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The International Space Station witnessed some real action this past Sunday. No, they weren’t invaded by aliens, but they did get to have some fun! British Astronaut Tim Peake, who’s the first Birtish European Agency astronaut, ran the 36th London Marathon with the rest of the participants, but from his very own treadmill in the ISS.

The 44 year old counted down to the start of the marathon and wished all the runners good luck, then went on to run with them. To make the run more entertaining, Peake watched a virtual-reality version of the London streets as he run. He finished the first 17 miles in 2 hours 22 minutes, and sources say he aimed to finish the whole marathon in 4 – 4.5 hours. Peake was strapped in place with a harness around his shoulders, to counter act the gravity on the ISS.

Tim Peake isn’t the first astronaut to run a marathon from space. NASA’s Sunita Williams ran the Boston Marathon in 2007 and finished it in 4 hours and 24 minutes. However, unlike the rest of the world that gets to rest the day after the marathon, the astronauts don’t get that luxury. They have to run the next day, and every single day, for 3 hours in order to maintain the bone and muscle mass aboard the ISS.

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Well, for all you creepy snoopers and curious geeks out there – oh, and the occasional medical student – a new company called Medical Realities launched an awesome new feature on April 14. They promise anyone with internet connection a chance to watch a live broadcast of a surgery… in virtual reality!

Well… not exactly “virtual”, though they may think it is.

See, Dr. Shafi Ahmed, surgeon and co-founder of Medical Realities, recently filmed a routine surgery in London on a patient in his 70s, as Dr. Ahmed removed a tumor from the patient’s colon. Mind you, the surgery was filmed in 360-degree view with a camera that was mounted above the surgery table. However, filming an event in a 360-degree view doesn’t make it “virtual reality”. Not by a far cry!

While this interesting concept was supposed to be a “virtual reality” experience, it’s a mere reality, at best – and Dr. Ahmed may want to consider getting a camera that zoomed in better. VR would mean the footage was computer generation, and this wasn’t. Also, VR would give the viewer the freedom to move around the space and interact with object, and obviously this didn’t. Moreover, Medical Realities released an app on smartphones that was available for any to download and watch the surgery being broadcasted in stereo vision. Again, the guys at Medical Realities misused Google, as the footage depicted the same image show to each eye.

Granted, Dr. Ahmed’s concept is quite interesting, and would be really useful! He even says he wants to use this technology to help medical students in underserved countries learn how to do surgery – much like how they would in operating theaters. However, we would advise Dr. Ahmed and his team to continue researching “virtual reality”; one day, they might just get the concept!

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To all of us bookworms in the world, the pleasure derived from getting lost in a thick book while smelling in the aromas of paper is just heavenly… however, as a library grows larger, managing one’s space and finances becomes quite difficult. Hence, the only logical solution is to invest in an e-book reader; it makes book hoarder much cheaper and space-friendly! And as all avid e-book readers know, there is no better device than a trusty Kindle! Obviously, Amazon, the makers of this magic device, couldn’t agree more, as their gorgeous new and improved 8th generation model comes with the price tag of a tablet!

The e-commerce giant released its latest Kindle model named “Oasis” which is the smallest, lightest, and most expensive model yet. The designers say it is 20% lighter and 30% thinner, and while no math has been done for how much more expensive it is, we can tell you it’s almost $ 100 more expensive than the Kindle Voyage. The new model is inspired by its physical equivalent, actual hard copies, as it is slightly sloped to the side. This is because designers placed all the major components onto one side, which happens to be the side the spine of a book would be; they also think that this shape would provide for better hand grip. Amazon used what it called a “featherweight polymer frame” with “structural electroplating” to achieve the Kindle’s light-as-a-feather new design. While it isn’t actually as light as a feather, the Oasis is 3.4 mm wide at its narrowest point, and weighs 4.6 ounces – which is less than half the weight of an iPad Mini!

Furthermore, the Oasis has the same black and white screen as its predecessors, but with the LED backlights set on the sides, rather than the bottom and the top. The designers say this makes for a “whiter white” page. Moreover, the new model comes with a detachable leather case that looks like a real book cover. Other than the pretty aesthetics, this case is a backup battery for the device. The device alone has a 2 battery life, and the cover has 7 weeks. Also, you could plug the device in its case and have those both recharge at the same time. A final addition is the “hibernation mode” that would save the device’s power when it’s not in use.

According to Tampa Bay Times, the vice president of Amazon Devices, Neal Lindsay, says the aim of the company is to “make the device disappear” which would help the user read without distraction. It’s true, one cannot read in peace on a tablet or a phone, as you’d be bombarded with notifications, texts, calls, emails, and applications, all of which stop you from diving straight into the story and losing yourself. The design team says the Oasis has come closer than any previous model to achieving the ideal model that they have in mind.

Kindle has 3 other e-readers in store: the basic Kindle sells for $ 80, the Kindle Paperwhite for $ 120, and the Kindle Voyage for $ 200. Also, the Oasis is currently available for pre-ordering and will be shipped out on April 27.

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The Swedish retail giant IKEA just joined the club of the unique and elite companies of the world who dove head first into and embraced virtual reality. Partnering with HTC, IKEA developed a pilot test mobile application IKEA VR Experience which is expected to completely transform how people shop for home furnishings.

