A weekly recap of important updates and developments from the world of science and technology.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic completed its final test flight earlier this week, moving one step closer to launching paying customers to space. According to a report in the Associated Press, six of the company's employees, including two pilots, landed at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico after the short up-and-down flight that included a few minutes of weightlessness. It took about an hour for the mother ship to carry the spaceplane to an altitude of 44,500 feet (13,563 meters), where it was released and fired its rocket motor to make the final push, the AP report adds. The company has been working for more than a decade to send paying passengers on short space trips and in 2021 finally won the federal government's approval, the report explains further.
ByteDance-owned TikTok seems to be the latest name to jump on the Artificial Intelligence (AI) bandwagon. According to news reports, TikTok is in the early stages of exploring a chatbot called "Tako" that can converse with users about short videos and help them discover content. A Reuters report said TikTok is conducting tests with select users in the Philippines. The report further adds: TikTok said Tako is designed to help users discover "entertaining and inspiring content" on the app. TikTok was banned in India in 2020 by the government, citing security issues.
Your Apple iPhone could soon display a lot more useful information on the lock screen. Apple is reportedly planning a new interface for iPhones that shows information such as calendar appointments, the weather and notifications in the style of a smart-home display. All this is part of a flurry of new features coming in its iOS 17 software update, a Bloomberg report said. The idea, the report goes on to explain, is to make iPhones more useful when they’re, for example, lying on a person’s desk or nightstand. The move is part of a broader push to embed live information in more parts of the company’s software — an approach that also includes the Apple Watch’s interface, the Bloomberg report adds. Apple Inc also announced earlier this week that it will host its annual developers' conference, WWDC, from June 5 to June 9.
YouTube is doing away with its Stories feature, which allows users and creators to share temporary posts – similar to what we see on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. The move was announced on a Google Help thread. “Today, there are many ways to create on YouTube – from Community posts to Shorts, to long-form and Live. To prioritize these key features, Stories are going away... Starting on 6/26/2023 the option to create a new YouTube Story will no longer be available. Stories that are already live on that date will expire 7 days after they were originally shared,” the announcement by a community manager said. While Stories will soon be history, the announcement said both Community posts and YouTube Shorts were great alternatives that can deliver valuable audience connections and conversations.
(With inputs from agencies)