The Year in News: What Happened Next (Stories From May-June 2015)

grandmother uses oculus rift

We continue our look back at 2015’s news and subsequent developments with May. The makers of Oculus Rift said the virtual reality device — already available in a primitive developer form — would be on public sale in 2016. It later confirmed a first quarter public release with a price confirmed only as being more than $350. Last week Oculus confirmed it has begun shipping the first editions of the “finished” headset to developers along with version 1.0 of the software development kit, which should be enough for them to have games ready for when customers get their hands on the headset.

Universal Parks & Resorts signed a deal with Nintendo to bring game-themed attractions to its parks. Nothing’s been publicly announced since the deal, though recent rumors have it that that Universal may be building an entire video game-based park in Orlando, next to the existing Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks. Reported ride themes include Mario Kart, Pokemon and Legend of Zelda, while it’s also said a separate deal could bring World of Warcraft-themed attractions to the venue.

A $9 “computer” was successfully funded on Kickstarter. CHIP is in effect a circuit board with Chromium browser preinstalled and a couple of USB sockets and a composite video output socket. A $49 edition throws in a touchscreen, physical keyboard and battery. The first batch has now been produced in China and will be shipped “imminently.”

New Mexico was confirmed as the location for a full-sized uninhabited replica city. The 15 square mile Center for Innovation, Testing and Evaluation is designed as if it housed 35,000 people, complete with business, residential and retail buildings and a working communications and utilities network. It will be fired out for testing everything from intelligent transport systems to telecommunications security. The plan was to break ground on the site before the end of 2015, though it doesn’t appear that has yet happened.

In June the French government called for a significant change to the “right to be forgotten” principle that applies across 28 countries in the European Union. The principle, created in a court ruling, means that search engines must consider requests from people mentioned on websites to have the relevant pages removed from results listings (though only after the site itself has refused to take the [page down]. The criteria for handling such requests is vague to say the least, but Google generally takes down extremely outdated results or those which threaten privacy of ordinary citizens, but keeps up results about serious criminal activity or public figures. The results are only removed from searches conducted in the 28 countries but France regulators  threatened to fine any search engine which didn’t remove the results from searches worldwide. The regulators refused an initial appeal over the change to French rules. That means it will now have to wait until if and when it is hit with a fine for non-compliance (which could reach into several hundred thousand dollars) and then appeal the fine itself.

A British man continued work on building a 16-bit computer using full-size components rather than an integrated chip, despite fears it would not fit in his house. James Newman’s project will use 14,000 transistors for processing and 3,500 LEDs for displaying data. He’s since found a way round the problem by moving the computer from a hallway to his living room, throwing out his armchairs, and arranging the ‘components’ around the edge of the room. The metalwork frame for each section is complete, meaning the full scale of the project is now apparent.

Work on the tailfin of the 1,000 mph Bloodhound car was completed. The car is powered by three engines: a hybrid rocket, a modified Formula One racing car engine, and a modified engine from a jet plane. The date of the record attempt has now been confirmed as 15 October 2016, exactly 19 years from when Andy Green (who’ll drive Bloodhound) became the first and only man to break the sound barrier in a land vehicle.

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