Week in Tech: Facebook's future, HTC, Hawking and hoverboards


It takes a brave person to predict the tech industry's future: 10 years ago hardly anybody had heard of Facebook, Twitter was just getting started, Friends Reunited was the UK's favourite social network and Yahoo wasn't in deep trouble. But that hasn't stopped Facebook for planning far, far ahead – and this week we discovered its vision for all the way up to 2026. But that's not all. We also discovered Steven Hawking's plans for space exploration, experienced Amazon's Oasis and watched an internet giant become a black hole. It's Week in Tech!

Facebook: Resistance is useless!

Facebook has unveiled its 10-year plan for world domination, and it has three key elements: virtual reality, artificial intelligence and sharks with frickin' laser beams. We're lying about that third one: it's connectivity. As Michelle Fitzsimmons explains, Facebook wants to bring the internet to areas where it isn't currently available via drones, planes and satellites, and it wants to "build systems that are better than people at perception". The first phase of that involves chatbots on Messenger for fairly simple tasks such as finding products, but over time Facebook "is preparing for a future where we can talk to machines, and they'll understand us. It's an equally exciting and eerie development".

Yahoo: Boo-hoo

Yahoo's glory days are far in the past: things are so bad there's speculation that the Daily Mail might buy it. The company that was once king of the internet is up for sale, and Michael Hicks knows why. "Unfortunately for the 'hoo, it ignored the value of businesses that would end up profitable: search engines. Instead, the company leased its searches out to a startup named Google in 2000." Not the best decision in tech history.

HTC 10: it's good, but is it great?

HTC's new flagship, the HTC 10, has amazing audio, great design and an improved battery – but Gareth Beavis reckons there's something missing. The camera isn't brilliant, the system feels a little buggy and while it promises much, it "only partly delivers". It's powerful and well made, but there's nothing particularly innovative, and "HTC needs to bring back the innovation properly if it's going to have a chance of getting back to the top of the smartphone class".

Amazon's Oasis

The Kindle Oasis is the most expensive ereader Amazon offers, with a price tag of $289 US (£269 / AU$449). Is it worth it? James Peckham rates the new design, "great" – there's a new screen – and there's also that enormous selection of ebooks. But he also mourns the short battery life and lack of choice when it comes to cases. "Amazon has managed to deliver the most comfortable experience I've so far enjoyed on a device," he says. "If you're reading for a long time you may actually get your money's worth from the Kindle Oasis."

Stephen Hawking's space plans

If you thought sending spaceships to Mars was pretty impressive, Stephen Hawking's latest project will blow your mind: Breakthrough Starshot will send thousands of tiny drone ships to Alpha Centauri, which is of course where all the space aliens live. Those ships will travel at 134 million miles per hour, which is the same speed Audi drivers do near schools. How will they reach such speeds? "By firing a hundred-billion-watt battery of lasers on top of a mountain back on Earth at a 'solar sail' attached to the craft, fashioned from fabric only a few hundred atoms thick and about the size of a kite," obviously.

It's a lot less bovver with a hover(board)

Let's be honest. The hoverboards we've seen so far haven't been particularly impressive. But what about a board that can go up 10,000 feet, travel at 93mph and fall out of the sky after about ten minutes? That's what Zapata Racing has demonstrated, although it hasn't quite hit those heights just yet. "On the official website it's described as a prototype device and there's a note that says it won't go on sale this year," David Nield says. "When it does, we'll take two!"

Gears of waaaaaaaaaah

Prepare to be pwned: we've played the Gears of War 4 multiplayer, and it's packed with new ways for you to die. As Hugh Langley and Nick Pino report, there are new guns, new battle modes, new moves and new ways to ruin your enemies' day. "It's about taking cover. It's about tactics. It's about grabbing and defending power weapon spawns. It's about executing your enemies in the least humane way possible, or using them as human meat shields while you sink rounds into their teammates."

Clanks a bunch

Ratchet and Clank has been "re-imagined" for the PS4. But it's much more than a mere remake, says Emma Boyle. "Whether you're a fan of the series already or you've never encountered a Lombax in your life, Ratchet and Clank strikes the balance between familiar and new content just enough to work both as an introduction and a re-introduction… if you want a fun, visually impressive and solid platforming experience, you want Ratchet and Clank."

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