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9 projects I’d like to see Samsung take on

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Last month, after Samsung rolled out the Galaxy Gear smartwatch and then followed the introduction of the gold iPhone 5S with its own gold Galaxy S4, I started drafting a list of projects that I’d like to see the gargantuan Korean conglomerate take a stab at. The idea was that since Samsung seems to quickly follow other companies under its own moniker, perhaps I should point them in the direction of a few totally original products that I’d actually like to see made.

Problem is, Samsung is so adept at the art of imitation-as-innovation that two of the items on my original list have already popped up. First there came word that the company is working on its own Google Glass-like device for release next year, and that was followed by the release of the Galaxy Round, the first curved-glass smartphone. (Samsung seems to have won a race with LG to bring the first curved phone to market — the rounded G Flex is expected next month.)

Toyota rolling out near-autonomous cars in five years

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The race towards autonomous vehicles appears to be picking up steam. Nissan set 2020 as the year it would put autonomous cars on the road, and now Toyota lays out specifics on autonomous car technologies it will put into production “in the mid-2010s”, according to a press release.

Toyota calls its core autonomous car technology Automated Highway Driving Assist (AHDA), noting that it consists of two new features, Cooperative-adaptive Cruise Control and Lane Trace Control.

Adaptive cruise control systems have been in production vehicles for a number of years. Using radar or stereoscopic cameras, these systems detect the speed of traffic ahead. If cruise control is set to a higher speed, the system will slow down the car to match the speed of slower traffic. Toyota’s Cooperative-adaptive Cruise Control achieves the same result, but it relies on transceivers in cars to broadcast their speed, acceleration, and braking. Two cars using this system could more accurately match speeds than with traditional adaptive cruise control systems.

The transceivers communicate data over the 700-MHz band, different than the 5.9-GHz band used in Dedicated Short Range Communication systems currently being developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation and other automakers for vehicle-to-vehicle communication.

Lane Trace Control relies on traditional sensors, such as radar and cameras, to handle steering for the driver. Toyota’s press release notes that this technology is designed to “maintain the optimal line within the lane.” Mercedes-Benz released the first production self-steering system in its new S-class.

Toyota adds to these technologies with a new pedestrian safety feature called Pedestrian-avoidance Steer Assist that it promises by 2015. This technology adds to current pre-collision avoidance systems in Toyota production cars. The new system uses sensors to scan for pedestrians in the car’s path. If it detects one, the car alerts the driver through visual and audible warnings. If the driver fails to take action, the car begins automated braking. If braking will not prevent the collision, the system can actually steer the vehicle.

Using its sensor data, the system will determine if there is a clear area in which to steer the car and avoid hitting the pedestrian.

HP grabs at commercial PC market in Lenovo dogfight

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HP executives said that the consumer PC business is important to the company because of bring-your-own-device (BYOD). Nevertheless, HP CEO Meg Whitman told financial analysts that the company has been late in many markets and hasn’t navigated the post-PC era well. “PCs are declining while tablets are growing,” said Whitman, noting that trend will continue.

Like the company overall, HP is looking to segment the market to target hot areas and maybe pull back in other areas. Whitman said the company needs to be disciplined about how it segments the market and avoid other areas that don’t make sense.

HP’s plan to put a commercial slant on its PC business isn’t too surprising. Check out what HP considers its growth areas and you’ll notice that PCs are a small slice of the portfolio.

Apple reportedly cutting iPhone 5C production in half

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No reason has been given for the production cuts, but it’s believed to be lesser demand for the iPhone 5C compared to Apple’s flagship iPhone 5S. Both were released last month, though several reports — including one from Localytics — suggest more people have been buying the 5S than the 5C.

One data point that lends some credibility to the C Technology report is the ready availability of the 5C. On Apple’s online retail store, 5C units are available to ship next day, while the 5S is on back order until “October,” which is assumed to be several weeks for new buyers. Reports also say that availability of the 5C on the “grey market” — or distribution channels that are legal but unauthorized by Apple — in China, have been stable. Because of this abundance, the 5C’s price has fallen from more than $700 in American dollars to a range from about $490 to $540, in American dollars as well.

Apple did not immediately return a request for comment, but we’ll update this post if we hear back.

Microsoft gives Windows 8.1 some Fresh Paint

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Fresh Paint, which had been downloaded more than 1 million times as of February, will be available October 18 on Windows 8.1, and October 14 on Windows Phone 8.

“[W]e do a lot of real-world painting to make sure we get our algorithms right,” Microsoft’s general manager for its startup business group Ira Snyder wrote in the blog post.

The app lets you paint with a variety of tools, including watercolor, graphite pencil, and oil. It lets you mix colors, change canvases and brushes, and erase unwanted marks. Despite the similar name to Microsoft Paint, the long-standing Windows drawing app, it’s not a direct replacement for MS Paint. Fresh Paint is only available in Metro mode, while MS Paint, with a new Ribbon toolbar, is still available in Windows 8’s Desktop mode.

Android tablet owners now have Twitter app of their own

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Now, though, Android tablet users will have access to an app designed to fill the screen “with tweets, conversations, trends, accounts to follow, and more” when in landscape view. Tapping a tweet expands it on the right side of the screen, revealing videos, photos, and previews of articles. A second tap goes deeper into the tweet, allowing a full-screen view of photos, video playback, and the ability to read articles.

Amazon buys math education company TenMarks

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Amazon has purchased TenMarks, an online math tutoring service, the companies announced Thursday.

Dave Limp, Amazon’s vice president of Kindle, said in a press release that TenMarks is a good match for Amazon. With this acquisition, Amazon will focus on developing education content and applications.

“Amazon and TenMarks share the same passion for student learning. TenMarks’s award-winning math programs have been used by tens of thousands of schools and Amazon engages with millions of students around the world through our Kindle ecosystem,” he said in the release.