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Technology News

Microsoft explores realistic VR haptics with a wrist-mounted gadget

A new design from Microsoft’s research division could make the haptics of VR just as realistic as its visuals with a quirky design that puts a motorized handle on your wrist. The handle includes a suite of capacitive touch sensors that allow it to detect when you touch and release an object in VR. The design of the Haptic PIVOT allows it to recreate the sensation you feel when you first make contact with an object. That’s something current haptic controllers have trouble replicating realistically. What’s more, two PIVOT controllers can also work in conjunction with one another to simulate what it’s like to hold an object with two hands.

Robot trained in a game-like simulation performs better in real life

Researchers trained a neural network algorithm, which was designed to control a four-legged robot, in a simulated environment similar to a video game. They started the algorithm making random movements in the simulation, rewarding it for moving in the right way and penalising it otherwise. By accumulating rewards, the neural network learned how to move over a variety of terrain. By first training the algorithm in a simulation, the team is able to limit risks and reduce costs. The robot was able to move 0.452 metres per second on mossy land – more than twice as fast as it can move with its default programming.

Science News

Vitamin A boosts fat burning in cold conditions

Researchers have demonstrated that moderate application of cold increases the levels of vitamin A and its blood transporter, retinol-binding protein. Most of the vitamin A reserves are stored in the liver and cold exposure seems to stimulate the redistribution of vitamin A towards the adipose tissue. The cold-induced increase in vitamin A led to a conversion of white fat into brown fat, with a higher rate of fat burning. “We have discovered a new mechanism by which vitamin A regulates lipid combustion and heat generation in cold conditions. This could help us to develop new therapeutic interventions that exploit this specific mechanism.”

Researchers develop method for earlier detection of Alzheimer’s disease

One common way of testing blood is the ELISA. But, using the technique to detect the beta-amyloid proteins of Alzheimer’s is difficult because their levels in the blood are too small. Researchers were able to use their single-atom nanozyme to mimic the active site of a natural enzyme and to detect the Alzheimer’s Disease proteins at levels 10 times lower than commercially available ELISA tests. The nanozyme was more robust than natural enzymes, which can degrade in acidic environments or in high temperatures. The next step of the research will involve testing their method with real blood samples.

Business News

Bitcoin surges after Paypal jumps into the cryptocurrency business

PayPal is launching its own cryptocurrency service, allowing people to buy, hold and sell digital currency on its site and applications. The online payments company declared adding crypto was a significant milestone on the path to mainstream adoption of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. Bitcoin investors agreed: Prices rose 5% on the news. “Our global reach, digital payments expertise, two-sided network, and rigorous security and compliance controls provide us with the opportunity, and the responsibility, to help facilitate the understanding, redemption and interoperability of these new instruments of exchange”.

Electric cars ‘as cheap to manufacture’ as regular models by 2024

Electric cars will cost the same to make as cars with internal combustion engines by 2024. The extra cost of manufacturing battery electric cars versus their fossil fuel equivalents will diminish to just $1,900 (£1,470) per car by 2022, and disappear completely by 2024. Reaching cost parity with the internal combustion engine is seen as a key milestone in the world’s transition away from burning fossil fuels. Carmakers that try to hang on to ICE sales risk being left behind by rivals such as Tesla and Volkswagen, the world’s largest carmaker by volume, which has committed to investing €33bn in selling electric cars.

Miscellaneous News

Pope says same-sex couples should be covered by civil union laws

Pope Francis has said that same-sex couples should be protected by civil union laws in some of the clearest language he has used on the rights of gay people since his election. He made his comments in a new documentary “Francesco” by Oscar-nominated director Evgeny Afineevsky. “Homosexual people have a right to be in a family. They are children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out or be made miserable over it.” “Pope Francis’ clear and public support for same-sex civil unions marks a new stage in the church’s relationship with LGBTQ people”.

Nigeria Sars protest: Unrest in Lagos after shooting

Evidence from hospital records and witnesses showed “the Nigerian military opened fire on thousands of people who were peacefully calling for good governance and an end to police brutality”. Buildings have been set aflame and there are reports of gunfire in Nigeria’s biggest city after demonstrators were shot at a protest where at least 12 people have been killed. Protests against a police unit have been taking place for two weeks. Demonstrators have been using the social media hashtag #EndSars to rally crowds against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (Sars).

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