ZeniMax’s cheeky attempt to shut down the Oculus Rift is bad news for Facebook’s VR plans

Following its court victory against Oculus earlier this month, in which it was awarded $500m for violation of a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and copyright infringement, ZeniMax has now filed an injunction demanding that all Oculus Rift products using the infringing code are removed from sale.

It’s beginning to seem possible that ZeniMax may be running on pure spite and over-ambition. After asking for $4bn in the earlier lawsuit, the new injunction would essentially grind Oculus sales to a halt. Though headsets would potentially still be sellable, without the software they wouldn’t be particularly useful to own.

According to Upload VR, the filing demands that Oculus be: “…permanently enjoined, on a worldwide basis, from using…any of the Copyrighted Materials, including but not limited to (i) system software for Oculus PC (including the Oculus PC SDK); (ii) system software for Oculus Mobile (including the Oculus Mobile SDK); (iii) Oculus integration with the Epic Games Unreal Engine; and (iv) Oculus integration with the Unity Technologies Unity Game Engine.”

Of course, given ZeniMax’s already somewhat overshot ambition, there’s a pretty good chance this injunction goes nowhere. Given that a jury ruled no trade secrets had been stolen by Oculus, it’s not unreasonable to believe that the company could face such an extreme punishment as a halt of all sales.

Speaking to Ars Technica, Joshua Rich, a partner at IP law firm McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff LLP, explained: “Had they prevailed on the trade secrets claim, [ZeniMax] would have been in an extremely strong position for an injunction. Here, I think it’s a relatively weak argument.”

Rich went on to say that the best ZeniMax is likely to get out of this injunction is forcing Oculus to replace any code that bears a similarity to that which violated the NDA. Doing so would likely rely on bringing in a team of programmers with no knowledge of the old code and keeping them completely separate from any form of it.

Images courtesy of Oculus

It’s no sales shutdown, but such a code replacement would still be a big dent to Facebook’s Oculus plans.  As it has to fight this litigation, on top of appealing the former judgement, it seems to be falling further and further behind in where it hoped to be in the virtual reality market.

Given further reports from Business Insider earlier this month that the company is struggling with low demand for Oculus headsets, Facebook better hope that the long game they have set out for VR pays off.  They certainly have the money to keep it ticking along for now, but if they keep hitting road blocks like this, the competition is going to keep showing them up.

It is likely that the injunction will fail, but, if not, Oculus may well and truly be on the ropes. With the rise of Playstation VR and the strength of HTC’s Vive, the previous forerunners are starting to look less and less confident as the future of the medium.

In the face of a collapsing market, Acer goes once more unto the smartwatch breach

Despite the fact that smartwatches are generally seeing their sales plummet, Acer has decided to release a new product into the collapsing market. Taking “an elegant approach to fitness”, the Leap Ware smartwatch seems to be fairly standard fare, using an array of fitness-tracking sensors in combination with an app to keep tabs on all of the various statistics the sensors provide.

“As the pace of modern lifestyles become ever more hectic, people demand technology that can keep them on track and motivated to pursue their goals,” said MH Wang, general manager of Smart Device Products in Acer’s IT Products Business.

“The new Acer Leap Ware is designed to act as a virtual coach to help people go, track, and share, sending them reminders and alerts when they need them the most.”

Acer obviously has to promote its product but the above statement seems somewhat bizarrely unaware of the fact that not only is the company offering pretty much the exact same thing every other smartwatch does, but is are doing so in a market that is dying a fairly nasty death. With big names like Pebble going under, and Fitbit’s stock having been on a steady decline, the persistence in putting out new products is a bold move.

In October 2016, the BBC wrote about a new report by market analysts IDC that showed amartwatch shipments declined by 51.6% year-on-year. The Apple Watch held its place as the market leader, but shipped only a quarter of the units it had sold in the same period (July-September) of 2015. And of the five leading brands, only Garmin showed growth with that growth still being underpinned by low figures.

“It has become evident that, at present, smartwatches are not for everyone,” said Jitesh Ubrani from IDC. “Having a clear purpose and use case is paramount, hence many vendors are focusing on fitness due to its simplicity.”

Images courtesy of Acer

It was pointed out by experts that the period examined was before new versions were released, but there is still a clear lack in significant consumer appetite. The market has largely survived off the fitness aspects, with other products largely falling by the wayside as the novelty wears off. And Acer itself hasn’t exactly been the premium forerunner.

The Leap Ware watch certainly seems a perfectly fine entry into the marketplace. It’s got “diverse fitness tracking features thanks to an array of sensors with advanced algorithms” and supposedly has a battery life of three to five days so you don’t miss out on logging those all-important stats. My watch only tells the time and date. It also has a battery life of ten years.

There is a reasonable chance that initial sales for the Leap Ware may be strong, being all shiny and new as it is. There’s also a very good chance they will quickly plummet as Acer discovers what consumers are desperately trying to tell them: people don’t want smartwatches anymore.

For more information and discussion of the collapse of wearable technology, check out the latest issue of Factor magazine.

Premature lambs kept alive in artificial wombs

Extremely premature lambs have been kept alive in a artificial womb. The fluid-filled plastic bag reproduces the environment of the womb and replaces the function of the placenta. The scientists responsible believe the device could be used for premature babies within the next three years.

Source: New Scientist

British engineer is using recycled plastic to build stronger roads

British engineer Toby McCartney has devised an innovative process that replaces much of the crude oil-based asphalt in pavement with pellets of plastic, made from recyclable bottles. The result is a street that’s 60% stronger than traditional roads, ten times longer-lasting as well as the obvious environmental benefits.

Source: Curbed

Elon Musk’s giant tunnel boring machine arrives at SpaceX

In February, Musk was looking at purchasing a used Herrenknecht boring machine: about 26 feet in diameter, about 400 feet long, and weighing about 1,200 tons. It’s not clear if this is the same machine, but one just arrived at SpaceX’s headquarters and can now be found in the parking lot.

Source: Electrek

Surgeon claims brain transplants are just three years away

A pioneering Italian surgeon has claimed people who have had their brains cryogenically frozen could be 'woken up' within three years. The claim is being made by professor Sergio Canavero who also claims he can carry out the first human head transplant within 10 months before he begins trials on brain transplants.

Source: The Telegraph

Facebook 'observed propaganda efforts' by governments

Facebook has revealed in a new report that it observed attempts to spread propaganda on its site, apparently orchestrated by governments or organised parties. The firm has seen "false news, disinformation, or networks of fake accounts aimed at manipulating public opinion", it said.

Source: BBC

Ex-head of Google China predicts AI will take half of all jobs in a decade

The ex-head of Google China, Kai-Fu Lee, has said that AI will be bigger than all previous tech innovations put together. "These are things that are superhuman, and we think this will be in every industry, will probably replace 50% of human jobs, create a huge amount of wealth for mankind and wipe out poverty," said Lee.

Source: CNBC