this week

Russian censorship law bans proxies and VPNs

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a law that, as of November 1st, will ban technology which allows access to banned websites, which includes virtual private networks and proxies. While the law is ostensibly meant to curb extremist content, some have suggested its real intention is to prevent Russians from seeing content that might be critical of Putin.

Source: Engadget

Chinese chatbots shut down after anti-government posts

A popular Chinese messenger app has removed two chatbots, after they were found to be criticising the nation's Communist Party. The chatbots, Baby Q and Little Bing, were removed after social media users shared controversial comments, which included one response that referred to the government as "a corrupt and incompetent political regime".

Source: BBC

Automated 'sewbot' to make 800,000 Adidas t-shirts daily

Leading sportswear brand Adidas is planning to produce 800,000 T-shirts per day using a fully automated sewing bot. The technology has been developed in the USA, and will supply European sports brand Adidas with T-shirts made in the US by robots. The 'sewbot' is said to be a major breakthrough in the automation of garment assembly.

Alphabet sees salt as the answer to the problem of energy storage

Alphabet's X division is working on a energy storage system that turns electricity into streams of hot and cold air and funnels it into two tanks filled with salt, and two with antifreeze. Hot air then heats up the salt, and cold air cools the antifreeze. In reverse hot and cold air rush toward each other, creating powerful gusts that spin a turbine and spit out electricity.

Source: Bloomberg

Tim Cook: Apple's autonomous tech can be used for more than cars

Apple CEO Tim Cook has hinted that the company’s AI work is meant for more than just autonomous cars. Although, he isn't keen on revealing what else Apple is using the tech for. “[Autonomous] systems can be used in a variety of ways,” Cook said. “A vehicle is only one, but there are many different areas of it. And I don’t want to go any further with that.”

Source: The Verge

Time to think about the legality of augmented reality advertising

Legal issues associated with augmented reality are beginning to be discussed. A new app, called Skrite, lets users put messages and photos onto the sky. The tech is currently limited to smartphones but once AR evolves brands will be able to put adverts in the sky, which could see rival advertisers put adverts above competitors' locations.

Source: New Scientist

DJI’s First Drone Arena in Tokyo to Open This Saturday

Consumer drone giant DJI will open its first Japanese drone arena in the city of Tokyo this Saturday, providing a space for both hardened professionals and curious newcomers to hone their flying skills.

The arena, which covers an area of 535 square metres, will not only include a large flying area complete with obstacles, but also offer a store where visitors can purchase the latest DJI drones and a technical support area where drone owners can get help with quadcopter issues.

The hope is that the arena will allow those who are curious about the technology but currently lack the space to try it out to get involved.

“As interest around our aerial technology continues to grow, the DJI Arena concept is a new way for us to engage not just hobbyists but also those considering this technology for their work or just for the thrill of flying,” said Moon Tae-Hyun, DJI’s director of brand management and operations.

“Having the opportunity to get behind the remote controller and trying out the technology first hand can enrich the customer experience. When people understand how it works or how easy it is to fly, they will discover what this technology can do for them and see a whole new world of possibilities.”

Images courtesy of DJI

In addition to its general sessions, which will allow members of the public to drop by and try their hand at flying drones, the arena will also offer private hire, including corporate events. For some companies, then, drone flying could become the new golf.

There will also be regular events, allowing pros to compete against one another, and drone training, in the form of DJI’s New Pilot Experience Program, for newcomers.

The arena has been launched in partnership with Japan Circuit, a developer of connected technologies, including drones.

“We are extremely excited to partner with DJI to launch the first DJI Arena in Japan,” said Tetsuhiro Sakai, CEO of Japan Circuit.

“Whether you are a skilled drone pilot or someone looking for their first drone, we welcome everyone to come and learn, experience it for themselves, and have fun. The new DJI Arena will not only serve as a gathering place for drone enthusiasts but also help us reach new customers and anyone interested in learning about this incredible technology.”

The arena is the second of its kind to be launched by DJI, with the first located in Yongin, South Korea, and detailed in the video above. .

Having opened in 2016, the area has attracted visitors from around the world, demonstrating serious demand for this type of entertainment space.

If the Tokyo launch goes well, it’s likely DJI will look at rolling out its arena concept to other cities, perhaps even bringing the model to the US and Europe.

For now, however, those who are interested can book time at the Tokyo arena here.

Commercial Human Spaceflight Advances Prompt Calls for Space Safety Institute

Commercial human spaceflight has been a long-held dream, but now it is finally poised to become a reality. Companies including Virgin Galactic and SpaceX are inching ever closer to taking private citizens into space, and there are serious plans for spaceports in several parts of the world, including Hawaii, the US, and Scotland, the UK.

But while the industry is advancing, the legal side of this fledgling commercial space industry remains underdeveloped, leading to calls for the development of an organisation to establish a framework for the safe operation of spaceports for human commercial spaceflights.

Writing in the journal New Space, Mclee Kerolle, from the United States International Institute of Space Law in Paris, France, has proposed the establishment of a Space Safety Institute recognised by the US congress and the United Nations.

This institute would “develop, enforce and adopt standards of excellence”, allowing the industry to develop while protecting it from liability and insurance risks.

“Currently, no international regulatory body exists to regulate the operation of spaceports,” he wrote. “This is unfortunate because while the advent of commercial human spaceflight industry is imminent, a majority of the focus from the legal community will be on regulating spaceflights and space access vehicles.

“However, the regulation of spaceports should be viewed in the same light as the rest of the commercial human spaceflight industry.”

The article focuses particularly on the establishment of a spaceport at the Kona International Airport in Keahole, Hawaii. At present, the spaceport’s development is subject to regulation by the Federal Aviation Authority, however there are aspects to spaceport development that do not apply to conventional aviation operations.

A spacesuit design for commercial flights developed by SpaceX. Featured image: SpaceX’s proposed spaceport for its conceptual interplanetary transport system. All images courtesy of SpaceX

The institute would be designed to first and foremost ensure safety within the industry, so it would be important, according to Kerolle, to ensure it was made up of individuals with expertise in the field, rather than bureaucrats.

“To make sure that this flexibility is inherent in a Space Safety Institute, the organization should be composed of individuals within the industry as opposed to government officials who are not familiar with the commercial human spaceflight industry,” he wrote.

“As a result, this should protect the commercial human spaceflight industry to some liability exposure, as well as promote growth in the industry to ensure the industry’s survival.”