The Best Wearable Tech

The best of...

Wearable tech

Reebok Checklight

This skullcap “appears to work quite well” in performing its purpose: It monitors impacts to the head and indicates with a blinking yellow or red light if an athlete sustains a moderate or severe blow.
$150, reebok.com
Source: Engadget.com

Nod Gesture Control Ring

“Make a phone call, change TV channels, and more” by simply waving your hand. This Bluetooth-enabled ring communicates with multiple devices and is scheduled to ship sometime in the fall.
$149, hellonod​.com
Source: Consumer Reports

Tory Burch Fitbit Bracelet

Fitness trackers just went “from plain to pretty.” This fall, Tory Burch is releasing three bracelets designed to be used with a Fitbit monitor (sold separately). The delicate solid brass band is a “standout.”
$195, toryburch.com
Source: LAMag.com

Narrative Clip

This tiny device, which clips onto a shirt pocket, takes a 5-megapixel photograph every 30 seconds. It’s billed as a way to create photo diaries and pairs with software to help users search the results.
$279 per year,getnarrative.com
Source: Wired.com

Sensoria Socks

An anklet worn with this sock mates with sensors in the fabric to monitor a runner’s technique and cadence while also measuring distance traveled. Four pairs are included in each package.
$200, sensoriafitness.com 
Source: Wall Street Journal

-As seen in The Week
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Google Glass may not be inevitable after all

A guest post from my favorite editor William Falk of The Week. In these grim times, there is some hope for our species: Google Glass may not be inevitable after all.

Mat Honan of Wired, the bible of the technorati, spent a year trying out Google Glass, a futuristic pair of eyeglasses equipped with a voice-activated wireless computer and camera and a tiny Internet display in one lens. The trial didn’t go well. Honan reports back that the Glass’s ostentatious techiness—and its ability to photograph or video anything the wearer wants—made him the subject of derision and threats wherever he went. People “talk about you openly,” Honan marvels; he got used to hearing himself called a Glasshole. And despite some “cool” features, Honan found Glass “more novelty than utility”—just another way of “documenting rather than experiencing.”

You need not be a Luddite to be heartened by the Glass rebellion. It suggests we haven’t yet been seduced into surrendering the last vestiges of privacy and spontaneity. In recent months, young techies have been publicly questioning the toll that constant connectivity has taken on their relationships, their attention spans, and their ability to sit quietly with their thoughts. Burnouts are treating themselves to Internet “holidays” or checking into retreats promising “digital detox.” Last week, Web journalist David Sessions published a mea culpa in which he called much of Web journalism “stupid and worthless,” saying it “exists simply to produce the act of clicking.” His chastened advice: “New tools should be scrutinized intensely and skeptically, as should the people who stand to gain vast new forms of power and wealth when they are widely adopted.” Wise words, which I immediately shared with everyone I know via the Internet.

-As seen in The Week
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Drones: Google’s sky-high ambitions

Google is spreading its wings, said Alexis C. Madrigal in The Atlantic. The tech giant unveiled a drone delivery project called Project Wing last week, which aims to use “self-flying vehicles” to transport and deliver goods. The project has been in development for two years at Google X—the research lab responsible for Google’s self-driving cars and the Google Glass headset—and has run more than 30 test flights in Queensland, Australia, delivering items such as radios, candy bars, and cattle vaccines to farmers. With a wingspan of 5 feet and a weight of 19 pounds, the Project Wing drones take off vertically and then hover and winch packages down to the ground. Though Google says it will be years before the vehicles are ready for commercial use, it imagines a future in which its drones help reduce the carbon footprint of traditional delivery vehicles like planes and trucks, and goods can be delivered mere minutes after orders are placed.

Google is clearly trying to give Amazon a run for its money, said Will Oremus in Slate.com. The Internet retailer announced its own drone delivery ambitions last year, with plans to develop a system that could deliver orders to customers within half an hour. Both companies’ commercial aims are years away, but the drones they develop could have other applications, such as delivering emergency relief more efficiently or letting people rent certain items, like a power drill, “for only the few minutes that they need them before sending them on their way.” It’s too early to say how Google’s efforts stack up against Amazon’s. But one thing is clear: The drone war has begun.

