Friday Five: VR surgery and expressive robots

1. A new touch point for VR

First there was virtual reality. Then there was fun with VR. And then there was the practical application of VR for pretty important roles, such as training pilots to fly aeroplanes. Now London start-up FundamentalVR has opened the door to a whole new range of uses, with a twist in the tech that introduces haptic feedback — or, more simply, physical resistance that engages your sense of touch.

2. The robots are still rising

Let’s face it, we’re all fascinated and a bit scared by robots. But they really are here, and human nature being what it is, we’re not going to stop until we’ve got them doing all the things we think robots should do. So, let’s all welcome the newest robot on the block, the Simulative Emotional Expression Robot. Or SEER to you and me.

SEER isn’t shy about locking eyes on the nearest human and mimicking their facial expressions to a T. And while it’s just a prototype, the tech paves the way for lifelike personal assistants of the future and maybe even robotic teachers, since new research has shown that kids are far more likely to be influenced by robots than adults. Oh, and in ancient times a ‘Seer’ was an oracle who could foretell the future…

3. Alexa and Cortana sitting in a tree…

Our virtual lives could be on the brink of getting a whole lot easier, as Amazon and Microsoft have put rivalry on the backburner to bring those crazy kids Alexa and Cortana together. The plan, being trialled right now, is for users to be able to use the virtual assistants on each company’s respective devices.

4. Surfing into sleep deprivation

Ultra-fast broadband may now be a widely accepted human right, but it’s also depriving us of lots of valuable shut-eye. Sorry, it’s a fact. Claims that our web dependency has a negative impact on our sleep patterns are nothing new, but now researchers in Germany have the cold hard data to back it up.

5. Tech giants face a decryption crisis

The wrangle between law enforcement and internet bigwigs like Facebook and Google over access to encrypted comms has taken a new twist in Australia. Proposed legislation could force the companies to decrypt comms where possible, or build new decryption capabilities if they don’t have the technical ability.

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