Virtual reality weather add-ons let you feel the sun and wind

Virtual reality devices can already fool your eyes and ears. Soon your other senses will be fooled too, with the creation of a device that can bring the weather in your virtual world to life.

Nimesha Ranasinghe at the National University of Singapore is working towards the ultimate VR experience. Last year, his team showed how electrodes can be used to add sweet tastes into virtual reality. His new accessory, called Ambiotherm, adds atmosphere into the mix as well.

Ambiotherm has two components that combine with a normal VR headset. The first is a wind module that contains two fans that clip on to the bottom of a headset.

“This means that we can simulate the wind blowing in your face, for example, as you ski down a mountain,” says Ranasinghe.

The second is a temperature module that attaches to the back of the neck. “So when walking through a virtual desert, we can simulate the harsh sun beating down on you,” he says.

Whole body experience

The accessories don’t just affect the area they

This cheap and easy lab-on-a-chip could save lives

From detecting breast cancer to screening for HIV, surviving serious disease depends on early detection. When regular testing isn’t available, lives are lost. But early detection often requires expensive lab equipment, and specialty training that isn’t easily common in many parts of the world. According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer—the most common cancer in women—has a survival rate that’s roughly twice as high in high-income nations as it is in low-income countries.

“It basically emphasized that we needed to have access to early diagnostic tools,” said Rahim Esfandyarpour, an engineering associate at the Stanford Technology Center.

So Esfandyarpour and a team of researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine endeavored to do something about it. They’ve developed a diagnostic ‘lab-on-a-chip’ that can be manufactured on the cheap and produced with your run-of-the-mill inkjet printer.

A lab-on-a-chip is a device that integrates multiple laboratory functions—such as DNA analysis—onto a single chip spanning a few millimeters to a few centimeters in size. Like a microchip, it’s an integrated circuit—though Esfandyarpour’s is designed to assess and

The high cost of being digital

AT THE 2010 TechCrunch conference, Eric Schmidt, then CEO of Google, described his ambition for the company. It would, he said, collect and analyse data about its users until “we know more or less what you are thinking about”. This would offer a “new future [in which] you’re never lost… never lonely… never bored… never out of ideas”.

Recent years have seen not just more data of more kinds being produced, but a fundamental shift in our experience of the world: our news, entertainment, routes home, products and potential romantic partners are data-driven: evolving in real time, and wrapping us in personalised market segments of one.

These services are enormously convenient. The idle thoughts and urgent worries we express in searches are autocompleted and autocorrected; information, products and opportunities tailored to our interests surround us. But questions about the effects of letting commercial services in on our most critical and intimate choices are growing ever louder and more urgent.

In Data for the People, Andreas Weigend, former chief scientist at Amazon and consultant to a host

How to get early access to iOS software before it’s released

If you can’t wait to get your hands on all of Apple’s next-generation iOS features, you can sign up to become a beta tester.

The Apple Beta Software Program lets you try out pre-release software and give feedback, which Apple can use to improve the software’s quality, find issues and fix them. As a member, you can enroll your Mac or iOS device and every time a public beta is released, as well as subsequent updates, you’ll be able to access them from the Mac App Store or via iOS Software Update.

The Apple Beta Software Program is open to anyone with a valid Apple ID who accepts the Apple Beta Software Program Agreement during the sign-up process. If you’ve ever downloaded an app or music track, you’ll have an Apple ID. If you don’t have an Apple ID, you can create one via the App Store. The program is free to join.

How to get early access to iOS updates

Make sure to back up your Mac using Time Machine and your iOS device with iTunes before installing beta software.

To get started on the Program, set up an Apple ID if

Facebook’ ‘M’ virtual assistant is part computer, part human

Facebook has started public testing of M, its new virtual assistant. The service will take on Apple’s Siri, Google’s Now and Microsoft’s Cortana, but with one key difference: it is powered by actual people, not just artificial intelligence.