Amazon may have at least one advantage, said Alex Wilhelm in TechCrunch.com. The company is already experienced in sourcing, shipping, and delivering goods. Still, “non-military drones remain a nascent area of technology,” and Google could quickly catch up. For now, both companies will face similar challenges if they want their drone experiments to really take off. That means building “fleets that are safe, and useful enough for the average consumer to want to summon,” but also economically viable. Government regulations will make that tough task more difficult, said Conor Dougherty in The New York Times. The Federal Aviation Administration has banned commercial drones in the U.S. pending new rules that are due next year, and the vehicles haven’t been tested in densely populated cities. That won’t stop Google or Amazon from moving forward, but the days of receiving “dog food, toothpaste, or whatever else a modern family might need” via hovering drone are still a distant prospect.

-As seen in The Week
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As governments invade privacy, tools for encryption grow more popular

In the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA collecting massive amounts of user meta-data, many people went in search of safer, more secure ways to use the internet anonymously. Once thought to be something only used by the tech-savvy, increased interest in end-to-end e-mail encryption has prompted both Google and Yahoo to develop user-friendly versions of the protocol that would, in theory, make personal messages exceedingly difficult to intercept.

GeeksPhone, a Spanish hardware manufacturer, and Silent Circle, U.S. communication firm, promise to provide the same kind of privacy with Blackphone, the first fully encrypted smartphone meant for the average consumer. While technically an Android device, Blackphone runs a forked version of the operating system called PrivatOS that rids the phone of any and all connections to Google’s servers.

Encrypting e-mail is effective, but requires that both the sender and recipient of a message use the same specific encryption protocol to maintain privacy. Blackphone, for all of the protection that it provides, cuts users off from most of the services–like games, maps, and other functions–so as to make sure that there are absolutely no gaps through which information might be extracted.

The Onion Router also known as Tor, a browser designed keep users entirely anonymous, is something of a happy medium, and the NSA is actively trying to scare people away from it. Tor guides its internet traffic through complex networks of layered encryption that hide a computer’s physical location and make it nearly impossible to monitor the IP addresses that it visits.

Post-Snowden, Tor saw a substantial increase in the number of people using its browser and network, undoubtedly in-part due to privacy concerns. Documents published by The Guardian revealed that the NSA were actively engaged with attempting to infiltrate Tor’s network, and considered the browser to be “the king of high-secure, low-latency anonymity.” Following widespread, successful-attempts at tracking Tor users’ activity, the FBI openly admitted to exploiting a loophole in Tor’s infrastructure as a part of a larger operation in pursuit of a child pornography ring.

Authorities have justified their pushes into the “anonymous internet,” asserting that by and large, much of Tor’s traffic is related to illegal activities, but that seems to be changing. Richard David James, better known by his stage name Aphex Twin, is a fixture in the electronic music scene. Earlier this week James announced his latest album using a website that could only be accessed using Tor, drawing in a significant number of pageviews in a single day.

The attention, says Tor executive director Andrew Lewman, is both a blessing and a curse. While Tor’s network was able to handle the 133,000 visits that Aphex Twin drew, he doubts whether it could withstand the kinds of gargantuan traffic that Facebook sees on a daily basis. Tor users, comparatively speaking, are rare–a fact that Lewman asserts is what makes them targets for governmental organizations.

“It’s been co-opted by GCHQ and the NSA that if you’re using Tor, you must be a criminal,” Lewman explained to The Guardian. “I know the NSA and GCHQ want you to believe that Tor users are already suspect, because, you know, god forbid who would want their privacy online, they must be terrorists.”

Proponents of Tor and other forms of ubiquitous encryption have called for the public to adopt the technologies on a larger scale, logic stating that if everyone is using encryption, then no one can be singled out for it. Rather than adopting the small, experimental proofs of concept like Tor, Lewman says, true privacy on the internet will come when internet juggernauts like Facebook, Twitter, and Google incorporate the technology into their platforms, making them the standard rather than the exception.

-As seen on PBS
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