Posted on January 20, 2017 by staff

The week in tech: 10 things you may have missed


Mark Zuckerberg appeared in the dock this week (Tuesday) to deny allegations his company stole innovative virtual reality technology.

Suited and booted, the Facebook founder said Oculus products were created using their own technology, and the idea they were based on someone else’s was “just wrong”.

ZeniMax Media alleges its software was stolen in order to make Oculus a success, but the 32-year-old claimed never to have heard of the company.


But the firm is suing Facebook for $2bn (£1.6bn), claiming John Carmack took intellectual property belonging to ZeniMax when he left to join Oculus as chief technology officer.

Carmack is responsible for pioneering the “first person shooter” genre with titles such as Doom and Quake.

Oculus was bought by Facebook in 2014 for £1.6bn, plus another £0.81bn in order to keep key staff and to provide incentives.

Oculus Rift

According to the BBC, Zuckerberg told court: “It’s pretty common when you announce a big deal that people just come out of the woodwork and claim they own some part of the deal.

“The idea that Oculus products are based on someone else’s technology is just wrong.”

According to Facebook, the Oculus team is responsible for creating the Rift headset, but ZeniMax claims its help in the early stages was vital to development.

The trial continues and is expected to last three weeks.


Research suggests some data sent using Whatsapp can be intercepted thanks to a bug which arises through the app’s message encryption.

Security expert Thomas Boelter claims eavesdropping is possible, and reported his findings to Whatsapp owner Facebook in April 2016.

But Facebook dismissed claims the bug was not an intentional “backdoor” allowing governments to make the firm decrypt messages as “false”.

It said it was not working on a fix to the alleged bug.


A DNA-analysing smartphone could help treat cancer, tuberculosis and other diseases at the fraction of the cost of lab-based equipment.

The creators of the pathology microscope claim it could be mass produced for as little as £406 a unit.

Findings from the University of Carolina, Stockholm University and Uppsala University were published in the Nature Communications journal.

One researcher said the tech could help medics examine tissue samples without having to send them to what might be a remote laboratory.


Microsoft founder Bill Gates is using his smarts to ‘outsmart epidemics’, launching a new coalition to prevent them.

The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations was announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and has been backed by the governments of Germany, Japan and Norway.

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, CEPI will commit an initial $460 million to tackling epidemics.

The foundation will provide an initial $100, and Gates warned epidemics are “the most likely thing to cause, say, 10 million excess deaths, and it’s pretty surprising how little preparedness there is for it”.


Facebook has announced its first start-up incubator will be in Paris, as part of the groundbreaking £219m campus Station F.

The plan, which will be known as Startup Garage, was announced at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in London, in December – although not by Facebook.

Further details of the arrangement have been revealed by the social network’s COO Sheryl Sandberg, who said there will be 80 desks and space for 10-15 independent “data-driven” start-ups over a six-month period.


The UK’s first ever dedicated digital academy will open in Liverpool as part of a £2.5m project.

Students at the City of Liverpool College will be able to pursue qualifications to higher degree level, and attendees at the School of Computer Science and Digital could rise by as many as 500.

It will offer young people coding, software development and a range of digital skills including online marketing and games design.


Netflix added a record seven million subscribers to its service in the last quarter of 2016 after ending several key content deals with top distributors.

Instead focussing on original content, the video streaming service far exceeded the 5.2m it had anticipated, and ended the year with 93.8m customers.

More than 600 hours of exclusive programming were produced over the last 12 months, including Netflix Originals series Stranger Things, Narcos, The Crown and The OA.


Airbus has revealed it plans to test self-piloted flying cars by the end of 2017, as a way of avoiding gridlock on city roads.

Speaking to a technology conference in Germany, CEO Tom Enders outlined plans that could be a big step towards easing pollution and congestion.

Last year, the aerospace giant formed a division named Urban Air Mobility to explore concepts including a helicopter-like vehicle which would be able to carry multiple riders.


The price of iPhone and iPad apps is going up in the UK following the Brexit vote, as Apple numerically matches them to US figures.

It means an application in the app store which costs $0.99 on the other side of the Atlantic will cost £0.99 over in Britain.
This represents a 25 per cent price rise over the previous conversion, which was £0.79.


Manchester Digital has launched 2017’s Big Chip awards to showcase tech excellence across the North.

Run by and for the industry, the UK’s longest running digital and technology awards are now in their 19th year.

They recognise excellent work across the North’s digital and tech sector; anywhere from the Scottish borders down to Derbyshire.