‘We see no evidence that the drones contribute to a more secure border,’ says Homeland Security

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For eight years, the US Border Patrol has been using military Predator drones to keep an eye on the US-Mexico border — but a new report from the Department of Homeland security suggests it may not have been worth the trouble. The report, first dug up by Cyrus Farivar at Ars Technica, takes a skeptical look at the cost of flying the drone missions, and finds no plausible metric to justify the expense. The Border Patrol had been hoping for an additional $443 million to expand the program, but the report puts that request in serious jeopardy. “We see no evidence that the drones contribute to a more secure border,” said DHS Inspector General John Roth in a statement, “and there is no reason to invest additional taxpayer funds at this time.”

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TCL’s 110-inch curved 4K TV is the definition of CES spectacle

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Look at this utterly massive TV. TCL has somehow managed to go even crazier than Samsung on the show floor at CES, showcasing this 110-inch curved 4K televison. And you might consider that strange since Samsung has a 110-incher of its own. But TCL had the Guiness Book of World Records come out to take a measurement and confirm that its huge curved thing is slightly bigger than Samsung’s huge curved thing.

Will you ever be able to buy one? Probably not. There’s no pricing or availability information to speak of. Would it even fit in your living room? Through what door? But this is what CES is all about. Anything Samsung or any other tech stalwart can do, there’s a smaller competitor trying to best them and stand out in this enormous…

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23andMe gets thumbs up from big pharma with $60 million Genentech deal

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Despite setbacks from regulators, 23andMe is attracting serious interest from heavy-hitters in the pharmaceutical industry. The ambitious genetics startup has received a first payment of $10 million from biotech company Genentech in exchange for genetic data donated by customers of 23andMe’s personal genome service. Forbes reports that the Silicon Valley company — which is partly backed by Google Ventures — can look forward to additional payments of “as much as $50 million,” with Genentech reportedly planning to dig out anonymous individuals from the company’s database for further study.

23andMe’s test kits have been banned — but it still has the genetic data that they collected

For 23andMe, the investment is a lifeline. In late 2013,…

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This crazy levitating Bluetooth speaker has a far better use

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I listened to Rihanna on a levitating speaker. It didn’t sound as good as Rihanna on a middle-range traditional speaker, though it certainly looked more interesting. If you have a small child, miss Sharper Image catalogues, or wonder how magnets work and also have a couple hundred dollars to flush, this may be the levitating speaker for you.

The Air2 — pronounced Air Squared — has two distinct parts. The floating speaker is a metallic island that fits easily in your palm. It has a mic, for making conference calls, and a micro-USB port, which connects to the USB slot on the slightly larger circular base for charging.

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Apple Watch will reportedly go on sale in March

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Apple has consistently said that the Apple Watch would launch in early 2015, and now we’re getting more details on how that launch might play out. 9to5Mac’s Mark Gurman (who just dropped a scoop on a potential new 12-inch MacBook Air) is back at it again, this time saying that the Apple Watch will launch in March, with retail training set to start in mid-February.

According to Gurman, Apple is currently at work finalizing the Watch’s software, and the company has also been working to optimize and improve battery life as well as its inductive charging mechanism. It’s worth noting that Gurman stresses these are the current plans and that the launch could slip — but if Apple wants to meet the “early 2015” timeframe that it has been…

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Watch the first nine minutes of Syfy’s new 12 Monkeys series

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Syfy has been building buzz for its new 12 Monkeys TV adaptation for months now, but today it released a full 9 minute preview to give audiences a look at the new imagining of Terry Gilliam’s YEAR film. The preview will be familiar to fans of the Gilliam film — a visionary doctor, a strange drifter, a post-apocalyptic future — but there are a few clues as to how the series will expand on Gilliam’s vision. You can see the full episode when the series debuts on Syfy next Friday, Jan. 16, at 9pm.

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Is Apple about to launch a totally redesigned, 12-inch MacBook Air?

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Every year, Apple does some counterprogramming at CES. This year, whether it meant to or not, it may have some big news: 9to5Mac has some new details that say there’s a 12-inch MacBook Air with a completely new design, a higher-resolution display, and few of the trappings we’ve come to expect from a MacBook Air.

Here’s Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac:

Apple is preparing an all-new MacBook Air for 2015 with a radically new design that jettisons standards such as full-sized USB ports, MagSafe connectors, and SD card slots in favor of a markedly thinner and lighter body with a higher-resolution display. Sources within Apple, who have used internal prototype versions of the upcoming computer, have provided in-depth details about the machine, and…

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White House says Obama will veto the new Keystone XL bill if it passes congress

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Republicans are trying to push a bill in the House and in the Senate that would fast-track the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline — a 1,179-mile pipeline that would traverse the US and Canada and that would carry about 830,000 barrels of oil each day — and it looks like they might succeed. But the White House revealed for the first time today that the president will veto the bill if it goes through. “If this bill passes this Congress,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said earlier today, “the president wouldn’t sign it either.”

