Week in Tech: Apple Star Wars, Google Star Trek and why iRobot could be NoRobot


It's been a sci-fi sort of week: Apple's acquired Star Wars technology, Google's been copying Star Trek and robots took a step closer to becoming the killer bots we've seen in so many movies. But that's not all. We've been watching Vine videos on our wrists, discovered some potentially massive moves by EE and O2, and watched the Large Hadron Collider smash things into other things with gay abandon. Oh, and there's some obscure thing called Black Friday too. It's the Week in Tech!

About Face(shift)

Apple has reportedly bought facial capture specialists Faceshift, whose technology appears in the new Star Wars movie. The tech is designed to make animated characters look more human, and while the most obvious uses for it are in special effects and gaming there are more unusual applications too. As Rob Edwards points out, "prior to Apple's acquisition, Faceshift was also working on software for consumers, including a Skype plugin that would support real-time avatars for video chat". As ever, we asked Apple for comment; as ever, Apple told us "we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans".

Block party

It could be new-trousers time for ad-based businesses if EE and O2 do what they're thinking of doing: both companies are considering the routine blocking of adverts on their networks. According to EE chief executive Olaf Swantee, "this is not about ad blocking, but about starting an important debate around customer choice, controls and the level of ads customers receive. This is an important debate that needs to happen soon". Meanwhile, O2 is said to be in the "well advanced" stages of testing tech to block ads network-wide, zapping them before they're downloaded to save users' data allowances and reduce congestion.

Star Trekkin' across the Googleverse

We've long suspected that today's engineers are hugely influenced by the sci-fi they watched when they were growing up, and now we have proof: Google's techies loved the Star Trek communicator so much, they tried to build their own. Speaking to Time, Google senior vice-president Amit Singhal explained that the little wearable was fashioned after the pin-and-badge communicator worn by Star Trek's Starfleet to speak to each other and the ship. Sadly, it's just a prototype, and it won't be available outside Google's own labs.

Vine: Watch this

The Apple Watch should be ideal for Vine clips, and vice versa – so it's great to see the Watch getting some love from the latest Vine update. As Parker Wilhelm explains: "The Vine experience on the Apple Watch is simplified in comparison to the smartphone and tablet version, showing vines saved to a user's favorites as well as featured vines getting a lot of buzz. While only saved and featured videos are currently visible on the smartwatch, users can still like and re-post vines to their feed with just a tap on the wrist".

CERN's Super Smash Bros

There ain't no party like a particle physicists' party, and there's one kicking off right now in Switzerland: CERN's Large Hadron Collider broke records this week as it created almost twice as much energy as in previous experiments. The ultimate goal is to simulate the matter that existed just after the Big Bang, which reached temperatures of several trillion degrees. We've achieved very similar temperatures using a Breville toastie maker.

Rebellious robots refuse to help humans

Here's one for the 'Skynet is coming' crowd: engineers at Tufts University in Massachusetts are working on robots that will say no to humans "as long as there's a good reason to do so". As Duncan Geere explains, it's to stop them blindly following orders from cheeky children or anybody who might want to make them act badly. "If you were looking forward to a world where robots would do all the dirty work, performing as mechanical slaves for humans, then you're not gonna like this," he says.

None more black

Have you bagged a Black Friday bargain yet? This year's Black Friday started a tad early when Amazon, and other retailers both online and in the bricks-and-mortar stores, decided to run their deals over a week or more – and we've been tracking the very best bargains on offer. You'll find the best Black Friday and Cyber Monday savings right here.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.