dimanche 31 mai 2015

How to customize Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10130


On Friday Microsoft surprised us by releasing a new build of Windows 10 to Insiders on the Fast ring. This build includes new and updated icons, improvements to the Microsoft Edge browser (still called Spartan, unbelievably), Jump List tweaks and more.

Microsoft has also introduced additional options for customizing Windows 10. In particular, you can now easily choose what appears on the Start menu. It’s very easy to make changes to the OS's appearance, so let’s take a look at the options.

Open the Settings app from the Start menu, and click on Personalization. Background lets you change the Windows wallpaper, while Colors lets you choose an accent, show colors on the Start menu, taskbar and action center, and toggle transparency on or off. You can also access high contrast settings here.

Lock screen gives you three style choices -- Spotlight, Picture and Slide Show. You can choose apps to display status notifications on the lock screen here.

Themes gives you access to classic theme settings, as well as related settings (advanced sound, desktop icon, and mouse pointer).

Finally, in the latest build there’s a new Start customization option. From here you can choose whether you want to receive occasional app and content suggestions. That’s personally the last thing I want to see in Windows, and it will be interesting to see what gets pushed to users when the OS is released. You can also choose whether to see recently opened programs in Start, and also whether recently added apps groups should appear as well.

From the menu you can customize the links that appear in the Start menu. You can add or remove the likes of File Explorer, Settings, Documents, Downloads, Music, Pictures, Videos, HomeGroup, Network, and Personal folder.

customize list

Start behaviors can be customized here too. You can choose whether you want the full screen Start when in the desktop, and whether recently opened items should appear in Start or the taskbar.

I'm sure more customization options will appear in later builds, but it's certainly looking good at the moment.

Pre-order Windows 10 Professional OEM for $149.99

Pre-order Windows 10 Professional OEM for $149.99

Microsoft has been promising that Windows 10 will see the light of day this summer for a while now, and current rumors suggest that we might hit RTM as early as July. Now a new listing on Newegg reveals -- perhaps -- that the Windows 10 release date is pegged for 31 August.

A pre-order listing for the OEM version of Windows 10 Professional has popped up on the site with a price tag of $149.99. Windows 10 Home OEM is listed for $109.99 Based on the previous pricing for OEM versions of Windows, it's fair to assume that this is the full version rather than the upgrade edition. The suggested release dates aside, the first thing that many people will jump on is that fact that Windows 10 has a price tag at all...

Microsoft has only said that upgrades from Windows 7 and Windows 8.x will be free of charge within the first year. There will be people who are upgrading from an older version of Windows, or are building a machine from scratch and need a full version of Windows to get up and running. This is who this version is aimed at.

Microsoft is yet to officially announce any sort of release schedule beyond 'summer' and the date has not been confirmed. It's entirely possible that this was a mistake by Newegg or wishful thinking, but it could just as easily be a guess on the website's part, or even just a marketing ploy. In the meantime, we probably have at least a few more preview builds to look forward to as we draw closer and closer to gold code.

samedi 30 mai 2015

UK and Canadian customers can now customize their Roku home screen


Roku continues to grow its set-top box market and improve its offerings. So it's no surprise that yet another feature is beginning to roll out, this one for customers in both the UK and Canada. If you're tired of that purple background screen then you're in luck, with the option for new custom themes.

Customers will now find a "themes" category in the Channel Store and you'll be on your way. At the moment there are ten home screens to choose from, but Roku promises that more will be on the way soon.

"There’s a number of fan favourite themes, including Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation options, which allow the Enterprise voyage to continue while you’re taking a streaming break! For petrol heads there is a Fast & Furious theme and there’s also a Big Lebowski theme for those who like a chilled pace of life, like The Dude", according to Roku.

This isn't completely free, as prices range from £0.69 to £1.99 and $0.99 to $1.99 in both the UK and Canada. You can set them up from the Settings page by clicking Themes.

Google brings app invites to iOS and Android devs

Google bring app invites to iOS and Android

You've just discovered an incredible app or game and want to tell everyone you know about it... what do you do? Email your friends with a link to the relevant app in the App Store or Google Play? Make an announcement on Facebook to your contacts? With the introduction of App Invites, Google is bringing this sharing right into apps themselves.

Launched in beta at I/O 2015, App Invites is a feature that does very much what it says on the tin: it enables users of compatible apps to invite their contacts to install an app by sending out notifications via SMS or email. It's a feature that will be welcomed by developers as it opens up one of the most valuable forms of advertising -- word of mouth.

