Tech Digest daily roundup: Virgin Galactic rocket plane begins service

Italian members of the team aboard Unity hold up their country’s flag in space. Image: Virgin Galactic

It’s taken just shy of 20 years but Sir Richard Branson has finally begun commercial operations with his Virgin Galactic rocket plane, Unity. The vehicle soared high over the New Mexico desert on Thursday to enable three Italians to conduct science experiments in weightless conditions. It was the first “purchased” mission, as opposed to just a test flight. Sir Richard will now begin sending up the 800 or so individuals who’ve bought tickets to ride on Unity. The 72-minute mission took off from Spaceport America at 0830 local time (1430 GMT) and was livestreamed around the world. BBC 

Social media firms will be ordered to protect children from encountering dangerous stunts and challenges on their platforms under changes to the online safety bill. The legislation will explicitly refer to content that “encourages, promotes or provides instructions for a challenge or stunt highly likely to result in serious injury” as the type of material  that under-18s should be protected from. TikTok has been criticised for content featuring dares such as the blackout challenge, which encouraged users to choke themselves until they passed out. The Guardian

Scientists have developed a pair of smart gloves that could allow patients who have limb weakness to relearn to play the piano. Those who have had a stroke may often show a reduced ability or be completely unable to move their hands, fingers, or wrists, making it difficult to carry out manual movements. The exoskeleton glove uses artificial intelligence, touch sensors and moving components called actuators to help mimic natural hand movements so patients can relearn manual tasks. Sky News 

One of the biggest stories from Google IO 2023 was that Android is getting an AirTag-rivaling Find My Device upgrade and some new ‘Unknown tracker alerts’ to help you avoid tracker stalking – and with both due to roll out “later this summer”, we’re now getting a glimpse of what they look like. Like Apple’s AirTags and Find My network, Google‘s updated Find My Device feature will anonymously leverage billions of Android devices around the world to help you track down lost or stolen items, even when they’re offline. Tech Radar

Pokémon Go maker Niantic will lay off 230 staff – around a quarter of the company – and has cancelled a major upcoming project developed in conjunction with Marvel. The company will close its recently-released NBA All-World game, end development of its upcoming Marvel World of Heroes project, and shut down its Los Angeles development studio. The news was communicated to staff via an email from company founder John Hanke, which has now been made public. Pokémon Go, which remains lucrative, is safe. Eurogamer

Volkswagen is to cut electric car production at one of its biggest factories after “strong customer reluctance” led to far lower sales than expected. The business is pausing work on electric models for six weeks at its plant in Emden, northwest Germany, and will lay off 300 of the 1,500 workers involved in making them. The company blamed lower subsidies for buyers of the cars across Europe and higher inflation for a drop in consumer interest. Demand for electric vehicles is running 30pc below the company’s forecasts. The Telegraph


Chris Price
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