Surprise Telsa Rival Emerges from China

A wild Tesla rival appeared! From nowhere, Chinese electronics company LeEco has unveiled its first electric car, designed to be a direct rival to Tesla Motors’ Model S electric sedan, while adding more self-driving and connectivity features

The vehicle, called the LeSEE (a name that gives me unpleasant flashbacks to Final Fantasy XIII), is only a concept car for the time being, but the ambitious company hopes it will help usher in an age of Chinese dominance in the electric car market, with a number of other local companies set to launch battery-powered cars in the next few years.

“When everyone is questioning us over our ability to develop a car like this and is laughing at us, we are still able to be here and show you this car […] I am so emotional,” said an excited Jia Yueting, co-founder and CEO of LeEco, at a launch event in Beijing on Wednesday (via Reuters).

Jia even claims that LeEco hopes to give its electric cars away for free one day, making its money back on ads delivered to the vehicles through its connectivity platform.

“Our cars’ pricing model will be similar to pricing models for cellphones and TV sets we sell today,” he said. “One day our cars will be free […] We are getting there some day.”

Chinese Agencies Demands Result in iBooks and iTunes Shut Down

Apple is one of the few companies that has managed to stay active in China where regulation of digital services is strictly controlled by the countries many agencies. That was until last week when several of Apple’s services were shut down in China.

Apple’s iBooks store and iTunes movies were shut down last week, following the demands of the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television. Apple has since responded saying that they hope to “make books and movies available again to our customers in China as soon as possible”, something that implies there is a condition to the services.

Apple managed to launch Apple pay in the country just two months ago, and with it counting China’s as its second biggest market, any services that are stopped would have a huge impact on the company. China is known for the censorship of its technology, with the country hidden behind “the great firewall” while it’s suspected that several groups within the country are behind large-scale hacks in other countries.

Recently Apple denied ever handing over its source code to China, a move that may or may not have contributed to the states less favorable look for the California-based company.

Apple Denies Handing Over Source Code to China

During an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing earlier this week, entitled “Deciphering the Debate Over Encryption: Industry and Law Enforcement Perspectives,” which discussed the feud between Apple and the FBI over an iPhone tied to the San Bernardino shootings, Indiana State Police Captain Charles Cohen, Commander of the Office of Intelligence and Investigative Technologies, accused the Cupertino company of releasing its iOS source code and user data to China, while refusing to do the same thing for the US.

“I saw several news stories that said Apple provided the source code for the iOS [operating system for iPhone and iPads] to China,” Cohen said.

Following Cohen’s claims, for which he provided no evidence, Bruce Sewell, Apple’s General Counsel, confirmed that the company had “been asked by the Chinese government” for the source code, but that “we refused.”

Apple was also accused of possessing a key to access encrypted user messages and data – which would mean the company’s claims of end-to-end encryption were fraudulent – which it disposed of at the end of 2014.

“We have not provided source code to the Chinese government,” Sewell countered. “We did not have a key 19 months ago that we threw away. Those allegations are without merit.”

Image courtesy of Shelley Palmer.

Meet China’s New Realistic Robot “Jia Jia”

Robots that look like humans are a growing trend in recent times, with a number of organizations showing off their robots that mimic human looks and expressions often in a creepy manner. The latest of these is Jia Jia, a female robot developed by the University of Science and Technology in China, who, while more realistic than many, still lands firmly in the uncanny valley.

Jia Jia is capable of talking with humans in real-time, make a number of preset facial expressions and even detect if an unflattering picture is being taken and tell off the photographer. “Don’t come too close to me when you are taking a picture. It will make my face look fat,” she told one person trying to take her photograph at the press release.

She is the result of 3 years of work by researchers and engineers at the university, with a lot of effort going into small but important details such as the mouth movement when she speaks or how her eyes move as she looks around a room. There are still some features that need to be worked on, including making her able to perform more complex expressions such as laughing or crying and aside from the head, she looks somewhat like a dummy, which is mostly visible from her hands. These could be improved in a future version of the robot, as the team is set to continue work on Jia Jia, but there are no plans to mass produce or otherwise release her. She could even include deep learning capabilities in a later version according to team leader Chen Xiaoping.

Restaurants in China Fires Robot Staff for Incompetence

It seems we shouldn’t worry about automation taking away jobs from us humans just yet, with one restaurant in Guangzhou, China being forced to “fire” its robotic staff members for incompetence, while two others with robot waiters going out of business.

