Weekend news round-up: Sony PS4 sells 1m units in US; Twitter ditches redesign

18 Nov 2013

The Sony PlayStation 4 console

In our trawl of the weekend’s technology stories, PlayStation 4 has hit more than 1m sales in its first weekend in the US; the road from academia to Silicon Valley is also paved with legal pitfalls; and a US mechanic creates a baby-saving device.

PlayStation notches up 1m PS4 sales in first weekend

Sony has sold more than 1m of its new PlayStation 4 consoles on the first weekend of sales in the US, Mashable reported. The console goes on sale in Ireland and the rest of the world on 29 November.

“Thousands of gamers waited in line to purchase the PS4 at various midnight launch events across North America on Friday, including at the The Standard in New York City, where Sony unveiled game teaser trailers for Uncharted and Destiny.

“Despite favourable sales figures and positive reviews, however, some PS4 buyers are reporting that their consoles are defective,” Mashable reported.

Has Apple bought PrimeSense?

Apple has reportedly acquired Israel-based 3D sensor company PrimeSense for $345m,” according The Next Web.

“News of a potential deal emerged in July this year, but today’s report says that legal issues delayed its completion.

“PrimeSense is best known as the company behind the original version of Microsoft’s Kinect, but the company sells its own 3D sensors and middleware for use in markets as diverse as TV, mobile, computers, retail, robotics, industry and healthcare. If the deal has indeed occurred, Apple could find use for the technology in at least four of those fields.”

The rocky road from the campus to Silicon Valley

The New York Times told the tale of Dr Joy Laskar, a brilliant academic who appeared to have the Midas touch, balancing a prestigious teaching role at Georgia Tech with a clutch of successful tech start-ups he sold for US$40m.

He was about to complete his next major feat with Sayana, a wireless chip firm he developed on the Georgia Tech campus before armed police descended on the operation and he and his colleagues were suspended from Georgia Tech for alleged accounting regularities in relation to grants to fund Sayana.

It is a salutary tale that not all academics gracefully make the leap from the classroom to the boardroom.

“Dr Laskar’s downfall, little known outside Georgia Tech and the clubby world of chip design, is an extreme illustration of the misunderstandings – and legal risks – that academics-turned-entrepreneurs have to navigate as they try to turn classroom concepts into successful companies,” The New York Times reported.

“On one side are universities that want to make money from faculty research. On the other are commercial interests that don’t always play by the academic rules. In the middle are people like Dr Laskar, an ambitious man with one eye on Silicon Valley and the other on his academic work in Atlanta.”

Twitter ditches redesign

Twitter’s plans to roll out a new intuitive interface aimed at mobile users have been put on ice, TechCrunch reported. The redesign would have favoured a swipeable interface rather than the current four-button interface.

“The design had a brighter, almost iOS 7-like feel, hinting that what Android beta testers were seeing could potentially become the new public build that would be pushed across both Android and iOS platforms, as the company attempted to better unify its product versions across devices.

“But in an update to both the alpha and beta builds this week, Twitter rolled back these changes, reverting testers to the older user interface where four black buttons (Timeline, @Replies, Discover, and Me) have again returned. They are at the top of the screen in these builds, not the bottom as on iOS.”

Apple stores to be kitted out with iBeacon location technology

9to5Mac reported that Apple Stores are to be kitted out with an RFID-like technology called iBeacons.

“An iBeacon system could allow a store to install transmitters that would wirelessly connect to an iPhone and tell the phone its location with respect to items on shelves. This iPhone could then perform additional functionality if it is equipped with a specialised application. According to multiple sources, Apple is planning to soon enable just that in its retail store.”

Car mechanic devises device that could save newborn babies

The New York Times has reported on the innovation created by a 59-year-old mechanic called Jorge Odón who, inspired by the uncorking of a bottle of wine, devised a new device that could save a baby stuck in the birth canal.

“Odón, 59, an Argentine car mechanic, built his first prototype in his kitchen, using a glass jar for a womb, his daughter’s doll for the trapped baby, and a fabric bag and sleeve sewn by his wife as his life-saving device.

“Unlikely as it seems, the idea that took shape on his counter has won the enthusiastic endorsement of the World Health Organisation and major donors, and an American medical technology company has just licensed it for production.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years