The virtual reality war is set to be a battle of financial endurance

The eventual champion in the race for VR supremacy is likely to be the company that can last the longest without making a profit, according to a report published yesterday by a leading technology intelligence provider.

The report, which was published by Current Analysis in response to HTC’s reveal of its updated Vive VR headset and custom controllers,  acknowledged that content availability was likely to determine which headset – Oculus’ Rift, Sony’s PlayStation VR or the Valve co-created Vive – would come out on top initially. However, it argued that it would take far longer for high-end VR headsets to become mainstream, meaning companies may need to run at a loss for some time.

“Whoever gets the largest commitment to the best content is likely to garner the lion’s share of early adopter purchases, but mainstream adoption and profitability could still be a long way off,” wrote Avi Greengart, research director of consumer platforms and devices at Current Analysis.

As a result, the companies with the deepest pockets are likely to have the biggest advantage, giving the Facebook-owned Oculus a serious edge.

“Oculus should stress to developers that no matter who gets the best start, Facebook gives it the resources to survive long enough to succeed,” added Greengart.

Image courtesy of Oculus.

Image courtesy of Oculus.

With pre-orders for the consumer edition of the Oculus Rift opening later today despite no word yet on price or precise release date, the company looks set to get an early march on HTC, which will not be releasing the Vive until April.

However, Vive’s newly announced features, which include a built-in camera, could persuade some to wait, particularly as those who’ve managed to lay their hands on the updated headset are making some very positive noises.

“We demoed the system at CES and were impressed. It still has screen-door effect, but images are much higher contrast than before,” said Greengart.

“The camera allows the software to alert you to real-world objects in the room, which makes gameplay safer. The system was significantly more comfortable to wear and was not disorienting – or nausea-inducing – to enter or exit.”

Image and featured image courtesy of HTC

Image and featured image courtesy of HTC.

If the long-term success of virtual reality headsets does prove to be down to money, neither HTC nor Facebook is in a particularly poor position. Both have considerable cash to spare, and could certainly afford to keep the products afloat for several years.

However, for Facebook the Oculus Rift is an opportunity to get ahead on an emerging form of communication, something that is likely to be immensely valuable for the long-term success of its social media network. As a result, it’s likely to want to make the Rift a success no matter what the cost.

By contrast, HTC has far less crossovers between the Vive and its other products, meaning if the battle proves to be a long, loss-making slog, it could well find its shareholders unwilling to keep funding the headset.

Using CRISPR, UK scientists edit DNA of human embryos

For the first time in the UK, scientists have altered human embryos. Using the gene-editing tool CRISPR, the scientists turned off the protein OCT4, which is thought to be important in early embryo development. In doing so, cells that normally go on to form the placenta, yolk sac and foetus failed to develop.

Source: BBC

Tesla and AMD developing AI chip for self-driving cars

Tesla has partnered with AMD to develop a dedicated chip that will handle autonomous driving tasks in its cars. Tesla's Autopilot programme is currently headed by former AMD chip architect Jim Keller, and it is said that more than 50 people are working on the initiative under his leadership.

Source: CNBC

Synthetic muscle developed that can lift 1,000 times its own weight

Scientists have used a 3D printing technique to create an artificial muscle that can lift 1,000 times its own weight. "It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight. It's the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle," said Dr Aslan Miriyev, from the Creative Machines lab.

Source: Telegraph

Head of AI at Google criticises "AI apocalypse" scaremongering

John Giannandrea, the senior vice president of engineering at Google, has condemned AI scaremongering, promoted by people like Elon Musk ."I just object to the hype and the sort of sound bites that some people have been making," said Giannandrea."I am definitely not worried about the AI apocalypse."

Source: CNBC

Scientists engineer antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains

Scientists have engineered an antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains and is built to attack three critical parts of the virus, which makes it harder for the HIV virus to resist its effects. The International Aids Society said it was an "exciting breakthrough". Human trials will begin in 2018.

Source: BBC

Facebook has a plan to stop fake news from influencing elections

Mark Zuckerberg has outlined nine steps that Facebook will take to "protect election integrity". “I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity," he said during a live broadcast on his Facebook page. "I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine our democracy.”

Renault unveils unorthodox ‘car of the future’: a dockable, peanut-shaped driverless pod

Renault has unveiled its take on the car of the future: a peanut-shaped, mulit-directional driverless vehicle that is capable of docking into a train of vehicles.

Designed by Yuchen Cai, a student of Central St Martins’ MA in Industrial Design, the vehicle is the winning design in competition run between Renault and the prestigious design school, and was honed during a two-week stay at Renault’s Paris studio by Cai this summer.

Dubbed The Float, the vehicle was unveiled today at DesignJunction, a four-day design event that kicked off today in London.

“Everyone has accepted that cars will be part of the sharing economy in the future – that’s what’s going to happen,” said Will Sorrel, event director of DesignJunction, this morning.

“This takes it one step further and these pods are this peanut shape so they can join together, so the autonomous vehicles can link up and join together if they’re going in the same direction, conserving energy.”

The Float by Yuchen Cai, winner of the Renault and Central Saint Martins, UAL competition

The Float is rather unusually designed to run using magnetic levitation – known more commonly as maglev – and would be capable of moving in any direction, eliminating the need for tedious three-point turns.

Made entirely of glass, the vehicle is designed to have sliding doors. Two bucket-style seats enable up to two passengers to travel per pod, and swivel mechanism ensures easy departure from the pods.

When the vehicle is docked to another, however, the passengers aren’t just stuck grimacing at each other through glass. Instead passengers can rotate their seats using built-in controls and power up a sound system that allows them to talk to the pod next door.

Those who are feeling less sociable can change the opacity of the glass, ensuring privacy when their neighbours are not so appealing to communicate with.

The Float is also designed to be paired with a smartphone app, through which would-be passengers could hail a vehicle as required.

“Central Saint Martins’ Industrial Design students really took this on board when creating their vision of the future,” said Anthony Lo, Renault’s  vice-president of exterior design and one of the competition judges. “Yuchen’s winning design was particularly interesting thanks to its use of Maglev technology and its tessellated design. It was a pleasure to have her at the Renault design studios and see her vision come to life.”

“From a technological viewpoint, the prospect of vehicle autonomy is fascinating, but it’s also critical to hold in mind that such opportunities also present significant challenges to how people interact and their experience of future cities,” added Nick Rhodes, Central Saint Martins programme director of product ceramic & industrial design.

“Recognition of the success of the projects here lies in their ability to describe broader conceptions of what driverless vehicles might become and how we may come to live with them.”