News Fuse for December 16, 2013

Boston Dynamics

Here are today's top 10 stories from Tech News Today for December 16, 2013:

  1. The New York Times reports that Google has acquired Boston Dynamics, the company most famous for the Big Dog robot that walks on four legs like a dog. Former AndroidOS head Andy Rubin, who is working on robotics projects for Google, posted a link to the report on Twitter with the comment "The future is looking awesome!" Boston Dynamics founder Marc Raibert told the New York Times he is excited by, “Andy and Google’s ability to think big.” Read more at nytimes.com.

  2. A 60 Minutes’ report on the NSA last night aired to a chorus of boos online. The segment claimed it was taking a hard-hitting look at the NSA, but has been written off by many as a puff piece. For example, journalist Glenn Greenwald wondered why 60 Minutes reporter John Miller didn’t ask about how Gen. Keith Alexander “routinely lied to Congress & FISA courts.” Miller said in a CBS piece that he “asked the hardest questions we could ask." Read more at gigaom.com.

  3. Last week, YouTube users with videos showing off video game footage were hit with copyright claims. If YouTube finds infringing content on a monetized video, YouTube will divert that revenue to the party asserting its copyright. The footage of the gameplay is copyrighted by the video game maker. This is causing a controversy because the copyright sweep seemed not to target larger managed channels, but smaller affiliate channels even though both show very similar video content. Read more at polygon.com.

  4. Payment plans have become the new trend among US mobile phone carriers, and now Amazon has taken up the practice for its Kindle Fire HDX. Between now and December 24 you can choose to pay off your tablet in four installments spread over 9 months. The plans apply to the $229 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX and the $379 Kindle Fire HDX 8.9. Whether this means Amazon is having a harder time moving the tablets or just wants to spike the sales, is hard to say. Maybe we should tap the Mayday button and ask. Read more at allthingsd.com.

  5. The startup Oculus VR has raised $75 million to market its virtual-reality headset for video games. The company says the money will go to producing commercial versions of its virtual reality glasses for video games called Oculus Rift, which users mount on their heads with a strap. The company also wants to take its technology beyond gaming. Read more at afr.com.

  6. Here are some rumors about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S5. SamMobile reported that Samsung might release two versions of the S5 - one with a plastic body, another with a metal one. A new report by ZDNet Korea says Samsung will introduce a new smartphone in February at Mobile World Congress with a quad HD display and iris scanner. The report doesn't specifically say that phone is the S5. Read more at bgr.com.

  7. Ford announced Friday it will host an unexpected analyst meeting this coming Wednesday, where Chief Financial Officer Bob Shanks will talk to analysts and reporters. Shanks may update the financial outlook for 2014 as Ford prepares for its biggest new line launch yet including redesigned F150s and Mustangs. Also possible is a definitive statement one way or another on the future of CEO Alan Mulally who is widely rumored to be a top candidate to replace Steve Ballmer as CEO of Microsoft. Read more at reuters.com.

  8. Twitter is testing a new feature for some users that shows tweets tied to a location on a map. The ‘nearby’ feature shows up as one of the new timelines accessed by swiping across from the default view. It’s been possible to attach location to a tweet since 2010, but the new feature could help with local discovery of events or disasters in almost real time but ultimately the goal is to make other users’ tweets more relevant for the user. Read more at thenextweb.com.

  9. German workers who have been engaged in strikes against Amazon since May will take their protests to the company’s headquarters in Seattle this week. Members of US unions including the Communications Workers of America will join the demonstration in support of the German Verdi union. Workers at the German logistics centers in Bad Hersfeld, Leipzig and Graben have been called to go on strike today as well. The unions want a better working environment and better pay. Read more at bloomberg.com.

  10. Marissa Mayer took to the Yahoo tumblog to apologize for Yahoo Mail being down for about 1% of users. She said that the problem affecting Yahoo Mail was due to a storage system problem and that the solution for users was "nuanced since different users were impacted in different ways." Mayer said that as of Friday afternoon, Yahoo restored service for almost everyone and says in the future, the company will do better. Read more at washingtonpost.com.

For insight, analysis, and discussion of these topics and more, check out Tech News Today for December 16, 2013.