App Invites draw on an idea that is used by social networks, that of suggesting contacts. As well as enabling users to invite anyone they like to use an app, it will also be able to suggest which of them is most likely to be interested. In the case of a music app, users who have installed similar apps may appear in the list of suggestions, and this is almost certainly going to cause some concern for anyone keeping an eye on their privacy.

This is something that is very much about driving traffic. Invites that are sent out include Install links, and developers have the option of supporting discount codes and unique content that can be shared in this way. There's tight integration with Google Analytics, making it possible to closely monitor invite campaigns.

Developers can get started with App Invites for Android and iOS right now.

EFF fights abuse of court orders to close sites in the wake of Grooveshark

EFF fights abuse of court orders to close sites in the wake of Grooveshark

The EFF (Electronic Freedom Foundation) has involved itself in lots of online battles -- including the fightback against NSA surveillance, and the drive for net neutrality. The latest fight sees the organization joining forces with web performance and security firm CloudFlare in tackling the site blocking activities of the record industry.

The digital rights group is battling record labels which it says are forcing web firms into becoming the "copyright police". The move was prompted by the closure of Grooveshark, a music website run by one of CloudFlare's clients. It re-opens the question of who is ultimately responsible for the content that appears on sites -- those posting it, those hosting it, or any other company involved in the delivery?

When Grooveshark was closed down, it was done so via a sealed court order. EFF feels this is unfair and that courts are handing out retraining orders that are too far-reaching. It hopes that by bringing the matter out into the open, greater transparency will be encouraged. As things stand at the moment, EFF explains, the court orders mean that "service providers of every kind" can be held responsible for taking down a site -- including the likes of CloudFlare.

Attorney Mitch Stoltz said:

Just because you are providing a service to a website doesn't mean you should be roped into policing it. Copyright holders should not be allowed to blanket infrastructure companies with blocking requests, co-opting them into becoming private trademark and copyright police.

The case was brought before a federal court in an emergency hearing this week. U.S. District Court Judge Alison Nathan ruled that the court proceedings would continue to be sealed, something that EFF and legal firm Goodwin Procter oppose. The judge is expected to come to a decision about whether CloudFlare can be held accountable for access to Grooveshark next week. The argument is that a single court order is insufficient to put "legal responsibilities on the entire Internet."

Photo credit: bogdan ionescu / Shutterstock

vendredi 29 mai 2015

Microsoft releases Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10130


Early on in the Windows 10 preview program, things looked a bit grim. While I was confident Microsoft would pull it all together eventually, I was dubious that the company could meet its self-imposed summer deadline. Not only were there many bugs, but some baffling design choices.

A lot has changed since then. Since build 10122, I am totally convinced that not only will Windows 10 be ready by the summer, but it will be exceptional too. Today, Microsoft releases Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 10130. The company is wisely putting the major focus on tightening up the experience instead of introducing new features. Don't worry though, there are some new features in the build. Sadly, there is one major bug too.

"We have a new build for PCs releasing today to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring -- Build 10130. As I mentioned with the last build, from here onward you are going to see a lot of tuning, tweaking, stabilizing, and polishing which means fewer big feature changes from build to build. You’ll see that in this build which has a number of small improvements and more polish. For example – you will see some new icons (check out File Explorer) as well as many subtle changes to the UX. We heard a lot feedback around icons in Windows 10 and think these new ones are a bit more refined. Let us know what you think. We’ve also added new Taskbar animations for actions like moving files, downloads, etc. and more improvements to Start. And we also heard a lot of feedback around the border around Action Center -- which is now gone in this build and looks much nicer", says Gabe Aul, Windows guru.

Aul also explains, "as always, thank you for using the preview builds and sending us your feedback. Keep it coming by using the Windows Feedback app to share your problem reports and suggestions so we can get them to the right feature team. You may have noticed that in the Feedback app you’ll see a 'Received' note under your Feedback once it has been routed to the right team on our side so you know it has gotten through".


There are some major visual improvements in this build, including both new and updated icons. It is impossible to please everyone, but Microsoft has done a damn good job trying. The company has literally tweaked or introduced thousands of system icons. Task bar jump lists also get a new coat of paint, as the menu will now match the task bar color.

The Edge browser gets some major improvements too. You can now pin different panes within Edge, offering improved usability for those that depend on them. The reading view is now optimized for more screen resolutions (including Surface Pro 3). Most importantly, however, the browser can play video in full screen.

Tablet users will be glad to know that some useful functionality from Windows 8.1 has returned. Swiping from the top of the screen will now bring up app commands. I am glad Microsoft is focusing on tablet users in this build too.

