<![CDATA[NBC 10 Philadelphia - Tech News]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/tech http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/NBC10_40x125.png NBC 10 Philadelphia http://www.nbcphiladelphia.com en-us Sun, 20 Apr 2014 17:07:09 -0400 Sun, 20 Apr 2014 17:07:09 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[The App That Pays?]]> Sat, 19 Apr 2014 06:09:53 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Rewardable+App+Screenshot.jpg

Justin Nachod sees a trip to the store as an opportunity to make some cash. The 31-year-old Center City resident always looks for deals in weekly circulars, but lately he’s been making money by picking up extra work at the store.

He’s not putting on a uniform, though. Rather, he's carrying out what’s called a microjob through a service called Rewardable.

"If I’m going to go to a store anyway, I’ll look on Rewardable and see if they have a mission or task or whatever they call it to do while I’m there," said Nachod, who works in marketing and fundraising for a local nonprofit.

Rewardable doles out the microjobs, or short tasks, to users through their smartphone app. They range from checking on a product’s in-store display to making sure prices are correct on a fast food restaurant’s menu. Users are typically asked to answer a questionnaire and take a few photos.

"So they’d say ‘Go find Starbucks K-cups on the shelf and [tell us] what flavors are available. Are they in stock or not? What’s the price of them? Are they on sale? Did you find anything interesting promotions about coffee,'" he said.

When completed, the user is paid cash for doing the work – anywhere from $2 to $20 depending on the difficulty of the task. The money is paid to them through PayPal.

"A lot of the assignments only take three or four minutes and you’re at the store already, so it’s time that you wouldn’t normally be making money you’d be spending money. So it sort of changes the math a little bit in your favor," said Nachod, who says he’s made about $100 doing around 15 microjobs over a three month span. He says he’s used the cash to buy craft beer and accessories for his iPad.

"We have college students on it. We have young, tech-savvy people. We have working professionals and retired individuals all using the app in different ways," said Rewardable CEO Peter Komassa.

The service, which launched late last year, debuted in Philadelphia in late February. So far, about 1,000 people have downloaded the app in our area and around 600 have made some amount of cash, the company says. There are a few thousand microjobs for users to complete in cities across the country at any given time, Komassa says.

In more established markets, like Connecticut and New York, a handful of what Komassa calls "power users" have made more than $1,000 in just a couple of months’ time. But that’s not typical. Komassa says their goal is to have users earn $15 to $30 a month.

While the lure of getting paid cash for completing a few quick tasks is enticing, Tony Petrucci, a professor in Temple University’s Human Resource Management Department, says it’s not a replacement for a more traditional job.

"I think the only drawback to it would be people going into it thinking they are going to earn a living. At least from what I’ve seen that doesn’t seem to be possible, nor does that seem to be the intent of the [service]," he said.

The professor says services like Rewardable tend to be more popular during tough times, like the recent recession, because people are just looking to make money wherever they can. Petrucci says as the job market improves, people may be less likely to complete such tasks because they put more value on their free time.

Komassa says his team has already expanded the service to include virtual tasks, which can be completed from anywhere, such as answering a survey. And that they’re expanding out of the consumer products category. "We have a few real estate companies trying the system to gather information on different properties," he said.

As for Nachod, he says he’s not stopping anytime soon.

"It sort of just makes shopping and going out to eat a little more fun when it might be kinda monotonous," he said.

PHOTO: A screenshot of the Rewardable app screen.


Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, vince.lattanzio@nbcuni.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.



Photo Credit: Rewardable]]>
<![CDATA[Journalist Says Google Glass Led to SF Assault]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 09:00:16 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/04-14-2014-Kyle-Russell.jpg

Google Glass appears to have inspired another attack in San Francisco.

Kyle Russell, a Berkeley-based tech reporter for Business Insider, had his Google Glass ripped from his face and "smashed on the ground" near the 16th and Mission BART station on Friday, he says. 

The attacker, a woman, shouted "Glass" before taking off with the $1,500 computer glasses, Russell said. Russell gave chase but before he could catch the assailant, she smashed the Glass on the ground.

She then "vanished," the Chronicle reported.

Russell had been in the Mission District covering an anti-Google protest, he said on Twitter. There had been a tech bus blockage that morning as well as a protest at an apartment building supposedly bought by a Google lawyer, who had moved to evict the tenants. 

Reaction to Russell's fate -- or, to be more accurate, the fate of his Glass -- ranged from solace-giving to outright schadenfreude, with perhaps a bit more of the latter from the anti-tech set.

Russell told NBC Bay Area he’s amused that critics seem to believe he was “flaunting” his wealth “as a techie, which is funny because I'm a journalist who lives in Berkeley.”

However, "I can see why the person who smashed my Glass did what they did," Russell said in a post summarizing the run-in and the subsequent reactions.

He recognizes that tech-fueled gentrification has pushed people out of their homes, and that his "love for gadgets" like Glass "makes me look and sound like one of the" oppressors, he wrote.

Earlier, a woman reported having her Google Glass snatched off of her face at a San Francisco bar. Sarah Slocum, a self-described tech PR writer, recovered her device.



Photo Credit: Karyne Levy]]>
<![CDATA[Google Is Letting Anyone in the U.S. Buy Glass – Only for One Day]]> Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:07:23 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/fb-04-14-2014-google-glass.jpg

Pining for Google Glass? You could snag your own pair today.

The tech giant opened up its "Explorer Program" to the general public for one day Tuesday, allowing any adult in the United States to purchase the technology for $1,500 plus tax on the Google Glass site. The limited number of Google Glass were available for sale starting at 6 a.m. PST -- 9 a.m. on the East Coast -- at this link.

The news of the sale created a buzz on social media, especially on Tuesday when many took to Twitter to either praise Glass or complain about the price.

The announcement about the sale, made last week via Google+ and Facebook posts, came after The Verge posted that it had obtained documents that indicated that Google will open up its "Explorer Program," making the personal wearable computers available to anyone.

"Whoops. So... we’d planned to post this next week, but it looks like the cat's out of the bag now," Google Glass said in its post. "Over the past several months, we’ve been trying out different ways to expand the Explorer program. Some of you signed up at Google I/O, some told us what you would do #ifihadglass, some were referred by a friend, some joined through their school or university. Our Explorers are moms, bakers, surgeons, rockers, and each new Explorer has brought a new perspective that is making Glass better. But every day we get requests from those of you who haven’t found a way into the program yet, and we want your feedback too. So in typical Explorer Program fashion, we’re trying something new."

Currently Google Glass is not available for sale to the public. Anyone who is over 18 years old, is a U.S. resident with a U.S. shipping address, can sign up for the restricted Google Glass Explorer Program.

Google said in its post that it will open up some spots in the Glass Explorer Program on April 15, without specifying exactly how many. They are even throwing in people's favorite shades or frames, thanks to feedback from current explorers.

As for everyone outside the U.S., here's what Google had to say:

"Sorry [sad emoticon] We’re just not ready yet to bring Glass to other countries."

