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Week in tech: Japan's SLIM spacecraft lands on the moon

Japan became the fifth country to put a spacecraft on the moon with its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon – or SLIM – mission

(FILE): This handout file photo taken on June 1, 2023 and released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) at the satellite fairing assembly building at the Tanegashima Space Center, Kagoshima prefecture.
(FILE): This handout file photo taken on June 1, 2023 and released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) at the satellite fairing assembly building at the Tanegashima Space Center, Kagoshima prefecture. (AFP)

Here’s a look at what made news in the world of science and technology this past week, including updates from Apple and Samsung Electronics.

Japan's SLIM spacecraft lands on moon

Japan on 20 January became the fifth country to put a spacecraft on the moon with its Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) mission. The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said the SLIM spacecraft landed the moon's surface at around 12:20 a.m. (1520 GMT Friday), but its solar panels were not able to generate electricity, possibly because they are angled wrong, a Reuters report explains. Dubbed the "moon sniper", SLIM attempted to land within 100 metres (328 feet) of its target, versus the conventional accuracy of several kilometres, a technology JAXA says will become a powerful tool in future exploration of hilly moon poles seen as a potential source of oxygen, fuel and water, the report further added.

This picture taken on January 15, 2024 shows Samsung Galaxy S24 series smartphones displayed during a media preview event at a Samsung store in Seoul.
This picture taken on January 15, 2024 shows Samsung Galaxy S24 series smartphones displayed during a media preview event at a Samsung store in Seoul. (AFP)

Samsung bets big on AI with Galaxy S24 series

Samsung unveiled its latest series of flagship smartphones earlier this week, while betting big on Artificial Intelligence (AI) features. The Samsung Galaxy S24 series – consisting of the S24 Ultra, S24 Plus and S24 – will come equipped with Galaxy AI, which is supported by Google. According to a Samsung news release, starting with the Samsung Galaxy S24 series, Samsung will be the first Google Cloud partner to deploy Gemini Pro and Imagen 2 on Vertex AI via the cloud to their smartphone devices. AI on mobile has been a rising trend in recent months. Google’s Pixel 8 series is perhaps the biggest example of that trend so far. Samsung, it seems, does not want to be far behind. Read more about the S24 series and highlights from the Galaxy Unpacked 2024 event here.

FILE - The Apple Vision Pro headset is displayed in a showroom on the Apple campus after it's unveiling on June 5, 2023, in Cupertino, California. Apple's high-priced headset for toggling between the real and digital world will be available in its stores beginning Feb. 2, 2024.
FILE - The Apple Vision Pro headset is displayed in a showroom on the Apple campus after it's unveiling on June 5, 2023, in Cupertino, California. Apple's high-priced headset for toggling between the real and digital world will be available in its stores beginning Feb. 2, 2024. (AP)

Apple starts taking pre-orders for Vision Pro mixed reality set

Apple began taking pre-orders for its Vision Pro mixed reality set on 19 January, with its rollout scheduled for 2 February. A Bloomberg report said that delivery dates for all three models, which start at $3,499, quickly slipped to March 8-15 for online orders, and the device was sold out for in-store pickup on day one at many locations. The delay signals that either demand is strong, or supplies are limited — or something in between. Apple also announced two more models of the much-anticipated headset: a version with 512 gigabytes of storage for $3,699, and a top-end model with 1 terabyte of space for $3,899. The base model includes 256 gigabytes of storage, the Bloomberg report added. Apple first unveiled the headset in June last year, calling it a revolutionary spatial computer that seamlessly blends digital content with the physical world, while allowing users to stay present and connected to others.

(Compiled by Nitin Sreedhar, with inputs from agencies)

Also read: Apple WWDC highlights: what is the new Vision Pro headset?

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