Ericsson's Connected Paper tech streams info through your body

This intriguing technology lets you call up information on your smartphone by touching an object with your finger, turning your body into a kind of capacitive power line network.

by            Source

Imagine simply touching a piece of paper, whether it be a business card or a label on an object, and relevant information almost instantly being displayed on your smartphone. That’s Ericsson’s Connected Paper tech, a working prototype of which I saw.

And what’s really cool about it? The information is literally flowing through your body.

Connected Paper uses “capacitive coupling” technology, which transfers electrical signals through the human body, using the same principle as your phone’s touchscreen responding to your finger’s proximity rather than the physical pressure you exert.

You don’t feel a thing, and it means there’s no need to tap an object with your phone, which is how it’s done today via near-field communication (NFC). It’s kind of like your body has become a power line network between the paper and your phone.

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Sample objects that make use of the tech. Touch the soup carton and you’d see its ingredients on your phone.Aloysius Low/CNET

Ericsson, which first showed off Connected Paper at CES 2014, says it is capable of data transfers of up to 10Mbps. The simple data transfers I saw, such as touching a paper for a link to the product information, would be a few bytes at most.

Instead of transferring all the information through to the body to the smartphone, Ericsson is betting that the tech will take advantage of future 5G networks, in which the company has made significant investment. 5G will have sufficient bandwidth to handle the thousands of simultaneous download requests of information without a significant loss in latency.

There’s still plenty of time before this technology goes mainstream. For one, the receiver is still pretty bulky (see picture below), so work still needs to be done to shrink it down and fit it into a smartphone. Commercial deployment of 5G networks will likely not happen till 2020, too.

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The receiver is still a tad bulky, so work needs to be done to shrink it down to fit on a smartphone.Aloysius Low/CNET

You can now post videos and send group messages on Twitter

Is this the end of the subtweet?

by Casey Newton                             Source

Twitter is rolling out long-awaited features for its core apps designed to boost the time people spend on the service. As of this morning, you can begin shooting and post 30-second video clips to Twitter from the iOS and Android apps. And direct messages are expanding to let you message groups of up to 20 people, creating a place for more private conversations on Twitter (and doing grave damage to the time-honored practice of subtweeting in the process.)

The changes, which will roll out over the next several days, both address significant competitive needs for Twitter. Letting users post videos helps to level the playing field with Facebook, which is dramatically increasing the amount of video in the News Feed. And group DMs help Twitter recapture some of the conversations that migrated off the service to the many other social networks that enable multi-person chat.

MAKING TWITTER MORE COMPETITIVE

The video player will look familiar to anyone who has used Vine, Twitter’s short-form video service. To take video, you simply tap and hold your phone’s screen. You can record multiple segments, and delete a segment with a tap. You can also upload a clip of up to 30 seconds (not 10 minutes) from your phone’s camera roll — but for now, camera roll uploads are available only on iOS. (Android is coming soon, Twitter says.)

twitter video

Given Twitter’s position as a place where news breaks, it’s easy to imagine that you’ll be seeing lots of video in your timeline. (Although it won’t play automatically, as some had suspected.) “We thought, what would Ferguson be like if everyone was armed with a video camera in their pocket?” says Jinen Kamdar, a product director at Twitter. “Or think of the Ellen Oscar selfie. What would the Oscars be like once video is available?” But it’s not just news: as Kamdar notes, Twitter is home to a large number public figures, athletes, and celebrities, and many of them are likely to embrace video.

group dm

Meanwhile, today’s update brings some much-needed power to Twitter’s perennially neglected direct message feature. You can now host group discussions, and anyone in the group can invite anyone who follows that person back. But not everyone has to follow each other to get the chat to work, and Twitter says this will result in you meeting more people and having more conversations there than you might otherwise.

In October, when Kevin Weil became Twitter’s fifth head of product in as many years, insiders told me he was chosen because of his ability to ship products. (Weil, who has been at Twitter since 2009, previously was head of all revenue-generating products.) At the time, it sounded like spin. But in the months since, Twitter restored the ability to send hyperlinks in DMs; released new tools for reporting abuse and harassment; launched its phone-based password killer, Digits; and introduced a useful “while you were away” feature.

Twitter still has a long way to go, of course. And the changes are likely to annoy some users, particularly if video overtakes the feed and makes it harder to scan. But for the first time in a long time, Twitter’s product team actually has some momentum. All of which means Weil may be the person who fixes Twitter’s product after all.

Microsoft is turning Skype into its own version of iMessage in Windows 10

Microsoft is integrating Skype directly into Windows 10, and the result looks a lot like Apple’s iMessage service. While the company unveiled some of its Skype integration at a special Windows 10 press event in Redmond yesterday, the software maker didn’t show its new Messaging app on the PC version of Windows 10. This appears to be key to a new experience for Skype messaging in Windows 10, and it brings back the built-in Messaging app from Windows 8 that Microsoft killed with the Windows 8.1 update.

