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A New Way To Hear

Neuroscientist David Eagleman shows off the VEST at a Ted Talk last year. The device could let deaf people understand audible conversations. Unlike a cochlear implant, it’s noninvasive–and costs only a fraction of the price.

What if our bodies had a new way—other than our eardrums—to hear the world around us?

That’s what neuroscientist David Eagleman wondered five years ago. He looked at the body for answers and saw a huge sound jack. “We have this giant input channel called our skin,” he says, “and we aren’t using it.”

So Eagleman, along with Scott Novich, his then-grad student at Baylor College of Medicine, created the Versatile Extra-Sensory Transducer, or VEST. The VEST system is worn like it sounds. Through 32 tiny motors, it translates sound waves into vibrations on your back.

First, a computer or smartphone picks up sounds from your surroundings and breaks down the audio sample into a set of specific frequencies. Each frequency band in the set triggers one of 32 motors in the VEST. With time and practice, your brain learns to unconsciously interpret the series of vibrations as sound—and individual sounds as words in a language.

“There is no theoretical reason why this can’t be almost as good as the ears,” says Eagleman.

So far, he has trained deaf people to recognize single words through the VEST. He hopes to eventually help them understand sentences, and then full conversations. Just like with language, Eagleman discovered, children—whose brains are more malleable—learned to interpret the VEST more easily than adults did.

Eagleman says his device could one day be deployed in dozens of professions to better understand complex environments. A pilot could interpret a plane’s status through the VEST’s vibrations. An astronaut could literally feel the health of the International Space Station. Eagleman and Novich’s startup, Neosensory, plans to develop the VEST for all kinds of uses so someday we all can experience this sixth sense. “The possibilities are endless for the kind of information we could be streaming in,” says Eagleman.

How VEST Works

This article was originally published in the September/October 2023 issue of Popular Science, under the title “Listen with Your Skin.”

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Memories Of The Ipod: A Device That Transformed Our Relationship To Music

It’s official: Apple’s groundbreaking portable music player is no more. All we’re left with now is memories of the iPod, and perhaps that one last model some plan to keep forever.

The decision was inevitable. Most of us now use our iPhones and streaming music services to listen to music. The other role played by the iPod Touch – as a device for kids too young to have a phone – has largely been supplanted by the iPad. All the same, it’s still a somewhat sad moment …

Life before iPod

I’ve always loved listening to music, and while the first Sony Walkman stretched my meagre budget to the max, I had to have one.

It’s kind of hard to imagine now how revolutionary a device it was. For the first time, we had a portable music player so small and light that it was practical to take it with us everywhere, and I did just that.

The big drawback, of course, was that it was limited to a single album at a time. Still, that was good enough for everyday use, and mine was indeed used every day. I later upgraded to a Discman, as CDs took over.

As an early adopter of gadgets, it surprised no one when I bought the first ever mp3 player: the MPMan F10 (above right). The tiny amount of flash storage meant I was still limited to one album at a time, and swapping out music was less convenient than switching tapes, but it was way smaller and lighter, and hey, it was a gadget.

Buying an iPod on launch day in 2001

As soon as the iPod was announced, I knew I had to have one. A thousand songs in my pocket? That was irresistible!

I happened to be in New York the day it went on sale. I’d always promised myself I’d fly Concorde one day, and managed to get two of the last discounted tickets available before British Airways announced the upcoming retirement of the service, and only full-fare ($5,000 one-way!) tickets were available. As I’d secured that deal, I tasked my then-girlfriend with finding a suitable hotel deal, and she managed to get a room at the Waldorf. A mix-up with our booking resulted in a swift apology and an upgrade to a suite. This trip was going well! Adding an iPod into the mix would be the icing on the cake.

I remember we had to trek halfway across Manhattan before finding a place that had any left in stock, and actually getting my hands on one felt like a triumph. Despite being in the city for just five days, with a lot of sightseeing on the agenda, I spent a few hours in our hotel room transferring music to it, to the bemusement of my non-techy other half. Travelling with her, it wasn’t like I was going to don my headphones and listen until the return flight (not on Concorde!), but still, I had this incredible new device and I wanted to set it up and at least test it.

