Tech round-up: smart hobs, remix video apps and robots

Tech round-up: smart hobs, remix video apps and robots

Future Google robots might behave like "deceased loved ones"

Google has patented a system that it hopes will enable robots to be programmed with personalities, based on a person’s preferences and habits, or even replicate the personality of a deceased family member.

The patent, filed in the US, outlines a method by which a robot scans a smartphone or PC to determine someone’s personality traits.

The patent, somewhat creepily, states: "The robot may be programmed to take on the personality of real-world people (eg, behave based on the user, a deceased loved one, a celebrity and so on) so as to take on character traits of people to be emulated by a robot."

It says a robot could take on characteristics associated with celebrities – it gives Woody Allen’s expressions of happiness, fear and surprise as an example.

However, companies often apply for patents with no end product in mind, so it’s possible Google may not take the project any further for now.


Just a minute: bendy battery charges smartphones in 60 seconds

Stanford University researchers have built a flexible aluminium battery that could charge mobile devices in one minute.

The scientists hope their prototype could one day replace lithium batteries.

The device might also solve the problem of users having to carry a phone charger with them.

The researchers claim the battery is less flammable than lithium equivalents, and greener than alkaline models.

Stanford chemistry professor Hongjie Dai said: "Our new battery won’t catch fire, even if you drill through it. I see this as a new battery in its early days. It’s quite exciting."


Smart hob Meld means the spaghetti will never boil over

Meld is a Seattle-based Kickstarter project that claims it can

produce cooking of chef-level quality.

The secret is precise temperature control: a custom-designed knob replaces one of a cooker’s existing hob controls and a temperature sensor clips on to the pan.

The battery-powered knob and sensor communicate via Bluetooth, with the knob adjusting the burner temperature according to what is being cooked.

One drawback is that although Meld comes with presets for many popular recipes, it is not an inexhaustible source of them. Users who want to cook their own concoction will have to input temperatures through an app, or else rely on Meld’s programmed recipes.


Facebook launches Riff for endless video remixes

We hesitate to announce the death of the written word, but the rise of Periscope, Meerkat, Snapchat and emojis all point to a future dominated by visual communication.

Now Facebook has launched a video app that cuts out any need for text. The Riff app allows people to create a video on a certain theme and share it with their friends, who can then add their own short clip. That,

in turn, is shared with their friends, who can add their clips, and the chain continues.

The effect is like an endless chain of Snapchats, with no limit on the number of friends who can tag their clips on to the end of the original video.

Each clip can be up to 20 seconds long.


Facebook overuse and depression "go hand-in-hand"

A growing body of research indicates that heavy Facebook use may be linked to depression, as users compare others’ "highlight reels" with their own lives.

Two studies conducted by a researcher at the University of Houston found that the more time people spend on Facebook, the more likely they are to compare themselves with others. This, in turn, was associated with greater feelings of depression.

The researcher, Mai-Ly Steers, commented: "[This] doesn’t mean Facebook causes depression, but that depressed feelings and lots of time on Facebook and comparing oneself to others tend to go hand-in-hand."

A study published in 2013 by the University of Utah found that Facebook users can perceive their online friends to have better lives than their own.


Tories promise clampdown on online porn

Anyone who has set up a new broadband connection with a major ISP in the past six months will have noticed a pop-up asking them to opt in to adult content. It is the result of a long battle between ISPs and the coali­tion government, which is taking steps to restrict access to online pornography for the sake of child safety.

Culture secretary Sajid Javid has promised tighter measures to lock under-18s out of porn sites if the Conservatives win the election. Sites will have to implement age controls or face closure.

Javid has floated the idea of a new, independent regulator that could force ISPs to block sites that flout the rules.


Future smart objects will know your heartbeat

Connected-home naysayers like to point to the toaster as an example of an everyday object that doesn’t need the internet to function.

Artists Alex Rothera and James Krahe have created an exhibition at Dublin Science Gallery’s ‘Lifelogging’ 

event, called ‘Playful Self’, which explores how biometric data could help people relax, rather than overwhelm us.

It features smart teabags that respond to a heartbeat, and music that plays faster or slower depending on the viewer’s pulse.

STAT ATTACK: 957,000

Estimated number of Apple Watch pre-orders placed on its first day in the US, according to data house Slice Intelligence.