Unfortunately, not all is good. Aul lists the following known issues.

  • Mail app may crash due to a memory error, and may not sync mail when in the background. We plan to service this issue with an update via Windows Update.
  • In some cases, flyouts from the Taskbar (including Start, Cortana, Network, Battery, and Action Center) fail to fly out. This is a transient issue, and after retrying a few times it will succeed. We are also working to service this issue with an update.
  • Wi-Fi connectivity may fail at times due to a known issue. A system reboot is required to recover from this state.

While the first two are simply annoying, the third is a huge issue. Having to reboot to regain Wi-Fi connectivity is a big productivity killer. Hopefully Windows Update can push a fix soon. This will get old fast!

If you are on the Fast Ring, you can download now from Windows Update. Tell me how you like the new build in the comments below.

Photo Credit: Viorel Sima/Shutterstock

The truth about Google Photos

Secret Tell Surprise Shock

Google Photos is more than an exciting -- and hugely transforming -- new product. The app/cloud service is a metaphor for an escalating mobile business model that, with perhaps the exception of Facebook, no competitor has the capacity to match.

Users gain tremendous time-saving utility, such as the ability to meaningfully search using innocuous terms like "dog"  or "Washington", all without the need to manually add metadata tags by way of applications like Photoshop. Meanwhile, Google gets access to quantifiable information, in the image and accompanying metadata, around which to sell advertising and related contextual content or services.

Means to an End

In 2005 -- that's right a decade ago -- I explained Google's business model in terms no else used; then, at least. In a Microsoft Monitor analysis archived on my personal site: "Google no longer is just a search company, if it ever really was. Search is really a means to an end, and that end is the access to information..Google’s ambitions would appear to be much larger than search. Looks to me like the company wants to catalog and access all information, regardless of who creates it or where it is stored". The goal, of course: To monetize information. That's the end where search leads. But the explanation isn't that simple.

Context and informational utility define the three major computing eras. IBM led the first, established around mainframes, which provided large businesses greater utility to catalog and act upon information but within the context of the workplace. The PC made more information available to smaller businesses, educational and other institutions, and every-day consumers in broader contexts.

The contextual cloud computing era, which often is misidentified as post-PC, takes information from the desktop confines and puts in it in your pocket -- or makes it available anytime, anywhere, and on anything in changeable contexts. For example, no longer is your role defined by location. You can go from parent to product manager without leaving the couch or rushing back to the office.

With respect to cost, mainframes sold for millions of dollars, which was prohibitive for the masses. PC hardware and software could be purchased for thousands, broadening informational utility around documents and spreadsheets to hundreds of millions of people. IBM profited from the first; Microsoft and partners from the second.

By contrast, Google's business model is one of the most disruptive ever conceived: Give away for free what competitors must charge for, while largely profiting from goods that someone else produces and which can be used without payment. Search is the means of getting that information, whether combed for free on the web or generated by people using products like Gmail, Maps, and -- surely you guessed -- Photos.

Mobile Me

That the service's centerpiece is a mobile app for either Android or iOS (yes, PC web browser works fine) is no coincidence. Google recognized long before most high-tech companies the importance of mobile. Several of my BetaNews analyses from 5 years ago explain where the company was headed, particularly with respect to mobile: "Google is a dangerous monopoly -- more than Microsoft ever was" and "Apple and Microsoft beware: Google will be an unstoppable force in mobility". They provide valuable context, if you have time to read. Briefly excerpting from the second post:

The company is rapidly pulling together numerous, seemingly disparate products and services around offering a mobile lifestyle. Google's major focus is no longer search. The company has clearly made mobility the top priority, extending from existing customers using search or other Google services. Google has a huge advantage over competitors, which customers pay for something. Google customers largely consume free services, around which Google makes money from other stuff, such as advertising and keyword search. So Google's customer-loss risks are less even as it disrupts competitors' businesses and snatches away their customers.

A half-decade later, there are good reasons why the European Union's Competition Commission investigates Google's mobile dominance, connected to search and other services. During yesterday's annual I/O developer conference, Google made some startling claims:

  • Number of Android users reaches 1 billion
  • Eight out of 10 smartphones sold last year used Android
  • In the year since last I/O, there have been 600 million new Android users
  • Four thousand Android devices are available from about 500 different carriers
  • Gmail now has 900 million users, and three-quarters access from mobile devices

Search and advertising are conjoined, and their relationship is tighter still around mobile devices. According to Juniper Research, global mobile advertising spending will reach $51 billion this year, more than doubling to $105 billion by 2019.

