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Tech News: London Bar Uses Apple's iBeacon to Beam Magazine Content, Google Builds Real Androids


Plus, say goodbye to the good old USB port.


Bar Uses iBeacons to Allow Access to Magazines

Mac Daily News reported that a British publisher found a novel use for iBeacon, Apple Inc.'s (NASDAQ:AAPL) new technology for sending push notifications to nearby devices.

Exact Editions, which publishes Wire, Popshot Magazine, and Grand Designs, is making magazines available without a subscription fee for devices in close proximity to an Apple iBeacon, according to Tech Crunch.

A bar in Shoreditch (London's Williamsburg, Brooklyn-ish neighborhood) makes a soccer magazine and a fashion and culture rag available to patrons. While in the bar, you can read those titles through Apple's iOS 7 Newsstand application, but when you leave, you no longer have access to them. Imagine what this could do for the waiting room at the dentist's office.

iBeacon uses low-energy Bluetooth to send notifications. It will eventually work on Android devices as well. This is the first real use of the technology, but Apple retail locations will eventually give customers information through it soon. Some baseball stadiums will also be equipped with iBeacon starting next year.

Former Android Chief Working on Factory Robots for Google

Andy Rubin, the former head of the Android division at Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), is now working on actual androids.

The New York Times published a profile of Rubin and Google's nascent robotics division. Google has quietly acquired no fewer than seven small companies to make the next generation of robots.

Unlike Android with a capital "A," Google's robotic aspirations are aimed at automating the supply chain, not consumer applications (sorry). Google hopes to make robots capable of replacing humans on the factory floor. In plenty of areas, that is already happening, but the truth is that most electronics are made by hand. Hundreds of hands, mostly in China, that is. You might recall the Nightline report last year that revealed that the Apple iPhone passes through 325 hands during production. Today's robots can't match that.

Another idea the company is experimenting with is package delivery in urban neighborhoods. Google Shopping already offers home delivery in San Francisco, but via humans. Trusting robots to do this would fulfill Google CEO Larry Page's dream of using computers to free humans from mindless, repetitive tasks.

Sound familiar? On Sunday, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos told 60 Minutes that his company is aiming to deliver packages by automated drone.

One Connector to Rule Them All

The USB is an incredibly successful standard for connecting devices. Thumb drives are so universal that they are even useful for delivering viruses to Iranian nuclear plants. But it is a little annoying when you keep trying to shove them in the wrong way.

The USB 3.0 Promoter Group hopes to improve on that. The next generation of USBs, called Type-C, will be reversible like Apple's Lightning Connector. It will be roughly the same size as today's micro-USB, but will have a connector on both ends of the cable. This will not only be easier to use, but it will allow for a whole new class of ultra-thin devices.

"Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) is excited to see the development of the new, thin Type-C connector as it will enable an entirely new super-thin class of devices from phones to tablets, to 2-in-1s, to laptops, to desktops, and a multitude of other more specific usage devices," Alex Peleg, Vice President of the Platform Engineering Group at Intel said in a press release. "This new industry standards-based thin connector delivering data, power, and video is the only connector one will need across all devices."

On the bright side, it will one day be possible to have just one cable work with all of your devices. We are already seeing much of the non-Apple side of the industry coalesce around non-reversible micro-USBs. The standard works for data transmission and power for almost every Android device, and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ) even used it to power a Chromebook. Unfortunately, there will be an awkward in-between period where you will have to rely on adapters to get current-gen devices to connect, as Type-C will break compatibility.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett

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