Round-Up: The technology you missed this week

The 350mph model car 

A group of students from London, UK, have created the world’s fastest model rocket car. At its peak, virtually turning it into a small missile, the model hit 344mph. The pupils tested it on a drag strip in Northamptonshire, and four of their vehicles exploded on test runs.

Source: Get West London 

You spin me right round 

Blink and you’ll miss it. But this robot has broken the record for the fastest time to solve a Rubik’s Cube in just 3.253 second – after taking 18 months to build. The aptly-named Cubestormer 3 managed to shave two seconds off its predecessor Cubestormer 2’s time for solving the puzzle.

Source: CTV News

Written by robots

latimes

Continuing the robot theme, when an earthquake shook Los Angeles this week the first ‘journalist’ to report on seismic action was a robot. An algorithm which automatically creates a short story about the event managed to post an article just three minutes after the tremors. As well as the earthquake, it also generates stories about crime in the city.

Source: BBC News 

Chinese drone spying 

drone-shutterstock_148606448

China’s pollution problem has reached such a level that the government has taken to spying and it’s a high tech form of spying – they’re using drones. The flying UAVs have taken to the skies to try and catch businesses which are contributing the most pollution to the smoggy atmosphere. They can cover 70 sqkm during a two hour flight.

Source: The Guardian

Oculous Rift Dev kit goes on sale

The next generation of virtual reality technology has gone on sale in the form of the Oculus Rift DK2 – developer kit. The updated headset promises precise, low-latency position tracking which will open up new possibilities for gameplay opportunities.

Source: Oculus VR 

A swimming robot

This little robot has donned its waterwings and taken to the pool. The adorable fish is a lot more technically advanced than it first looks as roboticists have been using the fish, made by MIT, is agile and safe for operations near humans. It intelligently can move around its environment and can perform a 100-degree turn, if any predators are lurking, in one-tenth of a second.

Source: Singularity Hub 

When did your country adopt the internet? 

internetadoption

The web might have turned 25 a couple of weeks ago but this doesn’t mean every country adopted it as soon as it was created. There was a time before anyone had ever been poked on Facebook. Ersi have created an interactive map that highlights how the web was spun across the world.

Source: Mashable

Bebo’s back 

Bebo, the social network that everyone loves to hate, is making a return. So far more than 700,000 people have registered to join the revamped website. All the old photos and insightful blog posts of users have been safely stored and will be available for download in the coming months. The website is promising a new re-launch but for the time being at least it keeping the exact details under wraps.

Source: Bebo

Virtual rivals: the battle of the VR headsets heats up

It’s been a busy week for virtual reality. Sony’s long-awaited headset for the PS4, Project Morpheus, was unveiled on Tuesday, and Oculus Rift’s Development Kit 2 was announced on Wednesday.

But these were not the only VR headsets making waves this week. Over at London’s Wearable Technology Conference vrAse was wowing developers and tech press hounds alike, while 3D printed Altergaze hit a quarter of its Kickstarter campaign target with over a month to go.

Both products differ from Sony and Oculus’ offerings in that they are designed to work with your smartphone: by slotting your phone into either headset it becomes an effective VR device for gaming and 3D video.

Kickstarter has played a powerful role in getting VR headsets off the ground. Both vrAse and Oculus were also Kickstarter-funded, and there is clearly an appetite among would-be backers for this kind of tech.

vr-vrase

vrAse is pitching to a different market to Oculus in that its expected to be quite a bit cheaper, at less than £100. It’s also going for a slightly different approach by showing off its headset as an on-the-go device for use on planes, trains and out and about.

The headset is designed to work with a wide variety of smartphones. vrAse has created a ‘perfect fit’ model for leading handsets, including the iPhone 5, HTC One and Galaxy Note 2, as well as a standard model that works with phones sized between 3.5” to 6.3”, although the company recommends using smartphones sized between 5” and 6”.

vrAse can be used to watch 3D videos, play games in 3D with a bluetooth controller and as an AR device.

We had the pleasure of trying out vrAse at this week’s Wearable Technology Conference and were pretty impressed with the results. The game we tried, a rollercoaster simulator, was incredibly immersive and the 3D video felt very realistic.

vr-altergaze

However, a would-be contender to vrAse has popped up on Kickstarter in the form of Altergaze. The Altergaze headset functions very similarly to vrAse in that you put your smartphone into it to get a VR headset you can play games and watch videos on.

The key difference with Altergaze is that its 3D printed. This means that the cost is very low, and enables a very wide range of customisation – an appealing option for a technology that runs the risk of making you look a little silly if worn in public.

Altergaze is also using this manufacturing method to boost worldwide distribution by encouraging 3D print shops to become manufacturers.

The 3D printed, slotted together style of Altergaze also makes it resemble old fashioned goggles, giving it potential appeal with the steampunk crowd.

All in all, though, the key question will be whether these cheaper, smartphone-based VR headsets will appeal to users enough to let them contend with the big boys. In the long run their price and versatility might even give them an advantage.


Images courtesy of vrAse and Altergaze.