Category Archives: Tech & Savings Gate

New technique allows for production of drug-delivering silicone microspheres

Silicone microspheres made via ultrasonic spray pyrolysis (Image: Kenneth Suslick)

Scientists are increasingly looking at using medication-filled microspheres for targeted drug delivery within the human body. Silicone would be a particularly good building material for such spheres, as it’s biocompatible, waterproof, and chemically stable. Unfortunately, using traditional methods, it can’t be made into small enough spheres. Now, however, a new process has allowed for the creation of silicone microspheres that are about one one-hundredth the size of any previously produced.

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Section: Science

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XploR cane lets the blind track down family and friends

The XploR cane features facial recognition and GPS navigation systems (Photo: Birmingham City University)

We’ve already seen experimental “white canes” that allow blind users to get a sense of their surroundings via ultrasound and lasers. Birmingham City University’s XploR mobility cane, however, uses its onboard electronics towards another end – to help users locate people that they know.

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Section: Good Thinking

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Here are some photos of the first Microsoft Priority Reseller store in India

Recently, Microsoft formally began the transition of Nokia-branded retail outlets, with the first ever Microsoft Priority Reseller Store in the world opening in India in Gurgaon, a New Delhi suburb.

India is the first country to roll out the new look. Beginning with the first launch, the transition will be made across a total of 8,872 stores and 119 Care centres by the end of June 2015. Globally, a total of 15,684 retail outlets and 324 Care centres will get a similar makeover.








Samsung activewash has a built-in pre-washing sink

The Samung activewash lets users scrub right in their washer

If you get a particularly nasty stain on a piece of clothing, chances are you’ll want to give it a good spot-scrubbing in the sink before throwing it in the washing machine. Samsung has set out to make that pre-washing process easier with its new activewash top load washer, which features a sink built right into its lid.

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Section: Around The Home

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The Quest for Quality: Five of the Most Useful Apple Watch Apps

While Apple CEO Tim Cook recently confirmed that there are over 3,500 apps available for the Apple Watch, many reviewers and early adopters have complained that many fail to provide useful functionality on the wrist. Despite strict approval guidelines, the App Store for Apple Watch is cluttered with basic or poorly designed apps for the wrist-worn device, likely due in significant part to the apps having been developed before the Apple Watch was available.

To help users discover some high quality watch-based experiences, MacRumors reached out to its forum community and skimmed through the App Store to handpick five Apple Watch apps that we’ve found particularly useful. Some of the useful Apple Watch apps worth mentioning include Workflow, Philips Hue, Things, Calcbot and Clear.

Workflow

Workflow is an automation tool that enables you to drag and drop any combination of actions to create custom workflows for completing various tasks. You can, for example, use the app to get directions to nearby coffee shops within a preset radius directly on your Apple Watch. Workflows are created using a paired iPhone and automatically appear on the Apple Watch for one-tap use.

Workflow 3
Workflow features over 200 actions, including those for Contacts, Calendar, Maps, Music, Photos, Camera, Reminders, Safari, AirDrop, Twitter, Facebook, Dropbox, Evernote and iCloud Documents. The app, created by DeskConnect co-founders Ari Weinstein, Ben Feldman and Conrad Kramer, is currently $2.99 on the App Store for iPhone and Apple Watch as part of a limited time 40% off sale.

Philips Hue

Philips Hue for Apple Watch displays up to 10 different lighting configurations for Hue lights that can be activated by pressing a circular button — there’s one button per screen, and you swipe between them. One minor inconvenience is that Hue has no Glance, so you have to actually open the app to turn on your lights, although it’s a simple issue that could easily be addressed in a future update.

Philips Hue Apple Watch
You choose your desired scenes in the Hue for iPhone app in settings, where available scenes to choose from are listed under Widget & Apple Watch. Scenes you pick will be available on the Apple Watch and in Notification Center on iPhone if you have the widget turned on. The scenes will be the same in both places — you can’t pick different ones for the iOS widget and for the Apple Watch.

If you don’t have a Hue Tap, quick selecting scenes on the Apple Watch is easily the fastest way to control your lights since the device is right on your wrist. With 10 scenes, there are a lot of options for controlling lighting all over the house. You can get more scenes by creating them on the iPhone or downloading them from the Meet Hue website.

Philips Hue for Apple Watch is free on the App Store.

Things

Things is one of several to-do apps available for the Apple Watch, displaying a list of day-to-day tasks and long-term goals on your wrist that can be assigned to categories, marked as completed or added to larger projects related to, for example, planning a vacation, preparing for a presentation or filing taxes.

Things-Apple-Watch
To-dos can be added directly from the Apple Watch using Siri dictation, and categorized under Inbox or Today with a single tap. Things for Apple Watch can also provide notifications to remind you about scheduled to-dos for a specified date so that you don’t forget, and all tasks automatically sync to a paired iPhone.

Things for Apple Watch is $9.99 on the App Store.

Calcbot

Calcbot by Tapbots makes up for the lack of a stock calculator app on the Apple Watch, enabling you to perform basic calculations and conversions, calculate tips and split bills right on your wrist. The regular calculator mode features a basic numeric keypad, and a firm press using Force Touch brings up a menu with add, subtract, multiply and divide options.