Mobile devices are much more personal than PCs, for numerous reasons, such as being constantly carried or being hubs for communications and accessing contextually-relevant information. In transitioning its business from web-based keyword and related advertising, Google should:

  • Provide users with fast, easy information access
  • Make easier sharing and communicating things that matter
  • Use mobile devices' personal character to gather valuable data about users

On the latter, if Google doesn't get the info, Facebook will. The social network collects terabytes of personal data every day that is advertising actionable, Other than Amazon, no Google cloud competitor collects more personal information than Facebook. People give it away in Likes, posted photos. status updates, and more.

No Rival

If Apple had released Google Photos, web writers would be gaga with praise. The service is potentially enormously disruptive to every other photo-sharer. If I wasn't committed to the "Flickr a Day" project on my personal site, I would cancel my subscription to the Yahoo service. Google Photos is exceptional, starting with the price. Users can store an unlimited number of photos, each up to 16MB in size, and maximum 1080p videos for free. Paying storage customers can remove these overly-generous restrictions.

Google Photos meets the criteria set by my eight Principles of Disruptive Design. Successful products must:

  1. Hide complexity
  2. Emphasize simplicity
  3. Make users feel happy
  4. Build on what is familiar
  5. Imbue human-like qualities
  6. Do what it’s supposed to really well
  7. Allow people to do something they wished they could do but couldn’t
  8. When displacing something else, offer significantly better user experience

The product hides complexity and emphasizes simplicity by, for example:

  • Automatically backup up photos
  • Providing remarkable search utility
  • Removing the need to manually tag pics
  • Auto-editing images and making manual adjustments easy

I sure felt happy rediscovering my years of backed-up mobile photos today. The service is fast and fluid in desktop browser or Android app (I don't have an iOS device for testing). Human? This thing is personal but familiar enough and functional. Search allows you to find what matters without tagging, and the experience sure beats Apple, Microsoft, and Yahoo photo services. For free. Apple and Microsoft charge $240 and $84 per year, respectively, for 1TB storage. OneDrive also adds Office 365.

Google Gets

Circumspectly, let's finally identify what Photos means to Google: More information mining and search as a means to an end. The photo finding utility that the company provides to users also benefits its own information-gathering efforts and services that are provided to advertising and other contextual partners. Then there is the rich metadata the mobile phones or digital cameras collect, like location.

Think actionable advertising that is contextual. For example, the information giant detects from photos that you wear Adidas sneakers. Lookee! While shopping at the mall you receive a Google Now card on smartwatch or smartphone alerting to a sale on the brand at one of the stores. Now that the company has opened the platform to third parties, such a scenario is achievable.

Google could tie advertiser compensation to Android Pay rather than or in addition to clickable link. User receives contextual Now notice at mall, then she buys new Adidas sneaks using the mobile money app. Google connects the two events based on time from the alert and geographic location; the advertiser is appropriately compensated.

Consider another scenario. Teenage girl snaps photos of outfits she is trying on and sends them to friends. While in the throws of indecision, she receives a Google Now notice informing her that another retailer, and one who is a Big G advertiser, sells shirt and skirt for less. Or, if the store advertises online with Google, she is sent an instant-discount coupon that tips her to make the purchase.

Only Facebook has the utility to be so granular in the personal data collected than what Google can get from your online activities around Gmail, Maps, Search, and related services -- and more. But FB mines behaviorally-rich activities that Big G gets somewhat from its Plus social network but nowhere as many mainstream users.

Adding Photos to its other information-gathering services means more freely-given utility to users and advertising actionable data for partners. It's true photos that auto-backup are private. No one sees them unless you allow. But Google gets access to them -- otherwise they couldn't be automatically enhanced, organized, and primed for search. Everything that your personal pics reveal, either directly in the metadata or overtly by sophisticated algorithm, can be useful to Google. That's the price you pay for the benefits -- of which there are many.

Mobile is all about context. Context is in Google's corporate DNA as a natively cloud company that wraps advertising around search keywords. Photos is bold. Photos is brilliantly executed and builds from what I will call the Google+ field test. Consider all those inhabitants of the so-called, ah, ghost town as guinea pigs at worst, beta testers at best, bringing Photos to the masses.

