Technology Tuesday: July 24th

Welcome to Technology Tuesday! Every week The Job Shop Blog will bring you our 5 top science and technology news stories from around the web.

This week: Virtual Reality hits “tipping point” and is here to stay, a nanobot filled aerosol spray, Rolls Royce bugs, designer babies, and a Chinese hyperloop.


VIRTUAL REALITY IS HERE TO STAY

Thanks to virtual reality, you can swim with the dolphins, play some tennis, or spend some alone time, all from the comfort of your own living room. But it’s not yet perfect — a horrible wave of nausea can hit anytime, right in the middle of these activities.

This problem — motion sickness caused by laggy, choppy virtual reality experiences — has been around since the technology first emerged.

Yes, virtual reality isn’t perfect. But there’s reason to believe that virtual reality technology has finally proved that it’s here to stay.

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MIT CREATES AEROSOL SPRAY FILLED WITH NANOBOTS

You may have sworn off aerosol sprays in the ’90s when everyone was talking about the hole in the ozone layer, but a team of researchers from MIT has found a use for aerosols that could be good for both the environment and our health. This spray contains nanobots, tiny sensors with the potential to do everything, from detecting dangerous leaks in pipelines, to diagnosing health issues. They published their research in Nature Nanotechnology on Monday.

Each sensor in the aerosol spray contains two parts. The first is a colloid, an extremely tiny insoluble particle or molecule. Colloids are so small, in fact, they can remain suspended in a liquid or the air indefinitely — the force of particles colliding around them is stronger than the force of gravity attempting to pull them down.

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ROLLS ROYCE IS BUILDING TINY BUG BASED ROBOTS

Typically, engineers want to get bugs out of their creations. Not so for the U.K. engineering firm (not the famed carmaker) Rolls-Royce — it’s looking for a way to get bugs into the aircraft engines it builds.

These “bugs” aren’t software glitches or even actual insects. They’re tiny robots modeled after the cockroach. On Tuesday, Rolls-Royce shared the latest developments in its research into cockroach-like robots at the Farnborough International Airshow.

Rolls-Royce believes these tiny insect-inspired robots will save engineers time by serving as their eyes and hands within the tight confines of an airplane’s engine. According to a report by The Next Web, the company plans to mount a camera on each bot to allow engineers to see what’s going on inside an engine without have to take it apart. Rolls-Royce thinks it could even train its cockroach-like robots to complete repairs.

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CREATING GENETICALLY MODIFIED BABIES RULED “MORALLY PERMISSIBLE”

We may have just moved one step closer to designer babies. On Tuesday, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics (NCB), an independent U.K.-based organization that analyzes and reports on ethical issues in biology and medicine, released a report focused on the social and ethical issues surrounding human genome editing and reproduction.

According to the report, editing human embryos, sperm, or eggs is “morally permissible” as long as the edit doesn’t jeopardize the welfare of the future person (the one born from the edited embryo) or “increase disadvantage, discrimination, or division in society.”

The NCB report doesn’t say we should only make edits to embryos for therapeutic reasons, meaning changes for cosmetic reasons are still on the table, ethically speaking. However, by no means does the report suggest we jump right into editing human embryos.

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CHINA IS INVESTING IN HYPERLOOP TECHNOLOGY IN A BIG WAY

China’s largest cities are choking in traffic. Millions of cars on the road means stifling levels of air pollution and astronomical commute times, especially during rush hours.

The latest move to address this urban traffic nightmare: Chinese state-backed companies are making heavy investments in U.S. hyperloop startups Arrivo and Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, lining up $1 billion and $300 million in credit respectively. It’s substantial financing that could put China ahead in the race to open the first full-scale hyperloop track.

Both companies are planning something big, although their approaches differ in some key ways. Transport company Arrivo is focusing on relieving highway traffic by creating a separate track that allows cars to zip along at 200 miles per hour (320 km/h) on magnetically levitated sleds inside vacuum-sealed tubes (it’s not yet clear if this will be above ground or underground).

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