Every month, Maxwell Barna rounds up the best new drops and innovations in the tech world. Check out last month’s installment here.
With CES just a couple weeks out at this point, I was pretty worried about how this column was going to shape up for December. You’d think all the tech giants were saving their big announcements for the main event, but lo and behold, December was a pretty killer month for the tech scene.
I found a lot of good stuff this month, ranging from the curiously quiet release of the long-awaited Apple Airpods, all the way through to a team of Harvard researchers creating what may very well be the smallest radio of human kind—the mere size of two atoms.
It was a hell of a month, to say the least:
The Canadians Declared Broadband Internet Access a Basic Service
This month, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission ruled that internet access is a basic telecommunications service. Up until this point in Canada, local landline telephone service was the only communications service deemed essential.
The new ruling will require internet service providers to begin developing plans that’ll connect all Canadians with basic internet service—even in rural and isolated areas. It’s a massive step forward, and some of the first legislation of its kind to pop up in North America.
Dell “Accidentally” Leaked Their GeForce GTX 1050 Laptop Before CES
By now, you know that a lot of tech leaks aren’t accidental. Nevertheless, it’s worth reporting that Dell is one of the top tech giants rumored to be releasing a GeForce GTX 1050-powered laptop, and it appears as though the rumors were at least partly confirmed last week when Dell “accidentally” listed an XPS 9650 laptop, which allegedly listed the GTX 1050 chip in its spec list.
Before the product was pulled, its listing stated that the laptop includes the “latest 7th Gen Intel Quad Core processors and optional 5GB GeForce GTX 1050 graphics card with the latest and greatest Pascal architecture, so you can blaze through your most intensive tasks.”
If the rumors are true, this may very well be one of the fastest out-the-box laptops in the entire world.
Gatebox Is a Holographic Personal Assistant and It’s Terrifying
As if the thought of talking to a massive box that spits information back at you in a weird human voice wasn’t creepy enough, a group of tech product developers in Japan just made things a hell of a lot creepier.
Gatebox is a personal holographic assistant that basically lives in a tiny little machine that honestly looks like a futuristic Keurig machine. It’ll do all the regular stuff like controlling your lights and playing music, but also goes about 50 steps further—in the product video, the robot send text messages to its owner throughout the day, wishing him a good day at work and asking him if he could come home early.
Basically, it’s one Scarlett Johansson away from trying to have digital sex with you (and it probably does that, too).
Harvard Created the Tiniest Radio in the World
A team of researchers from Harvard created a radio receiver with building blocks that are only the size of two atoms, virtually invisible to the human eye.
The receiver is a monumental breakthrough because it can withstand immensely harsh environmental conditions that’d make it fit for things like intense space travel, but also in things like pacemakers in the human heart, thanks to biocompatibility with diamonds.
Rivvr Will Make The Oculus Rift and HTC Vive Wireless (Finally)
One of the big things holding VR back from making a real impact on the tech scene this year was its inability to go wireless. Being bound by a cord in a now-cordless world gave many of the most popular VR headsets an undercooked appearance that turned off consumers.
Rivvr , a tech startup, announced a prototype that allows VR headsets (particularly the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive) to become completely wireless. Rivvr uses proprietary technology to compress the video feed and send it wirelessly from a source to the headset. Which is great, because VR porn with a cord is actually kind of lame.
Adidas Launched a 3D-Printed Shoe, Because Why Not?
At this point in the game, we’ve seen everything from 3D-printed heart valves to 3D-printed houses, so I guess it kind of makes sense that someone finally put out a 3D-printed shoe. Adidas first gifted their Futurecraft 3D Runner to a few select adidas athletes at the Rio Summer Olympics back in August, but announced a limited release in mid-December—just in time for Christmas! Good luck copping a pair, though.
The shoes came with a retail price tag of $333, and feature beautiful PRIMEKNIT uppers and a 3D-printed web heal that’s (apparently) so advanced, they feature denser printing in high-impact areas to help prevent injuries.
Apple Released the AirPods and No One Really Noticed
After pushing back the original October release date for their long-awaited AirPods from October to... well, indefinitely, they finally hit the shelves last month, and no one seemed to notice.
No big hoopla, no Reddit threads, no trending Facebook stories… nothing. Ordinarily that isn’t worth commentary, but Apple put so much hype into the AirPods that for the release to be completely under the radar was strange, to say the least.
Researchers in London Discovered a New X-Ray Technique That Can Detect Bombs and Help with Breast Cancer Treatment
X-ray tech is nothing new, but a research team at University College London achieved a breakthrough this month that could completely change the way we use it—from implementing security measures in airports (or other places) to detecting cancerous tumors in human bodies.
The technique is called phase-contrast X-ray imagine, and essentially it uses X-rays to measure the physical effects different tissues or materials have on the speed of the X-ray itself (as opposed to measuring the extent to which certain tissues absorb X-rays).
It’s a lot of complicated science-talk, but basically the new technique will allow tumors to be spotted sooner, and cracks, imperfections or explosive materials to be checked in greater detail.
Bose Made Earbuds That Double As Hearing Aids
When people think about purchasing new headphones, they usually want to hear about how a headset will keep outside noise away from their ears. Well, Bose said, “To hell with that!” and actually made a pair of ear buds that essentially act like hearing aids—and the result is pretty cool.
The ear buds, cleverly named Hearphones, look suspiciously similar to Bose’s QC 30s, but allow people to turn ambient noise up or down, change the direction you’re hearing sounds from and even isolate other noise to let voices and other specific noises in.
Someone Announced a Vibrating Umbrella That Will Tell You It’s About to Rain (No, It’s Not a Dildo)
The world is literally melting, Princess Leia is dead and Donald Trump is still going to be the President, but at least we finally have an umbrella that can tell us when it’s about to rain by vibrating—and no, it’s not an inconspicuous dildo.
The Opus One umbrella uses Bluetooth technology to tell you what the forecast is for any given moment of the day, based on a proprietary app that gets periodic weather updates. If rain appears in the forecast, the umbrella vibrates.
The Opus One umbrella will also notify its owner of texts and emails they’re receiving, and will also let owners know if the device it’s attached to goes too far out of range from the umbrella.
For more in the way of tech, check out our round up of the biggest tech stories of the year.