2) DIY smartphones from Google. Tinkerers who love to customize their computer hardware and software will be in seventh heaven when they learn what’s up next in the world of Google inventions. Piggybacking on Motorola’s Project Ara, an open hardware platform where users can pick and choose smartphone components, Google will soon sell a start-up kit that includes a frame, or endoskeleton, in three sizes as well as some basic modules for a price point less than $50. Entrepreneur Magazine reports that do-it-yourselfers will be able to personalize such components like keyboards, cameras, batteries and speakers. While Google sold off Motorola in early 2014, writer Geoff Weiss says that the tech titan kept the valuable stuff—the know-how of Motorola’s Advanced Technology and Projects group, the brains behind Project Ara.
3) Micropower scavenging is in. Listen up! The future is micro, especially when it comes to harvesting wind, solar, thermal and hydro energy. A new Semiconductor Engineering article explains that macro ways of harnessing the power of the wind, sun and water are close to reaching a plateau. “On a micro-scale, however, the exact opposite is true. The development of harvested scavenging energy, either by-product or free, is just beginning to evolve on a practical scale.” The economies of power scale are the tipping point, says the author. “Elements such as form factor, weight, bio-safety, portability, transparency and all the other considerations that define light-weight, portable, human-friendly devices, are the driving factors. … Thanks, in large part, to nanotechnology, microelectronics that can capture energy from such sources as the human breath and radio waves will soon be practical.”
4) Does my risk make me look fatter? Apparently so, suggests a recent article in Fast Company’s Co-Labs. Why else would venture capitalists be so eager to invest so generously in such start-ups like Uber, the taxi-alternative company, that has had numerous run-ins with taxi commissioners around the U.S.? Financing startups with bold, disruptive visions goes hand in hand with significant legal, lobbying and public relations expenses, argues the article’s author. Coupled with legal and regulatory risks, these line item expenses can actually make a start-up more attractive to investors because the founders may need to give up a greater percentage of their ownership in order to pay the bills: “In essence, lean cost structures undermine investors’ negotiating position, giving founders an edge.”
5) Fingerprint this! The Galaxy S5 smartphone, debuting in stores on April 11, will make history in the security department. Per MIT Technology Review, this newest offering from Samsung will expand the use of fingerprints as an authentication device for mobile purchases. Consumers visiting a website or app that accepts PayPal will be able to authorize payments by swiping their fingers across the phone’s home button. Based on protocol developed by the FIDO Alliance, the Galaxy S5 represents the initial wave of fingerprint adoption with a wide variety of mobile device providers expected to follow within the next couple of years.
6) Improving nocturnal vision. Wearers of night-vision goggles may soon be able to trade them in for contact lenses that do the same thing, and with a lot less weight. According to Mashable’s Melissa Goldin, University of Michigan researchers have developed an infrared sensor that may eventually pave the way for night vision contact lenses. Using graphene, a technology that relies on tightly packed carbon atom layers, scientists have created an infrared sensor that only requires room temperature to work properly. The research supporting this sensor is discussed at depth in the March 2014 issue of Nature Nanotechnology.
Patricia Kutza is a business and technology journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.