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Net tax prompts Hungary mass march

Written By andika jamanta on Rabu, 29 Oktober 2014 | 23.59

29 October 2014 Last updated at 09:43

Tens of thousands of protesters have marched through the Hungarian capital Budapest against plans to tax internet use in the biggest anti-government demonstration for years.

Huge crowds gathered in the capital's main squares and there were smaller rallies in six other cities.

The government has drafted a law which would levy a fee on each gigabyte of internet data transferred.

The EU has condemned it as a bad idea that could threaten political freedom.

Protests began in Hungary on Sunday, when demonstrators hurled old computer parts at the Budapest headquarters of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's ruling Fidesz party.

Under the proposals, internet providers would be made to pay 150 forints (£0.40; €0.50; $0.60) per gigabyte of data traffic.

The fee is one of a series of measures proposed by the government to bring down the budget deficit.

The ruling Fidesz party has tried to stem the anger by proposing a 700-forint cap on the tax for individuals and 5,000 forints for businesses.

But opponents believe the tax reflects the increasingly authoritarian style of Mr Orban.

For the first time, the ruling party's opponents from across the whole political spectrum, from the left to the far right now have a common cause, our correspondent says.

Despite divisions within Fidesz, Mr Orban commands broad popularity in Hungary and the party has won three elections this year.

The government criticised US charge d'affaires Andre Goodfriend after he was photographed among the protesters on Sunday.


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Google developing a cancer detector

28 October 2014 Last updated at 17:35 By Leo Kelion & James Gallagher Technology and health desk editors

Google is aiming to diagnose cancers, impending heart attacks or strokes and other diseases, at a much earlier stage than is currently possible.

The company is working on technology that combines disease-detecting nanoparticles, which would enter a patient's bloodstream via a swallowed pill, with a wrist-worn sensor.

The idea is to identify slight changes in the person's biochemistry that could act as an early warning system.

The work is still at an early stage.

Early diagnosis is the key to treating disease. Many cancers, such as pancreatic, are detected only after they have become untreatable and fatal.

There are marked differences between cancerous and healthy tissues.

Google's ambition is to constantly monitor the blood for the unique traces of cancer, allowing diagnosis long before any physical symptoms appear.

The project is being conducted by the search company's research unit, Google X, which is dedicated to investigating potentially revolutionary innovations.

It marks the firm's latest shift into the medical sector following its work on glucose-measuring contact lenses for patients with diabetes and the acquisition of a start-up that developed a spoon to counteract the tremors caused by Parkinson's disease.

Google has also bought stakes in Calico, an anti-ageing research company, and 23andMe, which offers personal genetic-testing kits.

Nanoparticles

The diagnostic project is being led by Dr Andrew Conrad, a molecular biologist who previously developed a cheap HIV test that has become widely used.

"What we are trying to do is change medicine from reactive and transactional to proactive and preventative," he told the BBC.

Continue reading the main story

Doctor-patient relationships are pretty privileged and would not involve Google in any way"

End Quote Dr Andrew Conrad Google X

"Nanoparticles... give you the ability to explore the body at a molecular and cellular level."

Google is designing a suite of nanoparticles which are intended to match markers for different conditions.

They could be tailored to stick to a cancerous cell or a fragment of cancerous DNA.

Or they could find evidence of fatty plaques about to break free from the lining of blood vessels. These can cause a heart attack or stroke if they stop the flow of blood.

Another set would constantly monitor chemicals in the blood.

High levels of potassium are linked to kidney disease. Google believes it will be possible to construct porous nanoparticles that alter colour as potassium passes through.

"Then [you can] recall those nanoparticles to a single location - because they are magnetic - and that location is the superficial vasculature of the wrist, [where] you can ask them what they saw," said Dr Conrad.

Unattached nanoparticles would move differently in a magnetic field from those clumped around a cancer cell.

In theory, software could then provide a diagnosis by studying their movements.

As part of the project, the researchers have also explored ways of using magnetism to concentrate the nanoparticles temporarily in a single area.

The tech company's ambition is ultimately to create a wristband that would take readings of the nanoparticles via light and radio waves one or more times a day.

