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Are Driverless Car Concerns Overblown?

According to a newly released FBI report, the driverless cars of the future could aid criminals by introducing the potential for “multitasking.” The report also said that the cars themselves could be turned into “lethal weapons” by evildoers. The report, however, also stated that the autonomous cars could allow authorities to respond more effectively to incidents.

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Will The Popularity Of Drones Carry Major Risks?

New York City police have reported a growing number of incidents involving wayward drones. A crew member of an NYPD helicopter, for example, recently had to change its course after spotting a flying object headed in its direction. Some police are concerned that the increasing popularity of drones in such a tightly packed city could carry significant risks, even becoming a potential tool for terrorists to conduct surveillance or carry out attacks. Drone buffs, however, say the doomsday scenarios are far-fetched, and that most pilots use the drones to take aerial photos.

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Will "Sentiment Mapping" Improve Transportation Systems?

A new UK transportation project uses a digital platform to map trouble spots — traffic jams, late buses, stationary trains — by tracking passengers' emotions on social media. This type of "sentiment mapping" plan will combine information collected from various social media channels, like a geo-located tweet or Facebook status, to build an intelligent tool that offers live feedback about all kinds of journeys in different locations. The collected data could help users plan efficient routes to their destinations. The project could also provide transport operators with a better understanding about the needs of their passengers and enable them to respond better in emergencies.

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Will We Drive On Solar Roadways?

An Idaho couple, Scott and Julie Brusaw, recently started an IndieGoGo campaign to raise money for their project, Solar Roadways, which wants to replace asphalt roads with high-strength glass-encased solar panels and LEDs. The panels could potentially light up, generate electricity, melt snow, or charge electronic vehicles. The government, however, would still need to test the roads, and cost estimates are unclear. The project currently has about 47,000 funders.

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Can Robots Be Emotional Companions?

Pepper, a new android from the Paris-based SoftBank Group, was unveiled last week in Tokyo. The 4-foot-tall robot has 20 movement-powering motors, a 10.1-inch touch display, and a synchronized, cloud-based database. Pepper also comes equipped with voice-recognition, as well functions that recognize human feelings and emotions. "I've believed that the most important role of robots will be as kind and emotional companions to enhance our daily lives, to bring happiness, constantly surprise us, and make people grow,” Bruno Maisonnier, founder and CEO of Aldebaran, said in a news release. “The emotional robot will create a new dimension in our lives and new ways of interacting with technology.”

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Would You Be Satisfied with a "Smart Home?"

Technology companies, including Google and Apple, are investing in "smart home" technologies that connect household devices — lighting, security systems, garage-door openers, climate controllers or kitchen appliances — with mobile devices. Research indicates that the global "smart home" industry will grow. Some have concerns, however, that the technology could be hacked, lead to a clutter of multiple apps, and make the smartphone a single point of failure.

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Will You Use a Smartphone Spectrometer Before You Eat?

SCiO, a handheld molecular sensor, allows users to scan their food to check its nutritional value and alcohol, sugar, or calorie content. The spectroscopy product from the Israeli startup Consumer Physics is paired with a smartphone and shines near-infrared light on the food to stimulate and record molecular reactions. An accompanying app then displays the nutritional values for the users.

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