Human staff members, who worked alongside the inept machines, had nothing positive to say about their robotic colleagues, unsurprisingly.

“The robots weren’t able to carry soup or other food steady and they would frequently break down,” one employee of the unnamed restaurant that fired its robot staff told Workers’ Daily (translation via ShanghaiList). “The boss has decided never to use them again.”

“Their skills are somewhat limited,” another waitress said, accusing the automatons of failing to perform tasks vital for restaurant waiting staff. “They can’t take orders or pour hot water for customers.”

“The robots can attract plenty of customers, but they definitely can’t reduce the need for human labor,” the restaurant’s owner added.

“Zhang Yun, vice-principal of Guangdong University of Technology, explained that while robots were excellent at improving productivity in the manufacturing industry where tasks are repetitive, they were unable to perform well in fields where frequent human interaction was necessary,” ShanghaiList explained.

Despite reports that automation could render half the world’s population unemployed within 30 years, a number of companies are moving away from using robotic workers in favour of human input, with Mercedes, for example, hiring more human workers to implement its customised car program.

Elderly Women In China Seen Praying to League of Legend Character

League of Legends is a world-famous game, with characters appearing all over. So what happens when you put a giant statue of one of the games most famous characters outside your door? You probably don’t expect to see an elderly women praying to it.

Caught on a security camera, the image appears to reveal an elderly women kneeling and offering an incense before praying to the statue. The statue is of famous League of Legends character Garren and was taken outside an internet cafe in China, hence the statue.

The reason for the mistaken prayer? It could be, and is most likely, that the women mistook the figure as Lord Guan Yu, a famous general during the Three Kingdoms period. Guan Yu is now often considered a god by many, so the mistake could be honest.

People have been responding with support for the women, with comments going along the line of:

“I feel really sorry for her, probably her family ran into some unexpected trouble, and she is looking for help,” one netizen sympathized.” and

“As long as your beliefs are sincere, then the true god will help you”

While it could be an honest mistake it’s nice to see people supporting the women, and hopefully she found comfort no matter who heard her prayers.

Man Pleads Guilty To Leaking US Military Aircraft Blueprints

When it comes to security and privacy, there is little more protected than military details. As a result, the information is often protected by several layers of protection, and even if these are breached the chances of it going unnoticed are even slimmer than being able to gain access in the first place. Something Su Bin found out the hard way when he pleaded guilty to leaking US military aircraft blueprints. Su Bin, a Chinese national, has pleaded guilty to illegally accessing sensitive military data and distributing this material to China for financial gain. Bin’s role in the scheme was to obtain access to Boeing and other companies servers, in the process retrieving information about their military aircraft

Su Bin, a Chinese national, has pleaded guilty to illegally accessing sensitive military data and distributing this material to China for financial gain. Bin’s role in the scheme was to obtain access to Boeing and other companies servers, in the process retrieving information about their military aircraft such as the C-17 and even fighter jets. Once he obtained access, he told two associates, un-named in his plea deal, which servers to hack and what information was useful on the projects. He even provided a translating service, converting the documentation from English to Chinese before sending it back to China, all at a cost.Sending both server details and names of US executives (and their emails)

After being caught in Canada in 2014 and then extradited to the US last month, Bin will now be charged with stealing data listed on the US Munitions List contained in the International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

With countries becoming more and more aware of the risks and dangers regarding the digital world, catching anybody is a stark warning that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean that you will get away with it.

John McAfee Wants China to Handle US Cybersecurity

Crackpot plutocrat and self-professed “cybersecurity legend” John McAfee believes that the US is doing such a terrible job of protecting its cybersecurity interests, and that it should outsource the task to a country better equipped at dealing with technological threats: China. Yes, McAfee thinks a nation that wants to use an AI system to monitor its citizens’ every move should bring its expertise to American shores.

“China,” McAfee writes in a Business Insider op-ed, “has already stolen top secret information of everyone who worked for the US Government for the past 50 years, accessed critical information from the Pentagon. Homeland Security and the FBI, has everyone’s phone number, address and habits – and this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as we know. China has done the same thing to nearly every nation on earth.”

“I can assure you that the first word of an attempted attack against China, from any quarter, any person or any agency, would be heard, analyzed and dealt with within minutes of its utterance,” he argues. “In China, encryption is controlled by the Office of State Commercial Cryptography Administration (OSCCA). However, items such as wireless telephones, standard computer operating systems and internet browsers are not included under their regulations.”

