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Apple has won a patent for a removable iPhone case that cuts down on background noise.

Touting what the company is calling a “windscreen” design, the concept aims to reduce distracting sounds picked up by the device’s microphone that may make it hard to hear a phone conversation.

“The windscreen is designed to reduce wind noise, air blasts, vocal plosives and other noise,” Apple said in its patent application. “This may enable the speech of a user of the device to remain intelligible despite the presence of such noise during a call, and without requiring the user to shout into the device’s microphone.”

Although the patent was filed on Jan. 11, 2011, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office approved the application last week. The patent is good for all portable electronic devices that enable users to participate in a real-time two-way conversation.

Apple Windscreen Mobile Case

As shown in the image above, device calls for a windscreen sealed across an opening of the case that aligns with a microphone port built into the device (number 11). This would allow the passage of sound to go through the internal microphone and not pick up surrounding sound.

It is unknown if and when Apple will launch the windscreen case. Meanwhile, since the patent was filed before the launch of the current iPhone 4S and judging by the rendering, it looks like the iPhone will stay the same shape and size for some time.

“Handheld mobile communications devices, particularly mobile phones, have enabled users to engage in real-time two-way conversations while walking, running, riding in a car or during other activities,” Apple noted. “In a number of these situations, a user may be conducting a conversation in a noisy environment, such as outside in the wind or inside a moving car with its window down.”

Would you buy a noise-reducing removable iPhone case? Let us know in the comments.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, LoooZaaa

BONUS: 10 Intriguing Apple Patents to Get Excited About

HBO Go Comes to AirPlay

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HBO subscribers can now use the HBO Go app on their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad devices to stream shows on to their HDTVs using AirPlay, Eric Kessler, president and chief operating officer of HBO, announced on stage at AllThingsD‘s media conference Tuesday. The capability is being released as an update to HBO Go’s iOS apps.

HBO Go is already available on other entertainment consoles, including Xbox and Roku, as well as on Samsung Smart TVs and the web. It’s also available as an app for iOS and Android devices. “The long-term vision is for Go to be on all platforms and all devices,” he said.

AllThingsD‘s Kara Swisher, who conducted the interview, asked why HBO didn’t make itself available directly on Apple TVs. Kessler said its shows will be available on the set-top box, but did not specify a timeline for doing so. A report published by Bloomberg earlier this month said that HBO would be available on Apple TVs by mid-year.

Despite consumer demand, Kessler says HBO has no plans to offer access to its channel or individual shows outside of cable packages because the economics are simply not “compelling.”

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, contour99

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/02/12/hbo-go-airplay/

Cat Plays Ninja Fruit On iPad

It seems pets playing touch screen video games is all the rage these days. First, there was a  lizard, and then a frog, who both went viral playing the iPad game, Ant Crusher (naturally, as they eat bugs). Now, this Russian video from November of a kitty playing Ninja Fruit is gaining in popularity. The video is shared on DailyPicksAndFlicks

 

Read more: http://www.viralviralvideos.com/2011/12/28/cat-plays-ninja-fruit-on-ipad/

History has taught us that humans are the most curious and smartest living organisms on the planet and as a result of this we invent new things. From the moment some caveman bashed a rock on the ground to make the first sharp-edged tool, to the development of electricity and the Internet, several key advancements stand out as particularly revolutionary. Despite the fact we have hardly spent fifteen years in the new millennium, our century is already full of great and not-so-great inventions which remind us that no matter how advanced our society might be, human curiosity never fails to seek out new advancements and technologies. See how these 25 spectacular inventions of the 21st century is helping to re-define humanity.

25. Indoor Clouds

Berndnaut Smilde, an Amsterdam artist, has been making indoor clouds since 2010. They only last for a moment and they will definitely help anyone who’s trying to impress others with his or her surrealistic photos, but we can’t really see what other use or contribution to society this bizarre invention could have. Hmmm, nowthat we think about it, the people who work in the film industry will probably get really excited about this one.

