A robotic first, a rover’s first year and a new Doctor for the Tardis

Here’s what we’ve been reading/watching today:

1) Japan’s HTV-4 cargo ship launched Saturday and is scheduled to arrive at the international space station Aug. 9. The vessel is carrying 3.5 tons of supplies, including food and equipment. Also aboard is Kirobo — the first talking, humanoid robot to visit the  station. NASA, in collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, broadcast the launch live over the weekend. Here’s a video of the launch, in case you missed it:

Kirobo was developed by the University of Tokyo, advertising company Dentsu Inc. and automotive giant Toyota. Kirobo is about knee-high — roughly 13 inches tall — and equipped with voice recognition and was developed to function in zero gravity. Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata will travel to the space station in November and will be Kirobo’s primary point of contact.


An undated handout image shows Kirobo, a 13-inch-tall  talking robot, during a zero-gravity test with the robot’s developer, Tomotaka Takahashi, left, and Fuminori Kataoka, project general manager from Toyota Motor Corp. (EPA)

Kirobo shakes hands with Tomotaka Takahashi, CEO of Robo Garage Co. and project associate professor, research center for advanced science and technology, University of Tokyo, during its unveiling in Tokyo on June 26. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

Tomotaka Takahashi, CEO of Robo Garage Co. (Toru Hanai/Reuters)

Kirobo, during a press unveiling in Tokyo. (Shizuo Kambayashi/AP)

Kirobo is not the only robot developed in conjunction with a car manufacturer. Remember Robonaut 2? Well, General Motors worked with NASA on that humanoid robot, which was sent to the international space station aboard the Discovery Space Shuttle in 2011. It was Discovery’s last flight to the space station. Robonaut 2 can’t speak (although it has a Twitter account), but holds the distinction of being the first humanoid robot sent to the orbiting laboratory.

2) Today (Pacific time, tomorrow Eastern time) marks the one-year anniversary for the Mars rover Curiosity’s stay on Mars. The rover landed on the red planet one year ago. NASA has published the top five science discoveries the rover has contributed to over the course of the past year:


An infographic showing the “top five” science discoveries that resulted from Curiosity’s mission to Mars. (NASA)

The rover’s power source is expected to last a full Martian year. That’s nearly two Earth years — 687 days. But it could go longer. Here’s a live video feed from NASA TV as we celebrate the one-year anniversary:

Video streaming by Ustream

3) The era of free content is slowly coming to an end, or at least continues to brush up against its limitations. RSS reader Feedly is offering a lifetime subscription option for $99. Included in the premium service are the ability to search for articles in your feed, a security layer on your browsing habits, a one-click save-to-Evernote option, and “premium support.” It’s limited to 5,000 users. In the fall, the company will make the pro service option available to users for $5/month. But disruption has a funny way of always happening — after all, a lifetime subscription to Google Reader would be useless today.

4) “People deserve to feel safe on Twitter.” That was the message from Twitter Senior Director of Trust and Safety Del Harvey and UK General Manager Tony Wang. The two published a blog post Saturday describing changes to the company’s policies in the wake of threats targeted towards prominent female, British users — including bomb threats. Among the changes, Twitter has created an in-tweet report button on both its iOS and mobile Web app, so that users don’t have to navigate to the site’s Help Centre in order to report abusive behavior. The functionality will be available on Android and Twitter.com next month, according to the blog post. The company also updated its rules to make clear that abuse will not be tolerated on the service.

5) There’s a new occupant of the big, blue police box. Well, there will be, when Matt Smith, the actor currently playing Doctor Who, bids farewell to the role and regenerates into the doctor’s next incarnation. Peter Capaldi, a 55-year-old from Glasgow and a “Doctor Who” fan, is the 12th actor to take on the role.


Glasgow-born actor and Oscar winner Peter Capaldi, as he appeared in London in this file photo dated May 12, 2013. (Dominic Lipinski/AP)

The long-running show chronicles the exploits of a time-traveling alien (a Time Lord) and his companions. Capaldi is probably best known for his work on the BBC political satire “The Thick of It,” in which he plays foul-mouthed spin doctor Malcolm Tucker. Capaldi has also appeared on “Doctor Who” before, playing Roman merchant Caecilius in 2008.

As The Daily Dot so aptly notes, Capaldi already has a Tumblr dedicated to his hair (among other <cough> Oscar and BAFTA award winner </cough> achievements). Capaldi is the oldest actor to play the Doctor since the first doctor, William Hartnell, in 1963, and follows on the heels of Smith — who is the youngest. There was some talk that the 12th incarnation of the doctor could mark the first non-white male. Alas, no dice. Although, if you’re looking for some barrier-breaking in the “Doctor Who” universe, we suggest adult fans check out Torchwood. (BBC, The Guardian, The Daily Dot)

Correction: A previous version of this piece mentioned that NASA had live coverage today in celebration of Curiosity’s one-year anniversary. It is scheduled for tomorrow, Aug. 6, which is when the rover landed on Mars Pacific time. This piece has been revised accordingly.

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