Sunday, March 29, 2015

Still Playing Catch-Up on Mobile, Intel Takes Aim at Wearables

Despite having a tough time getting its chips into phones and tablets, Intel is setting its sights on not only doing better than that market, but also on getting its chips into even lower-power devices.

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 9.55.40 PM

At its developer conference in San Francisco on Tuesday, Intel revealed its smallest-ever chip, known as Quark, designed to go into wearable computers and even products that are swallowed or disposable.

"We want to participate in all segments of computing," Intel's Renee James said on Monday. "We really mean everywhere."

The Quark chips, now sampling, are aimed at a wide range of everyday objects that are expected to gain Internet connections in the coming years. Products using Quark will hit the market next year, James said, adding that the chip is five times smaller than today's Atom processors, and 10 times as power-efficient.

But even as it eyes this new market, Intel is still playing catch-up in the market for phones and tablets - a market dominated by Qualcomm and a host of less well-known competitors including MediaTek and others. However, James said, Intel is making progress in both phones and tablets.

On the tablet side, Intel said that device makers are ready with the first products based on Bay Trail, a new version of its Atom processor based on a new generation of manufacturing technology and designed from the ground up to run on both Windows and Android devices. At one point, Intel had planned Bay Trail for a 2014 introduction, but the company decided that it could not afford to wait that long.

Intel has been placing special emphasis on developing expertise around Android, with James noting that the team devoted to that operating system is now equal to the one focused on Android. On the phone side, Intel is expected to showcase new designs from existing partners such as Lenovo, as well as some from newly acquired customers.

The chipmaker will also use the developer conference to show the first machines running chips (code-named Broad Trail) from Intel's next-generation 14-nanometer process. In addition, Intel is announcing a previously undisclosed version of its Haswell chip that can deliver the same performance as today's Core i5 processors and yet run in low-power machines without a fan.

As Congress Dawdles, the World Steals Our Talent

On immigration reform, this has been a slow summer for Congress. After reform passed the Senate in June, it languished in July. While Washington then went on recess, and now has shifted its focus to Syria, what has the rest of the world been up to on economic advancement?

Germany spent the summer rewriting 40 percent of its immigration laws, significantly easing the bureaucratic hurdles impeding talented, foreign-born engineers and professionals from contributing to the economy there. It will now be easier than ever for U.S.-educated graduate students to start new businesses ... in Germany.

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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Mobile Messaging App Pinnatta Raises $1.5 Million

Pinnatta, a mobile messaging app startup, announced on Wednesday that it raised a $1.5 million Series A round of funding. The app, which emphasizes the multimedia aspect of mobile messaging, raised the new round from Greek firms Odyssey Venture Partners and PJ Tech Catalyst. The new funds bring the startup's total amount raised to $2.2 million.

Why the University of Washington Wants Its Surgeons to Play Videogames


Randall Munroe /

In 1999, an Institute of Medicine study found that as many as 98,000 people die every year as the result of medical error in the U.S., incurring some $17 billion to $29 billion in hospital expenses. In 2009, the Safe Patient Project concluded that the situation may have gotten even worse in the decade that followed.

That's a tragedy, which Dr. Andy Wright - a surgeon and one of the core faculty members at the Institute for Simulation and Interprofessional Studies (ISIS), a health-care education program based at the University of Washington - thinks can be helped by playing videogames.

Wright isn't advocating for surgeons' entertainment, although he personally identifies as a gamer.

"Being a videogamer doesn't get a lot of respect in a lot of mainstream professions," he said at the gaming conference PAX last month. "But, it has been instrumental to me in becoming a surgeon."

Wright's specialty is laparoscopy, meaning that his surgeries require very small incisions, some less than a centimeter long, which may be more easily monitored from a TV screen than by looking directly at the surgical site. His panel at PAX, "Videogames in Medicine," argued that the skills developed by games, such as hand-eye coordination and deliberate practice and teamwork, are also conducive to success in the operating room.

"Running a World of Warcraft guild doing raids is not terribly bad preparation for working in a hospital," Wright said in the panel discussion, noting that between two-thirds and three-quarters of those medical-error deaths were the result of miscommunication. As an example of what not to do, he played this infamous clip of the World of Warcraft guild Pals For Life, seemingly falling apart:

On a more down-to-earth level, Wright discussed how virtual training "games" like the Surgical Science product LapSim can help surgeon trainees. Although every patient is different, simulating surgeries allows students the chance to fail and get feedback without endangering anyone's life. Plus, simulators can easily throw those students into experiences that they might only see once in their entire careers, in order to prepare them for unlikely circumstances.

There's some data to back this up. In a study conducted in 2002, surgical residents trained in a virtual-reality simulation of gallbladder dissection were six times less likely to make an error in the real world than a control group that only received standard training.

However, a review of academic literature on virtual-reality training published in 2010 raised two caveats: VR makes the biggest difference with simpler skills being learned by less-practiced surgeons, and manual surgical technique is just one of the competencies that it takes to become a good surgeon, with good clinical outcomes strongly influenced by interpersonal communication skills and good judgment.

So, can normal videogames - the ones not intended for medical training - help with those non-manual skills?

"Absolutely," Wright told AllThingsD via email. "This is an area where I haven't seen any research on the application of videogames in that context, but the skills are the same," he said. "We teach judgment, team management, communication skills, conflict resolution, and error disclosure in the sim lab. You could easily see training those in a virtual environment or through gaming."

Friday, March 27, 2015

Zuckerberg to Meet With Top House Republicans on Immigration Reform

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the Facebook Home launch event.

Mr. Zuckerberg is headed back to Washington.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to meet with four top House Republicans later this week, another in a string of moves into the political realm for the social giant.

The meeting, first reported by Politico, will include sitting Speaker of the House John Boehner, as well as other top Republican House leadership, with Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Whip Kevin McCarthy and Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers.

"Mark is coming to Washington to discuss issues important to the knowledge economy, including immigration reform," a Facebook spokesperson told AllThingsD.

Ostensibly that includes Zuckerberg's efforts with, the political action group founded in conjunction with a host of tech executives that aims to upend U.S. immigration policy and potentially increase the number of foreign-born tech workers allowed entry into the United States.

The meeting is set to occur in Washington this Thursday.

Pandora Media Names New CEO

Pandora Media Inc. named Brian McAndrews, a former aQuantive and Microsoft Corp. executive, as its new chief executive and chairman, a move that comes six months after Joe Kennedy said he would be stepping down from the Internet-radio company's helm.

Shares jumped 2.8 percent to $21.99 after hours Wednesday.

McAndrews's appointment is effective immediately. Pandora said that in the search for a new CEO the board had sought a candidate who could build on the company's leading position in Internet radio and accelerate its fast-growing advertising business.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Microsoft Wants to Buy Your Old iPad

Own an old iPad that no longer sees much use? Microsoft's happy to take it off your hands. The company recently began running a new promotion, offering Microsoft Store gift cards in exchange for "gently used" iPads. If you've got an iPad 2, 3, or 4 that meets that criteria, Microsoft will give you a minimum of $200 in store credit which you can spend on one of its Surface tablets or any other product available through the Microsoft Store.