The user interface was just genius! To have a thousand songs on the device (I of course had to test the claim!) and still be able to quickly select the one I wanted felt like magic to me. I somehow did manage to resist the temptation to abandon my girlfriend to my music collection, but listened to it non-stop on the flight home. After that, it was rare indeed for me to leave home without it – and I think it was many months before it ceased to feel like magic.

30GB iPod Classic in 2003

My next upgrade was to the 30GB model in 2003. By then, I was greedy. A thousand songs felt insufficient, and being able to store a very large proportion of my music collection on the device was too much to resist.

This model also changed the way I listened to music at home. Instead of playing CDs, I hooked it up to my hifi system, to give me the same instant access to my music I enjoyed when on the move.

This was also the point at which I had to admit that I was no audiophile. The quality of mp3 files available then was significantly lower than CD quality. When I listened to the same track back-to-back in each format, the mp3 version sounded noticeably muddier. However, while I could easily tell the difference, and would choose CDs for active listening, my everyday background music was played on theiPod.

Resisting other models

Other models came along. The iPod Mini. The iPod Shuffle (so cute I wanted one, but had no excuse for one as my Classic still went with me everywhere). The iPod Photo. The iPod Nano. However, Apple did manage to sell me one more…

160GB iPod Classic in 2007

Finally Apple offered a model with enough storage for my entire music collection! This was the holy grail. No longer having to decide what music I might want to listen to while on the move, instead having access to any of it, anytime, anywhere. I cannot begin to tell you how happy that made me!

I kept that model for years and years. Indeed, even when I’d switched to listening to music on my iPhone – the convenience of a single device with easy(ish) music swapping finally outweighing the joy of having all my music all the time – I still kept it. It became instead my car music player, permanently wired into power and car stereo AUX port. I then had all my music in the car.

I did eventually sell it, when Spotify took over as my primary music source, and I could then once more listen to anything, any time, anywhere. Part of me still wishes I hadn’t, though!


Today my HomePods are my primary music device at home, simply asking Siri to play what I want, while my iPhone is my mobile music player. I actually subscribe to both Spotify and Apple Music; the former for tango, the latter for everything else. That arrangement means that both services are able to recommend appropriate genre music to me – I’ve been too scared to mix the two, for fear that the recommendation engines would explode in confusion.

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Windows Hello Lets Your Face, Finger Do The Talking

Windows Hello lets your face, finger do the talking

Ever since Apple introduced Touch ID in the iPhone 5s, the tech world has started, or re-started, to become obsessed with using our unique body features to implement security on our mobile devices. After all, fingerprints and irises are much more difficult to hack than alphanumeric passwords. Riding on that wave, Microsoft is announcing two new complementary security features coming in Windows 10. Windows Hello lets you use some body parts to greet and unlock your device while “Passport” can use that to authenticate you to apps and websites.

Windows Hello is Microsoft’s collective name for its upcoming biometric authentication system and includes not just the common fingerprint but also face recognition and even irises. What makes Hello more secure than passwords, according to Microsoft, is that there are no passwords to be hacked in the first place. The system uses both your unique body features plus the device’s own unique ID to act as the key to not only unlock a Windows 10 device but also to authenticate to apps, content, and even websites. And in the case of facial recognition, putting up a photo of your face won’t work either, as Hello also uses infrared light to make sure it’s a real, living face or iris and not just some simulacrum.

Windows Hello goes hand in hand with “Passport”, not yet the final name and just the codename for a new programming system that will be available to app developers as well as web managers. Like Hello, the point of Passport is to do away with passwords, which can be hacked on the remote server or intercepted en route. Passport requires users to prove that they have possession of the device, either through a PIN or through Windows Hello, and only then will Passport grant access to content. Passport, however, is not a magic wand that will automatically happen and developers will have to incorporate the system into their software or servers for it to work.

