Friday Five: TikTok asks US court to intervene on Trump ban

Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. TikTok asks US court to intervene on ban

TikTok has begun a legal challenge against the Trump administration over plans to shut it down in the US. In August Trump signed an executive order to ban the app if it did not sell its US operations in 45 days. That deadline ran out yesterday and TikTok says it has received no feedback on its efforts to comply with the order.

Trump had issued the ban citing security concerns that the Chinese government could spy on TikTok users if the app remained under Chinese ownership (which TikTok denies). Of course, with Joe Biden due to take over the presidency in January, he may take a different view to Chinese firms working in the US.

2. Virgin Hyperloop tests first passenger journey

Virgin Hyperloop has taken its first test run with passengers aboard in the Nevada desert near Las Vegas. The futuristic transport concept involves pods inside vacuum tubes carrying passengers at speeds in excess of 500mph. The two trial passengers travelled along a 500m test track in 15 seconds, reaching 107mph.

The concept, which has spent years in development, builds on a proposal by Elon Musk. It is based on the world’s fastest magnetic levitation (maglev) trains, then made faster by speeding along inside vacuum tubes. In theory, the Virgin Hyperloop would enable people to travel between Gatwick and Heathrow in just four minutes.

3. Man without hand gets 3D-printed bionic arm

A man from Reading who was born without a hand has been given a 3D-printed bionic arm based on the Metal Gear Solid video game series. Daniel Melville is a tester and brand ambassador for Open Bionics, who teamed up with Metal Gear Solid publisher Konami to create a Venom Snake bionic arm for the 29-year-old.

Initially the artificial limb was just a prop, but Daniel’s new arm has a multi-grip bionic hand and, as a one-handed gaming addict, he’s living a science fiction story in real life. Open Bionics, based in Bristol, was founded six years ago with the goal of using 3D printing and 3D scanning to make affordable and accessible bionic limbs.

4. Google to end free unlimited photo storage

You may have already received an email to tell you this but Google is changing its storage policies — and it’s likely to cost you money. Currently every free Google account comes with 15GB of online storage for your Gmail, Drive and Photos. Email already counts towards the 15GB, but from 1 June 2021 so will your photo uploads.

That’s a big change because until now Google Photos has let you store unlimited images and HD videos for free. Google says 80% of its users will take at least three years to reach the 15GB limit (and it gives you a personalised estimate based on previous use) but if you run out of space, you’ll have to pay for a Google One plan.

5. Bears beware the robots in wolves’ clothing

No, this isn’t a still from a low-rent horror film or a leftover Halloween decoration. It is, in fact, a robotic wolf, one of two deployed in the Japanese city of Takikawa to prevent bear attacks. More than 150 people were attacked by bears during 2019 but since the ‘Monster Wolves’ were installed, there hasn’t been a single attack.

The real Japanese wolves roamed the northern islands of the country before being hunted to extinction over a century ago. Their robotic descendants scare away bears by moving their heads, making loud noises and flashing their glowing red eyes. Pretty scary for humans too — but better than being attacked by a bear, I guess…

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