 



Photo Credit: NBC Bay Area]]>
<![CDATA[Allentown Promotes Safe Trade Zones for Online Deals]]> Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:52:01 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Safe+Trade+Zone.jpg After a robbery and murder following transactions begun online on sites like Craigslist and then gone awry in person, Allentown is promoting an Online Trade Safe Zone to keep people safe.]]> <![CDATA[Heartbleed Bug: Protect Yourself]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 18:50:15 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000006718307_1200x675_222768195642.jpg NBC10's Tim Furlong talks with an IT specialist from the University of Delaware about how to protect yourself against the Heartbleed computer software bug.]]> <![CDATA[NASA Tests "Saucers" for Mars]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 14:48:11 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/214*120/rocket-sled-test-nasa-saucer.gif

The flying saucers of science fiction movies might be the shape of things to come for future Mars missions that are expected to involve larger payloads that today's landing vehicles are not equipped to handle.

The saucer-shaped landing systems in development, part of NASA's Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator project, will be sent into near-space in June from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.

Scientists provided a mission overview in a "clean room" Wednesday at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Reporters were required to wear lab suits and hats.

"If you want to land bigger and bigger payloads, you need ways of growing the size of the vehicle to create more drag," said JPL's principal investigator Ian Clark, likening the vehicle to a puffer fish.

Current landing technologies rely primarily on parachute designs dating to the 1970s Viking Program. That design placed two landers on Mars in 1976 and the same basic technology was used about 35 years later when the Curiosity rover landed on Mars' surface.

After a parachute deployed high above Mars' surface, rocket thrusters were used to slow Curiosity's landing vehicle. The rover was then dropped by cables from the spacecraft and gently placed on the landing site before the tethers were disconnected and the spacecraft soared clear of the site.

NASA's landing vehicles in development would use the saucer shape to maximize atmospheric drag -- slowing and stabilizing the spacecraft after it enters Mars' atmosphere for final approach, a process described as "six minutes of terror." Increasing drag would save rocket engines and fuel required for complex landing maneuvers.

Friction already slows a spacecraft considerably after it enters Mars' atmosphere during the first four minutes of entry. But the spacecraft is still traveling at about 1,000 mph at that point and decelerates to about 200 mph after parachute deployment, which occurs at about 300 feet from the surface, according to NASA.

Thruster rockets, giant airbag cushions and tethers can all be used for the remainder of the descent, but the larger payloads possible in future Mars missions require something more advanced. The decelerators being developed by NASA -- pufferfish-like inflatable devices and an improved parachute -- can almost double payload mass, according to researchers.

The concept was ground-tested using a rocket sled in June 2012. The balloon-like inflatable devices extend around the vehicle to increase drag. A large parachute would then deploy to scrub off more speed.

The parachute is so large it did not fit in a wind tunnel, so researchers used the rocket-powered sled test at the U.S. Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake.

The upcoming test flights will give scientists a better idea of how the technology works when the saucer is sent high above Earth. The vehicles could be used in Mars missions as early as 2018, according to NASA.

When asked what was so sensitive about the project that it needed to take place in a clean room, Clark laughed, "It is the only space we had available."



Photo Credit: NASA]]>
<![CDATA[Local University, NASA Team Up to Create Space Suit]]> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:04:40 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/NASA+Z2+space+suits.jpg

NASA and a private engineering firm enlisted the help of Philadelphia University students to create the next iteration of the space suit.

The School of Design and Engineering at Phila U created three cover layers for NASA's Z-2 space suit -- a prototype that will be tested in a vacuum chamber, said Dan Huot, a NASA spokesman.

"This will be the first time we have ever taken a suit designed for planetary exploration and put a person inside the vacuum chamber and then brought it down to full vacuum," Huot said.

Full vacuum simulates the lack of atmosphere found in outer space, according to NASA's website.

The three designs, known as Biomimicry, Technology and Trends in Society, are the second step in a decades-long process to reinvent the space suit.

"With any prototyping platform, you are building towards an end goal and our end goal is a suit that can be worn by an astronaut on Mars," he said.

A space suit last entered the stratosphere during the Apollo program in 1969.

Star gazers can vote on their favorite of the three designs, which were produced in collaboration with the Frederica, Del-based private engineering firm, ILC Dover, and a team of NASA engineers in Houston.

Technically the interiors of the suits are the same and the student-created cover layers are the only difference, Huot said.

ILC Dover tapped the local school for the job, citing the university's programs and positive experiences with alums who currently work for the firm.

"[They] weren't just a fashion-design house," said Doug Durney, ILC Dover's global marketing director. "There was some form of industrial design and fashion design in the same school."

"And then lastly once we met with them, it was pretty obvious to us that the professors were highly motivated and skilled," he said.

ILC Dover and Phila U do not have any other joint projects in the works at this time, but the engineering company would work with the school again in the future, Durney said.

NASA has a long-standing relationship with ILC Dover and together they upgraded the suit's interior from the previous Z-1 design.

"When you design a space suit, you design it 100 percent for function," Huot said. "You are designing the suit to keep an astronaut alive in space."

"This suit will have what is known as a hard upper torso and that is pretty integral part in space suits," Huot said. "It becomes the backbone. ...It is what you can attach the life support system to."

Astronauts put on the suit by stepping through a port in the back, another upgrade from the Z-1, Huot said.

Even though the students were not involved in the interior improvements, the portion they designed serves two crucial functions. It prevents the sensitive inner materials from incurring damage, while concealing NASA's intellectual property, Huot said.

Voting continues until 11:59 p.m. on April 15 and NASA plans to announce the winner by April 30th.

"Option B, Technology, has been winning pretty handily the entire time," Huot said.

ILC Dover and NASA will build a working prototype of the winning design by November.


Contact Alison Burdo at 610.668.5635, alison.burdo@nbcuni.com or follow @NewsBurd on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[Philly Woman Gets 'Incredibly Gross' Rash, Sues Over Wristband]]> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 20:21:08 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Clark+FitBit+Lawsuit+injury+2.jpg

Erin Clark admits she’s competitive when it comes to sports and recreation. From cycling to running to walking, the South Philadelphian is always trying to best her friends.

So she was thrilled when a gift-wrapped Fitbit Force arrived from mom this past Christmas.

“I wanted one. All of my friends had a previous version of this and really loved it so I really wanted one…and have friendly competition with friends,” she said.

The activity band, developed by the popular California-based fitness technology company, acted as a health tracker. The plastic wristband, which is about three-quarters of an inch wide, features a LED screen and stainless steel case and measures a person’s physical activity and sleep patterns. That data is then reported to an online portal and app where you can compare your fitness level to friends.

Clark said she wore the band night and day as directed, with the exception of in the shower, and was loving the experience for about a week, when an abrasion began to form on her wrist.

“I got a really little nickel-sized abrasion,” she said. “So I took it off and thought, ‘Oh, I must have scratched myself’ and I put it on my other wrist and only wore it at night just in case the Fitbit had caused something.”

But Clark said the rash grew, got worse and started to blister. To make matters worse, she said a similar rash began on her other wrist, prompting her to immediately stop wearing the device.

“It felt like it was burning and it itched. It was spreading around my wrist,” she said. “This was incredibly gross and embarrassing. It hurt to cover it.”