Microsoft assures that your biometric keys are stored securely only on the device itself and is never sent over the network to authenticate the user, which would be like sending a password over the wire, which defeats the purpose. Those keys are used to only authenticate with Hello and “Passport”, the latter of which does the rest of the work of authenticating the user to other services. The features are also completely optional and users can just keep on using passwords if they prefer.

That said, as fancy and convenient as it may sound, Windows Hello works by combining both hardware and software components, which means that not every Windows 10 device, especially those just upgrading to Window 8, will be able to support it. For fingerprint, devices will, of course, need a fingerprint scanner. For facial and iris recognition, Microsoft says that all Windows 10 devices that sport an Intel RealSense 3D Camera F200 will support Windows Hello.

SOURCE: Microsoft

9 Portable Apps For Windows That You Need In Your Pocket

By now the number of flash drives and USB sticks that you’ve accrued in your life is probably creeping into double figures, as they lie listlessly in your drawer while you figure out whether you should turn them into dedicated movie drives or something equally creative.

So here’s an idea for you: you could fill one of your spare flash drives with portable apps which you can run directly from the disks and plug and play in whatever computer you like. Here are the best ones out there to get you started.

1. Search Everything

The Windows search tool never really quite cuts it when it comes to finding better-hidden files, and the files that it does find it tends to take its sweet time doing so. Voidtools’ Search Everything has for a long time been the go-to app for Windows users needing to dig deeper, offering super-fast indexing and searching within a simple minimal interface.

The portable version means that whatever PC you jump on, you’ll be able to find the files you need in a cinch.

2. Notepad++

Whether you’re looking to do some text editing or tweaking the config files in games and emulators, Notepad++ is the best tool for the job. The things you’d do in Notepad by default become much easier in Notepad++, thanks to proper tabbed editing and an interface that numbers each line of code or text for a clearer picture of what you’re doing.

It may not be much to look at but is highly customizable and essential for anyone who wants to quickly burrow into files and edit them under the hood.

3. Google Chrome

Portable web browsers let you surf the Web (anyone still refer to it as that?) without leaving any trace of your personal information like browsing history, cookies, login sessions, etc. on the computer. Obviously, as soon as you’re connected to the Web with the portable version of Google Chrome and use your Google accounts, your data will inevitably end up in the company’s vaults, but Chrome users are aware of that by now. The fact remains that it’s the best browser around (and certainly better than an outdated version of Internet Explorer if you’re in an Internet cafe).

4. 7-Zip

Not long ago, we wrote that 7-Zip is the best file compression tool around, doing the job that much more quickly than its closest rivals. 7-Zip is a free and open-source application with a high compression ratio and powerful file manager and is worthy of keeping around in your USB portable apps collection for when you need to do some quick compressing.

5. GIMP 6. VLC Media Player

VLC has long since been the fastest, most robust video player out there, and being portable makes it even better. Using VLC media player as a portable, you can play a vast number of formats – such as MKV – alongside the standard MP4 that makes up most movies. It has just about all the video codecs you need built in, too, so there’s no need to download extra ones.

7. LastPass

LastPass is a great password manager which lets you securely store and manage all your passwords. It garbles and encrypts your passwords and stores them online. (Don’t worry, it’s very safe.) Handily, the portable version integrates with portable web browsers like Firefox and Chrome.

8. CCleaner

CCleaner is a free Windows cleanup utility, which lets you clean such junk as redundant registry keys, cookies, and excess temporary files. If you want to wipe your web browsing after you’ve been in an Internet cafe, for example, then you can just pop in a USB stick with the portable version of CCleaner on it, then use it to wipe all your browsing history. (And you can let it clean up the entire computer while you’re at it!)

9. LibreOffice

LibreOffice is my favorite alternative to Microsoft Office. The open-source suite contains equivalents to Word, PowerPoint and Excel and has much the same compatibility and functionality as Office. The portable version brings all the power of the entire suite to whatever PC you’re on, without having to go through the tedious process of installing it all before using it.


