We keep an eye on the latest technology developments so you don’t have to. Here are some of the things we’ve spotted recently that are changing our world - or at least, helping us raise a smile in challenging times.

General Motors prioritises electric vehicles and autonomous cars

When we think about electric vehicles, Tesla is usually the first brand that springs to mind. But even the most staid of legacy companies are embracing the dramatic move toward new automotive tech. Late last month, General Motors announced that they would be moving the bulk of the team that were working on Corvette engineering across to their electric and autonomous vehicle teams. One of the first things they will be working on is the launch of a new electric pick-up truck, to be released in late 2021. \ https://techcrunch.com/2020/08/28/gm-shifts-corvette-engineering-team-to-its-electric-and-autonomous-vehicle-programs/

AI helps discover 50 new planets

We might not have to look further afield for Earth-like planets: they could be hiding in plain sight. In comparison with the stars they orbit, planets are tiny, and can be difficult to identify. False positives are often thrown up, caused by noise, interference or camera distortions which can make the validation of actual planets difficult. Now, researchers at NASA have trained an AI to discard false positives and it has learned so successfully that it has verified the existence of multiple new worlds. https://futurism.com/ai-confirmed-existence-50-planets-nasa-data

21st-century supermarket shelf-stackers: robot cats

In future, it may not just be office employees who work from home. Robots controlled by humans are a midway point between a fully automated workforce and a human workforce, and where there is a high degree of variability in tasks, it sometimes makes sense to have a human operating a machine. A Japanese convenience store chain has started testing the Model-T, an in-store robot that allows its shelf stackers to work remotely. Even better, the Model-T looks like some kind of wacky cartoon cat! https://soranews24.com/2020/08/29/japanese-convenience-store-chain-begins-testing-remote-controlled-robot-staff-in-tokyo/

Mixed reality makes TV sports come alive

Augmented - or mixed - reality is already being used in a wide variety of settings, but it’s now reaching a mainstream TV audience - in Denmark, at least. The Danish TV station TV2 are bringing the Tour de France to life with this compelling table-top representation of the competitors: https://www.vizrt.com/sports/case-studies/tv2-tour-de-france-analysis

California doubles down on EVs

The state of California has shown it is serious about getting more electric vehicles on the road, with a giant $437 million investment programme to install more than 40,000 new charging points. More than half of these will be in lower-income neighbourhoods, and there will be a focus on ensuring provision for people living in multi-occupancy buildings, marking a shift away from the current situation, where EV ownership is very much limited to people who are privileged enough to have their own driveways and charging stations. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-california-electric/california-approves-largest-ever-utility-program-to-expand-ev-charging-idUSKBN25N390

Virtual travel experiences

While lockdowns may be over in many countries, at least for now, there are still many restrictions to travel in the physical world. While travelling via the medium of a screen is not quite the same thing as the sights, smells and the sounds of real locations, it is still possible to lose yourself in exotic locations via the latest applications and video games. From the hyper-realistic satellite imagery of Microsoft’s new flight simulator to the antiquities of Ancient Greece and Egypt, or even beautiful fictional game worlds, your screen can provide some valuable escapism during these difficult times. https://nerdbear.com/video-games-that-allow-travel/