Prof Paul Workman, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research in London, told the BBC News website: "In principle this is great. Any newcomers with new ideas are welcome in the field.

"There is an urgent need for this. If we can detect cancer or other diseases earlier, then we can intervene with either lifestyle changes or treatment.

"How much of this proposal is dream versus reality is impossible to tell because it is a fascinating concept that now needs to be converted to practice."

His team at the institute is investigating cancer cells and cancer DNA in the blood as new methods of diagnosis and planning treatment.

He did warn Google that a diagnosis could increase anxiety and lead to unnecessary treatment, so there needed to be "very careful and rigorous analysis" before this type of blood monitoring could be used widely.

The scheme is being made public because Google is now seeking to establish partnerships.

But Dr Conrad sought to play down the idea that his firm wanted to run a search tool for the human body, alongside the one it already offers for the internet.

"We are the inventors of the technology but we have no intentions of commercialising it or monetising it in that way," he said.

"We will license it out and the partners will take it forward to doctors and patients.

"These are not consumer devices. They are prescriptive medical devices, and you know that doctor-patient relationships are pretty privileged and would not involve Google in any way."

Analysis: James Gallagher, health editor

From searching the internet to searching your blood, Google certainly has high ambitions. But is it feasible?

The basic principles are sound and mirror the work already taking place around the world.

Many research groups are looking at bits of cancer floating in the blood as a better way of diagnosing the disease and also to assess which tumours are more aggressive.

But Google will have to address concerns around "false positives", when healthy people are told they are ill.

These have plagued the PSA test for prostate cancer, as PSA levels can soar even when cancer is absent.

There is also the issue of "over-diagnosis". Who needs treating even if a condition is discovered?

There is continuing controversy around breast cancer screening: for every life saved, three women have invasive treatment for a cancer that would never have proved fatal.

Screening the body for disease is littered with dangers, and if it is not done carefully, it could make hypochondriacs out of all of us.

Big risk?

The nanoparticle project is the latest so-called "moonshot" to originate from Google X.

Other schemes include the firm's driverless car effort and Project Loon, an attempt to provide internet access to remote areas via a network of high-altitude weather balloons.

Astro Teller

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WATCH: Google X "captain of moonshots" Astro Teller explains why he does not fear failure

While such ideas have the potential to make money, there is also a high risk of failure, and Google X acknowledges that several of its ideas have been ditched before being made public.

One analyst commented that its parent was in a rare position to make such investments.

"Under normal circumstances this is the kind of thing that would worry investors because such projects are too long-term and the miss rate is too high," said Cyrus Mewawalla, from CM Research.

"But because Google's core search business is currently so strong, shareholders are not worried at the moment and are allowing the firm to take a gamble."

Analysis: Leo Kelion, technology desk editor

Google's diagnostic project may never come to fruition, but its significance lies in the fact it represents part of a wider push by the firm into health tech.

Bearing in mind this is already a crowded sector, it begs the question: why?

The search firm denies that it wants to run its own diagnosis service, with all the privacy headaches that would entail, but the patents it creates along the way could prove lucrative.

No doubt the fact that co-founder and Google X chief Sergey Brin has been told that a gene mutation has increased his likelihood of contracting Parkinson's has also focused efforts.

And the company clearly believes its expertise in "big data" analysis and its freedom to focus on giant leaps forward, rather than incremental steps, plays to its advantages.

It's worth remembering that another much hyped health idea, Google Flu Trends - which aimed to predict the spread of the virus based on internet searches - has been dubbed a failure by some after researchers said it had overestimated the number of cases in 100 out of 108 weeks.

And US health watchdogs banned Google-backed 23andme from selling its genetic screening kits last year.

On the other hand, Google's "smart lens" for diabetics shows promise, with Swiss firm Novartis stepping up to license the technology in July.

And the forthcoming Android Fit platform, designed to harness data from other apps and wearables, has a good chance of success given the huge number of people using the operating system.


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Digital hearing aids 'distort music'

28 October 2014 Last updated at 18:03 By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter, BBC News

Wearers of digital hearing aids struggle to listen to recorded music because of the way the devices process sound, research from the US suggests.