Therefore, McAfee posits, China should be given the keys to the US cybersecurity initiative: “It would be better to subcontract our security to the Chinese, eat crow and swallow our pride, until we can stand on our own as a nation in this sea of cyber security chaos which we are clearly incapable of navigating.”

Obligatory reminder that McAfee is running for US President as the Libertarian candidate, presented without further comment.

China Looking at Creating “Precrime” System

When people start to think about digital surveillance and their data stored online, they think about cases such as Apple vs the FBI where modern technology is used to try track down criminals or find out more about what could have or has happened. China looks to go a step further creating a “precrime” system to find out about crimes you will commit.

The movie Minority Report posed an interesting question to people if you knew that someone was going to commit a crime, would you be able to charge them for it before it even happens? If we knew you were going to pirate a video game when it goes online, does that mean we can charge you for stealing the game before you’ve even done it?

China is looking to do just that by creating a “unified information environment” where every piece of information about you would tell the authorities just what you normally do. Decide you want to something today and it could be an indication that you are about to commit or already have committed a criminal activity.

With machine learning and artificial intelligence being at the core of the project, predicting your activities and finding something which “deviates from the norm” can be difficult for even a person to figure out. When the new system goes live, being flagged up to the authorities would be as simple as making a few purchases online and a call to sort out the problem.

China’s Not Happy About US Sanctions On ZTE

ZTE is a well-known manufacturer of telecom equipment, and while they have seen success in the past they are more than worried about the future with the US looking to impose sanctions on the company. As you can imagine, China’s not happy about this turn of events and are looking to hopefully stop this action before it goes too far.

Hong Lei, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, stated that “China is opposed to the US citing domestic laws to place sanctions on Chinese enterprises”. The restrictions were only announced yesterday and were made on the back of allegations that the company planned have sold US-made equipment to Iran in 2012. This is in violation of the US export restrictions with Iran, but this move may have an impact on other companies just as much.

Intel, Qualcomm and Microsoft all supply parts and equipment to ZTE, something which will now require paperwork which will “generally be denied”. ZTE are obviously worried that, since they cooperated with the US since the trading with Iran first surfaced in 2012, they are going to be hit badly by the restrictions, ultimately causing “significant supply problems to ZTE”. The company has already taken a hit with the trading of company shares being halted.

UK Scientists to Begin Gene-Editing Human Embryos

UK scientists have been given permission by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to use gene-editing techniques to modify human embryos.  Dr Kathy Niakan and the Francis Crick Institute, who made the application to the HFEA, intend to use advanced gene-editing developments to investigate the causes of miscarriages using seven-day-old embryos.

“I am delighted that the HFEA has approved Dr Niakan’s application,” Paul Nurse, Director of the Francis Crick Institute, said. “Dr Niakan’s proposed research is important for understanding how a healthy human embryo develops and will enhance our understanding of IVF success rates.”

Experiments will begin at the Crick, following the development of edited embryos from a single cell through to 250 cells. Donated embryos – surplus in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) specimens given to researchers with the informed consent of the donators – will only be used for research purposes and not for treatment, in line with the HFEA’s regulations.

Last year, Chinese scientists became the first to gene-edit a human embryo, using the sophisticated CRISPR system.

“China has guidelines, but it is often unclear exactly what they are until you’ve done it and stepped over an unclear boundary,” Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, scientific advisor to the UK’s fertility regulator, told the BBC. “This is the first time it has gone through a properly regulatory system and been approved.”

Image courtesy of Engadget.

China Releases True Colour HD Photos of the Moon

The China National Space Administration has released a series of beautiful images from its recent moon mission. The photos – all true colour and high definition, taken by the Chang’e 3 lunar lander and Yutu rover in 2013 – are available for download from the Chinese Science and Application Center for Moon and Deepspace Exploration website. While the Chinese site is a tad unstable, thankfully Senior Editor and planetary evangelist Emily Lakdawalla grabbed some of the highlights and is hosting them on the Lunar Society blog.

China’s Chang’e 3 mission – named for the Goddess of the Moon in Chinese mythology – was the first soft moon landing for 37 years, the first since Russia’s Luna 24 mission in 1976. The Yutu rover, nicknamed the “Jade Rabbit” then explored and photographed the lunar surface with its HD camera, radar, x-ray, and infrared spectrometers.