Free undermines competitors. Context and utility satisfy users. Data collection makes money for Google and its partners. Your personal pics aren't just meaningful to you; they are, en masse, a hugely valuable commodity. That's the truth about Google Photos.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Sharpshutter

Life imprisonment for Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht

Life imprisonment for Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht

There are lots of online services and sites that quickly become notorious; the Pirate Bay and Napster to name but two. But Silk Road was something in a completely differently league. Found on the dark web, the site acted as a portal to drugs and other illegal goods. It started life back in 2011 and today its founder, Ross Ulbricht is sentenced to life in prison, a year and a half after his arrest.

Ulbricht was found guilty at a jury trial three months ago and today Judge Katherine Forrest said that Silk Road demonstrated he believed he "was better than the laws of this country". She said "this is deeply troubling, terribly misguided, and very dangerous" before handing down the harshest sentence available.

Ulbricht's pleas for leniency feel on deaf ears as he was sentenced for his role in money laundering, conspiracies to traffic narcotics and other charges. Accessed through the Tor browser, Silk Road was seized by the FBI in 2013 having grown into one of the largest online black markets ever known. While famed for the availability of drugs, Silk Road also opened up access to illegal services such as hitmen, prostitutes and more, all paid for with Bitcoin.

The "anonymous market place" was administered by Ulbricht who used the pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts. Part of the evidence linking him to the site was the fact that he own the PGP signature used to send emails from the Silk Road.

Ulbricht's lawyer said that the sentence is "unfair, unjust, and unreasonable", and promised that there would be an appeal. There have been allegations of FBI corruption throughout the case, including suggestions that agents involved in the site takedown were blackmailers who stole millions of dollars' worth of Bitcoins.

One of Ulbricht's previous defences had been that although helping with the supply of illegal drugs, Silk Road actually helped to protect drug users by ensuring the purity of narcotics. This held no water with prosecutors or the judge, hence the sentence and the order to forfeit $183 million. Prosecutors had

Silk Road has already spawned numerous imitators, and it is site that will go down in history for the impression it has made.

Photo credit: Gil C / Shutterstock.com

G.SKILL sets world record -- air-cooled DDR4 Memory at 4062MHz


When you are building a computer, selecting the right brands for the components matter. In other words, you should do your research, read reviews, and find out which manufacturers have the best quality and reliability. This is how I discovered G.SKILL RAM years ago. Through my own experiences, I found the high marks its hardware receives are very much warranted.

Today, G.SKILL announces that it has set a world record. Get ready to drool folks, as the company has achieved 4062MHz on air-cooled DDR4 memory. Whoa.

"G.SKILL has been dedicated to unleash the maximum performance of DDR4 memory since its launch in August 2014. Working closely with ASRock, G.SKILL DDR4 memory is capable of reaching a new height of DDR4 memory frequency at a whopping 4062MHz! It is the fastest DDR4 frequency ever seen with both CPU and memory under standard air-cooling", says G.SKILL.

James Lee, VP of ASRock Sales and Marketing says, this outstanding performance is not only a tremendous glory, but also a huge acknowledgment to our overclocking ability".


You may be wondering why this matters to consumers. True, not everyone wants to overclock or needs to achieve such speeds. With that said, it is refreshing to a see a company have fun with its products. This tells me that the employees are engaged and have an interest in producing quality offerings.

You can witness the glory in the video below.

Are you drooling over this performance like me? Tell me in the comments.

Android Wear support for Spotify arrives


It's a big week for Google, as the company holds its I/O event. We've seen the next version of Android, for the moment simply known as M, and users can install a preview version of it now. There was Brillo, which aims to take Android into the growing Internet of Things market and many other announcements.

As for Android Wear, Google's foray into smartwatches,  there are improvements coming there as well. Spotify is also announcing support for the wristwear.

This means no more fishing your phone from a pocket to choose the tunes you want hear. You can browse, discover and play your music right from your watch.

It's going to make life more convenient for Spotify customers on the go. It isn't out quite yet, but it will be rolling out through the month of June so if you are interested in putting it on your smartwatch you'll just have to keep checking . It's one more to step that improves the platform.

DDoS attacks spread to more countries


A total of 23,095 DDoS attacks were carried out on web resources located in 76 countries in the first quarter of 2015, up 15 percent from the 66 countries affected in the final quarter of last year.

This is one of the findings of a new study by cyber security firm Kaspersky Lab into the botnet-assisted DDoS attack landscape. But although the geography is expanding the overall number of botnet-assisted attacks is down by 11 percent and the number of unique victims down by eight percent.

Servers in the US, Canada and China are targeted most frequently. The study also finds that the greatest number of attacks on a single web resource in Q1 2015 was 21, compared to 16 in Q4 2014, and the most prolonged botnet attack occurred for almost six days.