The researchers from the University of Colorado, Boulder found that the more sophisticated hearing aids boost softer sounds to aid speech recognition.

This process is called wide dynamic range compression.

However, it distorts recorded music, which tends to be compressed already during production.

The effect of both the recording compression and further compression by the hearing aid causes distortion.

Additionally, music - both recorded and live - is made up of many sounds at different volumes and changing these volumes changes the way the music sounds.

"What's interesting about this is that more is not necessarily better," said Dr Kathryn Arehart who was part of the research team.

"If I am in a noisy restaurant and I want to hear the people at my table, then more processing may be better in order to suppress the background noise. But when listening to music, more processing may actually do more harm than good."

'Useless for music'

"I know several people who have said that modern hearing aids are pretty much useless for music," Dr Paul Whittaker, a musician with hearing loss, told the BBC.

Dr Whittaker, who is an organist and pianist, suffered hearing loss at the age of eight and later founded the charity Music and the Deaf.

He said older analogue hearing aids were less problematic because they were more basic.

"The issue is greater for those who may have had some musical experience prior to developing a hearing loss.

"However, when my lovely old analogue aids died a few years ago I had a really hard job finding replacement aids that would satisfy my musical requirements."

'Noise torture'

Writer and actor Sophie Woolley had a cochlear implant activated last year. She began losing her hearing at 18 and was using digital hearing aids by the age of 31.

"If I went to a party, I turned my hearing aids off to dance, otherwise it was like noise torture," she said.

"I copied other people's dance moves and tried to follow the vibrations of the bass.

"What my brain invented was much better than the pulsating foghorn and white noise battering my eardrum."

Ms Woolley said she was pleased with the implant although classical music orchestral pieces and outdoor stadium concerts could still be a struggle.

"Music sounds amazing," she told the BBC.

"I know not all CI (cochlear implant) users are happy with the way music sounds. But I've been lucky with how well my CI has worked for me."

Ms Woolley added that she uses a hearing device called a ComPilot which communicates with her implant via bluetooth.

"This device allows me to bluetooth music direct to my brain in secret.

"My hearing friends are jealous of my ability to do this.

"So I've gone from having natural hearing to avoiding music at all costs to feeling like I can hear music in a superior way to hearing people."


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Caption competition: CERN seeks help

28 October 2014 Last updated at 18:44 By Kevin Rawlinson BBC News

Scientists at the European nuclear research centre CERN have uncovered an archive of images from its first 50 years - and are asking for help in deciphering what is going on in them.

Archivists are digitising more than 250,000 hard-copy images, dating from 1955 to 2005.

They are being processed in batches, with the first focusing on around 120,000 taken between 1955 and 1985.

CERN said that some descriptions exist but are incomplete.

The archivists are looking, in particular, to identify the people in many of the images.

They said they were also looking for help with descriptions of equipment, "and we believe that much of this information could be crowd-sourced from the CERN community."

Dr Sue Black, who was a key figure in the campaign to save Bletchley Park, where the German Enigma code was broken during World War Two, praised the project.

"It's so important to archive and share our scientific history. It helps us all to understand the work that has been carried out in the past, which helps us to better understand and appreciate the research that is being carried out today - and to be able to correctly put current research into context," she told the BBC.

"Crowdsourcing the information related to these images is a fabulous approach to public engagement and one which other institutions - scientific or not - would be wise to follow.

"It engages public interest and imagination in a way that is interesting and exciting. It will also be a great exercise in demonstrating the power of crowdsourcing, possibly to an audience that has not experienced it before," she said.

John Graham-Cumming, author of The Geek Atlas: 128 Places Where Science and Technology Come Alive, said: "What I love about these photographs is that many look like they are stills from a 1960s science fiction film about the future, when in fact they are the real thing".

CERN said it would release more batches of mystery photographs and is asking for help from any member of the public who might be able to offer information.


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Noriega fails to sue Call of Duty

28 October 2014 Last updated at 19:19

A judge has dismissed a legal action brought by Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of Panama, against the publisher of the Call of Duty video games.

