Humanoid diving robot hunts for sunken treasure in French shipwreck

‘Robo-mermaid’ able to reach depths too dangerous for human divers retrieves vase from wreck of Louis XIV’s flagship

Robotics scientists at the US’s Stanford University have achieved a remarkable first: they have successfully sent an automated avatar – which they describe as a robo-mermaid – down to an ancient shipwreck to retrieve a vase from the sunken vessel.

La Lune, the flagship of Louis XIV of France, sank 20 miles off the south coast city of Toulon in 1664. Only a few dozen of the hundreds of men on board survived. The wreck, which lies at a depth of 100 metres, had never been disturbed until the OceanOne robot craft reached it two weeks ago and recovered the grapefruit-size vase.

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Are slow iPhone sales just a blip or is Apple starting to struggle?

The volatile market in China, the urgency for a new product, and slumping phone sales are combining to create serious problems for the tech company

Self-made billionaire investor Carl Icahn is known for his very vocal endorsements and criticisms of the world’s biggest public companies, including Apple. Yet when he appeared on CNBC on Thursday, he wasn’t there to demand the company give shareholders dividends, as he’d been doing for years.

Instead, he said he was out. Icahn said he’d dumped every share he held in Apple, claiming he made a $2bn profit and was done with the company, citing concerns about how the Chinese government could block the company from that market. “You worry a little bit, and maybe more than a little, about China’s attitude,” Icahn said, warning of a “tsunami” of trouble.

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Skoda Superb Estate car review – ‘It looks like a cartoon character with a friendly moustache’

This made me immediately like it, and I didn’t stop

There’s something about the exterior of the Skoda Superb estate, the curve of its nose and the shape of its grill, that makes it look like a cartoon character with a friendly moustache – maybe the Lorax. This made me immediately like it, and I didn’t stop, all the way from the parking space I could never fit into to the motorway I was pleasantly tooled up for. Even though it makes the most sense on a long journey, the fact of its comfort made up for the fact that it’s too big, really, for nipping about. The cabin is spacious and actively pleasing to sit in, more like a train. Passengers feel as though they’re miles away.

Cars this size divide into “family-ish” and “executive-ey”, and even though in real life almost all families are preferable to all executives, in car world the opposite is true. This feels like business; it is soundless, even at high speeds, and really smooth. All road surfaces are the same in this car: the A303 could be an autobahn built in 2013, for all the challenge it poses. It’s not particularly exciting. You’re neither high on the road, nor low to it. It corners like a 62-year-old man at a tea dance, unhurried and deliberate. I was in the two-litre turbo-diesel, and I mused for about a seventh of every day on how much turbo technology has improved since my early driving years, when to have a diesel meant that nobody would ever believe you were in a hurry. This moved readily through the gears, it had no trouble overtaking anything, and I do believe I even saw a “Huh, I didn’t know Skodas were that powerful” look in the eyes of the people I left eating my dust, although I can’t vouch for that.

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An end to ‘bill shock’ as EU mobile roaming charges are slashed

Taking your phone on holiday used to lead to debts running into the thousands. But that’s about to change

Controversial roaming charges holidaymakers pay to use their mobile phones in another European country will come down dramatically from today, and are set to disappear altogether from 2017 following EU intervention.

For several years the European commission has been battling with the big mobile providers to force through cuts to the cost of making cross-border calls and using data in another country – the much hated roaming charges that leave many in “bill shock”.

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