This week in technology news bits, Facebook wants to beam lasers across the sky to connect the whole world by internet. You can listen to your Spotify on-the-go without devoting your smartphone to music streaming. Also, there is a new smartphone that knows it is cool… or hot, and can help emergency workers save lives. And, if you walk about London sidewalks, a robot traveling alongside you may soon be a reality. Please obey the warning signs in Mumbai to avoid potentially fatal selfie accidents. Last, techies are developing smart gun technology and consumers want it, but gun makers are not funding.
Laser connections above the clouds
Facebook is working far above and beyond social media. Their Internet.org initiative is attempting to get connectivity to the 1.7 billion people worldwide who do not have access to mobile broadband. According to CNET News this week, Facebook’s Project Aquila is adding lasers to their plans for solar-powered drones. Aquila wants the drones to fly significantly higher than commercial aircraft, between 60,000 and 90,000 feet above Earth, forming a network in the sky that will connect to terminals on the ground where the signal will be distributed to communities. Laser terminals will be mounted on top of the drones so that they can communicate between aircraft. At that altitude above the weather, there should be little to no interference with the laser beams.
A Mighty fine idea
If you have fumbled around with your smartphone, broken the screen, drained your battery, and exceeded your data limits while using it as an on-the-move streaming music player, then Mighty Audio might be a neater solution for you. Currently in a Kickstarter campaign, Mighty is comparable to an iPod Shuffle: a lightweight and compact 1.5” square, with just the necessary forward & back and volume control buttons, a playlist selector button, and it can clip onto your clothing. The difference is that it plays Spotify playlists, and once it has synced the desired playlists, it does not have to be connected to your smartphone or the internet while listening. It will playback by Bluetooth connection or with corded headphones or speakers. The Mighty device holds up to 48 hours of audio, and 5 hours of playback between charges. Pre-orders are now $79, expected to ship in November 2016. It will retail around $80 as well.
A hot (sensing) new phone
It is entertaining to play around with thermal camera technology, to determine if your coffee is drinking temperature yet or to see how cold your toes are after playing in the snow. But the technology has far more important, potentially life-saving uses, such as helping first responders find survivors of earthquakes, locate people who have fallen overboard into water, and seeing through the smoke in a house fire. In fact, thermal imaging was used to confirm that the Boston Marathon bomber was under that boat cover before confronting him. As valuable as this tool can be, it has had very limited availability due to the high expense of thermal cameras. That is why it is a remarkable technology breakthrough that the CAT S60 smartphone, unveiled at the Mobile World Congress this week, includes a rear-facing thermal camera. The heat sensor can measure surface temperatures from 50 feet away, and is super-durable and waterproof. At $600, it is not cheap, but it puts this important technology within reach for so many who could benefit from it.
You don’t have tip for this delivery
Londoners may soon share their walkways with delivery bots. Pending approval, the 6-wheeled electric robots made by Starship Technologies (and created by two co-founders of Skype) will begin making deliveries within a 30 minute radius of their starting point. The delivery drones are GPS-guided, and have sensors to detect and avoid pedestrians and other obstacles. They can hop up curbs, travelling at about 4 miles per hour, transporting a load of up to 20 pounds in a compartment that remains locked until it reaches the delivery destination, where it can only be opened by the recipient’s smartphone. The bots are also equipped with cameras and alarms that activate if it is meddled with prior to reaching its destination. At that speed and delivery radius, a nice walk would also do, but the bots are a noteworthy peek into the future. (Source)
Practice safe selfies
How far are you willing to go to get the perfect cell phone self-portrait? Since 2014, at least 19 of the 49 people who have died while capturing selfies were in India. As cell phone ownership in India rapidly increases, the city of Mumbai aims to decrease selfie-related accidents by implementing ‘no-selfie zones.’ Most of these zones are areas of the coastline that are not protected by railings. People who enter the prohibited areas can be fined the equivalent of about $18, even if they don’t indulge in snapping photos. Watch out for yourselfies!
Smart bangs require more bucks
We can buy amusing and frivolous smart trash cans and smart dog collar activity trackers. So why are we not hearing about technology innovations to make guns smarter? Developers are working, but it seems that the funding is not following. CNET describes, “Smart guns use radio signals or fingerprint scanners to identify who's pulling the trigger so that only the owner can fire the weapon ... No US dealer currently sells guns equipped with smart technology, and some dealers who attempted to sell them have received death threats.” Yet a recent study showed that 60 percent of Americans surveyed said they would be willing to purchase a smart or childproof firearm that only functions in the hands of an authorized user. At least two prototypes are in the works, while the search for investors and support continues.
What interesting news did you pick-up on the web last week? What do you think: Can 20 pound delivery drones survive the streets without being snatched up by wrong-doers? Have you ever had a close call while taking a selfie? Would you trust technology to work bug-free in a situation where you needed to fire a gun fast?