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

Wishing you a futuristic Christmas and a fantastic New Year from team Factor

Factor is taking a break for the Christmas season, but we’ll be returning in January for more futuristic news and features.

Until then, check out our stunning new digital magazine, which is free to read on any device for your future fix.

From the issues of today, to the future of tomorrow and beyond, there’s something for everyone, from flying cars and Richard Stallman on privacy to life in the 22nd century and the space colonies of the future human race. There’s even a look at the Christmas dinners of the future.

And if you’re still looking for presents, check out of bumper futuristic gift guide for ideas to suit every budget.

Merry Christmas, and see you in 2018!

FCC votes to repeal net neutrality rules

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal the so-called net neutrality regulations that prohibited broadband providers from blocking websites or charging for higher-quality service on certain content. The FCC’s net neutrality rules were originally passed in 2015.

Doctors say Haemophilia A trial results are "mind-blowing"

Doctors say the results of a gene therapy trial into haemophilia A, whose suffers don't produce a protein needed to stop bleeding, are "mind-blowing". Thirteen patients given the gene therapy at Barts Health NHS Trust are now off treatment with 11 producing near-normal levels of the protein.

Source: BBC

Scientists use stem cells to make paralysed rat walk again

Scientists have used stem cells from an adult human's mouth to induce spinal cord regeneration in a rat. This effectively created a pathway circumventing the injured area so that instructions from the brain could reach the rest of the body, curing the animal that was previously totally paralysed.

NASA uses AI to find new exoplanet

Researchers have announced the discovery of an eighth planet orbiting the star Kepler-90. The discovery of Kepler 90i was made when researchers on the Kepler planet-hunting telescope teamed up with artificial intelligence specialists at Google to analyse data collected by the space-based observatory.

AI engine AlphaZero's win will "scramble" chess world

Having beaten the world's the highest-rated chess engine Stockfish, world champion chess player Viswanathan Anand believes the AI programme AlphaZero will change the way humans play the game. "We've got a clean start and the implications are very interesting," said Anand.

Source: ESPN

Following criticism, animal shelter fires security robot

A San Francisco animal adoption agency will immediately stop using a controversial security robot. The move comes after the San Francisco SPCA had been criticised for its deployment of a Knightscope K9 to mitigate vandalism and the presence of homeless people at its Mission District office.

Source: Ars Technica