A 31-year-old administrative professional, who works at a local medical college, Clark said she asked a doctor she worked with for advice. They advised using cortisone cream, she said. However, a week later, the rash persisted, prompting her to go to her doctor who prescribed a prescription steroid cream and antibiotics.

Clark says after a number of doctors’ visits, she learned online other Fitbit Force owners were experiencing similar issues across the country. She says she contacted Fitbit about the rash, asking what the cause might be, but says she only received generic responses.

“They don’t have a phone number. You can’t call them. And every time I would email them it would be 3 to 4 days between emails. So when this initially happened, I was like ‘Did you scar me for life?’ I was getting a form letter,” she said. “I would reply and send them pictures and say this isn’t normal. This reply isn’t any help to me and no one would get back to me about what was going on.”

It wasn’t until March that Clark says she received word that the device was being recalled and was asked to send it back for a full refund.

Instead, the woman says she held onto the device, didn’t cash the check, hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit claiming Fitbit was negligent, failed to properly warn consumers of alleged issues from wearing the device and committed fraud.

“There’s been no clear explanation given as to what might be causing it. It’s just kind of just a generic statement that it could be an allergy to a variety of things. At this stage, we don’t know what’s causing it,” Ian Abovitz, Clark’s attorney with the Yardley-based firm Stark & Stark. “We’re working with a couple of experts who are trying to get to the bottom of the cause of this.”

About 1 million devices were sold in the United States and Canada and there are nearly 10,000 reports of skin irritation from wearing the band and 250 reports of skin blistering, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Fitbit stopped selling the Force on February 20 and issued a voluntary recall. The CPSC then announced the recall on March 12. In a statement, a Fitbit spokesperson tells NBC10.com the company has had independent testing conducted and that the results point to contact dermatitis possibly from the materials, like nickel, which are used in the wristband.

“Some users may be reacting to the stainless steel used in the device -- although it is surgical grade and meets the most stringent regulatory standards -- while others are likely experiencing an allergic reaction to the materials in the strap or the adhesives used to assemble the product,” the statement read.

Clark said her doctor believed nickel could be to blame for the rash, but that she’s worn metal watches before without issue. She’s worried that other materials, which may be harmful, could have been used in the product’s construction and wants answers.

A Fitbit spokesperson says they do not comment on individual cases.

Clark says she’s spent about $150 in medical bills and prescription treatments. The rash has since dissipated, but there is still discoloration on her wrist which the doctor believes should go away within a month. The suit does not request a specific amount of money, but asks for compensation regarding medical expenses and emotional distress.

In addition to Clark’s suit, a class-action lawsuit was filed in California on behalf of customers in that state calling for a recall, public awareness campaign and damages related to the alleged issues. In a statement on that case, the company said it already issued a recall and takes issue with the suit.

“Fitbit took initiative long before this complaint was filed, publicly offered refunds, and worked closely with the CPSC on its voluntary recall program. We strongly disagree with the statements about the product and the Company,” a spokesperson wrote.


Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, vince.lattanzio@nbcuni.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.



Photo Credit: Erin Clark]]>
<![CDATA["Ride PATCO" at Your Fingertips]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 11:41:14 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/177*120/train5577.JPG

The next time you take the trip on the train over the Ben Franklin Bridge you can keep up to date with what’s going on with the transit authority you are using.

On Tuesday, the Delaware River Port Authority announced its new mobile “Ride PATCO” site specifically geared to be used by smartphone and mobile device users. The new site features special schedule alerts, the latest tweets from @RidePATCO and info on station access.

“Our new mobile site puts a lot more information about the PATCO system in the palms of customers’ hands,” said DRPA Acting CEO John Hanson. “Over time, we will use the mobile site to provide even more up-to-date information to customers in PATCO stations, on PATCO trains and on PATCO platforms.”

PATCO has come under fire recently for not always keeping passengers abreast of developments on the train.

Back in February, smoke began to fill two PATCO cars as they traveled from Philadelphia to Camden, N.J. over the Ben Franklin Bridge. Passengers claimed they were left in the dark with little to no information on what was happening before they were then slowly evacuated from the train over the course of an hour.

Other PATCO problems including passengers stranded on platforms with no train in sight and escalators not working led frustrated passengers to turn to Twitter where @PATCOWatchers began tweeting real-time information about PATCO service.

PATCO hopes the new mobile site could help clear up some of the communication woes.

“We are committed to improving the PATCO customer experience, and we believe the new mobile website represents an important step toward providing the outstanding service our customers deserve,” Hanson said.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Must See: Giant Tetris Game Draws Crowd]]> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 07:28:19 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/pa-tetris_1200x675_219161155683.jpg Hundreds of Tetris fans got to play a super-sized version of the popular interlocking shapes game in Philadelphia on Saturday.]]> PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL]]> <![CDATA[Philly Skyscraper Tetris Pushed Back]]> Fri, 04 Apr 2014 10:06:29 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/203*120/Cira+Centre+Pong+Record.JPG

Thanks to rain, we’ll all have to wait another day to play Tetris on the Cira Centre.

In fact, the entire  Arcade at the Oval kickoff event for Philly Tech Week will be moved to Saturday. It’ll be at the same time (7-10:30 p.m.) and same place (the Oval at Benjamin Franklin Parkway) as the original event that was scheduled for Friday. Games, food, music and beer will still be plentiful.

As we all sob at the thought of waiting another 24 hours to see Tetris played on a 29-story building, remember this: At least it’s not snowing. Read more about this story on PBJ.com.

For more breaking business news go to PBJ.com



Photo Credit: NBC10]]>
<![CDATA[Mozilla CEO Quits After Backlash]]> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 21:54:15 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/04-03-2014-Brendan-Eich.jpg

Mozilla's newly-appointed CEO Brendan Eich has stepped down following calls for him to resign over his support for California's anti-gay marriage bill Prop. 8.

Mitchell Baker, Mozilla's board chairman, announced Eich's resignation in a blog post on Thursday.

"Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He’s made this decision for Mozilla and our community," Baker said.

Eich -- who created the JavaScript programming language -- came under fire for a $1,000 donation he made in 2008 to support Prop. 8.

Eich's donation came under intense scrutiny over the last two weeks, and a number of people -- including Mozilla employees -- took to Twitter to criticize him. The dating site OKCupid joined the protest, calling for a boycott of the FireFox browser.

"Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it," Baker's post said. "We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves. We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better."

The Guardian reported that Eich has "repeatedly refused to discuss his donation to the Proposition 8 campaign, saying that to do so would violate Mozilla’s principle of inclusiveness."

“I agree with people who say it wasn't private, but it was personal,” he said of the donation in a Wednesday interview. “But the principle that I have operated by, that is formalised in our code of conduct at Mozilla, is it's really about keeping anything that's not central to our mission out of our office."

The Guardian also reported that Eich donated thousands of dollars to Right Wing Republicans such as Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan in the 1990s.

In a March 26 post on his website, Eich addressed lingering concerns about his stance on marriage equality.

"I am deeply honored and humbled by the CEO role. I’m also grateful for the messages of support," Eich said. "At the same time, I know there are concerns about my commitment to fostering equality and welcome for LGBT individuals at Mozilla. I hope to lay those concerns to rest, first by making a set of commitments to you. More important, I want to lay them to rest by actions and results."