24. Facebook

If you’re the nostalgic type who misses the real-life parties that took place in the ‘80s and ‘90s then you are going to hate Facebook for keeping people in their rooms in front of their computers. On the other hand, if you love to live in a virtual world where you can be whatever and whoever you want with the click of a button you probably worship Facebook more than anything else in life.

23. Apple iPod

In 2001, before Apple and Samsung started bombing the world with their superb smartphone devices of the last five or six years there was the iPod, a smallgadget that changed how we viewed and played music. To make a long story short, the MP3 was introduced to the world and CDs, which had previously replaced cassettes, which replaced vinyl records before them, joined them in the dusty archives of our music tech history.

22. Virtual keyboard

To be completely honest we don’t see how a virtual keyboard is necessary for someone or at least when it comes to everyday people and workers who have to use a keyboard, but it’s undeniably a cool way to impress your friends in case you’re trying to make an impact. Keep in mind that it will cost you a respectable amount of money though.

21. Flower Sound

In 2004 the Japanese based Let’s Corporation introduced a very ambitious project named Flower Sound, a gadget that consists of a doughnut-shaped magnet and coil at the base of a vase. It hooks up to a CD player, TV, or stereo and relays sounds through a flower’s stem out through its petals. We’re not exactly sure if this strange but cool invention has any real contribution to humanity but it definitely makes you wonder about the creativity of some people, doesn’t it?

20. The Oculus Rift

One of the most credible videogame websites in the world, GameSpy, describes the Oculus Rift as the “closest we’ve come to Star Trek’s holodeck,” and from a gamer’s point of view that’s not an exaggeration at all. But Oculus’s only contribution and purpose is to entertain and nothing more. So don’t get overexcited if you don’t dig video games because youmaybe disappointed.

19. Apple iPhone

Twoto three decades ago the idea of having a mobile phone that would allow you to surf the Internet, watch movies on its 5.1-inch high-definition screen, take photos, listen to music, and do a wide range of other things would have made you sound like a delusional geek. Well, that’s certainly no longer the case in the twenty-first century.

18. The Invisible Skyscraper

The Tower Infinity in South Korea was included in Time magazine’s 25 best inventions of 2013 and is supposed to be the world’s first skyscraper that, for a few hours a day, modestly provides an unobstructed view of the sky behind it. It is expected to be completed in 2016 and most architects around the world are hailing it as an architectural miracle that will open new horizons in the worlds of architecture and engineering.

17. Google Glass

Google Glass is smart eyewear that helps you get exactly what you want right in front of your eyes, literally.It displays information in a smartphone-like, hands-free format but the only difference is that you wear it instead of hold it. Don’t get too excited, though, because it will cost you a small fortune to make it yours on top of the fact that Google announced it is stopping sales.

16. The Plus Pool

The first Plus Pool was designed in New York to filter the very river that it floats in through the walls of the pool, making it possible for New Yorkers and its visitors to swim in clean river water. The layered filtration system incrementally removes bacteria and contaminants to ensure nothing but clean, swimmable water that meets both city and state standards. No chemicals, no additives, just natural river water. Other than super cool this one is totally environmentally friendly so we hereat List25 fully approve.

15. Birth control patch

Have you heard of this small patch that sticks to you (if you’re a lady that is),or your girlfriend’s skin and helps to prevent pregnancy so you can enjoy a more relaxed sex life? No? They have been around for a couple ofyears, are medically cleared, and are considered perfectly safe, effective, and convenient, and all you need is a doctor’s prescription and a few bucks to get some. Welcome to the twenty-first century, ladies.

14. Hybrid Vehicles

To some it may seem like an odd thing that a hybrid car with two energy sources could actually be better for the environment than traditional cars. However, that is exactly the idea that hybrid experts support—that hybrid cars are better for the environment. The jury is still out on hybrid cars, trains, and vehicles in generalbut only time will tell if this is one of the greatest inventions of our century or just another overhyped idea that failed to deliver.