The results from the Chang’e 3 mission suggested that lunar surface is more diverse than previously thought.

After a year of exposure to lunar conditions, Yutu was left frozen, unable to fully mobilise, and yet was still able to collect data and images, and beam them back to China, until March 2015.

An image from NASA (courtesy of TechCrunch) shows where the Chang’e 3 lunar lander touched down on the surface of the moon:

 

Exquisite Eggshell Carving Artwork Is No Yolk

Artists are always finding exciting and fresh ways to promote their artwork; this is, well, no exception, after the China Youth Network recently reported concerning a craftsman who conveys his artwork on eggshells. The artist in question is based in China and goes by the name Huangwei Xiang; he is 64 years old this year and below are images of this quite amazing yet delicate artwork.

As you can see, the first image below is of this gentleman’s latest series entitled “108 Water Margin Heroes” these were carved in 108 days. the fragility of the eggshell means the need for a delicate hand when applying pressure.

The next image below is of a phenomenal carving within a hollow eggshell, the intricate patterns and imaginative design certainly opens the door for a range of possibilities. On a side note, not long ago a “Hong Kong business person spent 30,000 yuan (£3,195.89) with the aim of buying two hollow egg carvings as well as 12 zodiac egg carvings”.

Below are two images which convey a close up of two of the Margin Heroes, patience is certainly needed when attempting to sculpt the artwork within the shell.

It is certainly unique and also requires a high level of skill to achieve these results, I would not have thought this would have been possible when you consider how fragile an eggshell is, but, it just goes to show what can be achieved within the world.

China Plans Construction of a Floating Nuclear Plant by 2020

China has announced plans to build a floating nuclear power plant, and wants it to be seaworthy by 2020, according to Shanghai List. The ship, known by the unwieldy moniker ACPR50S, would be a 200MW floating nuclear reactor designed to support expeditions to coastal areas or as an emergency power source in case of a disaster, natural or otherwise.

The initiative is part of China’s 13th five-year-plan, one of many policies designed to develop the country into a true global superpower, and has already been approved by the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission.

The ACPR50S is just one small part of China’s nuclear power strategy, with over one hundred static reactors set for construction across the country over the next ten years, averaging seven new power plants per year at a total cost of around $7 billion (USD). By the end of this cycle, China will be producing 350GW of electricity from nuclear power.

While not the first seabound nuclear reactor – the US Navy has over a hundred nuclear vessels – the ACPR50S is set to be the first used to generate power for the mainland. The Russians, however, may get the jump on China, with its own floating nuclear reactor – the Akademik Lomonosov – currently under construction, and is expected to be completed in 2017.

Bank of China Releases a Laser Blasted “Monkey” Coin

Tech is always advancing in new and exciting ways. With the aim of developing and modernizing techniques for the 21st century, the coin production process at The People’s Bank of China placed into circulation a $10 dollar limited edition of at least 500 million coins, but when you consider China has a current estimated population of at least 1.357 billion, this may well be a limited laser blasted and multilevel “Monkey zodiac coin”.

The coins in question use materials including a Brass Alloy for the outer ring, which is illustrated by the first image below, this is coupled with a Nickel Alloy composite which is implemented for the inner core and is conveyed by the second image. The technique used to make these commemorative coins changes the traditional moulding process in favour of a lower yet more efficient manufacturing footprint.

The coins have the word “SHIYUAN” which is located next to the selected domination, this word comes from the  Chinese phonetic alphabet. The coins, released to coincide with the 2016 Lunar New Year are also decorated to include a floral pattern as well as a traditional decorative monkey and also a lantern.

Collectors who wish to collect such a coin will be able to reserve a maximum of five coins, the date by which the coins will become available will be from the 16th January 2016.

Chinese Soldiers Now Equipped With Laser Guns

The Chinese military has begun equipping its soldiers with handheld laser guns, in direct contravention of international treaties banning the use of blinding laser weapons. The PY132A laser gun, revealed during the Chinese Police Expo in December, is designed to blind enemy sensors and cameras and intended for use against enemy vehicles and drones, Popular Science reports.

In 1998, China signed a United Nations Convention that prevented the development of Certain Conventional Weapons [CCW], which included blinding laser weapons that could be used against humans. While the Chinese military claims that its PY132A laser are for use against mechanised combatants, it remains possible for the weapons to be used against humans, intentionally or not. The scattering effect of laser beams means people are at risk of being struck in the eye, risking blindness.