SKYPE IS STARTING TO LINK USERNAMES TO MOBILE NUMBERS

The new Messaging app works by integrating Skype, allowing you to chat to Skype contacts or initiate video / audio calls. All the conversations are synced between PCs, tablets, and phones, and the new app looks like a lightweight version of Skype. It’s also identical to the Messages app on OS X, with the same two-panel interface and circular UI for contact photos. Microsoft has started linking Skype usernames with mobile numbers to make it easier to find friends who are using the service without having to know their user ID. That makes this whole approach a lot more like iMessage, allowing Skype users to chat to friends easily on the service. The main difference is that Skype is cross-platform so you can chat to friends on iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows, and more, while iMessage is limited to Apple’s platforms.

The built-in Skype experience on the phone version of Windows 10 also allows you to send text messages, but it’s entirely possible (and likely) that Microsoft will extend this functionality and sync state to the PC version just like iMessage. In Microsoft’s new world Windows 10 apps are the same across PCs, phones, and tablets, so such a move would be expected. Microsoft isn’t fully detailing its Messaging app plans just yet, but it’s encouraging to see the company move to a more native and simple integration of Skype instead of separate and unnecessary apps. All that’s needed now is the complexity of usernames to fully disappear so everyone can use Skype just with their mobile number.

The internet, the perfect tool for the surveillance state? Further reading (and watching) on the state of digital privacy

TED Blog

“We already knew this.” “It’s necessary for the War on Terror.” “Other countries are doing it too.” “But I have nothing to hide.” These are the most common reasons people express for not feeling outrage over the revelations this year that the United States’ National Security Agency has been involved in widespread surveillance. [ted_talkteaser id=1861]In today’s blistering talk, security expert Mikko Hypponen shares why he is hopping mad about the NSA’s actions, and why every user of the internet should be equally enraged. Because at the end of the day, he says, these rationalizations obscure a shocking fact: because the world relies on American companies for its information needs, virtually every user of the internet is being watched.

Digital privacy is, obviously, something on many of our minds. Below, a collection of articles, think pieces, op-eds and TED Talks on the state of digital privacy, some that echo Hypponen’s…

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Are you being tracked? A TED Fellow on how law enforcement follows your movements, and why you should care

TED Blog

Catherine-Crump-CTA-imageDid you know that across the United States, cameras are automatically taking pictures of your car’s license plate as you drive by, recording your plate number and your locations over time? In a chilling talk given at TEDGlobal 2014, civil liberties lawyer and TED Fellow Catherine Crump called attention to the ubiquity of mass surveillance technology currently being deployed without public awareness, laws governing its use or privacy policies regulating what happens to the data being collected. (Watch the talk, “The small and surprisingly dangerous detail the police track about you.”)

Crump tells the TED Blog more about her work, and the technologies that are quietly threatening the privacy and civil liberties of innocent people.

You are a civil liberties lawyer with many different strands to your work, but in the talk you gave at TEDGlobal, you focused on automatic license plate reader technology. Why did you choose that topic?

I think…

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10 steps to tame your email inbox and keep chaos at bay

Awesome email tips

TED Blog

InboxZero

Just like you, we at TED get inundated with email. And just like you, many of us think of an overflowing inbox as a guilt-inducing, anxiety-laden reminder of things left undone.

As TED’s User Experience Architect, I like my inbox the same way I like my designs: simple, orderly, and communicating clearly what to do next. Many people have no problem with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of unread messages in their inbox; if that’s you, you can stop reading now. But if you’re like me, unread email gives you stress — and it pretty much ensures important things will fall through the cracks.

Here is how I keep my inbox at (or near) empty at all times. Be forewarned: this plan isn’t easy, but it works. I’ve been doing it for years with success, and I’ve helped others — in fact, many on TED’s tech team — do the…

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These are Windows 10's new desktop features

By Chris Welch                                   Source

Microsoft today lifted the veil on its upcoming Windows 10 operating system, offering a thorough preview of what consumers can expect when the software is released later this year across desktops, smartphones, and tablets. After a small glimpse back in September revealed numerous changes — a modernized Start Menu, better multitasking with Task View, and UI improvements among them — Microsoft used today’s press conference to focus on what Windows 10 will mean for its millions of everyday users. Not everything shown today will be made available to Windows 10 testers immediately. Joe Belfiore specified that some will roll out over a course of “three, four, or five months.”

