US drone rules hamper firms hoping machines can take over dangerous jobs

Industries like mining and drilling would prefer to send vehicles, not people, to do the riskiest work, and the FAA faces its own hurdles in changing the law

If one of your duties is dangling from a rope while you try to check for corrosion and metal fatigue, a flying robot may be here to help soon.

When we read about drones, it’s usually an annoying hobbyist spying on sunbathers or a terrifying automated plane with a name like “Reaper” raining death on Afghanistan. But at the first-ever commercial drone conference, in Las Vegas this week, the talk among leaders of the dangerous and environmentally risky mining and drilling industries was of how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could both limit danger to employees and help avoid or triage the kinds of disasters that have cost those companies billions and irreparably harmed their relationships with the public.

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Piano app gets me playing

The new Skoove app promises to ‘make your musical dreams come true’. It’s good, but doesn’t hit all the right notes for a learner

I’ve long fancied the idea of astonishing my friends by whipping a cloth off a keyboard and playing a glorious rendition of festive tunes à la Downton Abbey Christmas special. But apart from prodding the odd key, I’ve never been near a piano.

Enter Skoove, the app that promises to “make your musical dreams come true”. Excellent. I’m already Googling fancy evening dresses and recipes for mulled wine. Better still, the current beta version of the app is free (it’ll cost between £3.50 and £7.50 a month when commercially released), which is a boon considering an electric keyboard costs around 60 quid (there’s currently no way to use the interactive features with Granny’s upright).

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Five things we love: from a robotic toy to a laser shaver

We share some of the newest, most fun and helpful tech ideas

A robotic toy comprised of electronic cubes, Robo hopes to be the Lego of the digital age, allowing children or rookie coders to build functioning, programmable robots with interchangeable parts commanded by a Robo app. With the Robo app, the right blocks and a rainy afternoon, you could – according to the Kickstarter page – have a three-wheeled robot nosing around the room, obeying commands and announcing the weather forecast. Assuming the Kickstarter crowdfunding is successful, a fairly primitive Robo starter kit will cost £85 and arrive through your door next summer. As a nod to its forebear, the Robo is also “Lego-compatible”, meaning you can artistically bedeck your creation with retro bricks.

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On the road: Honda Civic Type R – car review

‘It is insanely powerful. I felt like the Hulk bursting out of his shirt’

In my day, a Honda Civic looked like the car you would drive if you were going on an IT training course in Milton Keynes and wanted to fit in: reliable, characterless, neither large nor small, fast nor slow. At some point in the intervening decade, the designers or maybe the entire Honda brand have had a midlife crisis.

If I utter the phrase “black with red detailing”, you’ll think you know what I mean; you do not. The body looks like a Batmobile. The wheels look as though they were deliberately conceived as fresh wounds – a kind of Bruce Willis-esque aesthetic statement: “I’m so hard I haven’t even noticed I’m bleeding.” There is a spoiler at the back so substantial and proud that it would only really make sense if this vehicle could fly.

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Twitter looks to cut jobs as it seeks to regain momentum – report

Engineering staff likely to be most affected by layoffs following Jack Dorsey’s appointment as permanent chief executive, claims Re/code

Twitter is planning company-wide layoffs next week, technology news website Re/code reported on Friday, citing sources.

The news comes after Jack Dorsey was appointed permanent chief executive on Monday. It is unclear how many of Twitter’s staff will be laid off, but it is likely it will affect most departments, Re/code said, citing company insiders.

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