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Mike's List

The Silly Con Valley Report


Don't look now, but SMS and voicemail are making a comeback! Here's why (plus some really cool tools and services that make SMS and voicemail awesome). 

Also: As counterfeiters use AI to create convincing fake products; smart companies will use AI to fight back. Here's why only AI can save us from AI-created counterfeits




 
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1. WHY, JAPAN? WHY?

The Tanita Handheld Body Smell Checker is, quite unfortunately, exactly what it sounds like -- a device to judge your own body odor. Just lift an arm, wave the device over your armpit, and receive an odor grade on an 11-stage scale. (Yes, it goes to 11). 
2. ILL-ADVISED ACCESSORIES

The BLOXVOX is a muzzle you put over your mouth to have private conversations. Use it with your wired smartphone earbuds. The earbuds go in your ears normally, but the microphone is tucked inside the BLOXVOX. Now you can have private conversations while looking like an idiot in public. 
3. SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION

Hey, don't miss me tomorrow (Sunday, July 29 at 3pm Pacific) on the one and only TWiT! (Watch live.) Also, ultra mega thanks to Max, Mark, Art, Hugo, Lois, H, Robyn, Mitch, Mike, Marty, Jona and the many anonymous contributors who "bought me a coffee" and thereby donated real money to support free, ad-free news, opinion, ideas, advice and recommendations by Yours Truly. Thank you!
4. UNANTICIPATED CONVERGENCE

If you want to keep in touch AND look your best, then you'll need a mobile phone with a built-in electric shaver. It's made in China and has no branding. But you can buy one on eBay cheap
5. ELABORATE SOLUTIONS TO EASY PROBLEM

Finally -- a trash can with AI, app support and internet connectivity. Oscar is the world's first artificial intelligence garbage can, according to the creators. It uses AI, they say, to sort your trash for recycling. Here's how it works: You use a QR code via the Oscar app, and that puts the trash bin online. Then, when you want to throw something away, you hold your hand over the opening at the top, and motion sensors tell the lid to open. Drop the trash into a tiny space, which has glass on the bottom and looks like a copy machine. The Oscar then takes a picture of your garbage, beautifully lit by a series of LED lights. Image recognition technology based on neural networking in the cloud identifies the refuse and judges it either recycling or landfill fodder. It's not unlike a new Smart Laundry Basket
6. QUESTIONABLE SOLUTIONS

Cornell University's Steven Ceron wrote a paper on how to use popcorn as robot actuators. By popping the corn, the robot moves. But only once. IEEE points out that it's the "first introduction of popcorn into robotics," and probably the last. 
7. GOTTA-GET-IT GADGETS

One of the great things about smartphones is that you can get self-rerouting, turn-by-turn directions while driving. It's safest to mount your phone securely on the dash, so you don't have to take your eyes too far off the road. Trouble is, both the processing required for the map, and also direct sunlight, can overheat your phone. Now, Japan's Thanko is selling a smartphone holder with a built-in USB-powered fan to keep your phone cool. 
8. BAD ROBOTS

Rolls-Royce says they're developing tiny robots to crawl around inside airplane engines to help diagnose problems. The "cockroach" robots would have cameras and 3D scanners to harvest information that would help maintenance staff know whether to crack open the engine and fix it. Have a nice flight!
9. WACKY WEBSITES

My 80s TV is a web site that perfectly simulates what it was like to watch TV in the 80s. The Longest Poem in the World website shows a continuous stream of real-time tweets that are supposed to rhyme (but often don't). The Hot Dog Legs Tumblr blog is a stream of photos people take where their legs look like hot dogs. 
10. PROOF YOU CAN BUY ANYTHING ONLINE

A bullet-proof tablet case, hats and t-shirts that reference your favorite movies, an internet-connected vanity mirror, a fire pit that uses heat from the fire to charge your phone and even the house where the Brady Bunch lived on TV
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Mike's List is written and published by tech journalist and author Mike Elgan. Go here for more about Mike.

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