Our weekly roundup of the top news stories in the world of tech for the week beginning February 1st, 2016.
UK scientists can start editing genes in human embryos
On Monday approval by the UK Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) was granted to the Francis Crick Institute in London to conduct genetic modification on human embryos.
Headed up by developmental biologist Dr Kathy Niakan, who originally submitted the application to HFEA, the genome-editing program looks to help further research surrounding infertility, rather than serve as the foundation for the fictional eugenics-driven future of Gattaca.
Dr Niakan and her team still need approval from a local ethics board before proceeding with their proposed research, but provided the program takes off, it could open up a dialogue on both new ways in which to combat infertility and highlight the ethics of embryonic-editing, if it hasn’t already. Find out more here.
Alphabet surpasses Apple to become the world’s most valuable company
$568bn – that’s how much Alphabet (Google’s newly created parent company) is now estimated to be worth, following the company’s latest quarterly financial report. That places it in the top spot above tech rival Apple, which is currently valued at around $535bn.
The news pushed the company’s share price up by a further nine per cent and we also gleaned a breakdown of where the money more precisely flows from within Alphabet’s constituent parts. Google, which includes video network YouTube and the well-known search engine, is the primary breadwinner, thanks primarily to its online advertising platform – most prominently through mobile ads, whilst “Other Bets” (which include projects like Google’s self-driving cars) cost the business around £3.6bn. Find out more here.
Blast from the past: The DeLorean DMC-12 is back
You could argue that DeLorean never truly went away, with the love of its one and only production car – the DMC-12, perpetuated by fans of the Back to the Future films and DMC Texas cropping up in mid-2007 with plans to build ‘new’ cars using original parts.
Following the Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015 under US federal law however, the company can now formally make up to 325 truly new product cars a year, but they won’t be cheap. If DMC Texas does branch out beyond its current business, all-new DMC-12s are expected to cost upwards of $100,000 (approximately £70,000). It’s up to you to decide whether that’s a fair price for some true automotive nostalgia. Find out more here.
Nintendo brings Super Mario Maker to your PC and smartphone – sort of
We’ve long been intrigued by Nintendo’s plans to branch out into the world of mobile, beyond its own portable gaming platform, but this latest development is at least a tip of the hat to the fun that can be had with the company’s signature IP.
Super Mario Maker for the Wii U home console has already shifted some 3.34 million copies worldwide (as of December 2015) and received critical acclaim from most major gaming publications, but now you can bring part of that experience onto your computer’s desktop or smartphone’s homescreen – sort of.
Similarly to the game itself, the new web-based wallpaper creator lets you choose themes matched to Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World or Super Mario Bros. U. There are six different world types to choose from as backdrops and 16 different items including pipes, that you can alter in height and mushrooms to super-size both Mario and his foes. The site is in Japanese, but it’s easy enough to use and fun to toy around with. Now we just want the full game for iOS and Android please Nintendo – no biggie. Find out more here.
Western fans petition for Danny DeVito to voice Detective Pikachu
Last week unsuspecting Pokémon fans were graced with the surprise teaser trailer for an all-new game called Detective Pikachu. Whilst the trailer is entirely in Japanese, it highlights one key aspect of the titular character that surprised many – Detective Pikachu can talk to humans – and that got Western fans thinking.
Unlike typical Pokémon speech, which falls to a creature repeating its name ad infinitum, in the trailer Detective Pikachu speaks fluent Japanese with a deep male voice and as a western voice actor hasn’t yet been tied to an English dub of the game, fans have put together an online petition to have famed Hollywood actor, producer and director, Danny DeVito take on the role.
One committed fan trawled through hours of footage from DeVito’s acting career to form a rough western dub of the Detective Pikachu trailer highlighting just how good the actor’s signature sound would work with the character. The petition currently holds just shy of 37,000 names, but a total of 50,000 will be required before Nintendo of America even considers the idea.
It’s one of those crazy internet-born scenarios that rely on a lot of unlikely parts meshing, but if they do, it could result in one of the most memorable video game performances ever; sorry Nolan North. Find out more here.
New app pays users money for filming potential news stories
News agency Ruptly has just launched a new app that puts the power of video journalism in the hands of anyone with a smartphone. The outfit already offers a robust broadcasting infrastructure, available for hire to news agencies around the world, but the company’s new Ruptly Stringer app gives the company even more feet on the ground and eyes in the right places by turning you into a freelance reporter.
The app, which is available for iOS and Android, rates users based on status, which rises the more clips Ruptly chooses to use. You can upload existing video from your device, film from directly within the app or in certain cases, set up a live broadcast. The higher your status, the more money you’ll likely receive for your reporting.
Whilst the app will accept footage of anything a user deems newsworthy, the kicker is a feedback system that lets users contact Ruptly directly to offer coverage of an event the agency may not yet be aware of and a tasks system, which pushes requests for coverage to users directly from Ruptly.
Once content you’ve shot gets approved, payment takes place through PayPal. It’s interesting to see a large, established outfit like Ruptly turn to the general public for potential news, but with many turning to apps like Periscope during the likes of 2015’s Paris attacks, it seems like a smart way to capitalise on a growing shift towards reporting from the general public.