Amazon has started shipping — in small numbers — a tabletop device called Echo. If Apple's Siri and Bose's WaveRadio had a baby, it would be something like Echo. Once connected to your wireless network, the $199 device can stream music and news programming from services like iHeartRadio and Amazon Prime, and it can also answer spoken questions on subjects like the weather, or what year the War of 1812 ended. And it turns out that a team at Amazon's Kendall Square research-and-development office has been developing the speech recognition capabilities for Echo.
Read MoreDeja vu all over againDriftt, out to improve collaboration on documents, collects $15 million
The next startup off the assembly line at Boston-based Blade will focus on a headache that pretty much everyone has: How do you keep track of and share the best photos you take? Some of them may wind up on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook — or perhaps on the front of your holiday card. But the majority "remain locked away on our digital devices," Lineage Labs contends, "rarely finding the right way or the right time to be shared and enjoyed."
Read MoreSpawning more startupsPureTech pockets $50 million to bring life sciences ideas out of the lab
The big players of the biopharma world descend on San Francisco next week for the annual JP Morgan Healthcare Conference, and in advance of it, Boston-based PureTech is announcing it has raised $50 million in new funding. PureTech takes successful research out of academic labs, and assembles teams that can move it toward commercialization. Among its projects are startup companies focused on obesity, hair growth, drug delivery without needles, and therapeutic video games.
It was a surprising acquisition by Google that happened in the thick of vacation season last August: the Silicon Valley giant picked up Zync Render, a software tool developed in Boston that makes it easier and cheaper to use cloud data processing services to produce special effects for movies or TV commercials. Zync Render had been created by a team at Zero VFX, a special effects shop that has worked on movies like "American Hustle" and "The Equalizer." And now the parent company that spawned Zync is planning on a sequel.
Read MoreSmarter stuffPTC chief executive discusses drivers behind ‘Internet of Things’ phenomenon
In the early stages of writing a piece about whether 2015 will be the year that the Internet of Things finally goes mainstream, I sat down with PTC chief executive Jim Heppelmann. PTC is the Needham-based company that sells software related to designing products and then servicing them once they've been sold. An increasing number of those products, Heppelmann says, will connect to the Internet for monitoring and upgrades, and creating new offerings for those connected devices has been a big focus for PTC of late. The company recently said that it expects to see double-digit growth of its IoT revenues over the next four years, and several of PTC's latest acquisitions have been IoT-related.
Read MoreFill-in-the-blank forecastingMad Libs predictions: What Boston techies and investors expect in 2015
Crowdsourcing — the new coinage for “getting other people to do your work” — was one of the business world’s big trends in 2014. And this week, I’m milking it for all it’s worth.
Instead of coming up with my own predictions for the year ahead, I created a list of fill-in-the-blank statements and sent them to a bunch of local digerati. Crowdsourcing in action!
Teikametrics is one of those behind-the-scenes players that may have been involved in some of your online gift-buying this month. The Boston-based startup offers analytic services to companies that sell goods on Amazon.com — including local firms like Newbury Comics and Aubuchon Hardware. Among the questions Teikametrics can answer: How much inventory should a seller stock at various Amazon fulfillment centers to ensure quick delivery, anywhere in the world.
Read MoreNo love for Bluetooth braceletConnected jewelry startup Magnet will head west to try to raise money
How do you find the best person for the job, whether it's a gig playing your holiday party or designing a new logo for your company? A Boston startup called WhoQuest thinks it can supply the answer: just ask your social network, and let people vote the replies up or down. The recently unveiled site feels a bit like a people-focused version of Quora, the question-answering site that has raised about $160 million in funding.
Read MoreBeta TestingTest ride: The prototype electric skateboard from Dash Electric
It would be hard to come up with a shakier scenario for testing a prototype electric skateboard: slick sidewalks from recent rain, journalist who has never been on a longboard before, snow starting to blow, and a test course shared with bikers. The skateboard was designed by Dash Electric, a Boston startup founded by Northeastern University student Ian Carlson. Last month, Dash raised $15,000 in initial funding from Rough Draft Ventures, a student-run venture team that invests money on behalf of General Catalyst Partners, a Cambridge firm.
Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and the Convergence Forum. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.