"A DDoS attack is often a cross-border effort; the customer is located in one country, the executor in another, the C&C servers are hosted in a third country, and the bots involved in the DDoS attack are scattered across the world," says Evgeny Vigovsky, Head of DDoS Protection at Kaspersky Lab. "This often makes it more complicated to investigate attacks, take down botnets and catch those responsible. Although cybercriminals do not limit their DDoS toolkits to botnets alone, this is still a widespread and dangerous tool, and it demands preventive protection measures from potential targets, i.e. web resources".

The fact that China and the US for most frequently attacked countries and highest numbers of victims is, says Kaspersky Lab, down to low hosting prices that encourage many companies to have their sites located in those countries.

The most attacks on a single resource were against a Russian language website belonging to an investment group. A Vietnamese wedding services site was second most attacked, and a US hosting provider third.

Only three sites suffered attacks of more than 100 hours, down significantly from 13 in the final quarter of 2014. However, as the report points out even a short, one-off attack can make a site inoperable and cost the victim both financially and in damage to reputation.

The full report with much more detail is available from the Kaspersky Lab site. There's also an infographic showing the geographical breakdown of attacks below.

Kaspersky Lab - botnet geography

Image Credit: Jozsef Bagota/Shutterstock

The benefits of 3D printing in healthcare

Heart straight out of a 3D printer

It may not have made major headlines, but earlier this month a story broke that demonstrates how 3D printing is making a huge impact in the medical industry. A sea turtle that had been injured colliding with a motor boat had its beak replaced with a 3D printed prosthetic. Providing the part is not rejected, the turtle could even be allowed to return to the sea.

However, 3D printing has potential health benefits to humans too, many of which we are currently discovering. Earlier this month, for example, cosmetics firm L’Oreal announced a partnership with Organovo to 3D print human skin. Although the collaboration is for use in the beauty industry, the overlaps of biology and 3D printing could provide benefits for burns victims and those suffering from skin conditions.

Research is currently being conducted into the possibility of 3D printers being able to replicate the complex organs that sustain our bodies. Researchers at Princeton University have successfully printed a prototype outer ear from hydrogel, human cells and silver nanoparticles. Tailor made joints and bones can also be produced.

In fact, the ability to produce personalized medical solutions is one of the main advantages of 3D-printing. Unique parts are usually costly and time consuming to produce, but when printers are combined with the 3D imaging techniques already being used by the health industry, this becomes a more viable solution.

Considering the idea of 3D printing a human organ still sounds like it belongs to the world of science fiction, the technology is making great strides. In 2014, printed body parts made up sales in excess of $500 million.

However, there are still a number of hurdles to be overcome before we can consider 3D printers as means of full organ replacement. Currently, the most advanced research surrounding internal organs is only able to produce partial tissue samples suitable for testing, and Jennifer Lewis, a bioengineer at Harvard University, believes the industry may never provide a perfect solution to organ replacements.

"I would love for that to be true", she says. "But these are highly complicated architectures".

Despite the reservations, 3D printing is already providing significant benefits to the health industry. Earlier this year, a two-year-old girl born with a serious heart defect underwent a life-saving operation to patch a hole between her ventricles. The patch had to be constructed with the upmost precision, so doctors at St. Thomas Hospital, London turned to 3D printing to ensure the operation was a success.

3D printers are also being used to provide prosthetics at a much lower cost than previously possible. Prosthetics for certain parts of the body, such as the hands, are subject to so much wear and tear that the cost of producing them, sometimes as much as $10,000, can be prohibitive. Similarly, for young children who can outgrow their prosthetics in just a few months, traditional methods of producing replacement limbs are not practical. By contrast, 3D printers can be used to produce customizable prosthetic hands for a few hundred dollars, making them accessible to a much larger proportion of patients.

The technology can also be used in less obvious ways to aid the medical industry. Scientists have found that printing cells enables them to carry out tests in a more systematic environment, which allows for more effective testing of treatments. This approach has been trialled by students at Harvard University Medical School on tumor cells.

The most obvious potential for 3D printing may be in the manufacturing industry, but the technology has a variety of uses, some that we are yet to discover. Whether or not 3D printers are eventually able to produce fully functioning organs is impossible to say, but the healthcare industry is already benefitting immensely from this relatively new technology.

Published under license from ITProPortal.com, a Net Communities Ltd Publication. All rights reserved.

Photo Credit: belekekin/Shutterstock