Round-Up: The technology you might have missed this week

Not yet ‘Back to the Future’


We’ve been waiting since 1989 when ‘Back to the Future Part II’ teased us with the Marty McFly zooming around on a hover board and this week (for a very brief moment) it looked like we were going to see the first one become a reality. It was certainly the one story from this week that we, and everyone else, wanted to be true but sadly wasn’t. All it turned out to be was a very clever viral marketing scheme from the company HUVr. The wait for the hover board continues.

Source: International Business Times

Social media takes to the skies


Facebook are heavily rumoured to be in talks to take over Titan Aerospace the maker solar-powered drones. The deal, if it goes ahead, is set to be in the region of $US60m. For Facebook their potential use for the drones could be part of the movement which is aiming to bring free internet to developing countries. In theory the movement could use the solar-powered devices to serve as airborne wireless access points.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald

Turn your hand into a virtual keyboard


Samsung want to turn your hand into a virtual keyboard when you’re using its much rumoured smart glasses. The patent, which has only just surfaced and is from August last year, shows the hands being able to be used as a full ‘qwerty’ keyboard or an old style mobile phone ‘abc’ keyboard. The patent, if implemented, will make it easier to send private messages when using Samsung’s glass technology.

Source: Digital Spy

The internet will fail


The year was 1995, the website was Newsweek, and the author was Clifford Stoll. His, now foolish, claim was that the internet was going to struggle. He boldly claimed that “no online database will replace your daily newspaper” and that internet shopping would never take off. To be fair Google didn’t exist at the time and the juggernaut that is the MailOnline was unimaginable.

Source: The Next Web

Drones at sea

Unmanned aerial vehicles are getting about all over the place and the Dolphin Safari has used one to film tens of dolphins and whales gathered together off the Californian coast. The animals can be seen frolicking around in groups and diving in and out of the water in the glorious weather.

Source: Dolphin Safari / YouTube

Getty-ing free pictures

Getty Images has made all of its stock photographs free for users. Just like the image above anyone is now able to embed the photos from the agency. The move has been a blessing for small blogs with low budgets but may prove to be a hindrance to the incomes of freelance photographers who get paid on each use of their photos.

Source: The Verge

To infinity and beyond


Nasa have announced that they’ve discovered 715 new planets, which is the biggest amount unveiled in one go. Before the unveiling this week there were 1,000 planets which had been identified. The planets, which orbit 305 different stars, were discovered by the Kepler space telescope which has been in space for five year.

Source: CNN

Robot tractors, mini drones and real-time data: leading futurist presents the farming of tomorrow

The farms of the future will be managed from futuristic command centres where farmers can dispatch mini drones and robot tractors in response to real-time information, according to Canadian futurist Richard Worzel.

Speaking at BASF Canada’s Knowledge Harvest, a major event for farmers in North America, Worzel outlined an image of farming where a computerised butler would present data about moisture and temperature and enable the farmer to respond accordingly.

He described how farmers would be able to use robot tractors to plant seeds, which would make precision planting in response to soil conditions easy and effective.


Swarms of mini drones would be used to scout crops at low heights, providing readings on condition and growth rate, and digitally-generated maps would provide precise information about where to apply fertilizer and pesticides.

The future could even be organic: natural predators such as ladybugs could be dispatched in response to imminently-hatching pests.

Speaking ahead of the event, Worzak said: “The prospects for farms and farmers are probably better than they have been for fifty years or more.”

The technology Worzak describes could have a significant impact on crop yield, which is vital in a world where population growth is quickly outstripping food supply.

“Information technologies are going to allow farmers to do more with less: fewer inputs, better costs, higher yields,” Worzak explained.

Changes in technology elsewhere could also have an impact on what farmers are growing.

“Traditionally farmers have made their money off of three primary food sources,” Worzak said, referring to the “three fs” of farming: food, feed and fibre.

“Now technology is adding three additional sources,” he explained, outlining how many farmers will increasingly be growing crops for fuel, pseudo-plastics and pharmaceuticals.

There is considerable ongoing research across a host of industries about the use of plants in these areas, and it is likely that they will be increasingly used ahead of oil-based or chemically-derived products.

This could be bad news for consumers, though: farmers are likely to opt for whatever sells for the most, which means there could be a shortage of some food products if growing plastics turns out to pay more.

Farming is an area seeing huge growth in technological solutions. Genetically modified crops that are tailored to resist pests or have higher yields have been used for years in some areas of the world, and hydroponic and aquaponic solutions are increasingly being used in regions where space is at a premium.

Farming machinery is also going high tech. In 2011 Tractor manufacturers Valtra created a concept for their tractor of the future (pictured above and in the video). Named ANTS, it features a video game-style heads-up display, a modular design and the ability to work autonomously on basic tasks.

With farming drones in development and significant amounts being thrown into farm analytics, Worzel’s view of the farming future could be here before long.

Featured image courtesy of Valtra.