Eich went on to detail Mozilla's commitment to inclusiveness, adding that he was committed to ensuring that "Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion."

In her post, Baker underlined the importance of "diversity and inclusiveness."

"Mozilla supports equality for all," she said. "While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better."

Twitter immediately reacted to news of Eich's resignation, with some asking asking whether the resignation was the best way to address the issue.

Investor and entrepreneur Marc Andreesssen tweeted in support of Eich's contribution to technology, saying: "Brendan Eich is a good friend of 20 years, and has made a profound contribution to the web and to the entire world."

Others hailed the power of "clicktivism," praising OKCupid for its call to action.

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<![CDATA[The Best April Fools' Jokes From Across the Web]]> Tue, 01 Apr 2014 16:55:16 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/chicken-april-fools86159934.jpg

Won't get fooled again? The Internet is full of so many April Fools' jokes that it's hard to trust anything online. Here are some of the most memorable hoaxes and gags from across the web on April 1.

Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton parodied his wife, Hillary Clinton's, Twitter photo, which has taken on meme status over the last couple of years. Hillary's photo is of her back in 2011 when she was Secretary of State. The black and white photo shows her texting in sunglasses on a military plane bound for Libya. Bill's photo is almost an exact replica, except he's perched where she used to be and is holding an extremely large iPad.

Google

The tech giant unveiled a legitimate update for Google Maps' iOS and Android apps that lets users hunt Pokémon around the globe. There are 150 of the creatures hiding across the world map. When you catch one, it's tagged in a Pokédex, a digital encyclopedia for Pokémon. The update was announced on Google's Japanese blog on Monday. The blog features a nifty video that's sure to excite Google and Pokémon fans alike.

Google also launched a new app in its Chrome Web Store that allows cats to type on smartphones using their paws. Like the Google Maps app update, this app actually exists; it's not just a gimmick. Features include "four pawing modalities using your trackpad or touchscreen" and "cat translation technology (beta)." Google claims new apps are coming for dogs, fish, hamsters and dinosaurs. Squirrels weren't left out of the mix either...

Netflix

The video streaming service is tempting users with a brand new original movie: "Rotisserie Chicken." Except there are no actors or elaborate plot lines in this one, just 73 minutes of a rotisserie chicken being cooked in reverse. It's available until April 2, so if watching a juicy hunk of poultry travel backwards in time to its original raw state is your thing, you've got only a day to watch it.

Oh yeah, and there's also a 20-minute movie called "Sizzling Bacon" that's exactly what it sounds like, and just like "Rotisserie Chicken," it's backwards. One reviewer praised "Sizzling Bacon" as "an absolute masterpiece and Netflix's best original yet."

Reddit

The social news site announced a revolutionary new way to browse Reddit, dubbed "headdit." By moving his or her head, a user can browse different links in Reddit. A user can simply frown to give a down vote and nod vigorously to give an up vote. A look of surprise will open a web link. Presenting a cat in front of the computer initiates "cat mode" (what "cat mode" does, we're not quite sure). "Headdit" uses "hand equivalent action detection" to accomplish this innovative way of browsing Reddit.

Sadly, the announcement was just a joke, and no such technological feat has actually been implemented.

LinkedIn

The professional networking site jumped on the cat bandwagon with its new "Cats You May Know." The fake website update, which was announced on LinkedIn's blog, is supposed to connect professionals on the site with the feline community, and vice versa. On the blog, Peter Rusev writes, "Cats You May Know is designed to give pawed professionals an opportunity to brand themselves, share their unique skills, and network with both humans and other relevant cats in their breed." Maybe the cats could use Google's new paw-friendly app to access this faux LinkedIn page.

Uber

The taxi app is offering its users in New York a major discount along the Second Avenue subway route. The ride has been discounted down to $2.50 — the same price as a New York subway ride — as an April Fools' Day promotion. The discount lets people ride between 128th and Houston Streets at the discounted price, a steep drop from the normal price, which can top well over $20, depending on traffic.

The taxi's route follows the long-planned Second Avenue Subway line in Manhattan. Known as "The Line That Time Forgot," it was first proposed back in 1929 and has faced significant delays in its construction ever since.

CERN

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, operator of the world's largest particle collider, has announced that it is changing the font of its website to the much-maligned Comic Sans. "This is an important year for CERN and we wanted to make a bold visual statement," said CERN Head of Communications James Gillies.

The laboratory celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. It officially switches to the "round and squishy" font today. Chances are slim that it'll still be there tomorrow.

Domino's Pizza

The global pizza chain's British website announced an edible pizza box made entirely of crust. Described as "A world first in 'snackaging' innovation," the Edibox promised to transform pizza delivery and cardboard box recycling. To the disappointment of crust-lovers everywhere, Domino's tweeted that it was all an April Fools' gag.

Vegemite

Vegemite, the crude-colored food paste from Australia, makes many Americans' stomachs turn. But the yeast-based stuff — like its British counterpart, Marmite — is beloved by many. So it's no wonder that Vegemite's announcement that it's releasing a Vegemite energy drink was met with yays and nays on Facebook and Twitter. In the end, it was all just an April Fools' joke.  But that hasn't stopped wishful thinking from some.

Wagamama

The London-based restaurant chain announced via Twitter that it will be adding flavor to its utensils. The chain, which primarily serves Japanese ramen noodles, says it will introduce four flavors of chopsticks: soy, wasabi, chili and ginger. It's actually not a bad idea, but chances are the April Fools' concept won't stick.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Twitter Celebrates 8th Birthday With #FirstTweet]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 11:53:43 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/162211003.jpg

San Francisco-based Twitter is celebrating its 8th birthday with a #flashbackfriday trick that lets tweeps see their first post on the microblogging site.

Twitter set up a website, First-Tweets.com, to allow its estimated 214 million users to look back at their first 140 characters.

The move has users around the world reminiscing about their foray on Twitter. Since its start as a quirky messaging tool, the platform has taken off as a promotional outlet for news agencies, police, politicians and celebrities.

In a blog post, Twitter shared what former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and Twitter founder founder Jack Dorsey tweeted as novice users. Dorsey wrote: "just setting up my twttr." One of the more popular first tweets comes from Russian President Vladmir Putin, who congratulated president-elect Barack Obama on Nov. 7, 2012.

Check out your first post and have a look a few notable #firsttweets:



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA["Big Bang" Professor Speaks Out]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 13:56:24 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/03-20-2014-big-bang-prof.jpg

It’s been two weeks since Stanford physics professor Andrei Linde found out that his Big Bang theory was true, but he’s still reeling from the repercussions.

Since the announcement  was made public Monday, 2.4 million people on YouTube have watched Linde react to news that evidence from the BICEP2 experiment in the South Pole supports his cosmic inflation theory of how the universe began.

For many, the two-minute video felt more real than any glammed-up episode of reality television could ever be. Hundreds tweeted, Facebooked and GIF'd it, leaving no doubt that the news had sparked the beginning of many discussions on life, evolution and the universe.

Lawrence Krauss, director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, perhaps summed it up best in the New Yorker, explaining that the discovery could “allow us to peer back to the very beginning of time—a million billion billion billion billion billion times closer to the Big Bang than any previous direct observation.”