13. SixthSense

We’re not talking about the 90’s film starring Bruce Willis, but rather a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information and lets us use natural hand gestures to interact with that information. I know, I know, all this probably sounds like a sci-fi scenario, but the truth is that a limited number of these devices are already sold for commercial use and as most experts guarantee us, the near future belongs to the SixthSense.

12. Artificial Memories

An ongoing collaboration between the Japanese Riken Brain Science Institute and MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory has resulted in the discovery of how to plant false memories into the brains of mice. The breakthrough significantly extends our understanding of memory and expands the horizons of psychiatry against mental conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression among others.

11. Amazon Kindle

A typical Kindle allows you to shop online and download thousands of e-books, newspapers, magazines, and other digital media via wireless networks. In other words, with a Kindle you can literally carry a whole library in your purse or bag.

10. YouTube

YouTube first launched in 2005 and since then it has changed the lives of most young people (and many others) around the world. Let’s be honest here: watching every large social and cultural change or even stupid trend from across the globe in an instant is one of the most exciting things about living in the twenty-first century. And yep, YouTube is mainly to thank for this.

9. Teleportation

In a process that involves light and matter, researchers at Caltech where able to teleport a proton while researchers at the Australian National University successfully teleported a laser beam. These breakthroughs have given scientists hope that eventually, we will be able to teleport much larger objects.

8. Bionic contact lens

In 2013, scientists created and successfully tested a functioning prototype of bionic lenses with a wireless antenna and a single-pixel display. Engineers have already tested the finished lenses on rabbits for up to twenty minutes and the animals exhibited no problems. They are expected to enter the market within the next few years.

7. Tooth Sensor

A team of researchers and scientists at National Taiwan University believe that monitoring the oral behavior of an individual can provide doctors with a wealth of information about a patient’s dietary habits, dental hygiene, and overall health. For that reason they came up with the “tooth sensor,” an accelerometer-based oral sensory system that identifies how a mouth is being used based on teeth movement.

6. Camera Pill

Those who have had the misfortune of experiencing the torture of a gastroscopy will probably appreciate the value of this incredible invention. Instead of an invasive probe, twenty-first century patients who suffer from ulcers and similar diseases will only need to swallow a small pill containing a microscopic camera.

5. Bio-artificial liver device

This amazing life-changing artificial extracorporeal supportive device has given hope to all those who are suffering from acute liver failure. A bio-artificial liver device (BAL) can’t permanently replace liver functions, but it can serve as a supportive device and help patients have a better quality of life until a transplant is found.

4. Billboard That Produces Clean Water

The University of Engineering and Technology of Peru (UTEC) was looking for something splashy to kick off its 2013 enrollment application period. It turned to ad agency Mayo DraftFCB, which came up with the genius idea to create billboards that would convert Lima’s thin air into potable water. This is an invention that really matters in an era when water is becoming increasingly harder to find in many parts of the world.

3. ReWalk

ReWalk is a revolutionary wearable robotic exoskeleton that provides powered hip and knee motion to enable individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) to stand upright and walk. Recently introduced to the market, it has already become the most widely used device for people with motion problems and the first available for personal ownership.

2. The Artificial Pancreas

The artificial pancreas is a technology that promises to help people with diabetes control their blood glucose level by providing the endocrine functionality of a healthy pancreas. Four-year-old Australian, Xavier Hames, became the first patient to use the new device in what is being called the first treatment for managing type 1 diabetes. The medical community worldwide is watching this case closely to see the long-term results.

1. Retinal Implants

Retinal implants are meant to partially restore vision to people who have lost their sight from degenerative eye conditions, giving hope to millions around the world. The Argus II retinal implant received U.S. market approval in February 2013 and in Europe two years earlier, becoming the first approved implant.

Read more: http://list25.com/25-spectacular-inventions-of-the-21st-century/

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The foreman of the Apple vs. Samsung jury explained in an interview Monday how it came to such a quick decision — despite encountering a stalemate between some jurors early in the process.