According to Facebook, M will be able to do much more than rival services. “M can actually complete tasks on your behalf,” explained David Marcus, Facebook’s vice president of messaging products.

Much-like TaskRabbit, Facebook’s M relies on human customer service contractors, called M Trainers, to answer some questions and complete tasks such as restaurant bookings. As Marcus puts it, “It’s powered by artificial intelligence that’s trained and supervised by people.”

The hybrid AI/human butler is free to use as part of Facebook’s messenger app for iOS and Android although for the time being it will remain a small-scale trial in San Francisco. reports that just a “few hundred” Bay Area Facebook users currently have access. “It can purchase items, get gifts delivered

Robotic food delivery is rolling into the United States

Starship Technologies, co-founded by Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis of Skype fame, raised $17.2 million in January to build a fleet of six-wheeled delivery robots. More feasible for large-scale rollouts than drones, these delivery bots are scheduled to have their American debut in Washington, D.C. and Redwood City, California in early February.

On test day, the Starship company will have an employee walking behind the bot—which is basically a secured container box rolling along at 4 mph—to deal with unexpected incidents and too-curious pedestrians, according to CNN Money. For the lucky crowds who are going to live-tweet this scene, the spectacle may bear resemblance to a parent following their toddler as it learns how to walk, the parent ready to save the little tyke from tripping and crying.

The company’s first two U.S. customers will be Postmates and DoorDash, but their product is already pretty street savvy. The Starship baby has already been tested in the U.K., Germany, and Switzerland, where it has delivered food orders, groceries, and parcels. As of November 2016, the bot had over 12,000 miles under its belt (or under its wheels, if you will).


iOS 10 security glitch makes it easier for hackers to steal your data

A significant security glitch in Apple’s latest operating system, iOS 10, makes it 2,500 times easier for hackers to access sensitive data, according to a Russian digital security company.

iOS 10 was released on September 13, but has already been hit with security issues. The software includes a new way to encrypt iPhone backups through iTunes, which gives hackers a greater chance of obtaining a user’s passwords than previous versions of iOS, according to Elcomsoft.

Elcomsoft, based in Moscow, has said that the issue is caused by Apple’s decision to change the way it encrypts back-ups. The flaw relates only to manual iPhone and iPad backups that take place through iTunes, and not Apple’s iCloud.

Hackers can use a brute force attack, automatically trying different password combinations, to crack the passwords iPhone users have in place for their iOS 10 backups. Through this, the criminals can infiltrate credit card data and Apple’s Keychain password manager, a digital vault that stores user passwords and other authentication

Samsung buys AI platform Viv, takes aim at Siri and Google Assistant

Samsung has acquired the AI platform, Viv, developed by the creators of Apple’s Siri, as an attempt to step up its focus on AI.

Viv labs has developed a unique, open AI platform that gives third-party developers the power to use and build conversational assistants and integrate a natural language-based interface into renowned applications and services. Samsung wants to use Viv in its phones, TVs and other devices.

“The deal showcases Samsung’s commitment to virtual personal assistants and is part of the company’s broader vision to deliver an AI-based open ecosystem across all of its devices and services,” the company said in a statement.

Viv’s chief executive officer, Dag Kittlaus, was part of the team that developed Siri, the digital assistant Apple bought in 2010. Kittalus worked at Apple for three years after the acquisition before leaving to create Viv in 2012. In the public demo of Viv earlier this year, Kittlaus said he wanted the system to be “the intelligence interface for everything.”

Viv says it is building the “simplest way for anyone to talk to devices and services everywhere”.

“We see a future that is decidedly beyond apps – where you

Google’s Home assistant takes aim at Amazon’s Alexa

Google has just made the battle to create a home-based artificial intelligence personal assistant more competitive.

Amazon’s Echo is the most popular at present, Apple’s is said to be a year from completion, and Mark Zuckerberg’s butler is just a personal project.

