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Will You Use a Mobile Device to Check Your Health?

A "Smartphone Physical" debuted at the TEDMED conference in Washington D.C. this month. Using devices and attachments paired with an iPhone, patients were able to measure and record their blood pressure, lung function, weight, oxygen saturation, and eyesight. The technology, developed by medical students and biomedical engineers at Johns Hopkins University, could be used in assisted living centers, offering a convenient way for residents to provide medical data to physicians.

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Is Social Media a Valuable Healthcare Resource?

An increasing number of medical professionals are embracing social media for sharing helpful information and providing personalized patient care. HealthTap, one of the newest networks, for example, is an online hub of 1.2 million doctors who field questions from patients around the world. Some say “social” doctor/patient relationships, however, can become easily muddled. Many health institutions, too, discourage staff from “friending” patients on Facebook and other social media platforms at the risk of jeopardizing treatment as well as reputations.

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Will We See 4D Printing Being Used in the Near Future?

MIT engineer Skylar Tibbits recently spoke at a TED conference about the promise of 4D printing. The act of 4D printing creates objects in one state that could then change to a different state over time. Without human intervention, the object alters its shape based on moisture or heat from a given environment. A 3D-printed straight line, for example, could form a cube when submerged in water. While 4D printing is still theoretical, Tibbits envisions scenarios where 4D structures assemble themselves in harsh environments without the need for humans to risk their lives.

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Are Automated Systems a Valuable Way to Grade Essays?

A recent New York Times article highlighted software from EdX, a nonprofit enterprise founded by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. EdX software uses artificial intelligence to grade student essays and short written answers. The tool requires human teachers to first grade 100 essays, and the system then "trains itself" to assess the work accordingly. Supporters of the software say that EdX allows students to repeatedly improve their answers, without waiting days or weeks for grades. Skeptics say the automated system is no match for live teachers, and the technology can be easily fooled.

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Will Humanlike Avatars Move Toward Mainstream Use?

British scientists have created what they say is the world's most realistic human avatar. Combining facial modeling and mathematical algorithms, 'Zoe' has advanced language function and displays a range of emotions. The technology could act as an assistant to business executives or a teacher's aide, especially to hearing-impaired or autistic children. The team believes the smartphone-and tablet-friendly avatar may have cracked the "uncanny valley," the point at which human replicas come close to being realistic but still cause discomfort among people.

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Do the Benefits of Domestic Drones Outweigh Privacy Drawbacks?

Congress has ordered the Federal Aviation Administration to open up airspace to unmanned aircraft by October 2015, a decision that will likely see thousands of domestic drones soaring the sky. Many are excited about the many innovative possibilities of the autonomous technology, including its potential to track wildfires, find and rescue people, identify criminals, or map terrain. Opponents and privacy advocates, however, are concerned that they may be used for surveillance purposes and deployed to snoop on law-abiding citizens.

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Does RSS Still Matter?

Reactions ranged from outrage to apathy when Google announced that it would be shutting down its Google Reader RSS client. The search giant said that the move was due to a decline in usage. Some fans of the 'Reader' and RSS cite its centralized features and its way of organizing a user's content. Others say that RSS is confusing, and has now been replaced by new ways of receiving content, such as Twitter and other social networks. While supporters of the technology say the Google Reader exit provides an opportunity for a revitalized market for RSS products, some think its absence will hurt RSS's chances of making a comeback.

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