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Bytes: What’s new in tech

Microsoft’s iPad trade-in; A ‘condom’ for your USB; Medicinal robo-maggot

Microsoft’s iPad trade-in
Microsoft wants iPad users to switch to its Surface tablet—and is now giving them a $200 incentive, said Ian Paul in PCWorld.com. With a glut of Surfaces in its inventory, Microsoft is giving anyone who trades in an iPad a $200 gift card that can be used toward the purchase of a Surface or other products available through the Microsoft store. The promotion will run until late October, letting Microsoft “clear Surface inventory ahead of a second-generation Surface announcement” next week. The new Surface 2 is rumored to feature a faster processor and a higher-resolution display. The tablet will also likely be loaded with an upgraded operating system, running Windows 8.1. With Windows 8.1 officially launching Oct. 18 and the iPad trade-in promotion ending Oct. 27, expect the Surface 2 to hit shelves around Halloween.

A ‘condom’ for your USB
A security firm is offering new protection for USB connections, said Neal Ungerleider in FastCompany.com. Int3.cc is marketing “USB condoms” that protect users from “accidental data exchange” when they try to charge up the battery of a device by plugging it into the USB port of an unfamiliar computer. “The USB condoms work by cutting off the data pins in a standard connector and only allowing power pins to connect through,” so users can recharge their phones or music players without worrying about hackers or viruses. The company says the devices, out this month, “will be priced very, very cheaply.”

Medicinal robo-maggots
It’s “gross, but great for minimally invasive surgery,” said Shaunacy Ferro in PopSci.com. A neurosurgeon at the University of Maryland School of Medicine is developing robotic “maggots” that could “eat away at a brain tumor from the inside,” using an electrocautery tool. The remote-controlled robo-maggots could be a big help to brain surgeons, who need MRI machines to distinguish between healthy and tumor tissue during surgery. “You can’t exactly do a full brain surgery on someone when they’re locked away in a cramped scanner.” The big challenge is finding a way to control the maggots without an electromagnetic motor, which would “interfere with the magnetic field that’s integral” to an MRI’s imaging process. The latest prototype, now being tested on pig and human cadavers, uses a system of pulleys and springs to navigate the brain.

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