“China has been updating its home-made blinding laser weapons in recent years to meet the needs of different combat operations,” the official military newspaper PLA Daily reported on 9th December, via The Washington Free Beacon. “Blinding laser weapons are primarily used to blind … targets with laser[s] in [the] short distance, or interfere [with] and damage … laser and night vision equipment.”

“The United States is committed to the CCW and expects all parties to uphold the convention and its protocols,” a State Department official warned.

The US is also worried that these weapons could make their way on to the global arms market, with Chinese weapons systems expert Rick Fisher saying, “There is a strong possibility these new dazzlers are being marketed for foreign sale.”

A Visual Photographic Collage Of China’s Air Pollution

China’s air quality is poor to say the least, recent reports of families having to use an air purifier in their own homes to avoid breathing the air is quite shocking. The atmosphere in China has become worse over time to the point whereby it is difficult to recall a situation when the countries skies were not full of pollution, luckily, China and its Weather Network has produced a visual representation and it’s certainly worth a look.

Below is a series of snaps which has been stitched together and conveys the Beijing sky conditions most for most of the time in 2015, it is quite revealing when you consider how toxic the pollution is and is particularly evident when you look at images labelled 2015-12-1 and 2015-12-25.    

Image Below appears to be a colour chart of images that represent around 300 days of 2015, how do I know? yes I did count them and I came to around 290 days which I rounded up to 300, so give or take it is close to a year in total. The image also conveys the levels of extremes that exist and how it can be a danger to anyone’s health.

Below is an image which is quite fascinating, the sky here looks pretty natural and there is a good reason for this,  “during the Chinese People’s Anti-Japanese War and the World Anti-Fascist War commemoration of the 70th anniversary of victory” celebrations, the government  imposed air “quality protection measures”, this included a shutdown of factories and a ban on cars and high emission facilities. The result was a dramatic change that started from August 20th and continued until August 24th, 2015.

These images are interesting because tech has been used to document a hot topic climate issue in today’s world.

Image courtesy of geonews

China Launches its Most Advanced Disaster Prevention Satellite

2015 has been a good year for the space industry across the world and now China have closed out the year with a landmark launch of their own. Today they successfully launched the Gaofen-4 satellite as part of the country’s high-definition Earth observation project.

Gaofen-4 was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the Chinese province of Sichuan. The launch took place on the 29th of December at 00:04AM local time. Carrying the satellite into orbit was a Long March-3B carrier rocket. According to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), this is the 222nd launch of a Long March family rocket, which have been in operation since the 1970s and the 19th mission this year.

The successful launch of Gaofen-4 is a significant step in China’s HD Earth observation project, as it has unique capabilities as China’s first geosynchronous orbit HD optical imaging satellite, featuring visible light and infra-red staring optical imager with a common optical system. Gaofen-4 differs greatly from the Gaofen-1 and -2 satellites, which both hold low orbits of 600-700km from the earth, which 4 will orbit as far as 36,000 km away in a geosynchronous orbit. It is due to its advanced imaging systems that it can be placed at a distant orbit, without issue, reportedly being able to spot oil tankers in the sea with its optics. The purpose of the data gathered by Gaofen-4 can be applied in a number of ways, including disaster prediction and monitoring, weather prediction, agriculture monitoring and even national security. This isn’t the end of China’s satellite endeavors either, as Gaofen-4 is only the third satellite of seven planned to be launched by 2020.

We can only hope that the space agencies around the world continue their efforts into 2016, as if they can continue to top 2015, the future is bright for the myriad of space projects.

Image credit to Xinhua/Yue Yubin

China have ‘Gamified’ Your Life and It’s Frightening

China is one of the weirdest countries on the planet and I swear that they must have a weekly government meeting where they brain storm and there really are no bad answers or suggestions and one of these ideas was to have your life as a citizen ‘gamified’ and that is freakishly scary.

Instead of us explaining everything, we will give you a brief rundown and let the video explain things in more detail. To start with, it’s worth noting that the system is not mandatory now, but will be in 2020.

How will I be ‘gamified’?

