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What’s going on in tech? - 9th Jan 2019

Walking cars, a fracking ban and David Bowie in AR.

Manchester councils take a stand against fracking

In a move he has described as “making quite a big statement," Andy Burnham announced a city-wide ban on fracking in Manchester.


All ten local councils in the Greater Manchester area will oppose any requests to frack - by writing something called a ‘presumption’ into their planning policies.


Companies such as Cuadrilla could technically still appeal any rejections, but this announcement will hopefully deter attempts.


Those who oppose fracking often do so for environmental reasons; such as the risk of polluting water. Drilling for shale gas can - and has - caused mini earthquakes, as well as displacing people from their homes which happen to lie on potential pockets of shale gas.


The latest controversy came at the end of 2018, when drilling was suspended in Lancashire because it kept causing earth tremors.


Whilst Burnham’s announcement received praise from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the government still have the power to overrule the ban, meaning Manchester isn't completely safe. And they have some incentive to do so; their argument being that it could play an important role in meeting energy needs without relying on imports - as well as creating jobs.


And yet, there is no official estimate of how much gas could be produced by fracking.


If you want to drill more into this topic, listen out for this week’s podcast.


Cars take flight and grow legs at CES


Back to the Future II assumed that by 2015, flying cars would fill the skies. Come 2019 and we are falling short of the movies ambitious timeline. But at CES in Las Vegas, Bell revealed it had gotten one step further in making that fantasy a reality.


They revealed the ‘Nexus hybrid-electric air taxi’ - a 6,000 pound aircraft with a 150-mile range and a top speed of 150mph.


The concept seats five, is fitted with expansive windows and will use six tilting ducted fans to take off and land vertically from a rooftop or launchpad.


Whilst no one is going to be taking off tomorrow, we could be using air taxis in the next 5 years.


Bell partnered with Uber in 2017, and now the firm hope that the Nexus can be ferrying people from A to B by the mid 2020’s. I for one would jump in an Uber air taxi if I could avoid London street traffic.


Cars weren’t just flying at CES, they grew legs and walked too.


Hyundai unveiled a model of a car with robotic legs that can navigate difficult terrain so it can help rescue people in times of natural disasters.


The car can waddle along at 3mph, climb a 5ft wall and jump over a 5ft gap.


The Hyundai Elevate was part of a project exploring "beyond the range of wheels", and has been in development for three years.


A robotic walking car can go places that us mere humans cannot, which can be immensely useful. "When a tsunami or earthquake hits, current rescue vehicles can only deliver first responders to the edge of the debris field. They have to go the rest of the way by foot," said Hyundai vice-president John Suh. "Elevate can drive to the scene and climb right over flood debris or crumbled concrete."


Experience David Bowie in AR


Ah, technology. Online shopping, film streaming; it’s so useful for reducing our need to leave the house. And thanks to a new app, you don’t even need to leave the house to inject some culture into your life.


In honour of what would have been David Bowie’s birthday, an AR app that encapsulates the star’s V&A exhibition has been released.


In the app, you can explore the exhibition, including touring the various rooms and ogling the costumes, videos, lyrics and original artworks, and all the while, listen to commentary by British actor Gary Oldman.

This small snippet of news is evidence of a larger trend in using tech to innovate in the creative field, which is under threat from funding cuts and a growing focus on STEAM subjects.


Targeted digital ads are coming to supermarkets


In other news, American grocery store chain, Kroger, has teamed up with Microsoft to threaten Amazon’s monopoly, in the form of a pair of hi-tech grocery stores.


Since Amazon has been growing in size and reach, including its significant acquisition of Wholefoods, businesses have been wary of how they will keep afloat.


These Washington and Ohio based stores are filled with digital shelf labels and image recognition cameras, apparently to make it easier to find your way around. Scarily, these digital displays may be used to sell targeted ads based on customer demographics. As if we didn’t get enough of that on Facebook.


If you want to learn more about how these prototype stores look, watch this video.

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