Velvin Hogan, an electrical engineer who headed up the jury, told BloombergTV how the jury came to find Samsung guilty in the case and award Apple more than $1 billion.

“I thought it was ultimately going to lean the other way, ” he said. As the jury went through each point, however, Hogan said it became more and more apparent that Samsung was guilty.

“The evidence was overwhelming,” Hogan said. “Samsung should have known or did know they were infringing.”

Hogan, who has his own patent pertaining to video games, says nobody on the jury uses an iPhone and that he has intentionally never purchased an Apple product. Hogan also doesn’t own any Samsung products. The only Samsung product in his home: a cell phone used by his wife that’s “not even a smartphone.”

Shortly after the court’s ruling Friday, Samsung issued a statement specifically calling out the juror’s decision on Apple’s design patent: “It is unfortunate that patent law can be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners,” it read.

But Hogan says that the jury made the decision not based just one element of the design, such as a device’s rectangle shape.

“In the case of the design patent it was the look and feel of it, and how the device presented itself,” he said. “When you compared them side by side, it was apparent the patent was valid.”

When asked if he thought this was a case that could be handled by a traditional jury, Hogan answered with a firm “Yes I do.” He then went on to say “While it was complicated, I believe that any jury of our peers could have reached this decision.”

The jury in the case found that Samsung “willfully” infringed on five of seven Apple patents including the iPhone’s iconography, its “pinch-and-zoom” feature, the “bounce-back” effect in on-screen scrolling and the double-tap zoom.

Apple is currently attempting to block the sale of eight Samsung products in the U.S. as a result of the case.

Samsung has indicated plans to counter-sue Apple.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/27/apple-samsung-jury-foreman/

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Can an iPhone-loving Apple fangirl survive using Windows Phone 8 for 10 days? The answer is a resounding yes. Our Living With Lumia challenge has come to an end and I have some final thoughts about Nokia’s Lumia 920, Windows Phone 8 and the future of the platform.

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, I actually ended up using the Lumia 920 for 12 days. In that time, I feel like I got a really good look at the platform along with its strengths and weaknesses.

The Good

Windows Phone 8 is really starting to come into its own. It’s taken some time, but at this stage, Windows Phone finally feels like a fully fleshed-out mobile OS.

Over the course of nearly two weeks, I was frequently asked by friends, co-workers (and even a few strangers) about the Lumia 920 and the OS. When showing it off, the standout feature that always elicited an “ooooh” was the People Hub.

Microsoft has absolutely nailed the way it handles contact management and the way social feeds are seamlessly integrated in a way that isn’t overwhelming. The People Hub and the living lock screen are two features that genuinely enhance the mobile phone experience.

As for the Lumia 920 itself, while it is a large phone, I appreciated the fact that it’s durable and well made. This is a phone that quite literally can be dropped on the ground without the fear of damage.

Although I initially had some issues with the battery, a combination of manual cycles and uninstalling/reinstalling certain apps seemed to fix the problem. Battery life is solid.

I’ve discussed the web and app situations in my prior posts — but suffice it to say, I’m very impressed with the default app situation and there are some truly excellent third-party apps in the mix.

As I said in my video entry, I’m really looking forward to continuing to follow the developer story surrounding Windows Phone 8. This platform has serious potential that I can see peeking through the edges and I look forward to watching that grow.

The Bad

No operating system is perfect, and Windows Phone has its share of niggles and challenges. While it would be easy to write off the issues with Windows Phone 8 being related to apps (or lack thereof), it’s not that simple.

As I said above, there are some truly excellent Windows Phone apps (and you can see a list of some of my favorites here), but I can’t help but be bothered by the lack of maturity of the ecosystem.

Windows Phone needs Instagram. It’s as simple as that. The need for Instagram isn’t just about making it available to the millions of users — like me — who love and depend on the network, it’s also symbolic.

Having (or not having) support for Instagram is a sign that a platform matters. It will be really hard to convince independent developers to invest in Windows Phone, for either apps or mobile web support, if the biggest and most important players aren’t there.