Now Google is launching its own device that it wants to lead the market with. The Google Home speaker, revealed at an event in San Francisco, comes with a choice of fabric or metal bases and is powered by Google’s Assistant, which also works across its Pixel phones.

The device, which is similar to Amazon’s Echo, uses far-field voice recognition to detect a person asking questions near it and then responds. The device wakes up when it hears the words “Okay Google” being said, and then begins to recognise what is said.

LED lights on top of the device – in the familiar Google primary colours – are turned on when the the device is listening. There’s a mic mute button to

Virtual-Reality Movies: Get Ready for the VR Revolution

Whether You’re an cinephile or you haven’t been to a movie theater since enduring “Attack of the Clones,” one thing is certain: Over the next few years, virtual reality will completely reboot your relationship to the moving image. That’s because the once-geeks-only technology, known as VR for short, is becoming shockingly good at making you feel as though you’re in the midst of the action—cycling through the air with E.T. or spinning atop an alp with an excitable Fraulein Maria—rather than observing from afar.

We hear your objections: “There’s absolutely no way I’m going to wear one of those dorky-looking headsets. I won’t even be caught dead in 3-D glasses.” Even if you acknowledge that the motion-tracking technology VR systems employ is pretty cool, allowing users to look freely around a 360-degree environment, you’re perfectly content with real reality, thank you very much.

Behind the scenes, however, VR is rewriting the script for Hollywood. VR works are already popping up at prominent film festivals like Sundance and next month’s Tribeca Film Festival (where screenings take place in small rooms rather than large theaters). A-list directors such as Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg are working on top-secret

The 10 best launch partners for Amazon Echo’s Alexa

Have books read to you

If your eyes are too tired for book reading, you can get Alexa to read your Kindle books to you, using text-to-speech technology.

Decide your fate

Too indecisive to make a call on a decision? Leave fate in the hands of Alexa by flipping a virtual coin. Just shout “Alexa, heads or tails?” and she’ll make the choice for you.

Check your energy usage

EDF Energy teamed up with Amazon Alexa, allowing customers to check their energy accounts using the smart speaker. This skill makes it easy to make a payment and check your meter reading.

Hear the latest news and sports scores

Just ask Alexa “what’s the news?” and she’ll read the headlines aloud to you. You can choose which news sources Alexa will read beforehand and you can also change which news sources you want through the Alexa app.

Just Eat

If you can’t decide where to have dinner, you can ask Alexa for recommendations for nearby restaurants and she’ll list them for you, choosing from any cuisine you want. Alternatively, if you don’t fancy leaving the house, Alexa has access to

Twitter adds safety feature. Removes it two hours later

Twitter has reversed one of the safety features it introduced to its social network, two hours after introducing it. It had planned to stop sending notifications to people when they were added to a list but shortly after the announcement, the company backtracked.

Anyone on Twitter is able to create lists and add users to them. Lists can act as separate feeds of tweets that are curated by an account holder and they often focus on a particular topic or event.

Announcing the feature, Twitter said: “We want you to get notifications that matter”. However, users complained that being notified about being added to a list makes it possible to tell who is looking at profiles.

“Critical for people to know if they’ve been added to a list intended for targets,” tweeted @SwiftOnSecurity. “This is blinding the vulnerable.”

In response, Ed Ho, Twitter’s vice president of engineering, said the company was disabling the new feature. “This was a misstep,” he replied to those questioning the move, continuing: “we are reversing the change”.

Twitter has long been criticised for not doing enough to tackle harassment on the social network and, last week, introduced three new

How Amazon’s Alexa was ‘born’ and where voice-controlled tech will take us next

Amazon Echo, the acclaimed voice-controlled AI device, is built on the technology of a little-known British company, Evi, which Amazon acquired in 2012.

