Plus, Cortana could soon become the personal digital assistant to all Windows Phone users.
By Jason Imms on March 7, 2014 at 8:19 am
Welcome to the Friday Tech Roundup! Contained herein is your weekly dose of some of the best tech news from across the Internet, rounded up for your edification and entertainment. Read on for all the details of a possible free version of Windows, Razer’s Game Booster utility, and Israel’s laser-based missile defence system.
Microsoft is preparing a free version of Windows 8.1
Sources close to Microsoft have revealed to The Verge that the company is experimenting with the free or low-cost version of Windows dubbed “Windows 8.1 with Bing.” Based on early versions of the OS that have leaked online, Windows 8.1 with Bing is essentially unchanged from vanilla Windows 8.1, aside from a series of bundled apps and services. Sources claim that Windows 8.1 with Bing will be offered as a cheap upgrade for existing Windows users, and as an enticement for low-end device manufacturers to choose Windows over competing platforms. It is expected that Microsoft will formally announce the program at the Build developer conference in April.
Cortana’s new job: Personal digital assistant for Windows Phone
Apple has Siri, Android has Google Now, and it seems that Microsoft will also be bringing a personal digital assistant to Windows Phone, named Cortana, for the Master Chief’s AI hind-brain from the Halo series. Much like Siri, Cortana will be a voice-controlled system with a voice of its own, which is designed to parse normal language and complete simple tasks. Users can make use of a Notebook feature to control which information is available to Cortana, such as location data, behaviours, personal information, reminders, and contact information. Cortana can then use this information to generate notifications, suggestions, alerts, and respond to search queries. Check out a quick feature demonstration from a leaked build below.
Razer release Game Booster, a game management alternative to Steam and GeForce Experience
On Wednesday, Razer announced the launch of Game Booster, a tool designed to perform a range of features that borrow heavily from Steam and Nvidia’s GeForce Experience. Game Booster has five core features: the titular Game Booster designed to automatically optimise game settings based on your current hardware configuration, a save game manager to automatically move game saves into the cloud, a game launcher to, well, launch games, and a screen capture gallery for organising screenshots. Game Booster is available for download now.
Israel to use lasers to defend commercial aircraft against missile attacks
During 2002, a pair of surface-to-air missiles were fired at a commercial airliner in Mombasa, Kenya. Thankfully the missiles missed the aircraft, but the thread has prompted an Israeli effort to produce countermeasures against such attacks. The result is Sky Shield, a Mult-Spectral Infrared Countermeasure (MUSIC) system designed to deflect incoming missiles, causing them to detonate at a safe distant from their intended target. Sky Shield uses a thermal camera to track incoming missiles, and a laser to disorient and deflect the missiles. According to Haaretz, Brig. Gen. Eitan Eshel, head of research and development at the Israel Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Transportation has stated that the Sky Shield system was “100 percent successful” in testing, and would eventually be deployed on all Israeli civilian aircraft.
Next-gen pacemaker could eliminate sudden cardiac death
A synthetic pericardium has been developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Washington University in St. Louis, designed to one day remediate or even preclude heart attacks and arrhythmia in humans. This man-made replacement for the membrane that surrounds the heart is capable of contracting and expanding a heart, even when outside of its host body. The video below shows a prototype of the next-generation pacemaker causing a rabbit heart to beat and pump blood, while suspended in a nutrient and oxygen-rich solution. According to Washington University biomedical engineer Igor Efimov, the device could be ready for human hearts in as little as 10 to 15 years.