Linde called the media attention "a pleasant bump on the road."

“We are not exposed to this kind of attention, but that has changed,” Linde said Thursday. “We developed these ideas almost 30 years ago, nobody cared at that time, and only now they are being discussed seriously.”

So what exactly is inflation?

“Inflation is a brief stage of exponential expansion of the universe, which made the universe large and uniform, and produced the seeds for the large-scale structure of the universe,” Linde said.

He added that he is not entirely sure yet that his theory is true.

“I’m 95 percent convinced it’s true, but extraordinary statements need extraordinary proof. If these results are correct, they are among the most spectacular results in observational cosmology obtained in the 21st century. We should wait a little before they are analyzed and confirmed by other observers.”

As for his now-famous reaction on camera, Linde said that it was all real.

In the video released by Stanford University, assistant professor of physics Chao-Lin Kuo gets ready to deliver the good news to Linde.

“He has no idea I’m coming.”Kuo says into the lens, walking toward Linde's house.

“So I have a surprise for you,” Kuo tells Linde and his wife when they open their door. “It’s five sigma at point two.”

Linde’s wife, Standford professor of physics Renata Kallosh, says something that sounds like, “Discovered it?”

Then Linde asks Kuo to repeat himself again, and again, and then stops him mid-sentence, exclaiming: “Point two?”

Later, while celebrating over some champagne, Linde tells Kuo that the couple hadn't been expecting anybody and Renata had asked him whether he had ordered delivery from Amazon.

“Yeah,” he says in the video, “I ordered it 30 years ago. Finally it arrived.”

“My head is turning on my shoulders [since I found out],” Linde told NBC Bay Area Thursday. “There are some miracles about our world which do not allow us to sleep well … any results that support inflation, indirectly support the idea of the multiverse as well."

When asked where the discovery and subsequent validation of his theory falls in the pantheon of great scientific discoveries (Linde counts Einstein, Newton and Niels Bohr among his heroes), Linde said that although he wouldn’t compare it with quantum mechanics or the theory of relativity, it's really important to him.

“It’s changed our vision of life, the universe and our place in the world,” he said.



Photo Credit: via YouTube]]>
<![CDATA[Stevie Wonder Touts Technology for Impaired]]> Fri, 21 Mar 2014 07:05:28 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Stevie-Wonder-SD-0320.jpg

Music legend Stevie Wonder was in San Diego Thursday, not for a performance, but checking out new gadgets showcased at the International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference.

The Grammy Award-winning hitmaker attended the event at the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown San Diego.

There, he spoke with NBC 7 about the importance of assisted technology for those with disabilities and impairments, including visual impairment, such as Wonder himself.

“It’s always good seeing new technology that makes the world more accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired,” Wonder told NBC 7.

“Imagine yourself not being able to see, and then all of a sudden, you’re able to get information that you would have never had available to you. That’s how important [new assisted technology] is,” he added.

Wonder made his way through the conference, visiting with friends and checking out gadgets. He wasn’t a keynote speaker or performing, just simply enjoying the event as an attendee.

In its 29th year, the conference filled an exhibit hall, highlighting products from more than 150 companies catering to those with hearing, reading and writing disabilities.

For instance, one product on display was a braille note-taking tool with a voice output system. Other examples of new technology included screen-reader devices that read out loud what is being typed.

The devices may look simple to some, but they can make a world of a difference for those who need it most.

Dinah Cohen has spent the last 23 years as the director of the Department of Defense’s computer electronic program, which provides these types of technology to wounded warriors. She also attended Thursday’s conference and said events like these are important in supporting soldiers returning home from deployment.

“I know when the first wave of wounded warriors were coming back, many had lost their vision, lost their hearing. And they had no idea where to start. And to know the technology is out there is step one of the recovery and process,” said Cohen.

Kathy Martinez is the Assistant Secretary for Disability Employment Policy. Martinez says assisted technology helps her and others with their everyday tasks.

“Technology is the great equalizer. A lot of us cannot do what we do. I get upwards of 300 emails a day. Tthere’s no way I can ask someone to read them to me. So to have an iPhone or tablet that talks where I can actually hear what’s on the screen is critical for me to do my job,” she said.

Martinez says assisted technology also helps people with disabilities stay employed.

“That means we're paying taxes. That means were not on benefits and contributing to society," she said. "So accessible technology has a huge impact on society as a whole, not only on the person that has disability.”

The International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference is in town through Saturday.



Photo Credit: NBC 7 San Diego]]>
<![CDATA[Mystery Tech Tenant]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 13:13:25 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/03-19-2014-sj-tech-office.jpg

Who’s the mystery tenant moving into San Jose's biggest-ever office park? That’s the million-dollar question everyone in Silicon Valley is scrambling to answer.

Speculation started flying as soon as San Jose city officials approved the 2-million square-foot office project on North First Street and Brokaw Road in North San Jose on Wednesday.

The list of potential occupants includes everybody from Seattle-based Microsoft and Amazon, to locals Apple, Google and Facebook.

So far, the only person at City Hall who reportedly knows the name of the company is San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, and he’s not talking.

"The company name is not something that I can divulge." Reed told NBC Bay Area. "They’ve asked me to keep it confidential and I will, but it’s obviously a pretty big deal for 2-million square-feet, it’s an awfully large space."

Reed added that it was a Fortune 500 company and people will recognize the name when they finally hear it.

"It’s a Silicon Valley tech company," he said. "There’s no doubt that there’s plenty of companies growing and we want to keep them here."

The project’s developers, Palo-Alto-based Peery-Arrillaga who are also behind Stanford's new stadium and the HP and Apple campuses, are not talking either. The firm did not immediately return requests for comment.

Reed underlined the importance of developing the North San Jose area in a September 2013 traffic impact fee incentive recommendation for large-scale offices and R&D campuses, including Peery-Arrillaga’s proposed project.

“With its superior urban design features and proposed high densities [the proposed project] is an excellent example of how we can achieve the objectives of the North San Jose Development policy,” the mayor said.

He added that he was committed to supporting developments such as the Peery-Arrillaga project, which, "when constructed and occupied" will bring thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in revenue to the city.

Peery-Arrillaga was able to secure permits for the project in just six months and got the city to forgo $4 million in transportation impact fees.

The scale of the proposed project itself -- it's twice the size of Facebook's Menlo Park campus and more than two-third the size of Apple's planned "spaceship" campus in Cupertino -- has sparked quite a bit of interest. The site, located near Highway 101, where the Bay 101 Casino is located, is expected to house 8,000 to 10,000 employees in 10 seven-story buildings. There are also plans for an activity center with soccer fields and courts for basketball, raquetball and squash.

Reed says that he doesn't expect the tech pushback San Francisco and Mountain View are currently experiencing, in part because not a whole lot of people live in that area of San Jose.

"It's going to be a very iconic development for the city and for Silicon Valley," said Steve Piasecki, the city's interim planning official. "...You are going to know where the heart of Silicon Valley is in the not too distant future."

Although Piasecki said that there was enough infrastructure in place to handle the traffic impact caused by the proposed project, the city has already heared from concerned residents.

The proposed project is expected to break ground sometime in 2014.



