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.

Crew Dragon certified to carry people into space

The spectacle of Space X’s Crew Dragon taking off for the International Space Station earlier this year with two astronauts on board was amazing - I was lucky enough to see the transporter cross the horizon from near my home down in Devon. Now the company’s efforts have been rewarded by NASA’s first certification for human space travel in almost 40 years: Crew Dragon has become the first commercial vessel certified to carry people beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.\ https://futurism.com/the-byte/nasa-officially-certifies-spacex-for-human-space-travel

A Pi in a keyboard

Christmas came early for Raspberry Pi’s legion of dedicated fans with the release this month of the Pi 400, which comes fully integrated into a keyboard, costing just $70. Another $30 will get you a kit comprising a mouse, a power supply, a micro-HDMI to HDMI cable, a pre-formatted microSD card and the official beginner’s guide for $100. Just add a monitor and you’ll have the coolest, cheapest desktop computer around - pretty hard to argue with that!\ https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2020/11/raspberry-pi-400-the-under-100-desktop-pc-you-didnt-know-you-needed/

Turn yourself into a TV anchor on Zoom

If 2020 was the year video-conferencing came of age, 2021 will undoubtedly be the year when we start ridding ourselves of some of its pain points. EverNote creator Phil Libin’s new tool Mmhmm allows you to present slides on screen with no more fumbling between screensharing and presentation mode, and a whole range of cool backgrounds and effects to take your meetings or parties to another level.\ https://www.wired.com/story/plaintext-why-just-zoom-when-you-can-bend-reality/

Honda’s new car certified to drive itself on busy roads

Bored with being stuck in stop-go urban traffic? Let your car drive itself - as long as you have a Honda, that is. Honda has become the first car manufacturer to announce that it will mass-produce a vehicle capable of performing all driving tasks in congested traffic - as long as the driver remains attentive and in control of the vehicle, following approval from the Japanese government. “This approval enables the automated driving system to drive the vehicle instead of the driver under certain conditions, such as when the vehicle is in congested traffic on [the] expressway,” said a spokesperson for Honda.\ https://www.theverge.com/2020/11/13/21562384/honda-level-3-autonomous-driving-legend-2021

Meet the monster wolf scarecrow robot

Everyone agrees that scarecrows are supposed to be, well, scary. And this monster wolf robot really is the stuff of anime nightmares. Instead of frightening crows, manufacturer Ohta Sekhi designed the fearsome creature to deter deer and bears from farmers’ land, and it is already being tested at a Sapporo botanical garden called Kaiyuen, where it has reportedly reduced tree damage by deer.\ https://www.japankyo.com/2017/05/wacky-weird-interesting-japanese-news-monster-wolf-scarecrow-hokkaido-sapporo-scary-robot-deer-bear-kaiyuen-testing-release/

Spinal surgery in augmented reality

Many of the recent advances in surgery tech have focused on the use of virtual reality to help doctors perform remote procedures. However, augmented reality can be helpful for helping surgeons see an enhanced view of the area on which they are operating. The first AR-assisted spinal operation has taken place in the US state of Virginia, with the surgeon able to ‘see’ a 3-D view of the patient’s bones, even though they were hidden in real life by the body tissue that overlay them.\ https://orthospinenews.com/2020/10/09/virginia-spine-surgeon-performs-1st-augmented-reality-spinal-surgery-in-virginia-and-dc-region/

Virtual escapes

I’m obsessed with escape rooms, and they’re always going to be more fun in real life with a group of friends, but even if your area is under lockdown, that’s no reason to miss out. The Independent has put together this list of some of the best virtual escape rooms - and there’s also the advantage that you can sample experiences that you would otherwise not have been able to travel to.\ https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/gadgets-tech/virtual-escape-room-free-online-uk-zoom-harry-potter-a9515911.html