Could Wearing A Smartwatch Behind The Wheel Land You In Hot Water?

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Smartwatches such as the Apple Watch are designed to keep us from being glued to our smartphone screens all day. But even with their bite-sized messages, are these new gadgets still too distracting for use behind the wheel?

Some other countries’ police officers certainly seem to think so. A Canadian man was fined $120 for using his Apple Watch while driving earlier this week, Montreal’s CTV News reported. According to the report, the man was using his Watch to change the song he was playing on his iPhone through his car’s stereo system. A police officer behind him pulled him over just for the smartwatch use. Two police departments in Australia have also made public pronouncements that using the gadgets while driving could result in fines.

That raises a lot of questions about how smartwatches—and future wearable devices—fit into a growing number of state “distracted driving” laws that aim to ban texting, some phone calls and other electronic device use while driving.

From a legal standpoint, it’s hard to say whether smartwatches automatically get you in trouble. The Canadian statute prohibits use of a “hand-held” device, which raises questions about whether smartwatches fall into the category. You aren’t, after all, holding a smartwatch when you use it. It’s on your wrist.

A quick read of the state laws that prohibit distracted driving—plus those for D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands—show that language in these statutes vary. While many specifically prohibit handheld mobile phones, there’s less specificity when it comes other gadgets. For example, the District’s law reads as follows:

No person shall use a mobile telephone or other electronic device while operating a moving motor vehicle in the District of Columbia unless the telephone or device is equipped with a hands-free accessory.

Do a smartwatch’s voice capabilities qualify it as being a device with hands-free accessory? (One could also argue that a smartwatch itself is an accessory. A really expensive one). The Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia didn’t respond to a request for comment.

But safety —not the fear of a ticket— should be the main concern for tech-loving drivers, said road safety advocates.

“The technology is advancing faster than the laws can keep up, in many cases,“ said Kara Macek, director of communications for the Governors Highway Safety Association. “Technology in and of itself is fantastic. But when you’re driving, you need to focus on the task at hand.“

In a statement, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that anything that draws a driver’s eyes off the road is a concern, because “visual-manual distractions have been consistently shown…to increase risk and decrease driving performance.“ The agency’s plan to address distracted driving in the future includes looking at the effects that other electronics such as GPS navigation systems, tablets and voice-control software have on distracted driving.

According to NHTSA, 660,000 U.S. drivers are using phones or other electronics at any given “daylight moment”—a number that’s held steady since 2010. And, the agency says, the average text takes your eyes of the road for five seconds, which at highway speeds will take you the length of a football field.

Macek said she already recommends that drivers stow their smartphones while driving to keep them from being tempted by buzzes and beeps. She would recommend doing something similar with the smartwatch. While drivers can reasonably glance at a traditional watch, she said, she thinks it takes way more physical, mental and visual energy to read even a short text message—energy that should be spent focused on where you’re driving.

“There’s an almost biological urge to answer it,“ she said. “It’s bad enough when you have your phone in your purse; imagine when it’s on your arm—just feeling that buzz.“

This Tiny Chip from Google Could Take Wearables to the Next Level

Google on Friday introduced Project Soli, a super-small chip that could fit in a wearable gadget and allow users to control their devices with hand movements. For example, if you wanted to stop a video you were watching, you could make a fist. You could cross your fingers to rewind. Or you could just rub your fingers together to change the volume on your phone, instead of having to use a touchscreen.

It’s a little hard to explain, so Google released a video:

As it stands today, controlling things by gestures can be frustrating. Even the best commercial gesture controllers can leave users feeling like ineffective orchestra conductors as they make big hand and arm movements—sometimes, with no success.

Rather than use cameras, as many gesture controllers currently do, Soli uses radar to detect the motions in your hand and relies on readings to divine what a users’ hand motions are for.

“Radar has been compared to cameras, for example,“ said Emre Karagozler, the project’s lead hardware engineer in the video. “It has very high positional accuracy, which means you can sense the tiniest motions.“

One great promise of smartwatches is that the devices could become the remote control for your life. If Google’s Project Soli ever shows up in normal devices, it could make controlling everything from your thermostat to your television even easier.