Photo Credit: Peery-Arrillaga]]>
<![CDATA[Check Your Phone & Your Pulse]]> Thu, 20 Mar 2014 16:27:18 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/MonitorMe+Sensor+Case.jpeg

Monitoring your heart rate could one day be as simple as sending a text message, scrolling through Instagram or playing another round of Candy Crush thanks to two brothers from Delaware County.

Jack and Charlie Giammattei, of Swarthmore, Pa., created Monitor.Me – a case that tracks your pulse while you hold your smartphone.

"We have a scale at our house and I never use it," said 31-year-old Charlie, the founder of the Conshohocken-based medical data collection and analytics firm, MedTrak Inc. "I figured with a lot of pulse tracking stuff, I’d never use that unless something was already tracking it."

So Charlie teamed up with his 29-year-old brother Jack, who contributes to large-scale software deployments at Vanguard, to create the Monitor.Me prototype over the course of two days in February as part of Philly Codefest, a two-day programming competition.

"We thought if we could make it so you didn’t have to do anything to collect your heart rate that could be really valuable," Jack said.

Similar products are already in development, but this is the first to collect a person's heart rate passively.

"You don’t have to open an app," Jack said. "Whenever you pick up your phone for anything, it could be checking your heart rate."

The brothers, who graduated from Strath Haven High School, spent a combined 60 hours creating the product, which detects the pulse through a sensor about the size of a dime. Using infrared light, the sensor captures changes in blood volume in a person's finger. The information collected by the sensor is then sent to hardware, called an Arduino board, which translates the data into an understandable format. The final product shows up on a computer screen as an electrocardiogram.

They designed the current prototype's hardware and software, but are still working on a final model that would bring them together in the phone case.

“The sensor could be embedded into the plastic case and the [hardware] could be shrunk down like a battery,” Jack said.

“Our vision is the sensor would be embedded in a spot on your phone where your finger naturally slid on to the sensor as you were talking,” Charlie added.

While there are plenty of commercial heart rate monitors available to consumers, most are geared towards tracking one’s fitness.  

“The most useful portion of [Monitor.Me] is its ability to detect atrial fibrillation,” Jack said.

An estimated 3.5 million Americans suffer from atrial fibrillation – a heart rhythm disorder associated with palpitations, shortness of breath and chest pain.

Plus about 25 to 30 percent of strokes are due to this condition, said Dr. David Callans, associate director of electrophysiology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System. 

“We love monitoring,” Dr. Callans said. “And we’d love to have monitoring when the symptoms are actually happening. This is a way to increase the likelihood that happens.”

Since the sensor is collecting information based on light, the developers had to create safeguards so data would not be collected while the phone was sitting on your coffee table, sunlight streaming through the window hitting the sensor.

“One of the first things we did was write all these filtering algorithms so it didn’t register you as dead when you were not holding your phone,” Charlie said.

Despite the results, Charlie and Jack know Monitor.Me still has a long way to go.

Making the phone case attractive and affordable, yet still effective, along with securing a person's personal health information are a few of the things that would need to be addressed, they said.

Dr. Callans, who is excited about the product’s potential, also hesitates to declare the technological advancement a complete success.

“The diagnostic accuracy has not been field tested. There will be transmissions that fool people,” said Dr. Callans, who added that can be an issue with medical monitors currently in use.

The volume of data – Monitor.Me provides a reading 500 times per second – can also be difficult to sort through if patients are sending it to their medical providers at random intervals, he said.

“It has to get into the right hands in close to real-time,” he said.

Regardless of the refinements needed, Charlie and Jack say their next step is to patent their innovation – that one’s heart rate is monitored while the smartphone is being used for another function.

“That would probably be the most prudent way to take the idea to another company and have them take the reins,” Charlie said. “That would be the most realistic way for this to get to the market quickly.”

And Dr. Callans looks forward to its arrival.

"If we can develop the systems around it, it would be monitoring people whenever they felt like they needed it," he said. "It is technology that people can carry around with them."


Contact Alison Burdo at 610.668.5635, alison.burdo@nbcuni.com or follow @NewsBurd on Twitter.

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<![CDATA[Elevating Accessibility on Mass Transit]]> Wed, 19 Mar 2014 10:48:57 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/broken+concourse+elevator.jpg

For more than a month, commuters trying to descend onto the Center City transit concourse at 8th and Market Streets by elevator have been met with trouble.

The eastbound elevator, owned by the City of Philadelphia and located on S. 8th Street, has been out of service since January, forcing those unable to walk up or down steps to re-route their path to the Market-Frankford El.

“I’m obviously upset when I see something neglected like that,” said James Tyack.

The software developer said he noticed the elevator was broken two weeks ago. Even more frustrating, he says, was the fact there was no signage letting people know the elevator was not working – only an orange cone in front of the door on the concourse level.

“If you go to the elevator upstairs, you have no way of knowing that it’s not working,” he said. Tyack added that several commuters who said they use elevator told him they have had problems with it every few weeks.

Tyack tweeted photos of the issue to SEPTA and city officials, who did respond to say they were working on the problem.

NBC10.com reached out to SEPTA and the city, which owns this elevator, regarding the issue. SEPTA spokeswoman Jerri Williams said the elevator stopped working in January after a number of problems cropped up, including a broken transformer.

Williams said city officials asked the transit authority to step in and repair the elevator for them. She said the transformer issue was resolved last week and that crews would be working to fix some other problems this week.

Andrew Stober, Chief of Staff in the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, said the city regularly asks for SEPTA’s help with maintenance issues because they “serve the same the customers.”

“The lead time for elevator repairs can be significant,” he said. “I understand that the elevator should be working by the end of the week.”

There is another elevator servicing that stop, on the northeast corner of Market Street, which is operational. However, those with disabilities would be required to cross over the platform to the westbound side to use the elevator. At a station that has no working elevator or escalator, the rider might have to take a train to another stop completely to get on and off the system, adding extra distance and inconveniencing them.

“People don’t care [who own it], they just want things to work,” Tyack said.

KEEPING PEOPLE INFORMED

Hoping to give people who rely escalators and elevators to get in and out of stations a better picture of the accessibility issues they’re facing, Tyack created an app called Unlock Philly.

Available through web browsers on computers and smartphones, the app automatically culls together accessibility information at SEPTA rail stations – including issues like broken elevators – onto an easy-to-read map. That data comes from SEPTA’s website.

Stations are color coded based on the accessibility options they offer – red for stairs only, yellow for escalators and stairs and green for elevators.

Unlock Philly also pulls in information from the urban guide website Yelp! to show users what places, like bars, restaurants and stores, near the station are accessible.

“Part of the reason for developing the app was to bring together all of the places where someone could go,” he said. People can also easily tweet SEPTA about issues they see at stations through the app.

Unlock Philly is currently a prototype, but Tyack said it is up and running for people to use. He and the developers at Code Philly, a local group of tech professionals and enthusiasts, hope to expand the app and offer ways for people to leave comments and tips about stations.

Tyack hopes the app will take off and inspire people to make more apps that help people and don’t just make money.

“To actually improve things for people, that’s the aim of this,” he said.

To try Unlock Philly out for yourself, click here.


Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, vince.lattanzio@nbcuni.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.



Photo Credit: James Tyack]]>
<![CDATA[Google Hangouts, Chats Restored For Some Users]]> Mon, 17 Mar 2014 15:44:21 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/466915567.jpg

Google restored service for some users after its chat services, which include Google Talk and Hangouts on Google+, went down on Monday.

The spreadsheet program Google Sheets was fully restored after it also experienced a "service disruption," the company said on its Apps Status Dashboard. Google resolved the issues for Sheets at 2:44 p.m. ET, the dashboard said.

Those trying to "GChat" were seeing messages that indicated recipients were not receiving chat messages, while chat tabs on Google+ said: "things are taking longer than expected."

An update on Google's Apps Status Dashboard at 12:22 p.m. ET announced a "service disruption" with Google Talk and Google+ Hangouts. Google announced the same issue for Sheets at 12:47 p.m. ET.

There was no word on what was causing the problems. In each case, the company said it was "investigating reports of an issue."

 



Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Philly Plane Evacuation 'Selfie' Backlash]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 20:13:55 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Hanna+Udrin+Selfie.jpg

One woman aboard the US Airways flight that came crashing down during an aborted liftoff Thursday evening decided to capture as many moments of the frightening ordeal as possible.

Taking to Twitter and Instagram, passenger Hannah Udren posted a frantic video of herself running away from the smoky plane during the evacuation at Philadelphia International Airport. She also posted several photos, including a "selfie," which shows emergency vehicles and the aircraft, nose-down just yards away behind her.

Udren was one of 149 passengers aboard Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-bound US Airways Flight 1702's scheduled departure at 6:25 p.m. on Thursday. 

According to airport officials, the front wheel of the aircraft blew out, causing the front of the plane to crash into the runway.

NBC10 spoke to Udren at Philly International, shortly after the evacuation. She said she just wanted to capture the moment.

“I wanted to show my parents everyone running, and like just what was going on," Udren said.

"Like I’m far enough away, I was one of the first people out of the plane. So, I just took my phone out and I was like OK, I’ll take a video.”

Since the incident, Udren’s video and photos of the crash landing have been a hot topic on social media.

As of Friday morning, Udren’s "plane crash selfie" had been retweeted nearly 4,000 times and favorited nearly 3,000 times. But comments and replies to the posts revealed mixed reactions among the public.

Some replied to the posts offering well wishes.

Others questioned Udren’s decision to take and post the images even while the incident was still unfolding.

Otheres came to her defense:

While Udren has received a lot of attention for her photo, she is not the first person to take a selfie during an aircraft emergency.

In January, a professor at Georgetown University tweeted photos during an emergency landing. The professor, Shashi Bellamkonda, tweeted multiple photos while he was still aboard the flight, wearing an oxygen mask, and after the flight made a safe landing at an airport in Wilmington, Del.



Photo Credit: @Han_Horan]]>
<![CDATA[Social Media Captures Plane Evacuation]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 07:20:05 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WTVJ_000000011847937_1200x675_194913347712.jpg Passengers took to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram after they were forced to evacuate their Fort Lauderdale-bound plane after it had trouble during takeoff in Philadelphia.]]> <![CDATA[Apps, Gadgets Aim for Spring Break Safety]]> Fri, 14 Mar 2014 12:34:58 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/169937693.jpg

Spring break season is finally here, and thousands of college students are swapping their down jackets for bikinis and heading to resort spots.

Amid the crush of alcohol-fueled beach parties, it might be easy to forget about staying safe. Here's a list of easy-to-use gadgets and apps that aim to help you have fun and be safe.

1. Drinking responsibly.
College students can unfortunately be pretty immune to the idea of doing anything responsibly or in moderation, especially when alcohol is involved. But a high blood alcohol content (BAC) level could result in a DUI or worse.

Super tech-savvy drinkers may want to check out Breathometer, the world's first smartphone breathalyzer. (CEO and founder Charles Yim got over $1 million in funding from his appearance on the show Shark Tank and from an Indiegogo campaign.) The breathalyzer plugs straight into your iPhone or Android's headphone jack, and is priced at $49.

Other options that don't require a separate device are smartphone apps. If you're an Android user, AlcoDroid can help you keep track of all the drinks you've consumed – if you choose to log them, that is. iPhone users can download Last Call, a blood alcohol level calculator that also lets you call a taxi, or a local lawyer if you need one.

Although the results from BAC calculators are only estimates, they'll be able to help you pace your drinking and figure out whether or not you should get behind the wheel. (You probably shouldn't.)

2. Buddy system apps.
Whether it's checking out a bar or even hitting the restrooms, it's great to have someone with you to watch your back.

Cyber buddies are better than none: Circle of 6 is an app for iPhone and Android users that lets you message your six close friends if you feel like you're in trouble. You can send your GPS location with just a tap, ask a friend to pick you up or send a text that says "Call and pretend you need me. I need an interruption."

Another good app to check out is SafeKidZone, which features include a panic button and a GPS tracking system for everyone in your family.

3. Testing for drugs in your drink.
It's a lot easier for someone to slip a drug into your drink than you might think.

To combat that possibility, several companies have crafted pocket-sized coasters that can test for the presence of incapacitating drugs in your drink. Just a drop of your drink on these coasters will tell you if your drink has been drugged. Texas State Technical College recently handed out 10,000 of these coasters to its students, just in time for spring break.

DrinkSavvy's drug-detecting cups and straws are also starting to make their presence known, starting in Massachusetts. These special cups and straws look and function just like normal drinkware, but they'll instantly change color if they detect such a drug in your drink.

4. Drunk text prevention.
Waking up to a slew of drunken texts after a night you can't remember is embarrassing and all too common. Good thing there are a bunch of self-censoring apps we can use.

Drunk Text Savior for iPhones will analyze your text message for spelling mistakes and swear words. A warning meter will let you know if you should click send, and a save option will let you save the message for later.

Stupid Phonecalls Blocker for Android users will only block one number, but it will block all incoming and outgoing calls, and incoming texts.

5. Getting home safe.
If you're looking for a designated driver, look no further than your smartphone.

StearClear (for iPhone and Android) and BeMyDD (for Android only) both provide pickup services: if you've already driven your car out that night, the app will dispatch two drivers to take you and your car home. BeMyDD also offers personal driver services that will drive you wherever you want, in your own car, at an hourly rate.

You can also rely on Uber to connect with drivers in the area. It's an on-demand service, which means you don't need to make a reservation, and you get picked up within minutes. Depending on which city you're in, you'll have different options for rates and vehicles.



Photo Credit: Getty Images/Vetta]]>
<![CDATA[Coming to a Car Near You: Apple's Newest Invention]]> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 12:17:40 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/WCAU_000000006487209_1200x675_194197571963.jpg NBC's Bob Hansen reveals Apple's latest offering.]]> <![CDATA[Bad News for Amazon Prime Members]]> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 16:52:01 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/amazon-453056767.jpg

If you've ever wanted to sign up for Amazon Prime, you have a week to do so before a big price hike takes effect.

The cost of a standard "Prime" membership is set to set you back $99, up from $79. The $20 rate increase is Amazon's first since the program launched nine years ago.

