plastic_605_Wyss Institute

Weekly tech news roundup for May 9, 2014

Shrimp shells turned into biodegradable alternative to plastic
Plastic has long been one of the top environmental issues of our time, but that could change thanks to a new type of biodegradeable plastic invented at Harvard’s Wyss Institute. The bioplastic is made from something called chitosan (I believe pronounced “kite-o-san”) which is the second-most abundant organic material on the planet. It’s the same stuff that’s in the shells of crustaceans, bugs, and even butterfly wings. Harvard engineers have figured out how to take chitosan from shrimp shells and mix in a certain protein from silk. The result is a clear, strong, cheap to make, renewable “plastic.” Cool, right? Here’s the full release if you’d like to read more.

Amazon now lets you shop from Twitter
Love Amazon and spend a lot of time on Twitter? You’re in luck! Amazon and Twitter have paired up to let you add things to your Amazon shopping cart when you’re on the social media network. Once you link your Twitter account with your Amazon account, if you see a tweet with an Amazon link, you can reply with the hashtag #AmazonCart and bam! It’s in your cart. Why? Because shopping on Amazon was just way to hard before 😉 Seriously though, a lot of the press is speculating this is the first of many shopping/social media mash-ups meant to part you with your money. One problem? Anyone watching that Twitter thread will know what you’ve added to your cart.

toiletKohler introduces a touchless toilet
Well, *some* parts of your body have to touch the toilet, but not your hands. In recent years we’ve seen the introduction of touchless soap dispensers, faucets, and more–it only makes sense we can now have a touchless toilet! It’s a Kohler innovation and works via “an electromagnetic field through the top of the tank lid that senses your hand, causing the toilet to flush” which apparenty more accurate and reliable than touchless beam technology. For $99 you can retrofit your current commode (well, most can be converted). While I wouldn’t add this to my Mother’s Day wish list, it is, admittedly, kind of an interesting product.

Technology and fragrance unite!
Never find a perfume that’s “just right?” Well, head to London and you can get your own signature scent! Selfridges, a London-based department store, has created a Fragrance Lab where, in 15 minutes, you can create a custom perfume. First, you take a personality test via iPad. Then, you get to sniff different scents and pick the ones that speak to you. With this data, a new perfume is created just for you. The experience runs until June 27, so head to London pronto to get yours. (CNET had the story.)

alibaba logoAlibaba files for an IPO…why should you care?
The news of Alibaba’s IPO filing hit the tech and popular press with much fanfare this week. So what? Alibaba is HUGE in China. In fact, based on its valuation, it’s in the top 10 of the world’s biggest tech companies and had $248 billion dollars in transactions last year (which is more than eBay and Amazon combined!). Alibaba is a company made up of different websites and enterprises. Alibaba.com is a space for business-to-business sales, but there is also TaoBao which is described as an “eBay-like consumer-to-consumer sales site,” and TMall which more like Amazon.com where businesses sell to customers. Tossed in the mix is Alibaba’s cloud computing and messaging offerings as well. Having an IPO here means that Alibaba is gearing up to take the U.S. by storm, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing more about this company (and their websites) in the coming year.

Like Minecraft? Learn more about its creator
Rolling Stone spent a few days with Notch—a.k.a. Markus Persson, the creator of Minecraft—and his company Mojang. The piece paints a portrait of a guy who is a little child-like, possibly a bit manic, and certainly living in the moment and enjoying the ride that comes with having one of the most popular games. It’s not super long (2 pages), but I recommend it. I have to say, if I had the skills, I’d want to work for Mojang for the all-company trips!

Good news for current Netflix subscribers, bad news for those that aren’t
The good news is current Netflix subscribers won’t see a price increase for two years. The bad news? New members will have to pay a dollar more than those of us already on the subscription movie/streaming service. If you live in Europe or the UK and reading this, you’re also getting bumped up a pound/euro. In the U.S., the new rate is now $8.99 for a basic streaming plan. The silver lining is, along with the price increase, Netflix is rolling out a cheaper, standard-definition-only streaming plan for $7.99 (note: you can only play back one video at a time with this less expensive plan).

Beats-Audio-logoApple reportedly in talks to purchase Beats
Beats—you know, the headphone and music company started by Dr. Dre—is apparently about to be purchased by Apple for $3.2 billion. If it happens, it’ll be Apple’s largest acquisition ever. Why Beats? The press is speculating Beats will help get them a toe-hold in the music streaming business which hasn’t been big for them (iTunes Radio hasn’t hit big since it’s introduction last year). Beats’ headphones are also much better than Apple’s, apparently (I wouldn’t know from experience). We’ll see if there is an official announcement in the coming days – watch for it.

Keep hearing about 3-D printing but just don’t get it?
Mashable has a really great video explaining how 3-D printing works. I’ve been following 3-D printing a bit, but I had no idea they had 3-D printed houses!

And finally, a little SuperMario fun
If you’re a fan of SuperMario…or mariachi bands…you’ve gotta check this out. Hilarious!

About Missy Kellor

Missy works on the Corporate Communications team and reports stories to TDS employees and customers. This is right up her alley because she’s an extrovert and also a big fan of research (really, she’ll look up just about anything that strikes her interest). Missy is a native of Madison, Wis. with an undergraduate in Anthropology and a master’s degree in Life Sciences Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her interest in the Internet as a mass media shaped her work towards a PhD in Journalism and Mass Communications. She’s also worked as an editorial assistant, copywriter, and production artist. In her off hours, Missy is a crafter, Pinterest addict, reader, wife, and mom of two kids. You can find Missy on G+ and on Twitter.
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