Phone Companies Buy TV Providers As Video Goes Mobile

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NEW YORK (AP) — Video is going mobile, and leading TV providers are trying to adapt.

AT&T, for instance, is buying satellite TV provider DirecTV so it can offer packages that marry wireless and wired Internet access with traditional and online video. Verizon is buying AOL for technology to improve advertising on mobile devices. And Comcast tried — unsuccessfully — to get bigger, in part to compete better with online video services such as Netflix and Hulu.

Here’s a look at what those three companies are doing:


If AT&T’s $48.5 billion bid to buy DirecTV goes through this summer, AT&T would become the No. 1 provider of traditional TV services. AT&T’s U-verse video service is already in 6 million households in 21 states. DirecTV’s 20 million households nationwide would give AT&T 26 million video customers in the U.S.

Cable companies now sell packages of video, Internet and phone services through wires to your home. AT&T wants to add a fourth, wireless, to the bundle in the 21 U-verse states. Elsewhere, it would be able to package satellite TV with wireless.

More importantly, AT&T would be able to offer more flexibility in how customers watch video. All cable companies have been embracing TV Everywhere — websites and mobile apps for watching movies and TV shows on the go. But it’s a choppy experience. Providers don’t have the right to offer certain channels on mobile. Some channels work only with some devices.

AT&T says it already has some rights to bring video to mobile. But in other cases, it needs new contracts with TV channels providing the shows. Having DirecTV would give AT&T more bargaining power and would let it deepen relationships with content providers as video transitions to mobile over the next several years.


Verizon’s $4.4 billion bid for AOL is largely about advertising and mobile video. Verizon already offers traditional TV services to 6 million households through FiOS. Having AOL wouldn’t increase that, but would give the country’s biggest wireless carrier more video it can distribute to its phone subscribers.

More importantly, Verizon would have advertising technology from AOL to boost revenue. Although people are using their phones more for video, wireless carriers haven’t seen a corresponding increase in revenue because of price competition. With AOL, Verizon has a better chance of getting additional revenue from advertisers instead.


Comcast, currently the nation’s leading TV provider with 22 million households, wanted to buy Time Warner Cable, which has 11 million households. It abandoned the $45 billion bid, though, after federal regulators objected over worries about a larger company’s ability to undermine online video providers.

But the core of the deal was less about providing mobile video than helping Comcast compete. As people increasingly turn to online services and drop traditional TV channels, Comcast wanted to get bigger so that it could negotiate better deals to carry the channels on its cable lineup. That could have translated into more flexibility for TV Everywhere services on phones.

Comcast still remains primarily a home service provider. It has been improving technology in the home, such as a remote that responds to your voice.

Comcast began diversifying years ago, namely with its purchase of NBCUniversal. Instead of just selling dumb pipes, Comcast was able to make money from content, too. As NBCUniversal channels expand their offerings on mobile, Comcast benefits whether the viewer gets the channels through Comcast, AT&T or Dish.

WV Native with A Beautiful Mind and Master in Mathematics Decision-Making Killed in Crash

MONROE, NJ – A taxi crash in New Jersey left American mathematician John Nash dead Sunday, with his wife Alicia also killed, according to local media reports. Nash, 86, is well known for his work on game theory, and was the inspiration behind Oscar-winning movie (and Russel Crowe vehicle) A Beautiful Mind. Nash won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994, and just this week received the Abel Prize — another prestigious honor in the field. He had suffered from schizophrenia for over 50 years, and his struggle with the illness, along with his razor-sharp, mathematical mind, were the subject of the 2001 movie.

After the death was announced, Russell Crowe tweeted his shocked condolence.

“Stunned… My heart goes out to John & Alicia & family. An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts,” he wrote. Alicia and John were married in 1957, but Nash’s onset of schizophrenia complicated the relationship. They divorced in 1962, according to BBC, but remained close, and eventually remarried in 2001. Nash came to be regarded as one of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century — known both for the originality of his thinking, and his audacity in approaching problems others would hesitate to try. 