Prime membership has expanded over the years to include free two-day shipping, free video streaming and a Kindle lending library.

The online retailer detailed the price changes in an email to subscribers. If an existing member's renewal occurs before April 17, 2014, the subscriber will be charged the previous rate of $79 (and $99 for renewals thereafter).

Amazon student memberships will cost $49 and "Prime Fresh" memberships will remain at $299. Prime Fresh members get free same-day and early morning delivery of orders over $35, including fresh grocery and local products found on AmazonFresh.com. It's currently only available in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The standard membership price bump now makes Amazon Prime slightly more expensive than Netflix, which runs just under $96 per year, based on a monthly $7.99 subscription cost.



Photo Credit: Bloomberg via Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Man Writes Own Obit, Takes Internet by Storm]]> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 22:15:04 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/Walt+Bruhl.jpg

A Delaware grandfather “is now exploring the universe” but not before leaving his family with a pre-written obituary.

Walter (Walt) George Bruhl, Jr., a native of Newark & Dewey Beach, Del., died March 9 at the age of 81 in Punta Garda, Fla.

But, before he went, Walter left a gift for his descendants -- his own witty death notice.

“He drifted off this mortal coil… His spirit was released from his worn out shell of a body and is now exploring the universe," wrote Walt.

“There will be no viewing since his wife refuses to honor his request to have him standing in the corner of the room with a glass of Jack Daniels in his hand so that he would appear natural to visitors," he wrote. "Cremation will take place at the family’s convenience and his ashes will be kept in an urn until they get tired of having it around. What’s a Grecian Urn? Oh, about 200 drachmas a week."

Bruhl, who was born in Philadelphia on April 20, 1933, surprised his family with the eulogy.

“It was a complete surprise to me,” Bruhl’s grandson Sam told BuzzFeed. “I couldn’t help but cry and laugh hysterically through the whole thing.”

Sam uploaded the whole thing to Reddit and from there it took off. Since landing on the Internet, Walt’s obit has been read by tens of thousands of people.

“I knew immediately that it needed to be shared,” Sam told BuzzFeed. “People need those little bits of inspiration each day, and I know my PopPop would love to be that for people.”

Walt served as a U.S. Marine in the Korean War and then worked as an electronics apprentice at Philadelphia’s Naval Yard before carrying on a 31-year career with DuPont.

“…After 31 years with The Co., he was given a fine anniversary dinner and a token gift and then ‘downsized’ in Dec. of 1993. He was rehired as a contract employee in June of 1994, doing the same job that he had been ‘downsized’ from, and stayed until July of 1995."

A truncated (and edited) version of Walt’s ode to himself appeared on Delaware Online that focused more on Bruhl’s accomplishments and less on his musings.

The printed obit kept Walt’s own words at the end:

"Everyone who remembers him is asked to celebrate Walt's life in their own way, raising a glass of their favorite drink in his memory would be quite appropriate. Instead of flowers, Walt would hope that you will do an unexpected and unsolicited act of kindness for some poor unfortunate soul in his name."

A memorial luncheon is planned for Saturday at 1 p.m. at Deerfield in Newark, Del.

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<![CDATA[Facebook Feelings Are Contagious?]]> Thu, 13 Mar 2014 16:41:41 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/213*120/social_media_debate_president.jpg

New research from the University of California, San Diego, has found that feelings shared on Facebook – via negative or positive posts or status updates – are contagious among online friends.

The study, titled “Detecting Emotional Contagion in Massive Social Networks,” was led by UC San Diego professor of political science James Fowler and UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering PhD student Lorenzo Coviello, among several co-authors.

Published in “PLOS ONE,” the research analyzed whether happiness and other emotions are spread from person to person on social networks such as Facebook.

Using data from more than one billion anonymous status updates among more than 100 million Facebook users in the 100 most populous cities in the United States, the study found that positive posts beget positive posts, while negative posts beget negative ones.

According to the research, positive Facebook posts are more influential than negative ones, spreading the positivity among others. Each additional negative post yields 1.29 more negative posts among friends, while each additional positive Facebook post yields an additional 1.75 positive posts among friends, the study deduced.

In order to measure the emotional content of each post, UC San Diego says researchers used an automated text analysis software program called the "Linguistic Inquiry Word Count."

The study also found that rainy weather changes the mood of Facebook posts – and that mood change can be contagious. The research says rainy weather increases the number of negative posts by 1.16 percent and decreases the number of positive posts by 1.19 percent.

Upon analyzing friends living in different cities as those posting about the rain, researchers found that the moods of those being rained on impacted the moods of their dry friends.

“For every one person affected directly, rainfall alters the emotional expression of about one to two other people, suggesting that online social networks may magnify the intensity of global emotional synchrony,” the study cites.

“Our study suggests that people are not just choosing other people like themselves to associate with but actually causing their friends’ emotional expressions to change,” said lead author Fowler. “We have enough power in this data set to show that emotional expressions spread online and also that positive expressions spread more than negative.”

Fowler said that in today’s digitally-connected world, it’s important to learn what can be transmitted through social media – including how much emotion can actually spread through social networks such as Facebook.

“It is possible that emotional contagion online is even stronger than we were able to measure,” he said.

This could have widespread implications, according to the researchers who write:

“[Emotions] might ripple through social networks to generate large-scale synchrony that gives rise to clusters of happy and unhappy individuals.”

Researchers suggest their findings could impact public well-being.

“If an emotional change in one person spreads and causes a change in many, then we may be dramatically underestimating the effectiveness of efforts to improve mental and physical health,” said Fowler. “We should be doing everything we can to measure the effects of social networks and to learn how to magnify them so that we can create an epidemic of well-being.”

Additional co-authors of the Facebook feelings study include UC San Diego political science graduate student Yunkyu Sohn; Adam D. I. Kramer and Cameron Marlow of Facebook; Massimo Franceschetti, also of UC San Diego’s Jacobs School; and Nicholas Christakis of the departments of sociology and medicine at Yale University.

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PHILADELPHIA BUSINESS JOURNAL]]> <![CDATA[Play Tetris on a Skyscraper]]> Wed, 12 Mar 2014 11:00:40 -0400 http://media.nbcphiladelphia.com/images/203*120/Cira+Centre+Pong+Record.JPG

 

The fourth annual Philly Tech Week kicks off this year with some outrageous gaming on a University City high-rise -- sound familiar?

On April 4, a massive Tetris match will be showcased on both sides of the 437-foot Cira Centre in University City. Players will take their joysticks at Eakins Oval and square off against opponents near Drexel University (the exact location is still yet to be determined), where they’ll see the classic video game displayed on the 29-story “screen,” which is really just a skyscraper embedded with LED lights.

Last year, Drexel University professor Frank Lee, who also founded the school’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio, wowed us with a similar feat – a game of Pong on the Cira Centre, which earned a Guinness World Record accolade this past November for the largest architectural video display ever conducted.

Lee said this year’s Tetris game actually was his original plan. In 2008, when he was jogging on I-76 one day, he said the sparkling lights on the Cira Centre reminded him of the iconic puzzle pastime. Read more about this story on PBJ.com.

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Photo Credit: NBC10]]>