The conversion mode brings up a similar looking number pad with options to convert US dollars to euros, pounds to kilograms, miles to kilometers and Fahrenheit to Celsius using Force Touch. Calcbot Pro, $2.29, enables users to customize the four conversion options using the Calcbot app for iPhone, with over 500 units across 22 different categories to choose from.

Calcbot-Apple-Watch
Perhaps the most useful functionality of Calcbot for Apple Watch is the tip calculator, which allows you to enter the total cost of your bill, calculate a 10% to 30% tip and divide the amount between up to 10 people if necessary. Apple Pay and Calcbot combined make the Apple Watch a more convenient option than fumbling with your iPhone and wallet when the check comes.

Calcbot for Apple Watch is free on the App Store.

Clear

The Apple Watch’s small screen size is ideal for displaying bite-sized information, making Clear a perfect match for the wrist-worn device. Clear for Apple Watch brings tasks, reminders and to-do lists to your wrist, featuring a Glance that shows you how many items are on your list and displays upcoming reminders. Adding new tasks can be done using Siri dictation.

Clear-Apple-Watch
Tapping on the Glance brings you to the full Clear app, where you can view all of your lists on the Apple Watch. If you create your own list, such as a grocery list or task list, you can check off items directly on the watch. If you press firmly on a list using Force Touch, you can sort the list, add new tasks or mark all tasks completed.

Clear for Apple Watch is $4.99 on the App Store.

These are by no means the only useful Apple Watch apps available so far, and we encourage readers to share some of their other favorites in the discussion thread associated with this post. It is clear, however, that many developers have struggled to find the right balance and user experience for the new platform.

With the Apple Watch now available and users and developers able to figure out the best way for apps on the wrist to fit into their daily lives, there will no doubt be improvements to the user experience and we’ll continue to watch for interesting and novel apps making their way to the Apple Watch.


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MirrorMirror reflects you and your digital info

MirrorMirror displays digital info, along with the user's reflection (Photo: Purdue University)

Doing your hair and brushing your teeth are chores that may become a little more interesting and fun with a new mirror that, besides reflecting, can also display emails, news threads, tweets, public transport times and all kinds of online data. That’s because a student team from the College of Science and College of Engineering at Purdue University has created a mirror that doubles as an information interface. Keeping up-to-date with bus schedules inspired the team to come up with the info-mirror.

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Section: Electronics

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Improved GPS could untether VR and revolutionize geolocation

Measuring the improved accuracy of a GPS-enabled VR headset (Image: University of Texas)

A team from the University of Texas wants to create virtual reality and augmented reality systems that can better integrate with the real world. Along the way, they just might revolutionize the geolocation systems we all use on our mobile devices.

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Apple to Push Paid Streaming Music Service With Free Trials and SoundCloud-Like Sharing

iTunes-RadioAhead of the rumored debut of Apple’s upcoming streaming music service, Re/code has shared several details on the initiative, sourced from industry insiders. As we’ve learned previously, Apple will charge $9.99 per month for the service and will not offer a freemium streaming tier as other music services like Spotify do, but the company is aiming to introduce ways to let people listen to some content for free.

First and foremost, Apple hopes to offer listeners a free trial period, which lasts between one and three months, letting them sample the music service for an extended period of time before opting for a full subscription. The length of the trial will depend on what Apple is able to negotiate with music companies.

Apple is also working on a feature that may let artists and music creators upload samples of songs that could be listened to without subscribing to the service. Re/code‘s sources are describing this as “something akin to SoundCloud.” SoundCloud is a music sharing platform that lets users upload and share originally-created music, and a similar feature within Apple’s new music service would give indie artists an easy way to share music while providing listeners with free content.

The third way Apple plans to potentially get music to listeners for free is through a revamp of iTunes Radio. We’ve heard hints of this previously, but the new version of iTunes Radio may feature stations that are curated by humans rather than computers, with different content available in different locales. New Apple hire BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe and other recently hired radio staff may spearhead this initiative.

Re/code‘s report also shares some details on the streaming music negotiations that have already landed Apple in a bit of hot water with various regulatory bodies, including the FTC and the Department of Justice in the United States and the European Commission. Apple has been attempting to convince music labels that ad-supported free streaming music does not generate enough revenue.

But as we have previously reported, Apple doesn’t intend to provide free, unlimited on-demand streaming, as competitors Spotify and YouTube do. In private meetings with label executives and other music industry figures, Apple has been arguing that free streaming won’t generate enough money for the industry via advertising, and doesn’t give enough people incentive to pay for subscriptions.

Apple is still working to complete deals ahead of the launch of the streaming service, but it is said to be on track for a WWDC debut. According to a report earlier this week, the streaming service will be introduced during the Worldwide Developers Conference in June and released later in the month alongside the public launch of iOS 8.4.

Apple’s streaming music service is built on its existing Beats music service, and will continue to focus on curated content. To draw in additional customers and to distinguish itself from competing services, Apple is planning to offer a range of exclusive content. There are also plans to rebrand and revamp the music service, deeply integrating it into iTunes and the newly revamped Music app introduced in iOS 8.4.


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