacBook Pro has already outsold all competing laptops this year, according to new data shared by research firm Slice Intelligence.

Slice Intelligence says the new MacBook Pro accumulated more revenue from online orders during its first five days of availability than the Microsoft Surface Book, ASUS Chromebook Flip, Dell Inspiron 2-in-1, and Lenovo Yoga 900, based on e-receipt data from 12,979 online shoppers in the United States.

The new MacBook Pro generated over seven times the revenue that the 12-inch MacBook did over its first five days of availability, according to Slice Intelligence. If accurate, that means it took the new MacBook Pro just five days to accumulate 78% of all the revenue generated by the 12-inch MacBook since its April 2015 launch.

The data follows Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller’s claim the new MacBook Pro had received more online orders than any previous MacBook Pro as of November 2. Apple has also reportedly told its overseas manufacturers to expect strong MacBook Pro shipments to last until at least the end of 2016.

The new MacBook Pro’s apparent early success may come as a surprise to a vocal crowd of professional users who have criticized, among other things, the notebook’s lack of ports and limited RAM. Schiller said the early criticism and debate has been “a bit of a surprise” to him, but common for any new Apple product.

Slice Intelligence extracts detailed information from hundreds of millions of aggregated and anonymized e-receipts. The research firm has a panel of 4.4 million online shoppers signed up for its services such as Slice and It is also the exclusive e-commerce data provider for the NPD’s Checkout Tracking e-commerce service.

Related Roundup: MacBook Pro
Tag: Slice Intelligence
Buyer’s Guide: MacBook Pro (Buy Now)
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Apple Releases Safari Technology Preview 17 With Bug Fixes and Feature Tweaks

Apple today released a new update for Safari Technology Preview, the experimental browser Apple first introduced in March of 2016. Apple designed the Safari Technology Preview to test features that may be introduced into future release versions of Safari.

Safari Technology Preview release 17 includes bug fixes and updates for Safari Extensions, Custom Elements, Web APIs, Input Events, URL Parser, Fetch API, JavaScript, Web Inspector, CSS, Media, Networking, and more.

The Safari Technology Preview update is available through the Software Update mechanism in the Mac App Store to anyone who has downloaded the browser. Full release notes for the update are available on the Safari Technology Preview website.

Apple’s goal with Safari Technology Preview is to receive feedback from developers and users on its browser development process. Safari Technology Preview can run side-by-side with the existing Safari browser and while designed for developers, it does not require a developer account to download.

Tag: Safari Technology Preview
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Apple Releases Updated Version of iOS 10.1.1

Apple today seeded a minor version change to iOS 10.1.1, the current version of the iOS 10 operating system. The update is minor enough that it did not warrant a full 10.x.x number change, but it does include an updated build number.

iOS 10.1.1 being released today has a build number of 14B150, while the initial iOS 10.1.1 release, which came on October 31, had a build number of 14B100.

The new build of iOS 10.1.1 is only available as a download from Apple’s servers and cannot be obtained over-the-air at this time for those who have already installed the first version of iOS 10.1.1. The new version of iOS 10.1.1 will likely be provided to those who have yet to install iOS 10.1.1, as it otherwise requires an iTunes connection to obtain.

There is no new information in the changelog for the updated build, so it is unclear what minor bug fixes or changes it brings.

The first version of iOS 10.1.1 fixed a bug that caused Health data to be unavailable for some users. A minor update, iOS 10.1.1 was released shortly after iOS 10.1, a more significant update that brought a new “Portrait” mode and dozens of bug fixes and feature improvements.

Related Roundup: iOS 10
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Getting started with Android Auto – CNET

android-auto-screenshot.jpgEnlarge Image

Screenshot by Rick Broida/CNET

It’s virtually impossible to stop folks from using their phones while driving, illegal and insanely dangerous though it may be. Thankfully, Google’s newly updated Android Auto now works in every car, not just a handful of models with fancy infotainment systems. (Your move, Apple. Seriously, what’s the hold-up?)

Android Auto effectively adds a “car mode” to your phone, an oversize, simplified interface that gives you quick access to phone, navigation and audio features. All you need is the app, which is currently available in the US on Google Play and rolling out soon to other countries, and a dashboard mount. (Not sure what kind of mount to get? Read my rundown of the three main smartphone-mount options.)

Let’s take a look at Android Auto’s features and what you should know about using them:


Android Auto works with a variety of third-party apps, all of which have been updated to integrate with Auto’s specialized interface. These include messaging apps such as Kik, WhatsApp and Skype. There’s also music apps including Pandora, Spotify and Google Play Music, natch. And there are audio apps ranging from Audible and NPR One to Overdrive and Stitcher.

To see what’s available and install any apps you don’t already have, swipe right or tap the Menu button, then choose Apps for Android Auto.


If you’re using a compatible messaging app, Android Auto can automatically generate a reply to any incoming text. By default, that message is, “I’m driving right now.” To change it, just swipe right (or tap the Menu icon), then tap Settings > Auto reply.

Take note, however, that your auto-reply will not be auto-sent. When a message comes in, you’ll see it on the Android Auto home screen, with the auto-reply text shown beneath it. To actually send the auto-reply, you need to tap it.

When you do that, the message thread automatically toggles to “mute” status so you won’t get further interruptions. You can tap again to “unmute.”


The Android Auto home screen will automatically display recent destinations from Google Maps; just tap one and you’re on your way. You can also ask for directions by saying “OK, Google” or by tapping the
or tap the navigation icon to access Maps. The icons here could be larger, Google — just saying.


Auto’s phone screen is about as straightforward as they come: You get your list of favorites (and recent calls) pulled from the Phone app, but oversize for easy at-a-glance tapping.