The whole system is run partly by Tencent who own RIOT Games and have “interests” within EPIC Games and Activision Blizzard as well as Alibaba.com (China’s equivalent competitor to Amazon) and of course the Chinese government. Instead of monitoring your credit score like we have in the UK and US, where you can check if you’ve paid your bills on time, gone overdrawn and so forth, instead, it will measure other aspects of your life such as how obedient you have been as a Chinese citizen. This will include accessing information about you from social media such as sharing news stories that are favourable to China and therefore increasing your score compared to sharing bad publication pieces that would harm the worth of China as a country. To add to this, Alibaba will share information on your purchases such as if you are buying locally sourced produce and tools that are made in China compared to important goods from other countries which will have a detrimental effect as you’re not helping the Chinese economy.

Sounds bad right? It gets worse…

If you are a model citizen and are following all of the rules and have an amazing score, you’re onto a winner and will be the top of the town, but if you suddenly become friends with an old chum from school who posts news clippings onto social media that hurt the reputation of China, then your score will go down too. Not really fair is it?

It’s dubbed as Sesame credit and is quite scary as it uses the same mantra that we know and love from games but in a bad way. We see the whole republican/liberal/democrat stigma happen day in and day out in America and the UK and I can only assume that this will force people to be even more right wing which will have a negative outcome on the tourist industry to China among other aspects.

For the most part, the average citizen will not think much of this, but as it develops, it will become more mainstream and people will start obsessing over their score and this could lead to a lot of negative things such as violence, crime and the simple act of playing the blame game.

Would you like to live in a real-world video game like this? I know I wouldn’t.

Chinese Anti-Terrorism Law Forces Companies to Provide Encryption Keys

While the debate on the topic rages on in the West, China now has joined Kazakhstan in the club of nations that have compromised the encryption of their citizens’ data for the sake of the state. As part of new anti-terrorism legislation passed by China’s legislature, internet companies that operate within the borders of China are required to hand over encryption keys and passwords to data when requested by the government.

This turn of events in China has concerned many in the West who fear that this new legislation may put their business and interests in China in jeopardy. Even Barack Obama weighed in on the debate when the law was drafted earlier this year, stating “We have made it very clear to them that this is something they are going to have to change if they are to do business with the United States.”

A Chinese official who is involved in the regulation, Li Shouwei, attempted to assure that the law would not involve setting up government backdoors. “Relevant regulations in the anti-terrorism law will not affect the normal business operation of companies, and we do not use the law to set up ‘backdoors’ to violate the intellectual property rights of companies.” He further stated that “The law will not damage people’s freedom of speech or religion.”

It is currently unclear how this new law will affect companies such as Apple (whose iPhone has a large market share in China), who do not hold encryption keys or passwords to devices. Will it come down to Western companies using their weight in the Chinese market to slip through if decryption is impossible, or will the Chinese government force them to compromise their principles and security to avoid being locked out of the lucrative Chinese market. With the law coming into effect on 1st of January, the answer could come sooner than we think.

With another country’s government rendering privacy and encryption worthless against their whim, could this spur the governments of Europe and America to consider more strongly restricting encryption. We can only hope that seeing such laws in action will drive them away from imposing similar laws on their own citizens believing it will make the world safer.

15,000 Hoverboards Confiscated After Safety Scares

Hoverboards, the new cool thing to have, have already been deemed illegal by the British government. But in the newest step on what some would consider the government’s war on fun, after testing many of the hoverboards being imported into the UK, have deemed the popular vehicles to be unsafe and potential hazards to their owners. As a consequence, 15,000 (or 88% of) hoverboards , most of which are manufactured in China, have been seized at UK ports by inspectors.

Since October, the importing of hoverboards has been under strict scrutiny by UK inspectors, following the National Trading Standards reported that: “Many of the items detained and sent for testing have been found to have noncompliant plugs without fuses, which increases the risk of the device overheating, exploding or catching fire.” Scary stuff for an item many would consider a fun gift for their children.

“Our teams at sea ports, postal hubs, and airports have seen a significant spike in the number of unsafe ‘hoverboards’ arriving at national entry points in recent weeks and are working around-the-clock to prevent dangerous items from entering the supply chain,” said Lord Toby Harris, chair of the National Trading Standards, in a statement. “Protecting consumers from harm is our top priority and our Safety at Ports and Borders teams are preventing thousands of these unsafe items from being released onto the market every day.” – Lord Toby Harris, chair of the National Trading Standards

And while hoverboards have skyrocketed in popularity thanks to celebrities being seen riding the device and it even being included in one of Justin Bieber’s music videos. Hoverboards have also gained somewhat of a rap sheet recently, with one being cited as the cause for a house fire in Louisiana, one exploding under its rider’s feet in Alabama and the New York Police Department declaring them illegal, under threat of a $200 fine.