As for the Lumia 920 itself — as much as I like the camera, especially in low light — I don’t love the UI. It’s both too simplistic and too difficult at once. The half-shutter capture built into the camera button helps, but setting a focus point (which you can do on iOS and most Android phones with ease) takes far too much effort.

Don’t get me wrong — the low-light stills and video are fabulous — but it takes a bit too much effort for my taste, which is a shame as the camera really can turn out some of the best shots I’ve seen on a smartphone.

The ‘Needs Improvement’

Microsoft has done a good job of being consistent across devices and services with a few exceptions. Setting up Xbox Music on the Lumia is not as seamless as it should be. The same goes for the Movies store.

Speaking of Xbox — as good as Smart Glass is, I still don’t get the sense that there is real cohesion between Windows Phone and Xbox. This is a shame because, done properly and deeply, this could be a way to not only address the casual and portable gaming markets, but to convince diehard Xbox fans to pick up a Windows Phone.

I’d also like to see some refinements to the interface of Internet Explorer. Taking away the “forward” button in Windows Phone 7.5 still irks me and I’d love to see some of the gestures from Windows 8 make their way to Windows Phone 8.

Fundamentally, however, Windows Phone is solid. It’s now at a point for iterative improvements.

The larger issues with the platform are those that are harder to fix — getting developers to develop quality apps, making it easy for web sites to target the device and convincing users to give it a shot.

The Biggest Surprise

As I say in the video, my biggest surprise with Windows Phone 8 and the Lumia 920 was just how easily it integrates with platforms and services that are not tied to Microsoft.

I’m a Mac user and part of me was dreading using Windows Phone full-time, if only because of the issues related to desktop sync. While most of what I sync is now cloud-based, there are still times you need to connect to a computer, if only to transfer a full-sized image or HD video.

Microsoft’s Mac app isn’t perfect but I didn’t run into any issues with it on my MacBook Air, my iMac or the retina MacBook Pro I’m reviewing. It was easy to sync an iTunes playlist and videos and photos imported into iPhoto with ease.

Perhaps the bigger surprise was with how well Windows Phone 8 plays with other cloud-based systems. At Mashable, we use Google Apps and when I setup my Google account on Windows Phone, I was impressed with the following things:

  • IMAP push works correctly. Apple still can’t do this for Gmail, but Microsoft can. Kudos.

  • Calendar sync was spot-on.

  • Address book sync was perfect.

Another note about the address book. I found that I could search Mashable‘s corporate address book from within the mail app, the same way I could if it were LDAP on Exchange. The ActiveSync support for the device was truly top-notch, even for those of us who don’t use Microsoft or Exchange servers as our providers.

I was also very impressed with how well SkyDrive worked. It’s basically iCloud, but with the appearance of an actual file system. Trust me, sometimes one wants a file system (or at least a hierarchy of folders).

I’m Back on iPhone 5 … But

I’m back on the iPhone now. My job and the fact that I just paid AT&T and ETF to move to Verizon makes it unrealistic for me to move to Windows Phone full time (at least on the Lumia 920), even if it did have Instagram.

Still, as I say in the video above: I do want to continue carrying the Lumia 920. I want to follow the app story as it develops, but I also just like the platform. I can see using it as a way to instantly access emails and tasks in a way that isn’t as seamless on the iPhone.

Microsoft and Nokia’s marketing blitz is really paying off. Over Thanksgiving weekend, there were several instances where regular people off the street commented or approached me about the phone. The first time was at a diner in Union Square. The waitress recognized the phone and asked to take it to the back to show her co-worker who is obsessed with Windows 8.

Then, on Thanksgiving itself — as I was taking photos of my food (the Warren-Robertson household is not traditional, as we go out to eat on Thanksgiving) — other patrons in the restaurant recognized the Lumia and there were points and stares and murmurs about the device.

I never expected that. At all.

Have you switched from iOS (or Android) to Windows Phone? Let us know your experience in the comments.

Living With Lumia, Previous Installments:

BONUS: A Tour of the Nokia Lumia 920