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VOL. 131 | NO. 5 | Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Latest in Gadgets: Even Footballs Are Getting Smarter

AP

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — The latest developments surrounding the consumer-electronics show in Las Vegas known as CES (all times PST):

12:15 p.m.

Kids tossing around a football probably hope to throw a perfect spiral in a big game one day. Technology is about to help them out.

Sports equipment maker Wilson is preparing to release this year a smart football equipped with accelerometers that measures stats like spiral efficiency, spin rate, speed and distance. It can even tell if it was caught or dropped.

Developed by a trained aerospace engineer, the ball knows to wake up its Bluetooth transmitter with a specific snap motion, says Bob Thurman, Wilson's vice president of innovation. And because it can ignore the toss back by the receiver, a future Hall of Famer can drive down the field under time pressure without actually going anywhere. Talk about fantasy football.

Wilson is already selling a smart basketball for $199 that can tell whether you've swished or missed and keeps track of your lifetime stats. It wakes up by being spun in the air. Thurman says the ball is 97 percent accurate at reading misses or makes. That's probably better than your free throw percentage.

— Ryan Nakashima, AP Business Writer, Las Vegas

___

11:30 a.m.

Chinese drone maker Ehang Inc. is unveiling what it calls the world's first drone capable of carrying a human passenger.

Ehang's booth in the Las Vegas Convention Center features a prototype of the Ehang 184 — covered with a cloth for a planned noon unveiling. In the meantime, the company played a video of the vehicle flying over cityscapes. It looks like a small helicopter but with four doubled propellers spinning parallel to the ground like other drones.

According to the company, the electric-powered drone can carry up to 100 kilograms of weight (220 pounds) and fly for 23 minutes at sea level. With propellers folded up, it's designed to fit in a single parking spot. The cabin fits one person and a small backpack and even has air conditioning and a reading light, Ehang said.

Some of the company's claims border on the heroic. The company said the drone can be fully charged in 2 hours, adding that after setting a flight plan, passengers only need to give two commands, "take off" and "land," each controlled by a single click.

U.S. authorities are just starting to lay out guidelines for drone use, and a human-passenger drone seems certain to face strict scrutiny.

— Ryan Nakashima, AP Technology Writer, Las Vegas

___

11:15 a.m.

The beginning of life itself? Now there's an app for that.

Pregnancy-test maker First Response is introducing a new Bluetooth-enabled stick that still requires nature's call. But it'll also distract a would-be mom with in-app videos or quizzes from BuzzFeed while she waits three minutes before she gets her answer.

Pregnancy tests have evolved rapidly from sticks with one or two lines, to digital readouts that say "yes" or "no," to tests that can detect a likely pregnancy several days before a missed period. Competitor Clear Blue also offers a digital test that it says can estimate the number of weeks a woman has been pregnant prior to taking the tests.

Having the test talk to your phone may be a new development. The app is designed to stick around as a resource for expectant mothers; it offers a calendar aid for calculating the likely due date and assistance for reaching out to a doctor and for letting others in on the news via texts and email.

First Response says the tests will ship to stores in the spring and should cost $14.99 or $21.99 depending on where they're sold. That's a bit more than the company's other digital and analog versions that offer two for $9.99 or $14.99.

— Kimberly Pierceall, AP Writer, Las Vegas

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10:30 a.m.

Netflix subscribers watched 12 billion hours of programming on the Internet video service during the final three months of 2015, a nearly 50 percent increase from the previous year.

CEO Reed Hastings disclosed the growth during a Wednesday presentation in Las Vegas at CES, a high-profile showcase for gadgets and technology services.

Netflix entered the fourth quarter with 69 million subscribers compared to the previous year's 53 million, a group that watched 8.25 billion hours of programming. That means Netflix subscribers watched a weekly average of 13 hours of programming in the 2015 period versus 12 hours in 2014.

The company's periodic revelations about the behavior of its subscribers are one of the few ways outsiders can gauge the popularity of its series and movies.

Netflix's stock rose $2.40 to $110.07 in early afternoon trading.

— Michael Liedtke, AP Technology Writer, San Francisco

___

10:00 a.m.

The much-hyped Oculus Rift virtual reality headset will cost $599 and ship to 20 countries beginning on March 28, the company said Wednesday.

Bundles that include a powerful computer needed to use the device will be available for pre-order in February starting at $1499.

The pricing details and shipping information had been long awaited. Oculus, which Facebook bought in 2014 for $2 billion, began accepting pre-orders for the device at 11 a.m. E.T. on Wednesday.

It will also be available in some undisclosed retail locations starting in April.

The Rift comes with a built-in headphones and mic, sensor and an Xbox One controller. It also comes with a remote to help navigate virtual worlds.

PiperJaffray analyst Gene Munster said the cost of the Rift is higher than the $449 he expected, but said he still expects a few hundred thousand units to sell during 2016.

Mae Anderson, AP Technology Writer, New York

___

8:15 a.m.

The CES gadget show, which officially opens at 10:00 a.m. today in Las Vegas, has begun catering more heavily to startups hoping to break through the noise. The sprawling show has sections for wearable fitness gadgets, drones, autonomous vehicles, education, virtual reality, video games, robots, 3-D printers and smart homes.

The startups will help fill a gap left by many of technology's biggest names, who have been no-shows for some time. That roster includes Apple Inc., which has skipped the show since the 1990s, Microsoft Corp., which abandoned its keynote slot after 2012, Google's parent company Alphabet Inc. and Amazon.com Inc.

The Consumer Technology Association that runs CES is aiming for attendance this year at or below last year's record 176,000.

Shawn DuBravac, the CTA's chief economist, argues the show's maturity is a good thing because its focus has shifted over two decades from the "technologically possible" to the "technologically meaningful." In other words, it's no longer about a robot that can walk up steps. It's about robots that actually mow your lawn.

CES is first and foremost a venue for promoting the tech industry, and sometimes the hype falls flat. 3-D screen technology unveiled at CES in 2010 went from the next big thing to a mostly unused feature. Netbooks introduced in 2009 took a back seat to the iPad released a year later. And concepts such as the smart home have taken a really long time to materialize.

— Ryan Nakashima, AP Technology Writer, Las Vegas

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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