The fact is, with no main company producing hoverboards and stiff competition between Chinese manufacturers trying to secure western market share, the ideas of quality control and safety are ignored, as even if there are problems, they are unlikely to reflect back to the manufacturer.

If you’re someone hoping for a hoverboard this Christmas, or looking to get one for a family member or friend, does the safety risk and legality of hoverboards put you off, or are you glad that now at least new hoverboards entering the UK are subject to safety standards?

Chinese Woman Missing for 10 Years Found Living in Internet Café

A Chinese woman presumed dead after she went missing at the age of 14 has been found in an internet café, where she had allegedly been living and playing online games for the past ten years, according to The Star.

Xiao Yun, aged 24, left her home in Zhejiang Province, China ten years ago after a row with her parents. When she did not return home, she was presumed dead by both police and her family, but was found by police on 2oth November, 2015 following a routine check in the internet café she was inhabiting.

Police were suspicious when they found the woman to be in possession of a fake ID, and took her to a police station for questioning. It was there that police determined that the woman had been living in numerous internet cafés for a decade. She spent her days playing her favourite first-person shooter, CrossFire, and sleeping in various cafés and bath houses. Xiao Yun survived by working as a cashier in some of the cafés she frequented, supplemented by handouts from fellow patrons.

Xiao Yun was reunited with her mother soon after (pictured above, courtesy of the Qianjiang Evening News, via the South China Morning Post). Her mother, who did not change her phone number for 10 years, just in case her daughter was still alive and wanted to call home, told the Qianjiang Evening News “I have a stubborn personality and a short temper, so I used to scold her. But it’s been 10 years and now she’s an adult. I will never scold her again.”

Xiao Yun was fined 1,000 yuan (RM670) for using fake identification.

Google Play Store Set to Hit China in 2016

It has been reported that Google is working tirelessly to re-establish its products in China, with the Google Play Store set to spearhead the effort by as soon as February 2016.

It has been a number of years since the internet giant has had a presence in China, since issues over censorship caused them to pull out of the nation. This has done little to hinder Androids great popularity in China thanks to companies like Xiaomi and Huawei repeatedly delivering high-quality and affordable devices that have even gained popularity in the West. Despite this, domestic Chinese Android devices continually ship without many of the Google apps that most would consider a staple on modern Android devices such as Gmail, Chrome and Maps. Instead, other companies have picked up the slack left by Google’s departure, with smartphone developers delivering their own custom Android versions built upon the Android Open Source Project and the search and app distribution platforms covered by Chinese startups such as Baidu and Wandoujia.

In order to now comply with the requirements of the Chinese government, the Chinese version of the Google Play Store will be “set up specifically for China, and not connected to overseas versions of Google Play” according to reports. This will allow for the implementation of content filtering and storage rules that are in place. Furthermore, implementation for Chinese payment platforms like Alipay and WeChat Payment will be replacing Google’s own payment systems which currently does not exist in China. All of this is in an effort to reach out to the currently untapped Chinese market, a location at which Apple are currently turning profits of over $58 billion, all the while complying with the relevant regulations, perhaps in part to their lack of opposition.

From here on, it will be a fight for Google to make their decision to reach back into China a worthwhile one, where their presence is nothing compared to their ubiquity in the West. Will we see Google once again pull out of China, or continue to become a greater worldwide presence? Only time will tell.

China’s New Space Robot Looks Like an Iron Man Knockoff

At the 17th China International Industry Fair in Shanghai, China’s space agency rolled out their new Mars Probe, which consists of a new orbiter and landing rover, and while normally that would be the star of the show, it certainly wasn’t. The new space-faring robot known as Xiaotian is a lawsuit waiting to happen, sporting some very familiar Iron Man colours and a check piece that looks to be a knock-off arc reactor, albeit a fake one, not a real arc reactor, that would be a tad implausible to say the least.

As I was saying, the robot (pictured above) looks a lot like Robert Downey Jr’s version of Iron Man (pictured below, obviously).

The new robot, Xiaotian, which translates as “little sky”, was developed by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., which is the nation’s primary space contractor; let’s just hope their tech department is a little more creative than their design team.

