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James Bond’s SPECTRE tech: 7 gadgets for 007

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James Bond (played by Daniel Craig) checks out an Aston Martin DB10 sports car as geekmaster Q (Ben Whishaw) looks on. (Credit: MGM Pictures / Columbia Pictures / Eon Productions)

What’s a James Bond movie without gadgets? “SPECTRE,” the latest film in the decades-long series, delivers way-out innovations that aren’t yet ready for real life, tributes to classic gee-whiz-ware and a couple of high-tech twists that are ripped from the headlines.

Here are seven technological tropes to watch for when Bond goes after the shadowy crime organization known as SPECTRE.

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GeekWire

Let Google’s A.I. bot answer your emails

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Google’s Smart Reply feature analyzes incoming email with an encoder. (Google image)

Weary of spambots, robo-calls and Twitter bots? Google is coming out with an artificial-intelligence tool that’s on your side for a change: Smart Reply, a feature that’s built into its Inbox app for Android and iOS.

Smart Reply is designed to take the thumbwork out of replying to email on a mobile device.

“I get a lot of email, and I often peek at it on the go with my phone. But replying to email on mobile is a real pain, even for short replies,” Greg Corrado, a senior research scientist at Google, writes on the company’s research blog. “What if there were a system that could automatically determine if an email was answerable with a short reply, and compose a few suitable responses that I could edit or send with just a tap?”

Corrado explains at length how Google’s engineers developed a deep neural network that analyzes incoming email and suggests short responses based on context.

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GeekWire

FAA chief wants drone experts to ‘think big’

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Quadcopters are among the types of drones that are expected to be registered. (NASA photo)

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration told the members of a policy task force to “think big, and think outside the box” as they met today for the first time to discuss a system for registering recreational drones.

This week’s three-day meeting in Washington comes against the backdrop of heightened capability, heightened expectations and heightened concerns about remote-controlled and robotic aerial vehicles.

Task force co-chair David Vos – who handles Project Wing for Google’s holding company, Alphabet – told attendees at an air traffic control convention on Monday that his venture could start using drones for commercial deliveries in 2017. Amazon and Walmart are working on similar systems.

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GeekWire

Lithium-air battery nirvana comes nearer

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Researchers say lithium-air batteries could boost the range of electric cars. (Credit: IBM via YouTube)

A decade from now, we could all be driving low-cost electric cars for hundreds of miles without recharging, thanks to an advance in lithium-air battery technology announced today. Or maybe it’ll be some other lithium-air innovation. Or maybe we’ll see batteries with a different chemistry, such as sodium-air or sodium-lithium.

“The battery of the future is going to encompass a lot of these different technologies,” University of Cambridge chemist Clare Grey told GeekWire.

Grey is the senior author of a study describing a technological twist that promises to remove some of the obstacles that have blocked the path to battery nirvana. The research, featured on the cover of this week’s issue of the journal Science, shows how changing the nanostructure of the electrodes and shifting the chemistry can boost a lithium-oxygen battery’s efficiency and make it more stable.

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GeekWire

Amazon gets two spots on drone task force

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Amazon Prime Air is developing drones that could be used for deliveries. (Amazon photo)

The Federal Aviation Administration says the task force charged with drawing up recommendations for registering recreational drones includes two Amazon representatives: Sean Cassidy, a former Alaska Airlines pilot who’s working on the Amazon Prime Air drone venture; and Ben Gielow, who’s a senior manager for public policy at Amazon.

In today’s announcement detailing the task force’s membership, the FAA said the group’s co-chairs are Dave Vos of GoogleX and Earl Lawrence, director of the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office.

Other task force members include Walmart’s Thomas Head, Best Buy’s Parker Brugge and GoPro’s Tony Bates, as well as representatives of drone manufacturers and operators, aviation associations, surveyors and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Amazon and Walmart are both working on drone delivery systems. GoogleX, which has served as Google’s think tank, is looking into commercial drones as well. Such operations, however, would be covered by a different set of regulations that’s working its way through the FAA system.

The task force is charged with suggesting a system for registering recreational drones by Nov. 20. The group is due to convene formally for the first time next Tuesday, the FAA said.  Public comments are being taken through Nov. 6.

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GeekWire

After Boeing and Ford, Alan Mulally’s a ‘Googler’

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Former Ford CEO Alan Mulally speaks at Seattle University. (GeekWire photo by Alan Boyle)

Alan Mulally started out designing Boeing jets in 1969, and eventually made his mark as the president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Then he moved on to lead Ford Motor Co.’s revival as president and CEO, inspiring a book titled“American Icon.” Now the 70-year-old management guru has a new allegiance.

“I found a new love in Google,” Mulally told his fans on Wednesday evening, during a talk that kicked off this fall’s Albers Executive Speaker Series at Seattle University. “I’m a Googler now.”

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Forbes

NASA patents are so crazy they just might work

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A NASA astronaut trains for a future mission task that would typically be conducted in weightlessness, using the patented Active Response Gravity Offload System, or ARGOS. (Credit: NASA)

When NASA put out the word this month that it was offering more than 1,200 of its patented technologies to startups for no money down, the spotlight naturally fell on the farthest-out ideas – for example, a collapsible airplane suitable for sending to Mars, or solar sails for interplanetary flights.

But the real point of the exercise is to make it easier to convert NASA’s out-of-this-world ideas into profitable innovations on Earth. NASA is willing to waive the patent licensing fees for the first three years of commercialization, but will take a standard net royalty fee once businesses start selling commercial products.

The resulting products might well have nothing to do with outer space. Here are seven patented ideas that may sound crazy but could work for the right kind of startup.

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Forbes

‘Back to the Future’ sets off a tech time warp

Image: Marty McFly and hoverboard
In “Back to the Future Part 2,” Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) grabs a hoverboard to make his escape in 2015 – sparking a decades-long effort to invent hoverboards that actually work. (Credit: Universal Pictures)

One of the running gags in the Back to the Future movies is the Hollywood equivalent of a closed timelike curve – in which a time traveler brings an innovation back from the future and invents it in the past, so that it exists in the future. For example, there’s Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, doing the “Johnny B. Goode” duckwalk that inspires Chuck Berry’s signature move, 30 years earlier in 1955.

This week marks the flip side of that record: In Back to the Future Part 2, Marty travels ahead from 1985 to Oct. 21, 2015 – and brings back glimpses of a weird future world where flying robots roam the skies and the Cubs are contenders. It’s one thing to talk about which technologies the movie got right (fingerprint recognition) or wrong (dog-walking drones). But what’s really interesting are the technologies that arguably take a page from the “BTTF” script and close the time loop, just in time for Marty’s arrival.

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GeekWire

Uber in the air? NASA touts flying taxis

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An artist’s conception shows a vertical-takeoff craft rising from an urban helipad, using a distributed electric propulsion system. (Credit: Joby Aviation via YouTube)

Taking a ride on a flying air taxi could become as cheap as taking an Uber ride, and get you where you’re going in as little as a third of the time, according to a NASA concept study.

In fact, if you’re looking for your flying car, today’s Uber ride-on-demand arrangement just might provide the best model for finding it, said Mark Moore, chief technologist for on-demand ‎mobility at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.

“Uber could provide a true door-to-door system,” Moore observed during a presentation at this week’s SAE AeroTech Congress and Exhibition in Seattle. “It’s hard to beat that economic model.”

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