It seems innocent at first: Fire up the search app on a new Android phone, and the interface asks if you’d like to activate Google Now. “Sure,” you think, “Google already has my calendar, location, and contacts; what’s one more thing?” Here’s what: Google Now draws a distinct technological line. On the side you’re on now, you tell your devices what you want to do. On the far side, the devices do the telling. Google Now is waiting for you over there. It’s the first virtual assistant that truly anticipates your needs. All you have to do is opt in.
Most previous Mars landers used airbag cushions to prevent damage during touch-down. The Curiosity rover was too heavy for airbags, so a team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory created the sky crane. On August 5, the crane successfully lowered Curiosity 65 feet, using three nylon tethers, from a thruster-powered platform to the Martian surface. NASA may well turn to the system, which is scalable for different crafts, on future missions to Mars.
With its residential Haiku model, Big Ass Fans changed every convention established by a century of ceiling-fan design. That hot, loud, electromagnet-driven AC motor is now a cool, quiet, permanently magnetized DC drive that’s 80 percent more efficient. Instead of flat blades, three airfoils slice through the air. Whoosh mode, one of 10 settings, mimics nature to increase the cooling effect: It varies wind speed by precisely 0.47 hertz, so that it feels more like a breeze on the skin. From $825
Cast your vote in our bracket to help us determine the greatest innovation since we started naming great innovations. We pit products against their kin in four divisions: Vehicles, Science & Technology, Electronics, and The Internet. The ultimate goal: to name the most important product of the last quarter century.