Tabs on Technology

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Ekso ambassador Jason Gieser walks in the exoskeleton at a private event in May 2011. (Photograph by Jan Sturman courtesy of Ekso Bionics)

Editor’s Note: Tabs on Technology is a weekly update on the latest news in the tech world.

Executive director behind Wikipedia decides to step down 
Sue Gardner, one of the galvanizing leaders behind the nonprofit Internet database Wikipedia, announced in an interview Wednesday that she will step down from her position in the organization. Citing Wikipedia’s increasing success and self-reliance, Gardner explained that her job is largely over and she hopes to turn her attention toward combating anti-piracy legislation and advocating an open, free Internet. 

As executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, Gardner helped transform Wikipedia from a small nonprofit into one of the Internet’s largest compiled resources for information. Wikipedia is currently the fifth most visited site on the Internet, after Facebook and Google. 

Exoskeletons allow paraplegics to walk again 
Companies such as Ekso Bionics are vying for new ways to market their exoskeleton suits. For paraplegics around the world, this carbon fiber assistance structure means not only walking again, but also running, jumping and carrying heavier weight than before. Because exoskeleton technology is still rather pricey at about $150,000 up front, it may not be marketable for general consumers for some time to come. 

Instead, this robogear made its debut in the military and in hospitals. For soldiers who need to haul large amounts of equipment over miles of rocky terrain, exoskeletons make foot travel almost effortless and minimize long-term damage to the spine. Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company that has licensed the technology from Ekso Bionics, is currently developing the Human Universal Load Carrier, which is an exoskeleton that can actively anticipate a soldier’s movements to create the walking motion.

Windows Phones outsell iPhones 
According to Frank Shaw, head of public relations at Microsoft, Windows Phone 8 has been outselling the Apple iPhone in the last quarter — but only in seven international markets. Although this news may be an encouraging accomplishment for Microsoft, Apple Inc. has a long-standing choke hold on the mobile device market and is only being outshipped in countries such as Croatia, India, Argentina and Poland. Windows Phone comprises 10 percent of all mobile devices market share in these countries. Because the iPhone only contracts with a handful of wireless providers, Windows Phone 8 has had a leg up in locations where Nokia is popular. In addition, Microsoft sells its mobile device at half the price of an iPhone. 

Mark Zuckerberg makes plans to enter political realm 
Teaming up with his college roommate, Joe Green, and a number of other close associates, Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is in the process of forming a political action group that will be officially announced in the next two weeks. By raising and investing more than $50 million, the young executive hopes to advocate immigration reform and promote scientific research. Many technology moguls have pushed for immigration reform in the past to help encourage foreign-born entrepreneurs to come to the U.S. Since founding Facebook in 2004, Zuckerberg has largely stayed out of the political arena and focused more on the financial well-being of the company. But over the last couple of years Zuckerberg has taken a more noticeable role in the realm of politics. Having met with President Obama a number of times and even fundraised for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Zuckerberg’s bold step into the spotlight will likely draw comparison to activists such as Bill Gates

'Battlefield 4' reveal trailer released 
As promised by a teaser trailer last week, Dice Game Studios released a 17-minute gameplay reveal for “Battlefield 4” on Wednesday. Using the Frostbite 3 graphics engine, “Battlefield 4” features a very apparent upgrade in photorealism from its predecessor and features the familiar combination of first-person action, vehicles and incredibly intense cut scenes. Although the game was announced for PC, it has yet to be confirmed for either the PS4 or the next-generation Xbox. More likely than not, DICE is required to keep its lips sealed until Microsoft announces its next console in April. No release date for the game has been announced, but it is anticipated to ship before the 2013 holiday season.