A good way to think of portable apps is that they’re your personal computing setup on a USB stick, ready to be used on any Windows PC you plug into. Obviously, each person has different needs, and there are hundreds of portable apps out there, so if you don’t find what you need in this list, don’t let that put you off searching for the portable apps you really need!

This article was first published in October 2014 and was updated in June 2023.

Robert Zak

Content Manager at Make Tech Easier. Enjoys Android, Windows, and tinkering with retro console emulation to breaking point.

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Find Your Lost Android Phones With Device Manager

Almost since the smartphone became the carry-around device of choice, developers have scrambled to find a way to help users locate misplaced handsets. While many good ones have come to market, Google has now decided to release its own solution to help you find lost Android phones, and tablets as well.

Simply having the search giant and Android maker jump into the market certainly is capable cutting into the business developers such as Seek Droid, Find My Droid and others. So, what is Google offering and can it compete with those existing apps in the market?

No Mobile App Required

Yes, you read that correctly – you do not need to install any software on your device. Every Android device requires that you activate using your Google account. The company, therefore, already knows what you have. There are exceptions to this – for instance, the service does not work with my Kindle Fire HD. This is because Amazon’s tablets run a highly specialized version of Android, and setup requires your Amazon account information, not Google’s.

The search giant also runs what is arguably the besting mapping system in the world. Combining these two factors makes Google uniquely qualified to handle the task, perhaps better than any other company.

How It All Works

Google has set up a special Device Manager web site to make all of this work. When you arrive on the site, you will be greeted with a large full-screen Google Map (in my case North America). It will then attempt to locate your device and pinpoint it on the map. This all takes place surprisingly quickly.

As the map zooms all the way in, it will pinpoint your location or, rather, the location of your device. This has been surprisingly accurate in all of my tests.

Once you are pinpointed on the map, the boxes on the left will populate with more detailed information. In the upper box, you will find a drop-down list of all of your devices, with an option to the right to rename a particular phone or tablet. This is followed by the name of your location (nearest town) and a message telling you that Google feels it has you within 25 meters. That last bit changes, though I have never seen it exceed 100 meters.

Finally, at the bottom, there are two buttons – the left is designed to “ring” (yes this works for tablets also) your chosen device. The right one is labeled “erase device”, but is greyed out. This is because I have not enabled “factory reset” on my devices. The lower box explains this and gives the option to  send the enable option to the phone or tablet.


This is by far the simplest solution for lost and stolen devices, and its all free and easy to use, no matter how many devices you own. No mobile app to install, incredible accuracy and, given that it’s Android, Google is far less likely to suddenly decide to kill it off, as they have done with so many other seemingly good ideas like Reader.

Alan Buckingham

Alan is an avid fan of all things technology, including Microsoft, Android, Google, and more. When not writing about or using gadgets and software, he can be found on the trails hiking or mountain biking.

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Skincare And Beauty Tips For Dark Skin

Dark skin is distinct from other skin tones and has different skincare requirements. Individual skin issues like hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, and dark circles are more common in those with dark skin. The finest skincare and cosmetic procedures for persons with dark skin to attain healthy, vibrant, and even-toned skin will be covered in this article.

Skin Care Tips for People with Dark Skin

Following these guidelines can help persons with dark complexion look beautiful, vibrant, and self-assured.

Wear Sunscreen

Apply it liberally to all exposed skin, including your face, neck, and hands. If you’re going outside or perspiring, reapply it every two hours.


Exfoliation involves eliminating dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, which can assist to improve the texture and tone of your skin. In order to avoid ingrown hairs, which can cause hyperpigmentation and scarring, exfoliation can be especially crucial for persons with dark skin.

Exfoliating dark skin requires caution, though, since abrasive scrubbing or chemical peels can irritate and harm the skin. Instead, search for products that contain mild exfoliants like enzymes or alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), and apply them no more than once or twice a week. You can maintain your skin appearing supple, radiant, and healthy by exfoliating on a regular basis.

