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Pokémon Go’s Legacy, Salad-Making Robots, and Electric Airplanes—The Download, April 5, 2017

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Three Things You Need to Know Today

Product-Picking Robots With Their Heads in the Cloud
Hive-minded armies of robots could take over warehouse picking. For humans, grasping a bottle of detergent or a bag of bananas is simple—but ask a robot to take over and it will struggle. That’s because the objects are often unfamiliar, irregularly sized, and delicate, demanding a gentle touch, versatility, and accumulated knowledge. Now, our own Will Knight explains how a startup called RightHand Robotics is combining new gripper designs, advanced computer vision, and cloud robotics to make the task achievable.

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Can Electric Airplanes Finally Take Off?
Fasten your seat belts, ensure tables are stowed—and check the motors for charge. Zunum Aero today announced plans to build a fleet of electric airplanes that will ferry 10-50 people at a time between underused airports in the U.S. by the early 2020s. It joins Wright Electric, which last month described plans to build aircraft capable of carrying 150 people on journeys between London and Paris within 10 years. Both are gambling on improving battery technology to make their business proposals fly, but the idea certainly isn’t as farfetched as it once seemed.

What Became of Pokémon Go
Last summer, catching ‘em all caught on. While the augmented reality game is undeniably past its peak, it still boasts 65 million monthly active users, and since its arrival researchers have suggested that it helps improve both physical and mental wellbeing. So, as the Financial Times points out (paywall), its most enduring legacy may be the demonstration that, when done well, gamification really works. On a less positive note for its developers, it’s also raising interesting legal conundrums, not least of which is: can a company be guilty of virtual trespassing?

Ten Fascinating Things

Crippling tolls, massive fines for emissions cheats, and outright bans all look set to help Europe achieve its aim of killing off the diesel car.

What does a stem cell look like? Thanks to CRISPR–Cas9 gene editing and machine learning, now you can see for yourself.

Corporate hackathons offer cash prizes to coders who spit out software during high-octane programming sessions—and some participants make a living that way.

Like the idea of using your printer for more than just killing trees? It’s now possible to use an inkjet device to make flexible resistive memory.

Swap out hydrogen for deuterium in drug molecules and it’s possible to tweak the rate at which they’re metabolized. Now, the first such drug is approved by the FDA.

How do you fool an AI video analyzer into misidentifying the contents of a clip? Subliminal images of pasta.

In a bid to make the most of India’s new cashless economy, WhatsApp plans to branch out into mobile payments in the country.

To help save the planet, should we eschew a climate change narrative in favor of one centered on social and economic benefits of low-carbon living?

A new chemical process can break down the fibers in poly-cotton, allowing your crusty old T-shirt to be recycled into new fabrics.

Sally the robot will make you the salad of your dreams—if your dreams are precise and calorie-counted. Just don’t ask for avocado.

Quote of the Day

"VR is a mutual technology that can be applied and molded into anything we want. If we have any hope to heal as a country, we need a bar that’s not defined by geography.”

—Entrepreneur Cody Brown has grand visions for his virtual reality firm, IRL.

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OpenAI teases an amazing new generative video model called Sora

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The problem with plug-in hybrids? Their drivers.

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Google DeepMind’s new generative model makes Super Mario–like games from scratch

Genie learns how to control games by watching hours and hours of video. It could help train next-gen robots too.

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