? All Tech Radio Episode 420
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  • Since it was towed into Portland Harbor on a barge earlier this month, a four-story windowless building has been a source of intrigue. Its purpose and its owner's identity have been kept secret. Twenty-seven hundred miles away, residents of San Francisco have been puzzled by a four-story windowless building rising from a floating barge at the end of Treasure Island, a former Navy base in the middle of San Francisco Bay. That project is also a secret. But clues have emerged that indicate the two projects are connected. The two barges - the one in Portland and the one in San Francisco - are owned by the same company. Moreover, a website that covers technology news has linked that company to the search engine giant Google.
  • Microsoft is updating its Windows software for cellphones to accommodate larger devices and make it easier for motorists to reduce distractions while driving. Something that may appeal to motorists: a new Driving Mode will automatically silence incoming calls and texts so that you can focus on the road. You also can configure the feature to automatically send out a reply to say that you're driving. It can be activated automatically when the phone is linked wirelessly with a Bluetooth device in the car, such as a headset. Apple has a Do Not Disturb feature for iPhones, but that needs to be turned on manually.
  • Eight states in the U.S. have pledged this week to work together to increase the number of zero-emission vehicles on the nation's roads by speeding up the construction of charging stations, according to the Associated Press. The eight states include: California, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Oregon, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Vermont. These locations represent approximately 23 percent of the auto market in the U.S. The current goal is to get 3.3 million battery-powered vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and other zero-emission cars on the roads in those eight states by 2025. That would be 15 times the current amount of zero-emissions vehicles expected to be on the road in 2015. "The idea is to make it easier for customers to operate and use zero-emission vehicles. This in turn will help pave the way for success of the auto industry," said Mary Nichols, chairman of the California Air Resources Board, according to the Associated Press.
  • The Samsung Galaxy Gear smartwatch looks decent on paper, but a lack of compatibility with other devices from the company has made it more theoretical than anything. But Samsung may change that equation with an update that makes Galaxy Gear compatible with older devices. On Monday, Samsung said that it will deliver a Premium Suite software update to the Samsung Galaxy S4, Note II and Galaxy S III that brings Gear compatibility. Retailers are reporting up to 30% return rate on the devices from frustrated customers.
  • We've seen rendered images of LG's G Flex and its curved OLED display, but the device itself has proven elusive - until now. Argentinian broadcaster Telefe apparently managed to obtain the phone for an in-studio hands-on video, and journalist Federico Inihas provided The Verge with additional photos. According to Ini, the G Flex's curved screen is 6 inches across, and the phone features rear-mounted buttons in a similar style to the LG G2's. The camera is said to be 13 megapixels, matching both the G2 and Samsung's Galaxy Round, which has an OLED display that curves on a different axis. The G Flex is reminiscent of LG and Samsung's curved OLED TVs, with the screen's edges slightly turning inwards when viewed in landscape orientation.
  • A US-based start-up claims to have broken security tests used to tell humans and computers apart online. Vicarious said it had developed technology, based on the human brain, which could solve text-based Captcha tests 90% of the time. A Captcha is a graphic or sound users must type on to a web page to prove they are human. The company said its artificial intelligence software can also perceive images. Artificial brains The company said it had used its Recursive Cortical Network software to solve Captcha tests as a step towards thinking machines, not for nefarious purposes. Vicarious hopes eventually to use the technology for robotics, medical image analysis, and online searching. "The Vicarious algorithms achieve a level of effectiveness and efficiency much closer to actual human brains," Vicarious co-founder D Scott Phoenix said in a statement. The artificial intelligence software can "think and learn like a human" by mimicking processes in the brain. Facebook co-founder and Vicarious investor Dustin Moskovitz said that Vicarious was "at the forefront of building the first truly intelligent machines".
  • New Call of Duty multiplayer modes include Cranked and Search and Rescue, the latter of which seek players attempt to save teammates by collecting dog tags. Maps, meanwhile, include 'Chasm', 'Prison Break', 'Whiteout' and 'Strikezone'. Elsewhere, it was revealed that the Xbox 360 version will launch on two discs and require a 3GB install. Multiplayer, meanwhile, will be limited to 12 players on current-gen platforms. The news comes after earlier reports suggested that Call of Duty: Ghosts will introduce an Alien-based co-op mode, titled 'Extinction'. Call of Duty: Ghosts will launch on November 5 for PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii U, and will be available at launch with the Xbox One and PS4.
  • We're now less than a month away from the highly anticipated releases of Microsoft's Xbox One and Sony's PS4, and the hype is kicking into overdrive. Conventional wisdom in the gaming community says that Sony is still riding high on a massive wave of goodwill garnered by maintaining the status quo on used games at E3, and the PS4 is only bolstered by coming in a full $100 cheaper than the Xbox One. One analyst, however, disagrees. Baird's Colin Sebastian expects the Xbox One to outship the PS4 within the launch window, if only slightly. "While many forecasts still give an edge to Sony/PS4 in North America sales, we continue to expect similar or even slightly higher sales of Xbox One by the end of the launch window," Sebastian told investors, according to Games industry International. Sebastian expects both consoles to move between 5-6 million units, but expects the Xbox One to edge out within that range. He cites the fact that while both consoles are seeing healthy price margins on Ebay, Xbox One's are averaging a 60 percent increase over retail prices, whereas the PS4 averages 50. That's even more noteworthy because the Xbox One is more expensive to begin with.
  • Twitter is about to release their IPO on NYSE on November 5th. The stock is expected to sell around $20 a share to start. The symbol will be TWTR. They hope to avoid all the issues Facebook had during their IPO debacle that cuased the Nasdaq millions of dollars in fines.
  • Vikas Gupta lives and works among Silicon Valley's brightest engineers, but he worries about his 2-year-old daughter's chance for a decent education to thrive in a world run by technology. The serial entrepreneur, who had better opportunities growing up with India's schools, sees a U.S. education system lacking to deliver programmers. He wants to change that. Gupta and others formed Play-i, a startup focused on programmable robots aimed at children as young as five. Their idea is to make learning how to program robots easy. "The question was, how can we make something that's fun, that's extremely inviting, and gets parents and kids into the magical world of programming at a young age?" says Gupta. Mountain View, Calif.-based Playi 's two robots, named Bo and Yana, allow kids to manipulate their bright-colored orbs that make sounds, flash lights and move. The robots are controllable by an iPad and are intended for kids to customize their functions and progressively learn building blocks of programming. Bo can play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on a miniature xylophone and could offer infinite song possibilities if programmed. Yana can be programmed to make sounds such as a helicopter or ambulance and to flash.

email from listeners:

  • Tad from Portland asks "What do I bring the hostess with everything to Thanksgiving that is a cool new gadget?"