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The Download, Feb 20, 2017: Making VR Feel Real, Holographic 3-D Printing, and Robot Tax

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February 20, 2017

Three Things You Need to Know Today

Weird New Ways to Make VR Feel Real
VR wants to fool all of your senses. Our own Rachel Metz has tried a new waterproof VR headset, designed to take advantage of the floating sensation of being in water to provide a more immersive experience. Her verdict: it made it “easy to forget about the outside world and just enjoy the weird virtual one.” Elsewhere, researchers have recently developed other systems to trick your body—from weather add-ons to make you feel wind and haptic feedback to help you touch what’s not there, to scent systems that stimulate your nose.

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Super-Fast 3-D Printing, Powered by Holograms
A startup called Daqri has developed a device that can create solid objects far faster than regular 3-D printers. Using a new silicon chip that can control the magnitude and time-delay of reflected light to create holograms, the team can cure a light-activated monomer into solid objects in one go—unlike other approaches, which must scan a laser back and forth to achieve the same result. The approach can already create small items, such as a paperclip, in five seconds, which would usually take regular printers minutes.

Uber’s Expanding Prejudice Problem
Ride-hailing firm Uber has discrimination issues inside its HQ as well as out. In a blog post published yesterday, ex-Uber engineer Susan Fowler described a "very, very strange" year working at the company, filled with sexual discrimination and harassment. The company's CEO, Travis Kalanick, insists that there will be an “urgent investigation” into the allegations. The news will be chalked up alongside recent reports of discrimination by Uber drivers, as research shows that travelers with African-American-sounding names suffer longer waits and more cancellations than their white-sounding counterparts.

Ten Fascinating Things 

How can we save rare birds from extinction? With a farm of hens engineered to lay the eggs of other species.

Technology policy under Donald Trump is uncertain. John Thune, the senator who leads a committee overseeing tech and telecoms, describes what might happen

As robots begin to consume more jobs, here’s an interesting idea from Bill Gates: apply income tax to robots.

Here's why there are no new diabetes drugs.

We’ve all had that nagging sensation: you can smell something, but you can’t quite say what. Now AIs are sniffing around the same problem.

As chips shrink, copper interconnects have to get thinner—until, eventually, they can't cope. Graphene reinforcement could come to the rescue.

As two cars tussled on a Buenos Aires street circuit, one crashed, providing the other with sure victory. But there were no drivers: this was an autonomous car race.

Cambridge Analytica used big data analysis of social media to help the Trump campaign to victory. But are its claims overblown?

There’s a 30-year-old law that federal investigators can use to access your stored electronic content. Trouble is, Congress seems unable to change it.

In Germany, a blond-haired doll called Cayla is being banned from toy store shelves over fears that she might actually be a digital spy.

Quote of the Day 

"They are very paranoid because they can’t tell when we have penetrated or blacked them out, or when the local populace has turned against them or when their own fighters are disloyal.

— Former Secretary of Defense, Ashton Carter, describes some of the ways in which cyber weapons have been proving effective in the battle against Islamic State.

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Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

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