The order in which these favorites appear is based on the order they’re listed in Phone, but when I tried reordering them in the latter, the list didn’t update in Android Auto. Hopefully that’s a bug Google will fix. In the meantime, you can swipe right (or tap Menu) to access phone features like voicemail and call history.


When you tap the headphone icon, Android Auto brings up player controls for the most recently used audio app. Tap that icon again and you’ll see a list of the available choices from whatever compatible apps are installed.

For the majority of these apps, you’ll swipe right (or tap Menu) to choose what you want to hear from that app: playlist, podcast, etc. Once you’ve started listening, you can swipe left from the main player controls to access more controls — shuffle play, thumbs up or down, and so forth.

Auto for the people

If you decide to use Android Auto on a regular basis, and here’s hoping you do, you can set it to run automatically whenever your phone pairs with your car’s Bluetooth. Just hit the Settings screen, tap Auto launch, then select the corresponding Auto-launch device.

Once it’s running, the app stays active until you hit the Home button, then asks you to confirm your exit.

I think this is a good first step toward making smartphones safer in cars, but I’d like to see Google make certain controls even larger and add an auto-send option to auto-reply. Your thoughts?


2015 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution review – Roadshow

The Good Mitsubishi gives a proper sendoff to the Lancer Evolution by making the Final Edition the most powerful and track-worthy production model ever.

The Bad Away from the circuit, the Evolution remains difficult to live with on a daily basis, terrible on-road comfort and a dated cabin devoid of modern infotainment and safety tech.

The Bottom Line Mitsubishi’s Lancer Evolution is a throwback performance sedan best appreciated by hardcore enthusiasts.

Mitsubishi saves the best Lancer Evolution for last

The Final Edition sends the Evo out on a high note with more power and exclusive styling touches.

by Jon Wong



I knew this day was coming. My last hurrah in a new Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution before it disappears from showrooms. The Japanese carmaker said this generation of the Evolution, its tenth, would be the last. For sport-compact car enthusiasts who thought that the announcement may have just been a cruel joke, the release of this special Final Edition model is proof positive that the end of Mitsubishi’s rally-bred high-performance sedan has become reality.

Losing the Evo bums me out even though I’ve never been a huge fan of the current model. I love the Evolution IX for its emotion-rich drive character, gonzo performance and fitting boy-racer looks, yet in all my experiences with the Evo X — mostly in MR trims with a not-so-great dual-clutch transmission — it never quite spoke to me like its predecessor.

Am I missing something about the Evo X? I’m using this last go with a five-speed-manual-equipped Final Edition to find out by taking it on a short road trip and to the race track. Maybe I’ll finally come to terms with this last Evo? Or maybe I’ll still be disappointed and continue my casual search for good-condition Evo IX for my own garage.


One last go with the Lancer Evolution.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

On-road brutality

The drone from the drivetrain churning at 3,500 rpm in fifth gear on the expressway is headache inducing, explaining my florescent orange ear plugs as I head west across Michigan. Things like sound insulation and acoustic glass aren’t always high on the requirements list for a no-nonsense performance car. Road, wind and drivetrain racket whirls constantly in the cabin making the 180-mile run to South Haven, Michigan, far from delightful.

Turning up tunes on the six-speaker audio system to mask the unpleasant noises is one option. The 6.1-inch center infotainment touchscreen gives access to satellite radio and Bluetooth audio and phone streaming, but not much else. There’s no navigation, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto in the Final Edition, meaning techies will likely continue to be disappointed with this Evolution in that respect.

How about safety tech such as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assistant systems? Sorry, you won’t find anything like that in the Evo, either. It’s too old — in fact, you’ll note that this car wears a 2015 model year — that’s not a misprint, Mitsubishi held over a particularly long model year to see this one through.


Red accent stitching highlights the Lancer Evolution Final Edition’s cabin.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Those looking for ride comfort and interior quality also need not apply. The noisy 18-inch Yokohama Advan A13 tires have cement-like sidewalls that yield a rough-and-tumble ride quality. If you’re expecting the suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers and Eibach springs to provide some damping relief, think again. There’s little give, meaning impacts from even small ruts transmit into the cabin and up your spinal cord.

Since its 2008 launch, the Evo’s interior has undergone a string of minor improvements. The center multi-information display is now color instead of all red, chrome accents dress the environment up some, and soft-touch upper door trims help break-up the acres of hard plastic up front. It’s a cabin that doesn’t look too out of place in an $18,000 compact economy sedan, but likely will disappoint many in a $39,000 machine.

Got wing?

Even without a show-stopping interior, there’s no denying that the Evolution Final Edition looks the part on the outside. An aggressive front end, vented hood, wider front fenders and trademark shopping-cart rear wing are direct links to the car’s World Rally Championship roots when driver Tommi Mäkinen notched four consecutive titles piloting Evolutions in the late 1990s.

2015 Lancer Evolution Final Edition…
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Some small styling alterations do set the Final Edition apart from regular Evos, with the most notable alteration being the black roof panel that contrasts nicely with this car’s Diamond White paint. A black center bumper, hood vents, dark chrome grille trim and Enkei wheels complete the Final Edition touches outside.

Even the spartan interior gets some Final Edition love, with red accent stitching, black headliner, sun visors, pillar trim and a numbered center console plaque denoting each car’s place within the 1,600-unit limited-edition series.

Disappointingly, the Recaro sport seats offered on some Evo models aren’t part of this Final Edition package. While the basic chairs are comfortable and have respectable side bolstering, they don’t look like they belong in a model that is serving as the swan song to a noteworthy performance model.

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