The application was launched on game distributor Steam, and allows you to take a virtual tour in an IKEA kitchen. The idea is to allow people to “try it out” before they buy. Also, a user gets to change the color of kitchen furnishings in the map, as well as shrink in size and move around the kitchen at will. IKEA has been exploring various new digital tools for the last few years, and finally identified VR as the best way to progress in the modern world.

Range manager of IKEA in Australia, Tim Prevade, was quite excited about this new application. He said that Australians are known to embrace latest technology and newest innovations. He is quite excited about how this new application would help IKEA in broadening its horizons and moving forward.

 

It seems Prevade was quite right about the Australians as another VR feature was introduced to them this week. On Wednesday, the Australian Museum of Sydney, in collaboration with Samsung, launched two VR documentaries from the advanced technology of London-based Alchemy VR, featuring the voice of none other than David Attenborough. The documentaries use Samsung Gear VR and give the viewers a 360-degree tour of the first creatures on Earth, as well as a tour of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Experts are calling these documentaries an “out of body experience” and a very unique opportunity to advance in the modern tech world. These documentaries show the viewers the natural wonders of this world and give them a higher appreciation for their environment. Moreover, VR has the capacity to expose viewers to a one-of-a-kind experience that they have never yet had before. Since there are no preset rules on how to tell a story in VR, this makes every VR project a special and unique one.

In March, Telsyte predicted the popularity of VR within the Australian market, and anticipated it to increase over the next decade. They expected a sale of 110,000 VR units in 2016 and an annual growth rate of 500,000 from now until 2020.

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WhatsApp, the worldwide free messaging service owned by Facebook with over 1 billion subscribers, has recently updated its encryption service. And while this ensures our privacy cannot be breached, it seems federal governments are having a hard time swallowing this defying pill.

Details about the Encryption

On Tuesday, WhatsApp released its updated full encryption service which ensures that no one but the sender and recipient get to access and read the texts. Called “end-to-end” encryption, this service will up the security on all data in the messages, including photos, videos, and group texts, and not simply “one-on-one” texts. The service covers more than 50 languages in regions including India, Brazil, and Europe. It will also be activated by default, and does not require the user to turn on any settings.

Supporting Other Tech Companies

WhatsApp’s full encryption comes in full support of Silicon Valley’s civil libertarian ideals against the federal governments concerns over national security. The government has also faced similar issues with other messaging services that previously offered encryption, such as Telegram, Signal, and Wickr Me. Moreover, Apple started this whole debate of the government being against tech companies upping their privacy back in February, when federal government requested that Apple crack open an iPhone in order to achieve digital data related to the San Bernardino, California, gunman case. However, as everyone knows by now, Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, refused the request, since the company believes in protecting individual privacy.

Federal Governments against Encryption

Federal governments have been very clear on where they stand regarding digital encryption of phones and messaging services. FBI director James B. Comey disapproved of Cook’s decision, saying that encryption hinders investigations on terrorism cases. However, the Justice Department recently dropped their demand for Apple’s assistance, saying they have found another undisclosed way to crack open the phone themselves. Furthermore, President Obama has also publicly opposed the whole encryption issue that tech companies have been supporting.

Moreover, it seems that the FBI have a particular concern when it comes to WhatsApp considering the huge number of people all over the world that have subscribed to this application. The new full encryption makes it harder, if not absolutely impossible, for the government to intercept WhatsApp communications for their legal investigations. This means data sent on this application will be quite problematic for law enforcement. This wouldn’t be the first time WhatsApp gave the feds a hard time; in Brazil, a previous clash took place between law enforcement and WhatsApp’s leaders. Facebook’s executive got arrested when he refused to turn over information vital for a drug trafficking case that was found on one WhatsApp account.

And now the question remains: How can the US Justice Department proceed with a case where a federal judge approved a wiretap, but law enforcement is hindered by WhatsApp’s encryption?

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Playstation 4 remote play

Sony is launching the PlayStation 4 ’s Remote Play feature to PC and Mac, allowing gamers to stream their console games to laptops and desktops.

This new amazing feature is part of a PlayStation 3.50 software update set to be launched today. PS4 owners can download the Remote Play PC installer from Sony’s website. To stream games, users will need a PC running Windows 8.1 or higher, or a Mac running OS X 10.10 or higher. A DualShock 4 controller must be plugged into the computer via USB.

Until now, Sony has required either a PlayStation Vita handheld or PlayStation TV set-top box, which were not strong sellers, to remotely stream PS4 games. This is exactly why this new feature matters.

 Xbox vs. PlayStation 4 PC streaming

Last year, Microsoft added a similar feature to the Xbox One. So which one is better?

Unlike Microsoft, which requires a PC running Windows 10, Sony is also supporting Mac and Windows 8.1. Remote Play for PlayStation 4 works over the Internet as well, so you can stream games literally anywhere. The Xbox One only supports home network streaming which we think is kind of inconvenient.

Yet the Xbox One currently supports a higher streaming quality than the PlayStation 4, with up to 1080p and 60 frames per second on its “Very High” setting. Sony’s Remote Play is at 720p and 60 frames per second, and defaults to 540p and 30 frames per second. No good!

So we personally vote Xbox One this time, while hoping that Sony can provide a similar experience when PC Remote Play starts today.