Formerly known as True Knowledge, Evi was founded in 2005 by AI aficionado and entrepreneur William Tunstall-Pedoe, who wanted to develop software that accurately interpreted questions and framed more natural, conversational answers.

When it reached the market in 2012, the technology, Evi 11, was positioned as a contender to Apple’s Siri – although not by Tunstall-Pedoe, 47, who says he set out to build something new, not to compete. Now, 11 years after its inception, he can celebrate Evi’s real-world impact. “These technologies are now good enough that they are able to create useful products that change lives and are used daily,” he says.

Before Evi’s invention, Tunstall-Pedoe, who lives in Cambridge, built his reputation as an AI mastermind and was known for programming computers to crack cryptic word puzzles. He also developed the Anagram Genius software that uses AI to turn words into anagrams. Author Dan Brown used the software to devise the anagrams in The Da Vinci Code. (Tunstall-Pedoe is credited in all 80 million copies sold.)

After three

Every sale of this edible Pouncer drone can save 50 lives

Nigel Gifford makes drones with a difference. His humanitarian UAV, the Pouncer, is designed to deliver food aid in disaster zones – by being edible itself. That may sound unlikely, but Gifford, 70, has a history of succeeding with unconventional projects. He’s the Somerset-based engineer behind Aquila, the Wi-Fi-beaming drone bought by Facebook in 2014 to connect 1.6 billion humans to the internet.

In 2010, Gifford imagined Aquila (originally named Ascenta) as a high-altitude drone that could be used to beam internet or mobile-phone connectivity to civilians below.

“I absolutely believed in what we were doing; I could see how this could be a major benefit in communications applications,” he says. The UAV was designed with solar panels that would give it enough power to stay airborne for 90 days, with a flexible central section that could adapt to securely carry any cargo.

The call from Facebook dramatically changed Ascenta’s fate. It bought the drone for a reported $20 million (£16 million). Now with an enlarged wingspan the size of a commercial airliner, Aquila made its first successful flight – a 96-minute cruise above Yucca, Arizona – on June 28, 2016. Gifford is delighted: “For what it started out

Science Museum’s Robots: Who is really pulling the strings?

RoboThespian welcomes visitors to the opening of Robots at London’s Science Museum with suitable drama. The life-sized humanoid blinks its pixelated eyes, moves its head and gestures theatrically as it introduces the exhibition with great enthusiasm. You might expect the robo-actor to give you a guided tour – if it wasn’t bolted to the floor.

But move on a step and the illusion is shattered. Behind a wall sits engineer Joe Wollaston, with a computer and a headset. From here, he can see and hear people approaching RoboThespian through a camera and a mic on the robot. When he speaks, his voice booms out of the robot’s mouth.

Wollaston is RoboThespian’s Wizard of Oz, and this is a peek behind the curtain. “What you just saw was an example of our telepresence application,” he says after the robot’s introductory speech. “So it’s actually remotely operated.”

RoboThespian can recognise people’s movements and deliver programmed messages, but a human has to step in for anything more complex. It is, as Wollaston says, “artificial AI”.

This illusion of intelligence is one of the underlying messages of the exhibition, which tracks 500 years of robots, from the earliest

PC Owners Swarm To Do This Today

Thousands of PC users across the UK are swarming to claim a system that has gone viral in the last 24 hours. This new system is protecting people’s computers from hackers, unwanted software, instantly speeding up performance and saving people thousands in repair costs.

By Sarah Hansworth, Web Life Advice – Technician Sarah Hansworth investigates a free scan that has just gone viral in the UK.

If you live in the UK and have a Windows computer that is older than 6 months old, not running how you would like it or want to increase your security then this may be the most important article you ever read.

Thousands of people across the UK are rushing to get their hands on the latest system that is instantly protecting PC users after fears rise for the security of our internet.

Experts are now calling it; “A Game Changer for internet users.”

An elite team of Certified Developers have built a security tool that they believe will be the last piece of software consumers will ever need.

