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9 Great Reads From CNET This Week: Smart Glasses for the Blind, Buildings Made of Bacteria

Smart specs scan surroundings and tell wearers what's there. Also: Future Martian homes might be made of microbes, and Pixar ups its game with Lightyear. The week's must-reads.

When Google Glass smart specs first appeared nearly a decade ago, people gawked. But they also balked. Remember the term "Glassholes"? Still, though Glass never made it to retail shelves, an enterprise edition is serving as the basis for some interesting, useful and perhaps even life-altering tech.

Envision's smart glasses use artificial intelligence to help people who are blind or visually impaired better understand their surroundings. The specs can scan objects, people and text, and then relay that information to the wearer by way of a small built-in speaker.

Wearers can even start a video call with friends or family members and have those folks describe the scene the device's camera is showing them. "I called up one of my colleagues ... and said, 'What do you see?' and she described the environment to me," one user told CNET's Abrar Al-Heeti. 

That story is among the many in-depth features and thought-provoking commentaries that appeared on CNET this week. So here you go. These are the stories you don't want to miss.

These Glasses for the Blind Can Read Documents, Scan Faces, Aid Navigation

Smart glasses from Envision are built on the enterprise edition of Google Glass.

A woman wearing Envision glasses and reaching up to touch the frames.
Envision

Check Your Messages: Scam Texts on the Rise

Those annoying messages sent to your phone could be more dangerous than traditional email phishing, researchers say.

Cell phone showing scam alert.
Getty Images

Scientists Might Build Your Future Martian Home With Bacteria

To build a thriving Martian civilization by 2050, we'll need somewhere to live -- and it might be inside buildings made of microbes. 

An artist's rendering of buildings on Mars.
Corey Ford/Getty Images

8 Apple Watch Features We Want This Year

The next Apple Watch software update might bring a new low-power mode and more health features.

Three Apple Watches, all in a row.
Lisa Eadicicco/CNET

Amazon Astro Is the Cute Face That Could Make You Treat Tech Like Your Friend

Robots can make you bond with your devices like never before.

Amazon Astro on the floor of a house.
Chris Monroe/CNET

'Free Solo' Star Shows How to Climb Sheer Walls of a Jungle Mesa -- for the Sake of a Frog

To get an 80-year-old biologist through the jungle and up a massive rock wall in search of an undiscovered frog, you bring along a rock-climbing legend.

Federico Pisani reaches for a handhold on the tepui rock wall dozens of feet above the treeline, which spills out in a green wave below.
Renan Ozturk/National Geographic

As Travel Resumes, 'Imagine a City' Is the Ideal Book to Restart Your Sense of Adventure

British Airways pilot Mark Vanhoenacker has written a book that is equal parts guide, memoir and reflection on some of the world's great cities.

A daytime photo taken by a passenger on a commercial airliner. In the upper left there's the tip of the plane's wing. Down below, the city of Berkeley, California, looks tiny as the San Francisco Bay stretches off into the distance toward the Golden Gate and the open ocean.
Kent German/CNET

Pixar's 'Lightyear' Shows How Far the Studio Has Come Since 'Toy Story'

Two decades of innovation has made it possible to bring the iconic toy to life as a human character -- all while pushing through new animation challenges.

The space ranger who inspired the beloved Buzz Lightyear toy is seen head-on in a cockpit, wearing a pilot's helmet, gritting his teeth and knitting his brow as streaks of light flash by outside.
Disney/Pixar

Panic Playdate Review: The Weirdest, Best Fidget Game Console Ever

Little, yellow, different. This indie handheld game system breaks lots of rules.

A hand holding the bright yellow Panic Playdate gaming device in front of a vivd red background.
Scott Stein/CNET