To start off, Microsoft has already leveraged early tester feedback to improve Windows 10. If you’re familiar with and prefer the Windows 8.1 experience, you’ll be able to take the Start Screen full screen instead of the Windows 7-style start menu we saw in September. Microsoft has also added an Action Center that provides instant access to common tasks like enabling or shutting off Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and other settings. Notifications are synced across devices, so if you dismiss something on a Windows 10 smartphone or tablet, it won’t stubbornly pop up again when you return to your PC. Speaking of settings, Microsoft has refreshed the appearance of settings menus everywhere with a much cleaner, easy-to-understand design.

Cortana

After getting started on smartphones, Microsoft’s personal assistant is coming to the desktop. Cortana will bring her powerful search and reminder capabilities to Windows 10. We got a rough, unofficial demonstration of what this would look like back in September, but today the company showed off a much more polished vision. Microsoft says “you’ll see Cortana as never before” in Windows 10, as it will now serve as the primary search tool for a massive audience of Windows users. But it gets way more personal than that; Joe Belfiore essentially carried on a full conversation with Cortana on stage. Cortana gave a Super Bowl prediction — which seemed just a bit biased in favor of Seattle’s own Seahawks. Unlike the sometimes robotic responses you’ll hear from Siri and Google Now, Cortana speaks with a natural, conversational flow.

CORTANA WILL BE A HUGE PART OF WINDOWS 10

Microsoft says Cortana has gotten much smarter thanks to all the learning she’s taken from Windows Phone users. Belfiore asked how much college tuition at a specific university would cost, and Cortana answered without pause. The personal assistant also joked with Belfiore as he went along, and has apparently learned more about the new platform she’ll be working on. “We wanted to educate Cortana about PC sorts of things,” Belfiore said. Ask Cortana to show you slides from a PowerPoint presentation, and she’ll bring them up immediately. But users remain in full control over what Cortana knows and has access to thanks to her Notebook. “It really is the world’s most personal digital assistant, and now she’s going to be available to millions and millions of more people,” Belfiore said.

Design and interface improvements

Microsoft is paying attention to the details in Windows 10. During today’s demonstrations, refreshed and more modern icons could be seen at every turn. The chrome around apps has been flattened, and everything feels more cohesive and consistent compared to the early Windows 10 software that beta testers have been using over the last few months.

Belfiore then launched into the first demonstration of Windows 10 on phones, showing off a new Messages app with Skype integration, a fully-adjustable keyboard, and other improvements.

New universal apps for PC

Microsoft has been working on all-new, universal apps for Windows 10. First is Outlook, and the company has built in Word’s engine, which provides comprehensive styling and extra formatting capabilities no matter what device you’re checking email from. On PC, it looks similar, but more polished than what’s there today. Desktop users can also personalize Outlook with a background image of their choice.

APPS LOOK AND FUNCTION CONSISTENTLY ACROSS DEVICES

But other software was shown off as well: Microsoft has a new, Metro-style (and very sleek) Calendar app that’s consistent across PCs, tablets, and phones. And Photos will now weed out duplicates and “clutter” that can result when you’re syncing photos from every device you own. Microsoft’s OneDrive cloud storage has gotten much smarter about displaying a “simple view of all your photos,” Belfiore said. Like Google+, the new Photos app will automatically enhance and touch up photos, removing blemishes like red eye and making sure you end up with the right exposure. Windows 10 users can expect new apps for People, Maps, and Music, as well.

Project Spartan

Microsoft has indeed been working hard on a new web browser, though we didn’t get an official name today. It’s still being referred to as Project Spartan, and Belfiore’s demonstration lined up perfectly with The Verge’s earlier report. He showcased the browser’s broad support for touch and annotation. Highlighting something on a page is as simple as circling your finger around it — no Surface pen or stylus required. Using a mouse also works fine; you can click on any section of a website to type out a comment for sharing with co-workers or friends.

A new Reading Mode puts articles in a layout that’s easier on your eyes, and Microsoft is also introducing a Reading List that syncs content across phones, tablets, and PCs for later; Apple has had similar functionality in iOS and OS X for some time now. But what Apple doesn’t have in its browser is Cortana. Microsoft’s personal assistant is everywhere in Project Spartan. She’ll tell you the weather in the URL bar. Visit a restaurant’s website, and Cortana will provide a map, menu information, and contact details should you decide to head there for dinner.

Xbox

Gaming is getting a massive push in Windows 10. A new Xbox app enables Game DVRfor sharing clips of most PC games with your friends — and they’re sent across Xbox Live, so Xbox One owners can watch as well. You’ll see a universal friends list with Xbox gamers on console and Windows, full messaging support, and an activity feed that shows you what everyone’s doing.

But the plans get even more ambitious than that. Cross-play between Windows 10 and Xbox One gamers will become a reality. And if PC games aren’t your thing, you’ll be able to seamlessly stream Xbox One games to Windows 10 PCs and tablets on your Wi-Fi network “later this year.” Microsoft showed off Forza Horizon 2 running on a Surface Pro 3.