The software uses a unique algorithm to instantly increase the security whilst speeding up your system. First, it identifies flaws on your network and any hidden threats on

Metadating helps you find love based on your everyday data

ONE Saturday night last year, 11 people went looking for love. Like countless speed daters before them, they met in a room draped with curtains, the lights on low. In one hand they held traditional glasses of bubbly, but in the other were sheets of paper they had filled with their personal data.

This twist on speed-dating was part of an experiment run by a team at Newcastle University in the UK. They wanted to know what would happen in a world where instead of vetting potential dates by their artfully posed selfies or carefully crafted dating-site profiles, we looked at data gathered by their computers and phones. As use of data-gathering devices increases, it’s a world that’s just round the corner. The team calls it “metadating”.

“There’s a bit of a mismatch between a data led view of the world – which is very dry and mechanical – and how we view ourselves,” says Chris Elsden, who headed up the project. Elsden and his colleagues want to explore other ways we can use data that gets collected as we go about our modern lives. “Can we give people more control over it, make it more

Virtual out-of-body experience reduces your fear of death

Mel Slater at the University of Barcelona, Spain, and his team have used virtual reality headsets to create the illusion of being separate from your own body. They did this by first making 32 volunteers feel like a virtual body was their own. While wearing a headset, the body would match any real movements the volunteers made. When a virtual ball was dropped onto the foot of the virtual body, a vibration was triggered on the person’s real foot.

This technique is similar to the “rubber hand illusion”, making people feel that a body is their own, even though they know it can’t be. Once the illusion was established, the volunteers watched as their viewpoint changed – they appeared to float away from the virtual body, observing it from above. This time, when balls were dropped on the virtual body, only half the volunteers were given a vibration. Those that did receive one still felt connected to the body.

Afterwards, the volunteers answered a standard questionnaire to assess their fear of death. People who had felt totally disconnected from their body – and the virtual body – reported having a significantly lower fear of dying. “The

Advancing artificial intelligence is to merge with machines

Apparently “Battlestar Galactica” had it right all along. Technology mogul Elon Musk says the way to deal with advancing artificial intelligence is to merge with machines—or risk being made redundant.

At the 2017 World Government Summit in Dubai on Monday, Musk commented that “some kind of high-bandwidth interface to the brain will be something that helps us achieve symbiosis between human and machine intelligence.” The statement came during a question and answer session in which Musk had already articulated that, “There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot can’t do better.”

His argument is essentially that because computers, well, compute much faster than our sluggish cerebrums, we’ll need to somehow supercharge our brains to stay relevant in the age of artificial intelligence. It’s a pretty ambitious solution, given the current limitations of brain-computer interfaces, though it’s in line with the sort of fanciful ideas that media outlets love to quote Musk on.

Let’s be clear here: What Musk is proposing may be far-fetched, but it’s a response to a very real problem that’s going to affect a lot of people in the near future. Jobs that involve predictable manual labor are in danger

Software helps musicians stop slouching by ruining their music

The audience’s anticipation rises as the maestro hunches over the piano. The first note echoes around the room, then upss….! The audience hears a barrage of white noise.

Hunching is bad for the body, so a new system averts it in musicians by making it bad for their music too.

The Musician’s Mirror is the work of London-based designer Arthur Carabott. The software identifies when musicians’ posture is poor and gives them a stark, audible notification.

“Musicians always focus on how their instrument sounds, but it’s more difficult to focus on your posture. A wall of white noise quickly refocuses your attention,” says Peter Buckoke at the Royal College of Music, London.

Giveaway pose: Feeling sad? Computer knows by looking at how you move

To use the software, musicians input images of themselves adopting good and bad posture, then highlight the parts of the body they want the system to focus on.

“Guitarists often have problems with their head and shoulder positioning, but piano players are more likely to slouch,” says Carabott.

The musician then practises their instrument in front of a depth camera. At the first hint of bad posture,