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A new LG smartwatch was just teased at Audi’s CES press conference

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Audi’s CES press conference isn’t where we expected to get a tease of a new LG smartwatch, but that’s how CES goes. Audi’s Ulrich Hackenberg just summoned a self-driving car to the stage using an LG smartwatch, and the design doesn’t match up at all with any others we’ve seen from the company — the three-button design in particular stood out to us. The big question is what exactly the watch is running. While it’s easy to assume that it’s an update to the company’s ever-expanding Android Wear lineup, there have been recent rumors that LG could bring webOS back yet again, this time on a smartwatch. Unfortunately, Audi’s press conference without anyone mentioning the watch again, but we’re trying to track down Dr. Hackenberg and see if we…

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Oculus is showing off great new 3D sound at CES, still no consumer edition

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Last year at CES, Oculus impressed us all with Crystal Cove, which would later become the second development kit of its Rift virtual reality headset. It’s not doing anything nearly that big at CES 2015; its last major headset iteration, Crescent Bay, was unveiled last fall. But it is adding a new element that it only hinted at back then: spatialized audio, which does for sound what the Rift does for video.

Artists like Chris Milk have done impressive audio work in VR, using complex microphone setups aimed at letting you feel exactly where sound is coming from. A new Oculus software development kit, which the company is announcing today, will let VR developers do this through software instead. Once they pinpoint the location of a sound,…

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Bang & Olufsen created a stylish tablet with touch-sensitive wooden controls

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For many of us, smartphones have taken over as the way we control our home stereos, but Bang & Olufsen wants to bring us back to using a single-purpose device that’s dedicated to music. Its solution is the BeoSound Moment, a two-sided tablet that can access your music in the cloud and tries to intelligently play what you want to hear.

The most striking aspect of the Moment is its “rear” side, which is covered entirely in wood. On the rear’s right side is a shallow indentation in the shape of a wheel. B&O says that this is the first wood that’s also being used as a touchable interface. If you tap the center of the wheel, music will immediately begin playing. If you drag your finger around the indentation, the volume will adjust.

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Dell’s new XPS 13 has a stunning edge-to-edge display

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Dell is back with a brand new XPS 13 this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, and it looks like the best one yet. After gradually improving the screen with a new model last year, 2015’s XPS 13 will ship with an even better and truly beautiful 13.3-inch “infinity” display. It has an incredibly tiny 5.2mm bezel on the top and sides. While previous models of the XPS 13 have always had an impressively small bezel, the latest feels truly edge-to-edge and it’s dazzling to look at. Dell hasn’t just stopped at thin bezels, though, and the 2015 model now has an optional 3200 x 1800 high-resolution touchscreen display. That’s a massive improvement over the 1366 x 768 resolution we disliked on the original.

Elsewhere, the construction is almost…

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Ford’s latest experiments could make parking your car suck a lot less

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It seems every company at CES is announcing complex systems that will help your car drive itself in the not-so-distant-future. Ford is trying something different, displaying some interesting incremental improvements for the present. It just announced a service that uses shared data from cars across the city to help others find open parking spots. That will partner well with two other experimental apps.

Making life a little bit easier

The City Dash app tells users when a car is illegally parked, and will recommend an alternative spot. Appy Parking helps find parking locations for cars and motorcycles. Not only that, it lets users know the hours street parking and parking garages are available, and even allows parking payments to be made…

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From gimmick to main attraction: virtual reality is coming to Hollywood

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Last March I donned a pair of goggles that whisked me from Austin, Texas to the frigid white Wall of Westeros. Over Thanksgiving, I watched as my parents sat back, strapped in, and explored the space station from Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. For studios looking to promote movies and TV shows, virtual reality has become a go-to gimmick, giving audiences a sneak peek at new technology that’s just around the corner.

See all the latest CES 2015 news here ›

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Elon Musk loves Bioshock and only sleeps six hours a night

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The night before his ill-fated rocket test, Elon Musk took to Reddit for an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”), the site’s favorite group interview format, and the results were fascinating. There were plenty of rocketry questions — Had he thought about hybrid spacecraft? How would he stabilize the Falcon on landing? — but the AMA also provided a rare look into Musk’s day-to-day life. The SpaceX and Tesla founder sleeps only six hours a night, according to one answer, and enjoys barbecue, French food, and whiskey. Asked for his favorite video game, Musk replied, “I tend to like FPS with a story, like Bioshock, Fallout, or Mass Effect, but was also a big fan of Civ and Warcraft.” (He’s also a big fan of the space launch simulator Kerbal.) Asked for…

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Mercedes-Benz’s CES cohost is a robot eyeball on wheels

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Today at its CES 2015 press conference, Mercedes-Benz announces the F 015 Luxury in Motion concept car, an autonomous “cocoon on wheels” — a four-seat lounge with swiveling chairs and complete hands-off entertainment controls.

But my favorite part of Mercedes-Benz’s CES 2015 press conference wasn’t a self-driving cocoon, and it wasn’t CEO Dietrich Zetsche’s mustache or amazingly dry sense of humor. It was Zetsche’s cohost, a giant robotic eyeball on wheels named Cambot.

“Please excuse this guy, he’s a little shy. He’s not familiar with humans,” noted Zetsche as he motioned to Cambot to join him on stage at the top of the show. Cambot would return later in the show after the F 015 debuted, projecting its own view onto the massive…

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Drug for overactive bladder may help people lose weight, too

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A drug the US Food and Drug Administration has already approved to treat overactive bladder may also help patients lose weight, a small study shows. The compound is called mirabegron, which is sold by Astellas Pharma as Myrbetriq for overactive bladder. In a 12-man pilot study, researchers found it boosted their ability to burn energy, according to a study in the journal Cell Metabolism.

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