Use Products with Natural Ingredients

Sulfates, parabens, and perfumes are among the harsh chemicals found in many skincare products, which can irritate skin that is already sensitive. Choose soft, natural products that won’t trigger inflammation or discolouration while caring for those with dark skin. Use products with natural components like aloe vera, chamomile, and tea tree oil, which are calming and nourishing for the skin, rather than those with artificial fragrances and colours. Natural skin care products can help maintain healthy, radiant skin without irritating or harming it.

Moisturize Daily

Dark skinned individuals frequently have a tendency toward dryness, which can cause flakiness, itching, and irritation. It’s crucial to use a daily moisturizer made for your skin type to fight these problems. Seek for a moisturizer with moisturizing and nourishing components, such as glycerin, jojoba oil, or shea butter. After bathing or showering, apply it all over your body, paying special attention to any particularly dry spots like your knees, elbows, and feet. You can maintain your skin soft, supple, and healthy-looking by moisturizing frequently.

Stay Away from Skincare Products Containing Hydroquinone

To lessen the appearance of dark spots and hyperpigmentation, skincare products frequently contain the skin-lightening ingredient hydroquinone. Nevertheless, it’s been connected to cancer, rashes, and even skin irritability. Hydroquinone use can cause an uneven skin tone in those with dark complexion because it can brighten certain regions of the skin while leaving others black. Instead, seek for products with all-natural skin-brightening components that are kinder and safer for the skin, such as vitamin C, kojic acid, or licorice root.

Uphold a Wholesome Diet and a Healthy Lifestyle

The condition and appearance of your skin can be significantly influenced by what you put into your body. Your skin may benefit from the nutrients it needs to look its best by eating a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, healthy grains, and lean protein. Moreover, drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated might help keep your skin moisturized and plump. Finally, maintaining a healthy weight and controlling stress can also support glowing, healthy skin. You can promote the health and beauty of your skin naturally by taking care of your body and mind.

Don’t Look Down on Your Skin Colour

For those with dark complexion, embracing their inherent beauty is a crucial component of their skincare and beauty regimen. Focus on enhancing your beauty using all-natural and gentle cosmetics rather than trying to modify your skin tone or cover up your natural traits. You may create a style that celebrates your own beauty by selecting skincare products that match your skin tone and applying makeup hues that highlight your features. Additionally, taking care of yourself and living a healthy lifestyle can encourage your skin’s inherent attractiveness and make you feel beautiful and secure in your own skin.

How to Choose Right Makeup for Dark Complexation?

Here are some guidelines for selecting the best cosmetics for those with dark skin −

It’s vital to know your skin’s undertone (cool, warm, or neutral) while choosing makeup, much as it is when picking the correct foundation. This will assist you in selecting hues that flatter your skin tone and give you a natural appearance.

As previously said, darker skin tones have a tendency to absorb more light, which can cause makeup colours to appear less brilliant. Seek for highly pigmented shades. To make sure that the colours show up on your skin, choose for makeup that is bright and highly pigmented.

Use a decent primer before foundation and other makeup products to make them last longer and appear perfect. This will give your makeup a smooth base and make it easier for it to stick to your skin.

Don’t Shame on Your Skin Colour

The uniqueness and beauty of having dark skin should be praised and cherished. Sadly, society has a history of endorsing Eurocentric aesthetic ideals that frequently exclude persons with darker skin tones. Yet it’s crucial to keep in mind that beauty comes in a variety of shades and shapes. Dark skin should be honoured and valued because it represents diversity and strength. By ignoring those with darker skin, we support negative preconceptions and constrict our perception of what true beauty is. Let’s embrace dark skin as a distinctive feature of our cultural history and celebrate its beauty instead. We can make a world where people of all skin tones are valued and cherished by working together.


To address their particular challenges and keep a glowing, healthy complexion, people with dark skin need to follow specific skincare and cosmetic regimens. This entails utilizing skincare products that are appropriate for their skin type, shielding their skin from UV radiation, and taking care of hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone. The natural beauty of dark skin should also be enhanced by using specific makeup techniques and hair care routines. Those with dark complexion can appear perfect, radiant, and self-assured by adhering to these suggestions and techniques.

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