The ex-military ruler had tried to sue Activision after a character based on him featured in the title Black Ops II.

Noriega had sought damages.

But the judge at Los Angeles Superior Court ruled that the inclusion of the character was protected under free speech laws.

"This was an absurd lawsuit from the very beginning and we're gratified that in the end, a notorious criminal didn't win," said Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, who had defended Activision in the case.

"This is not just a win for the makers of Call of Duty, but is a victory for works of art across the entertainment and publishing industries throughout the world."

Noriega is currently serving a jail sentence in Panama for crimes committed during his time in power, including the murder of critics.

In the video game, the character based on him initially helps the CIA capture a Nicaraguan terrorist, but later turns on the Americans and is hunted himself in fictional scenes.

In reality, Noriega did work as a CIA informant before the agency broke ties with him. After the US became concerned about his violent rule, President George Bush ordered the invasion of Panama in 1989, which resulted in his capture.

Call of Duty games have featured other real-life characters including Fidel Castro, ex-CIA director David Petraeus and President John F Kennedy, among others.

Activision had warned that had the legal action been permitted to proceed, it could have encouraged other political figures to object to the use of their appearance in films, television programmes and books in addition to video games.

"Today's ruling is a victory for... global audiences who enjoy historical fiction across all works of art," said Bobby Kotick, chief executive of Activision's parent company, Activision Blizzard.


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Samaritans app flags worrying tweets

29 October 2014 Last updated at 00:40 By Zoe Kleinman Technology reporter, BBC News
Phone showing the Samaritans Radar app

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WATCH: Rory Cellan-Jones shows how the new Samaritan Radar app works

The Samaritans charity has launched a new app which will notify Twitter users if people they follow on the site appear to be suicidal.

Samaritans Radar uses an algorithm to identify key words and phrases which indicate distress.

They include "tired of being alone", "hate myself", "depressed", "help me" and "need someone to talk to."

Users who have signed up for the scheme will receive an email alert if someone they follow tweets these statements.

The app asks whether the tweets are cause for concern.

However it does not yet identify sarcasm, according to the website.

The charity says it will not get involved directly unless requested.

'not private'

Joe Ferns, executive director of policy, research and development at Samaritans, told the BBC the app was not designed to be a furtive tracking tool.

"Radar is only picking up tweets that are public, giving you an opportunity to see tweets that you would have seen anyway," he said.

"But imagine that a friend had posted something in the early hours of the morning, you're on the way to work or college and your Twitter feed is full of messages that are arguably less important - Samaritans Radar gives you the opportunity to see that tweet again and have it highlighted to you.

"It's not looking over your shoulder, it's not looking anything that's private, it's just giving you the opportunity to see something and act on it."

Samaritans Radar was created by digital agency Jam and uses Twitter's API. It is primarily aimed at 18-35 year olds.

"They are 'digital natives' - growing up using new technology and the first generation to grow up with computers in their home," said Patricia Cartes, global head of trust and safety outreach at Twitter.

"They are the most active age group across social platforms and spend an average of just over three hours daily on social networks."

Emma, who suffered from depression in her teens

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WATCH: Emma suffered from undiagnosed depression as a teenager

Samaritans said it was looking at extending the service to other social media networks in the future.

Analysis: Rory Cellan-Jones, technology correspondent

Samaritans Radar is aimed in particular at a generation which lives its life online - and sometimes finds it easier to express its deepest hopes and fears in a tweet rather than face to face.

The app has some smart technology which will learn from its users to distinguish phrases that are really indicative of suicidal tendencies.

Samaritans is aware that there may be a "creepy" factor, with users worried that someone is looking over their shoulder as they and their friends tweet.

But the charity says it needs to be where people are in the modern digital world - and it believes helping people help each other could save lives."


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Argos faces glitches on website

29 October 2014 Last updated at 11:40

Retailer Argos's website has suffered problems for a second day following a revamped design of the site.

It displayed an error message on some computers, but not others, saying access had been blocked because of a "high volume of visitors".

Users had complained that this was inaccurate bearing in mind it was being shown in the early hours of the morning and the issue was continuing.

