Following a public investigation and pressure from activist groups, Apple has banned the use of two dangerous cleaning chemicals linked to leukemia and potential nerve damage. The use of benzene and n-hexane in its Chinese facilities drew anger from groups such as China Labor Watch and Green America - 18 of the company's factories weren't using the chemicals, while four were. However, the four factories were reportedly using the chemical solutions within safe limits, but decided to impose the ban anyway.
Apple was called out in the past when a factory used N-hexane, which evaporates faster than alcohol, reportedly led to 137 employees being hospitalized.
"This is doing everything we can think of to do to crack down on chemical exposures and to be responsive to concerns," said Lisa Jackson, Apple VP of environmental initiatives, in a statement to the AP. "We think it's really important that we show some leadership and really look toward the future by trying to use greener chemicals."
Both Microsoft and Sony were reportedly running some game demos at Gamescom 2014 using powerful custom-built PCs to display console games. Live game demonstrations of "Ori" and "Blind Forest" crashed to the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system, and the PCs appear to be powered by NVIDIA instead of AMD GPUs, according to reports.
It's not uncommon for game studios, even when promoting console games, to use PCs to help enhance the demonstration experience for attendees. However, even if the game is available on all next-generation consoles and the PC, gamers will often call out the studio if graphics and gameplay don't replicate what was originally shown to them.
During public demoes, companies are tasked with providing lightning-fast gameplay mixed with pretty graphics to entice gamers and media. It seems both companies have been caught doing this over the past few years, eager to demonstrate their latest and greatest console games - but using PCs instead of their own products to get the job done.
If you were one of the gaming fans that likes the idea of Microsoft making shows based on video games and other properties, you were also one of the folks disappointed when Microsoft decided to shutter Xbox Entertainment Studios (XES). Word has now surfaced that Microsoft has held preliminary talks with Warner Bros. That could see Xbox Entertainment Studios live on.
If the talks work out, XES would end up being a stand-alone entity based at Warner Bros. studios. Word is that Warner would want to merge XES with Machinima, the YouTube network it already owns a stake in. The talks are at a very early stage says those familiar with the deal.
A spokesman for Warner said the studio was "constantly having preliminary discussions regarding business opportunities with numerous companies at any given time. A conversation is just that - a conversation."
Microsoft has rolled out a new application that is aimed directly at the users out there who have Windows Phone 8 or 8.1 and want to be able to send time-limited messages. The app is called WindUp and is aimed at competing with Snapchat, which has had some privacy issues this year.
The big issue for SnapChat was when a court ruled that the app was deceiving users, but despite that ruling, the app is still popular. WindUp does need several permissions on the smartphone to operate. The good news is that location services aren't one of the things WindUp needs.
That means the app can't track your location. The app will allow users to share photos, record audio, capture video, or send text. WindUp is available to download right now.
Samsung has made a purchase of a smaller company that makes part home products called SmartThings. The official sales price wasn't disclosed by Samsung or SmartThings, but sources claiming to be familiar with the deal say the purchase cost Samsung $200 million.
Under Samsung, SmartThings will continue to be operated by CEO and founder Alex Hawkinson and the company will operate independently. The company will be relocated to Palo Alto, California and will be part of the Samsung Open Innovation Center, which is located in the city.
Hawkinson said, "I think at a high level, it has always been our vision to go really big. It's just scale and reach all around the world - imagine reaching hundreds of millions of consumers and many more developers."
A group of researchers from a university in British Columbia came up with a very odd, yet very cool project called hitchBOT. The idea was to make a robot of sorts, put it on the side of the road, and see if it could hitch a ride across the country. This isn't the sort of bot that can't walk on its own, but it is computerized enough to interact with the people who help it.
So far, the bot has hitched numerous rides and ended up in some interesting places. It has hung out with folks on summer vacation, a rock band, and wound up at a wedding. During the wedding hitchBOT reportedly interrupted the groom's thank you for coming speech to say it likes to make friends.
HitchBOT began its cross-country trip on July 27 after being left on the side of the road near the Halifax airport. The bot has been taking photos and sharing them online as well as tweeting during its trip. The bot is expected to end its trip at the Victoria Open Space Gallery next week.
Researchers around the world are working on robotics to make them able to operate on their own and perform complex tasks. In the US, a group of engineers has designed a swarm of 1000 tiny robots that are able to shuffle their way into specific shapes when told to. Each of the bots is given an image of the shape controllers want and then they work together to make the shape.
It's not a fast process; it reportedly takes about 12 hours for the bots to take the desired shape. This is the largest swarm of robots to ever be used in a study of this type. Researchers from the group behind the project say that each of the bots is identical and have the exact same program.
The throng of robots is inspired by cells that form organs or ants that are able to build bridges to span water. The team hopes that knowledge gleaned from this study will help develop self-assembling tools and structures in the future. Each of the little bots is 3cm across and said to be about the size of a sushi roll and each has three straight legs. Commands are given using an infrared light overhead and a sensor on the robots.
An auction was held this week for high-end cars and at the auction was one very special vehicle, a Ferrari 250 GTO. The car sold at the auction at a price that has set a record for the most money ever paid for an automobile at auction, the Ferrari was purchased for $38,115,000.
That sales price bested the previous highest price of $29,650,000 significantly. That second most expensive car ever sold was a 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 Formula One car. The Ferrari did fall a bit shy of setting a record for the most expensive car ever sold. That distinction goes to a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO that sold for $52 million in a private sale.
The Ferrari 250 GTO is considered the Holy Grail in the collector car world with only 39 having been produced and some having impressive racing pedigrees. The GTO was both a racing car and a road car when it was built. This car was the 19th 250 GTO to be built and finished second overall in the 1962 Tour de France car race.
It can't be sitting well with Microsoft that for most of the last generation of game consoles it was by far tops with the Xbox 360 leaving Nintendo and Sony far behind in sales. Things have completely turned around for Microsoft with new generation consoles seeing the Sony PS4 continuing to dominate the sales charts.
The latest numbers for the gaming market are in for the month of July and Sony lead the sales charts with the PS4 being the most popular game system for the month. Microsoft didn't offer sales numbers, which may leave some gamers thinking the numbers were too terrible to talk about. Sony was tops in the game console sales war for the seventh month in a row.
Sony says that it has now sold 10 million PS4 units to customers. Nintendo is even bragging about sales gains with its Wii U racking up a 60% sales increase compared to the same seven months of 2013. Nintendo can thank Mario Kart 8 for the sales boost. The Xbox One is expected to be outselling the Wii U by a small margin, but with no numbers from Microsoft how small a margin is unknown.
If you have ever worked out using a chest strap to track your heart rate, you know how uncomfortable that can be. During CES 2014, Intel rolled out tech that would allow firms to build earbuds that have heart rate tracking tech inside. Those earbuds are now a reality thanks to SMS Audio with a set of earbuds called BioSport.
The earbuds have an optical biometric sensor that is able to collect data and share it with apps like RunKeeper. BioSport earbuds are IPX4 certified to survive sweat and water. SMS designed the earbuds with a hook shape to keep them inside your ear with exertion.
They connect with any device that has a 3.5mm headphone port and get power needed for the sensor from that port as well. The cord is tangle free and the headphones have in-line controls. Pricing for the earbuds is unknown at this time and they will hit stores in Q4.