Weeky tech news roundup for Friday, May 16

You can now access 9-1-1 by text…but only certain places
While they don’t recommend you rely on text to reach emergency services, in some parts of the U.S., you can access 9-1-1 service by text. More communities are expected to be coming online in the coming year, but for now it’s only available in certain places that can accept emergency texts (and only if you’ve got AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon—the only carriers currently supporting text 9-1-1). Even if you live in an area offering text to 9-1-1, you must give your location because emergency call centers cannot triangulate your location like they can with a phone call.

The cybernetic age is here! (well, at least for arms)
The FDA approved the Deka Arm—a prosthetic arm that is controlled by the wearer’s muscle impulses. Known as “Luke” behind the scenes (referring to the Luke of Star Wars fame who lost part of his arm in a light saber battle), the arm uses electromyogram electrodes attached to the wearer’s muscles to allow a more natural arm motion. More precision is possible allowing wearers to do fine motor tasks such as pulling a letter out of an envelope or even, as the video shows, moving eggs to a new carton.

The arm was developed by the inventor of the Segway and sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency proving that the Six Million Dollar Man (in today’s dollars, the Sixty Billion Dollar Man) could very well be on the horizon—we have the technology! (if you’re younger than 40, here’s a link so you can get that reference)

9-5Mac iphone 6 imageRumor: iPhone 6 launching in August
Apple has historically announced new phones in September, not August, but the interwebs were afire this week with the rumor that this time around it’ll be an August release. There’s also talk that only the 4.7-inch model iPhone 6 will be released in August, with September seeing the debut of a larger 5.5-inch(ish – reports vary) model in September. Apparently the larger phone could have issues for resolution and thus app developers. If you’re interested in reading about that, head to 9to5mac.com.

Flappy Bird is coming back, less addictive than ever!
The creator of Flappy Bird says he’s going to bring the game back, and it will include multiplayer and be less addictive. He did not detail exactly how he will make it less of a time-suck, but it’ll be interesting to see. Look for the revised game in August.

XboxXbox One price drop! It’s now available, $100 cheaper, without the Kinect
The tech press thinks Microsoft HAD to remove the Kinect and cut the price on the One to really compete with the PS4. Sales of the One have been lackluster when compared to Sony’s new system, which is not really surprising when you consider it used to cost $100 more. Now, with the Kinect-free option, the One and the PS4 are head-to-head price wise. Microsoft also is rolling back it’s requirement that owners to pay for an Xbox Live Gold subscription to access Netflix and Hulu (current subscribers are getting a refund). The refunds will happen on a pro-rated basis, calculated from the day you cancel until when the membership would have ended. You’ve got to make your refund request by August 31 and Microsoft says: “To request your pro-rata refund, please click http://support.xbox.com/contact-us after the system updates become available in June.” So there you have it.

Minnesota passes landmark smartphone ‘kill switch’ law
A ‘kill switch” means you can remotely disable or wipe your cell phone if it gets stolen which, theoretically, would deter thieves. The FCC says about one in three robberies involve smartphones, and police too have been pulling for some kind of preloaded anti-theft program. Companies have until January of 2015 to make it happen. Interestingly though, this date is six months after when the cell phone industry itself promises to have some kind of ‘kill switch,’ so, in the end, the law might not be needed.

FCC okays Internet “fast lanes”…for now
The FCC decided this week it’s okay if providers give certain content a “fast lane” on the Internet, but left the door open to changing this decision. Some say this ruling violates the concept of “net neutrality” which proposes that all Internet traffic should be treated equally, even if it comes from a competitor. The FCC Chairman tried to reassure critics saying he did not want to see the Internet “divided into haves and have-nots” and will work to see that doesn’t happen. Also, while a fast lane is allowed, slowing traffic is not. The FCC has left the door open to changing this new decision. For a nice, but more detailed summary of what the ruling means, head over to Ars Technica.

google glassGot $1,500 laying around? Google Glass now available to everyone
It’s true—Google Glass is now available to the masses. All it takes is $1,500 and you can have your very own pair. Some had hoped, when Google opened up Glass to purchase by anyone, there would be a cheaper “mainstream version” available. Alas, these folks are now disappointed. To get started and get your own pair, you can click here.

Europe courts pass “right to be forgotten” law
The law means individuals can force search engines such as Google to remove “irrelevant and outdated” search results. In theory, I think this sounds like a great idea—those stupid photos of you from high school or college could be taken down. However, immediately after the law passed Google reported receiving take down requests from a politician (about his behavior in office), a man convicted of possessing child pornography, and from a doctor wanting to remove negative reviews. At one point in my life any of this information was harder to come by, but now that it has been open and available? Well, I’m not so sure about putting it back into darkness. What do you think?

Could Godzilla be for real?
Gizmodo featured a story about this question this week, and a video by Vsauce3 who tried to answer this question.

Check out the very scientific reasons—including gravity—the answer is “not so much.”

How did I miss this? Amazon patents taking photos on a white background
Last week, which I completely missed, Amazon was given a patent for taking photos on a white background. For reals. One belief is Amazon sought the patent to ensure their photos keep their unique and very branded feel. Still, it sure seems pretty nuts.

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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