Argos said it was an intermittent problem that might take time to solve.

The company - which is owned by the Milton Keynes-based Home Retail Group - said that its site was currently working, but might face further issues.

"Following planned maintenance to our website and apps, we have been experiencing some technical issues which means customers may have limited access to our website at intermittent periods," a spokeswoman told the BBC.

"We are really sorry for any inconvenience caused. Serving customers is our absolute priority and are pulling out all of the stops to fix the problem as soon as possible."

She said the site had only been offline to all customers for "just over half a day" on Tuesday morning.

The firm had used social media to apologise for the problem, but unless customers searched for the posts they would not have been aware of them since more recent marketing tweets were embedded into the "fault" page.

The spokeswoman said the failure to properly explain the problem on the page was in itself "caused by a technical issue which is currently being fixed".

One retail expert said it was not unusual for website updates to create glitches, but suggested the company should have explained the issue more clearly.

"Any retailer that has a robust enough e-commerce platform should have some sort of contingency plan in place around communication," said Steve Mader, from the consultancy Kantar Retail.

"Argos has historically done a fairly good job of doing iterative improvements on its website - although in heavy periods leading up to Christmas it has been known to slow down or restrict access.

"I think for every retailer, having an outage like this can be a wake-up call."


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White House computers 'hacked'

29 October 2014 Last updated at 12:02

A White House computer network has been breached by hackers, it has been reported.

The unclassified Executive Office of the President network was attacked, according to the Washington Post.

US authorities are reported to be investigating the breach, which was reported to officials by an ally of the US, sources said.

White House officials believe the attack was state-sponsored but are not saying what - if any - data was taken.

In a statement to the AFP news agency, the White House said "some elements of the unclassified network" had been affected.

A White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post: "In the course of assessing recent threats, we identified activity of concern on the unclassified EOP network.

"Any such activity is something we take very seriously. In this case, we took immediate measures to evaluate and mitigate the activity.

'State-sponsored'

"Certainly, a variety of actors find our networks to be attractive targets and seek access to sensitive information. We are still assessing the activity of concern."

The source said the attack was consistent with a state-sponsored effort and Russia is thought by the US government to be one of the most likely threats.

"On a regular basis, there are bad actors out there who are attempting to achieve intrusions into our system," a second White House official told the Washington Post.

"This is a constant battle for the government and our sensitive government computer systems, so it's always a concern for us that individuals are trying to compromise systems and get access to our networks."

The Post quoted its sources as saying that the attack was discovered two-to-three weeks ago. Some White House staff were reportedly told to change their passwords and there was some disruption to network services.

In a statement given to Agence France-Presse, a White House official said the Executive Office of the President received daily alerts concerning numerous possible cyber threats.

In the course of addressing the breach, some White House users were temporarily disconnected from the network.

"Our computers and systems have not been damaged, though some elements of the unclassified network have been affected. The temporary outages and loss of connectivity for our users is solely the result of measures we have taken to defend our networks," the official said.

The US's National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Security Service were reportedly investigating.

Requests for comment were referred to the Department for Homeland Security, a spokesman for which was not immediately available. A White House spokesman has not responded to the BBC's request for comment.


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Reddit launches crowdfunding site

Pin badge on Redditmade

Reddit, an online which describes itself as "the front page of the internet", has launch its own crowdfunding site - Redditmade.

Currently a test site, it offers users - known as "redditors" - to raise money to fund new products and designs.

"You can create almost anything you want on Redditmade, whether it's a hat, sticker, glass, or something super specially customised," claims the site.

The products on the site at the moment are mainly Reddit-themed.

Stuff on Redditmade

They include a Reddit badge, in the shape of the site's logo, and a Secret Santa sticker pack, the proceeds of which are going to charity.

The difference with Redditmade to other crowdfunding sites is that if the pledge goal is reached Reddit will then launch the production, promotion and distribution.

At the moment, the site advises that the easiest products to make are T-shirts with customised designs.

They also say that they cannot work with campaigns which "sell offensive, abusive, or age-restricted products".

"You can receive all the profit from your campaign or you can donate them to any other person or cause you want," the site's owners say.

