January 31, 2014 6:40 pm

Barometer: winter’s must-have kit

Get your skates on for the season’s essentials
Gear, hardware and software for winter

Clockwise from top left: Oakley Airwave 1.5 goggles, Snowlife Heat GTX Liion mitten and glove, GoPro Hero3+ wearable camera, Icebug DTS BUGrip snow boots and Cowbell 2014 iOS app

Oakley Airwave 1.5

These goggles provide a Google Glass-type display of your speed and navigation on the slopes, as well as letting you track your buddies on a map and access texts, emails and calls, £520; oakley.com

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IN Pursuits

Snowlife Heat GTX Liion Mitten/Glove

A built-in rechargeable battery and heating elements will keep your fingers toasty on the slopes, £245; skiplusonline.co.uk

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GoPro Hero3+

Film yourself careering down mountains with this wearable camera, £359.99; gopro.com

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Icebug DTS BUGrip

These snow boots have 19 tiny carbide-tipped steel studs that make the iciest of surfaces traversable, $164.95; amazon.com

Cowbell 2014 iOS app

Turn your phone into a virtual cowbell, and tap or shake it to cheer on your team at the Winter Olympics, £0.69

. . .

Icebug DTS BUGrip

These snow boots have 19 tiny carbide-tipped steel studs that make the iciest of surfaces traversable, $164.95; amazon.com

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Silicon notebook

By Tim Bradshaw in San Francisco

All postings to Twitter have the same 140-character limit but not all tweets are created equal. So researchers and technology companies are working to figure out how to tease out the profundities hidden within the 400 million tweets posted daily.

In December, Apple paid $200m for Topsy, a San Francisco start-up that is one of only a few companies to which Twitter licenses its complete “firehose”– every tweet as it happens. Topsy was also the first company to gather the entire Twitter archive of 425 billion data points, including photos and links, into a searchable index. It’s like a Google for Twitter.

If Twitter is the world’s heartbeat, tools such as Topsy can take its pulse. Several studies have found, for example, that monitoring tweets, combined with their location, can be a pretty reliable predictor of flu outbreaks.

One reason is that we share more personal information on social networks than we realise. A study by Microsoft Research and the Cambridge Psychometrics Centre last year found that crunching Facebook likes can accurately predict a range of highly sensitive personal attributes including sexual orientation and political views. Advertisers use such tools to scan social media for people who are particularly keen on their products.

So why would Apple pay $200m to analyse Twitter? One possible reason is that Topsy’s value may not lie only in tweets. Our iPhones and iPads also throw off reams of data all day long about our whereabouts, web browsing habits, search queries and apps, all of which could be usefully crunched.

Then there is the “firehose” of tweets itself. A stream of human babblings in natural, colloquial language, passed through a filter, might be used to train an artificial intelligence such as Siri, Apple’s virtual assistant. Lowly though our individual tweets may be, together they may be able to finally teach computers to think more like us.

tim.bradshaw@ft.com

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