The Year in News: What Happened Next (Stories From March-April 2015)


We continue our look back at 2015’s news and subsequent developments with March when Sony revealed that its virtual reality helmet codenamed Project Morpheus would be released in the first half of 2016. Sadly there’s little more in the way of firm details to report, other than that the finished product will be known simple as Playstation VR. Limited early reviews have been favorable and it appears Sony’s strategy is not to rush but rather to wait until a decent range of games is available at launch.

Two pilots began an attempt to make the first round-the-world flight that uses no fossil-derived fuels. The Solar Impulse 2 plane works thanks to a 72-meter wingspan covered in solar panels that power four electric motor-driven propellers. While the multi-leg journey was planned to take five months, the plane only made it from Abu Dhabi as far as Kalaeloa airport in Hawaii where it is currently grounded. The plan is to complete lengthy repairs on damaged batteries and then resume flying in April. The timetable is partly driven by the need to wait until the days are long enough that the plane can store enough battery power to stay airborne at night during an Atlantic crossing expected to take five days.

Microsoft announced Internet Explorer would be largely ditched in Windows 10, being replaced as primary browser by what was then known as Spartan. The company went ahead with the move, naming the new browser as Edge, initially the name of its rendering engine. Usage figures suggest the proportion of Windows 10 users running Edge for their browsing is gradually dropping from month to month. That may be a little misleading, though, as people who’ve chosen to upgrade to Windows 10 may be more likely than the average PC users to switch browsers away from the default option.

The long-running debate over net neutrality took a major step when the Federal Communications Commission reclassified broadband as coming under Title II of the 1934 Telecommunications Act rather than its original classification as Title I. That change means it explicitly has the power to make regulatory rules, which it did with the “Open Internet Order.” In turn several telecommunications industry groups began legal action arguing the FCC didn’t have the power to make such a reclassification. A court heard those arguments earlier this month and is expected to make a ruling next year.

In April a company sought funding for Meld, a $149 “smart stove knob.” Working alongside a wireless temperature probe, the device would clip on to existing hob controls and physically turn burner heating knobs up or down to keep the contents of a saucepan at a specific temperature. An associated smartphone app would be updated with recipes to control both time and temperature. Although the project was successfully backed with a total of $209.688 in funding, it was cancelled in September and pledges refunded. The makers said they had reached a deal to work with a large kitchenware company on the technology, with part of the deal being to cancel the Kickstarter. Pledgers were, to say the least, unimpressed, with one suggesting those responsible use the products to take their own temperature rectally.

The US government banned Intel from providing chips for the Chinese made TianHe-1A and 2 supercomputers, the latter of which is ranked the fastest in the world. Officials said the facility which operated the computers were believed to be using  them for “nuclear explosive activities.” China has since sourced domestically-made components for the computers and invited European researchers to use Tianhe-2 for their work.

Police seized a computer which had bought 10 ecstasy tablets online without direct human intervention. The laptop is programmed with a bot named “Random Darknet Shopper” as part of an art project and is set to search darknet sites to order illicit products, paying in Bitcoin. The laptop was later released with no individuals facing charges, though the tablets were destroyed. It’s now moving from Switzerland to London and its latest order is of a counterfeit Lacoste t-shirt, which will go on display in an art gallery along with any other purchases.

We’ll be back tomorrow to take a look at updates from May and June’s stories.

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