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Weekly roundup: Self-driving car crash, robot vs dog and a year living in space

Our weekly roundup of the top news stories in the world of tech for the week beginning February 29th, 2016.

Brussels’ Musical Instruments Museum homes Roli’s Seaboard RISE 25

If you’ve straddled the worlds of music and technology within the last three years, even for a moment, you might have heard of Roli. The London-based startup has developed a range of distinctive electronic instruments called Seaboards, that allow for unprecedented levels of sound manipulation by way of a soft, pliable keyset.

The Seaboard RISE 25, which the company launched at the tail end of 2015, has just earned a permanent place at Brussels’ Musical Instruments Museum (MIM) in the new Keyboard Gallery, which will showcase the progression of keyboard instruments like the traditional harpsichord, right up to the futuristic hardware of the RISE.

The MIM will also be holding a special Museum Night Fever event this Saturday (March 5th) that’ll actually let attendees actually test the Seaboard RISE 25 out for themselves. Based on our recent experiences with the product, we’d highly recommend taking them up on the opportunity if you’re in Brussels. Find out more here.

One of Google’s self-driving cars actually caused a crash

Trying to transpose rigid, digital rules into a fluid, analogue environment like driving is no mean feat, but whilst Google’s self-driving cars have already hit a fair few speed bumps along the way, this latest incident is the first example that puts one of the company’s own vehicles at fault.

A self-driving Lexus RX450h was trying to merge with traffic and incorrectly assumed that an incoming bus was going to yield to allow it to move into the same lane. The bus didn’t yield and as a result the 4×4 drove into its side. Luckily nobody was injured as the crash took place at low speed.

One of Google's self-driving Lexus vehicles
Image credit:

Google filed a DMV accident report and published a statement detailing the software’s decision making in the lead-up to the collision. The test driver, who was sitting in the Lexus at the time of the crash, had also seen the bus and like the car had assumed that it was going to slow to let them in.

As such Google has admitted that its car is partly responsible for the crash, but no more so than a human driver could have been given the same situation. Data from the incident has been used to refine the software’s decision making when faced with a similar situation that involves large vehicles like buses, which are less likely to yield in such scenarios compared to cars. Find out more here.

Court rules in Apple’s favour against iPhone unlocking but…

A new ruling in a New York court could help Apple’s fight against the FBI’s request to unlock an iPhone owned by one of the San Bernardino shooters.

iPhone 5c and pistol

Following last year’s terrorist attack on office workers in San Bernardino, which we talked about here, a court has just ruled in Apple’s favour on an unrelated, but similar case involving drug trafficking, where the company had been tasked with unlocking an iPhone under the All Writs Act; part of US federal law.

In this latest instance, Magistrate Judge Orenstein denied the government’s request citing a misinterpretation of the All Writs Act that is far too broad in scope with regards to what companies like Apple are and aren’t required to do, based on federal requests such as this. How much weight this instance has on the San Bernardino case in California remains to be seen, but there isn’t long to wait until we find out. Find out more here.

Behemoth Bluetooth speaker Soundboks is making noise on Kickstarter

Three Scandinavian graduates are blazing a trail on Kickstarter with a Bluetooth speaker purpose-built for festivals. The crowd-funding campaign for the Soundboks may still have a month left, but backers helped smash the initial goal of $100,000 within the first four hours and it went on to reach $220,000 in its first 24-hours.

In the speaker’s Kickstarter pitch video, creators and co-founders Jesper, Hjalte and Christoffer detail how the Soundboks was born out of their need for a speaker that was festival-ready and the absence of an existing product that ticked all their boxes. It boasts a sturdy design, with reinforced edges, corners and splash resistance.

There are two huge drivers behind the main grille, linked to a DSP amplifier of the lads’ own design that’s optimised for outdoor use. They’re capable of pushing sound out at up to a staggering 119dB (about the same as a pneumatic drill) and the whole package is rounded off by outstanding 60-hour battery life, with each battery fully recharged within just three hours. The price for this mammoth tank of a Bluetooth speaker? From $419.

Soundboks has already nabbed funding from startup incubator Y Combinator, brought former JBL sound engineer, Johnny Engberg on board and fitted the speaker with a dial that genuinely goes up to eleven. At the time of writing the Soundboks Kickstarter campaign currently has 582 backers and has raised $276, 095. Find out more here.

Read next: The best wireless Bluetooth speakers for your phone/tablet

Watch as a real dog takes on Boston Dynamics’ robot dog

It’s nice to know that when the robots do eventually rise up, we’ll be able to count on man’s best friend to have our backs. Android co-founder Andy Rubin, who now oversees Boston Dynamics – the Google-owned robotics company, brought his Airedale terrier, Cosmo to the company’s Massachusetts headquarters earlier in the week and the pooch took on one of the latest iteration of the company’s most iconic creation, Spot.

With an operator at the controls of the quadrupedal robot, Cosmo was let off his leash and tried his best to keep the robo-mutt at bay, mainly by sprinting around its perimeter and barking. It’s interesting to see how an animal like Cosmo responds to something that appears resemble and move like a living animal.

Steve Jurvetson, who shot this footage and happens to be on the boards of both Tesla Motors and SpaceX, has another video, presumably shot on the same visit to Boston Dynamics, showcasing the different walking modes Spot is capable of. You can see more on his YouTube channel here.

The beautiful hypercars of the 2016 Geneva Motor Show you’ll never own

The 2016 Geneva Motor Show is currently underway and manufacturers used the event in inject a fresh hit of automotive exotica into the world, with some incredible production cars, supercars and the odd hypercar.

Bugatti unofficially won ‘best in show’ with the Chiron – think the same engineering principles as the Veyron, updated for 2016. Not only is it beautiful, but at its heart lies a 1479hp 8.0-litre W16 quad-turbo engine, capable of 0-62mph in under 2.5 seconds. If you fancy picking one up for yourself, however most of the limited 500-car run are already accounted for and if you were in a position to purchase one, you’d need a cool €2.4 million to do so. At least Bugatti says it’s making a profit on each car this time.

Lamborghini Centenario Koenigsegg Regaria Aston Martin DB11

Other equally spectacular machines on the show floor include Koenigsegg’s new hybrid Regara, Lamborghini’s Centenario – a carbon-fibre laden beauty made to celebrate the birth of the car marque’s founder, Ferrucio Lamborghini, 100 years prior. The 2017 Aston Martin DB11 packs the most powerful engine in the company’s history (a 5.2-litre twin-turbo V12), giving it a 0-62 time of just 3.9 seconds and killer good looks to boot. Stay tuned to Recombu Cars’ Geneva Motor Show hub for all the latest from the show floor.

Mikhail Kornienko and Scott Kelly return to Earth after a year in space

Disney Pixar’s Wall-E gives one of the simplest explanations as to what the prolonged effect of living in space might have on the human body, but for astronaut Scott Kelly and cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, such conditions have been a reality for the past year.

Kelly and Kornienko arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on March 27th, 2015 and touched down on Wednesday, March 2nd, 2016 some 340 days later. Beyond the research conducted during their time in space, Kelly explained that several hours of biomedical testing would take place immediately on their return. Samples were taken before and during Kelly’s time on the ISS and they’ll be compared with each other and that of his twin brother Mark Kelly, who is also an astronaut.

The return of the two marks the end of Expedition 46 and the knowledge gleaned from their research serves as a notable step towards the next major milestone of putting a man on Mars. Find out more here.

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