Stickers on Redditmade

The campaigns can tie in with subreddits, or topics, which are popular on the site, and become official merchandise which represent a particular community.

With subreddits as varied as The Walking Dead, Jane Austen and Photoshop Battles, there's plenty of scope for all kinds of products.

Crowdfunding is not a new concept, with established sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo already helping individuals and companies source funding for projects and small businesses.

Currently the site can only process payments to US bank accounts.

Follow @BBCNewsbeat on Twitter and Radio1Newsbeat on YouTube


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Android smartwatch 'lasts a week'

29 October 2014 Last updated at 15:18 By Leo Kelion Technology desk editor

One of China's leading tech firms has unveiled two Android-powered smartwatches that it says can last about a week between charges.

That represents a substantial gain on alternatives that can struggle to run longer than a day.

The Geak Watch 2 models achieve the feat by using a hybrid screen that switches between a "high definition" LCD colour display and a "standby mode" battery-saving e-ink one.

One expert said this was "very clever".

"One of the big challenges that smartwatch manufacturers have had is that people stop using the devices, and one of the reasons they do so is that they have to be charged on a regular basis, whereby they are being taken off constantly," said Ben Wood from the tech consultancy CCS Insight.

"Anything that enhances the battery life is a big win.

"That's why we've seen people who have Pebble devices typically using them longer than some of the rivals with daily charging requirements."

Pebble smartwatches also promise "up to seven days" between charges thanks to the use of a black-and-white e-paper display, but lack the ability to switch to a colour LCD screen or run Android, restricting the amount of apps they offer.

Two models

The new smartwatches are made by Shanda, a Shanghai-based company that helped pioneer the sector with its first Geak Watch in 2013.

Reviews at the time indicated that the first-generation device lasted between 10 and 15 hours.

Early adopters are being rewarded with an offer to trade in the old watch for a free new one.

Shanda says:

  • the basic Geak Watch 2 lasts six days on a single charge with normal use or 15 days if restricted to standby mode. It costs 1,999 yuan ($327, £203)
  • the Geak Watch 2 Pro lasts seven days with normal use or 18 days if kept in standby mode. It costs 2,499 yuan ($409, £254).

Owners can alternate between the two display modes by pressing a power button.

Both watches feature a circular 1.3in (3.2cm) display offering a resolution of 254 pixels per inch when the LCD is in use - roughly the same specifications as LG's G Watch R, which does not include the e-ink component.

Shanda's Pro model features a metal, rather than plastic, bezel and also includes a built-in heart rate monitor.

The models are powered by Geak Watch OS, a proprietary "skinned" version of Android 4.3 that has its own app store and user interface, rather than Google's Android Wear software.

This helps it overcome the fact that Google Now - the anticipatory search service that provides much of Android Wear's functionality - is blocked in China, where the Geak devices are sold.

Price erosion

Mr Wood said it was not yet clear whether the hybrid screens matched existing watches in terms of display quality, but said that if they did other companies might follow with similar products made available worldwide.

"We're seeing a tremendous amount of innovation in wearables coming out of China," he said.

"It's amazing how all of the different manufacturers quickly follow successful ideas.

"But China is not only the epicentre for innovation, it's also the source of extreme price erosion, which is making things challenging for the established players."

Samsung, LG, Motorola, Sony and Asus are among other companies to offer smartwatches that typically last about a day per charge.

Many analysts have speculated that Apple's Watch - a smartwatch to be released in 2015 - would boost sales across the sector.

But there has been concern about Apple's admission that battery life will be constrained.

"I think given my own experience, and others around it, that you're going to wind up charging it every day because you're going to use it so much," Apple's chief executive Tim Cook said at the WSJD Live conference, according to a transcript by the Verge news site.

Long-life LCDs

While improvements in the efficiency of computer processors are helping compensate for the relatively slow pace of battery tech advances, they can go only so far.

But research elsewhere in China might offer an alternative to falling back on e-ink.

Researchers at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have reported that they have created a new type of LCD screen that can hold a static image for years without requiring power.

This could be suited to smartwatches that change only a single digit every minute to show the time when not running more complex apps.


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