Nash’s best-known contribution was his theory on non-cooperative games, which was published in 1950. The theory provided a simple mathematical equation for modelling any number of competitive situations, and is now used in academic fields from economics to social sciences to evolutionary biology, according to The New York Times.

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Many inspiring things have been said about Nash. “This man is a genius,” was the entire contents of a letter to support his application to Princeton’s doctoral program; “Jane Austen wrote six novels, Bach wrote six partitas,” Barry Mazur, a math professor at Harvard, told the Times. “I think Nash’s pure mathematical contributions are on that level.” And Nash, a man with a brilliant mind whose life was defined by soaring highs and guttering lows, predictably had some outstanding (and unsettling) pearls of wisdom to offer, himself.

1. On His Breakthroughs

Nash maintained modesty despite the incredible nature of his mathematical formulas. In a 2002 interview, he said:

I knew it was good work, but you cannot know how much something will be appreciated in the future. You don’t have that crystal ball.

2. On Math

For the non-mathematics academics among us, Nash offered hope. “You don’t have to be a mathematician to have a feel for numbers,” he told PBS.

3. On The Insanity Of Egotism

[W]hen I started thinking irrationally, I imagined myself as really on a Number 1 level. I was the most important person of the world. 

4. On The Angels In His Head

Nash began hearing voices in 1964, and found himself battling against them. But in a 2002 interview with CBS, he seemed to have found peace.

I thought of the voices as … something a little different from aliens. I thought of them more like angels … It’s really my subconscious talking, it was really that … I know that now.

5. On Being Committed

After Nash developed schizophrenia, Alicia — struggling to cope — committed him to institutions several times. His fighting spirit never failed him. He wrote in an autobiographical statement:

[I] spent… five to eight months in hospitals in New Jersey, always on an involuntary basis, and always attempting a legal argument for release. 

6. On Being Rational

In the same statement, he highlighted the limitations of rational, normal thought.

[R]ationality of thought imposes a limit on a person’s concept of his relation to the cosmos. For example, a non-Zoroastrian could think of Zarathustra as simply a madman who led millions of naive followers to adopt a cult of ritual fire worship. But without his “madness” Zarathustra would necessarily have been only another of the millions or billions of human individuals who have lived and then been forgotten… 

7. On Madness As Relief

Alicia Nash and John Nash became prominent mental health advocates late in his life, and his musings on his own experience with schizophrenia are enlightening. Musings like this one:

People are always selling the idea that people with mental illness are suffering. I think madness can be an escape. If things are not so good, you maybe want to imagine something better

8. On His Limitations

Despite his insight and his brilliance, Nash never felt he could completely grasp his own mental state.

I know that if I could really understand mental illness, then it would be appropriate to make a big career shift. I would become a therapist and a leader in terms of mental illness. But I’m not in the position.

9. On Non-conformity

Speaking with PBS in an in-depth interview for the film A Brilliant Madness, Nash said:

Somebody suggested that I was a prodigy. Another time it was suggested that I should be called “bug brains,” because I had ideas, but they were sort of buggy or not perfectly sound… To some extent, sanity is a form of conformity. And to some extent, people who are insane are non-conformists…

10. On The Future

In a beautiful demonstration of how mathematicians think, Nash told PBS how he was thinking about the future, in the wake of his Nobel win. He started off a little downbeat, “I don’t know what the future holds exactly, even if it’s not such a long future, for me.” But quickly applied some logic: “Of course, the future in general is presumably long, unless things really go bad or unless some miracle happens.”

11. On Love

Ah, geniuses. Good at talking game theory, less excellent at discussing their personal lives. In a 2009 interview with Al Jazeera, Nash was asked about the mutual attraction between himself and Alicia that led to their marriage. He pauses for a moment, mumbles a little, and says, “There weren’t too many women in MIT.”

Ladies and gentlemen, John Nash.

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