Weekly tech news roundup for Friday, January 30

echoReviews for Amazon’s Echo: okay, but needs work
Amazon’s Echo is like having Siri or Google Now on your counter in the form or a speaker. The digital personal assistant inside is named Alexa. Voice controlled gadgets are a growing trend, but is the Echo any good? The reviews are decidedly mixed. Alexa seems to do an okay job…but not every time (and if you have anyone with a similar sounding name in your house, it could be in trouble). One reviewer said she didn’t always respond, another said the replies weren’t always on-point. And, as a speaker, it doesn’t do a fantastic job. One review said music ends up tinny and compressed, and others noted it distorts if you turn up the volume. It also doesn’t have a battery so it doesn’t have grab-and-go functionality that many other Bluetooth speakers have.

The best password managers, compared
Lifehacker has a piece today comparing the best and most popular password managers. As it was just Data Privacy Day on Wednesday, this seems extra timely. It’s a nice rundown of what each service offers, what each does well, and what each doesn’t. It’s really worth your time if you don’t currently use on and/or if you’re still using “12345” as passwords.

Back to the future: Prynt cell phone case with a built-in photo printer
As a Gen X’er, I can’t help but be a little amused by Prynt. It’s a Kickstarter product that lets you print out photos from your cell phone. So, the wave of the future is something that offers instant photo printing, just like the Polaroids I grew up with? That kind’a cracks me up. Prynt doesn’t use ink—it’s imbedded in the paper. It has its own battery, and you don’t need WiFi or Bluetooth to print. It does look fun—there’s a reason why Polaroids were popular, back in the day. For $99 you can get one plus 10 sheets of paper for the second shipping date.


 
Tim Cook: The Apple Watch is coming in April
Apple CEO Tim Cook dropped that minor bombshell during an earnings call this week. When Apple first announced the watch last fall, they said it would arrive in “early 2015.” Many interpreted/hoped this would mean by the end of the first quarter. Alas, not so much. Still, April isn’t THAT much longer to wait, right? I mean, it just gives prospective buyers little extra time to save ;-).

3D printed cartilage for damaged windpipes
This is cool: A team of scientists have found a way to use 3D printing to create a “scaffold” they can then use as a framework for growing cartilage in the right shape. They cover the3D model of a windpipe in healthy cartilage cells and collagen and “bake it” in a special bioreactor so the cells grow. They haven’t perfected the technique yet, but really, how awesome is that? Hopefully in the next five years they can use this approach to help humans (and hopefully extend this process to repairing other body parts). Engadget had the story.

BMW’s clever Super Bowl ad: life before the Interweb
To promote their new i3 electric car, BMW came up with a very clever ad. Whether you grew up at the same time I did, or are a millennial (or younger), you’ll probably enjoy it. Watching a throwback video of Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel trying to figure out the @ symbol on air is awesome.

 

Microsoft releases final Office for Android apps
As of yesterday, Microsoft removed the “preview” labels off their Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps for Android tablets. This means Microsoft feels they’re officially tweaked, complete and now are supported applications. They’re all still free and will work on any Android device with at least 1GB of RAM, an ARM-based system, and one that is running 4.4X KitKat. They’ll also apparently work on Android 5.0 Lollipop, but it’s not supported on that operating system. If you’ve been waiting for testing to be done to download, wait no more!

Sony giving up on Music Unlimited, but is replacing it with Spotify
If you’ve been using Music Unlimited on your PlayStation, you’ll have to let it go on March 29. They’re closing that on-demand music demand service and instead are offering Spotify-based system instead. CNET has a good summary, “The new service PlayStation Music will allow you to use and manage your Spotify tracks and playlists on your console…It will work for the PlayStation 3 and PS4 consoles, and PS4 owners can listen to their Spotify tuneage while playing games.

glucose-tattooTemporary tattoo that measures blood sugar
I usually don’t include two medical tech stories in one Friday roundup, but this is too awesome to resist. A researcher from the University of California, San Diego has developed a novel way to measure blood sugar that doesn’t require pricking a finger. Instead of measuring actual blood, the new technique uses a flexible sensor that uses a mild electrical current to measure blood glucose. These sensors can be printed on a thin paper tattoo that can be worn for a day, and then disposed of for another. Right now this kind of sensor measures accurately but has only been tested on seven healthy people, but wow—the potential! Eventually, the inventor hopes the sensor will eventually be able to connect to a Bluetooth device so real-time data could always be accessible. Here’s hoping!

 
 

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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