The robot is designed to deal with the harsh environment of space, to perform tasks in zero gravity on space stations, lunar landings, space probes and more. It uses flexible arms and hands, allowing it to do intricate work. Unfortunately, there are no plans to put Iron Man, erm, I mean Xiaotian in space just yet.

iPhone 6s Clone Costs a Mere $37 And Works Surprisingly Well!

The launch of Apple’s iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus resulted in record operating sales figures despite implementing only a few iterative changes from the previous generation. However, Apple products incur a hefty price premium in countries with fairly decent wages, which makes people in poorer nations unable to purchase expensive handsets. As always, there’s a huge array of clones on the market to suit customers on a budget which fairly reflects their wage. Although, many of these have suffered from an atrocious battery life, poor user-interface and suspect call quality.

Only a few years ago, I decided to test a Sciphone which resembled an iPhone 3GS. Thankfully, it only cost £25 because its performance was nothing short of unbearable. In the last few years, copies have improved at an exponential rate due to the affordability of budget hardware and the Android operating system.

One particular example which caught my attention is based on the iPhone 6s and comes in a variety of luxurious colours. In terms of its specification, the handset features a Spreadtrum SC7731 Quad-core ARM Cortex-A7, 512MB RAM, 4GB ROM, expandable flash storage, and 5-inch QHD display. Unlike many smartphones these days, you can remove the back cover and swap out the internal battery. While it’s not the most impressive specification, it seems to run the operating system smoothly and costs an astonishingly low, $37. As the video rightly proclaims:

“Who wants to buy a $1000 iPhone in China? Nobody! People just buy copies.”

Furthermore, once you’ve purchased the handset, it’s incredibly easy to have the Apple credentials engraved. I’m not advocating this, but Apple really needs to rethink its pricing model in poorer countries. In the wider scheme of things, I have to commend the ultra cheap handsets which provide a usable phone for the less fortunate.

Pepsi Spokesperson Confirms Pepsi P1 Smartphone

Do you like Pepsi? Ever wanted a Pepsi phone? Your lifelong dream could soon come true. Ok maybe it’s not going to reach the top ten things on your bucket list, but it sounds pretty cool right? A Pepsi spokesperson confirmed the phone is real and continued to state the following:

    “Available in China only, this effort is similar to recent globally licensed Pepsi products which include apparel and accessories.”

The Pepsi P1 is only going to be available in China at launch, but these sort of products have a habit of being available worldwide on websites such as eBay. As for the specification, the device will feature a 5.5-inch Full HD screen, an Octa-Core 1.7GHz processor alongside an ARM Mali-540 MP4 graphics processor. The P1 will also have 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a nicely sized 3,000mAh battery and Android 5.1 as standard; although I will be surprised if they don’t change this to Android 6.0 at some point.

The main camera packs a smooth 13 megapixels whilst the selfie cam is 5-megapixel. Let’s not forget the best part, as it will also feature the iconic red white and blue Pepsi logo on the back. OK maybe the best part is not the logo but the price, the Pepsi phone will be available for around £135 that’s a lot of phone for very little money.

The release date is reported to be as early as the October 20th.

Would you buy the Pepsi P1? If not why not? Let us know in the comments below, we always want to hear the reader’s view on these subjects.

Thank you Trusted Reviews  for providing us with this information.

Tsinghua Group Look to Acquire SanDisk and Toshiba

China is looking to expand heavily into the storage industry with the latest acquisition rumour. According to the report, Tsinghua Group, a Chinese government-controlled investment group is looking into acquiring either SanDisk or Toshiba to get access to their NAND technology. Both Toshiba and SanDisk currently work together in a joint venture to research, develop and produce NAND memory. Other notable NAND firms are Intel and Micron (IMFT), Samsung and SK Hynix.

Tsinghua Group had earlier been looking to buy up Micron Technologies, another major NAND player. Those talks over a $23 billion deal fell apart after the US government stepped in over national security concerns. This time around, the United States won’t be able to intervene as neither firms are American. SanDisk a South Korean firm while Toshiba is Japanese. Still both of those countries may still have some issues about national security.

Of the two, it is most likely for a South Korean SanDisk deal to go through. Those two nations are on friendlier terms relatively speaking and South Korea still has Samsung and SK Hynix to rely on for national security procurement. Whether or not South Korea will want to see on their tech firms go foreign is an entirely different matter.

Thank you DigiTimes for providing us with this information