Digital Planet podcast

Digital Planet

Technological and digital news from around the world.

Technological and digital news from around the world.



3D printed food – what’s cooking?

Could 3D-printing be serving us up a tasty food revolution, or is it the ultimate in gimmicky processed foods taking us yet further away from natural eating? In the kitchen, a 3D-printer builds up customised tasty treats like exotic cheesecakes, layer by layer, using edible pastes, gels and liquids. The results look delicious, and delicate, and can be tweaked to suit the individual’s specific nutritional needs. The latest possibilities are one of the main courses in the latest issue of npj Science of Food. One of the article’s authors is Dr Jonathan Blutinger worked at the Creative Machines Lab at Columbia University in New York where the research was carried out. Jimmy Wales on AI and its impact on Wikipedia In our second interview with Wikipedia Founder Jimmy Wales, Gareth asks about the balkanisation of the internet and how ChatGPT and other AI tech could impact Wikipedia.  Bollywood and the multiverse India is now officially the most populated country in the world and everything there is measured in huge numbers. Take film, for example. With nearly two thousand films made each year in over 20 regional languages, India produces the most films worldwide. And Bollywood is just a part of it. This year marks 110 years since the first Indian feature movie was made - ‘Raja Harishchandra’, a silent movie by legendary Dadasaheb Phalke. Since then Indian film has come a long way, winning an Oscar in two categories at the Academy Awards this year. Our reporter Snezana Curcic recently went to Mumbai, the city where it all started. She’s explored how digitalisation has disrupted and affected the industry and Indian film audiences in recent years. Pod EXTRA: A make-up applying app for the visually impaired How would you feel about applying make-up for a date or an important meeting without the aid of a mirror? Well, if you're blind or visually impaired, that's effectively a situation you might find yourself in on a regular basis. But now it seems help could be at hand. A new app called the Voice Enabled Makeup Assistant has been developed by the International cosmetics company Estee Lauder. So will it help if you're a blind dater, or is it all just lip service. Our reporter, Fern Lulham takes up the story. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington. Studio Manager: Giles Aspen Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image: 3D-printed cheesecake using edible food inks, including peanut butter, Nutella, and strawberry. Credit: Jonathan Blutinger/Columbia Engineering) ... Read more

21 Mar 2023



21 Mar 2023


Jimmy Wales on bots and blockages

Digital Planet caught up with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. In the first of two interviews with Gareth, Jimmy explains why Wikipedia was restricted in Pakistan recently and how they overcame the block. And he gives his thoughts on Twitter’s plans to stop the bots and banish its free API. 6G – what we can expect Professor Sana Salous, Chair of Communications Engineering at Durham University is about to submit her latest recommendations for the implementation of 6G connectivity to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). She’s on the show to explain how this will change the way we communicate and tells Gareth that we should be connected to 6G by 2030. Computer labs for schoolchildren in rural Kenya Nelly Cheboi’s nonprofit, TechLit Africa, has provided thousands of students across rural Kenya with access to donated, upcycled computers - and the chance for a brighter future. When she began working in the software industry, she realised that there are many computers that are thrown away as companies upgrade their technology infrastructure. So, together with a fellow software engineer they founded TechLit Africa. The students not only get upcycled computers but are also learning various skills such as coding. Wairimu Gitahi reports from Nairobi. Podcast Extra Following months of debate and discussion about what caused Gareth’s motorbike key fob to malfunction near a major TV transmitter, Imperial College and Durham University engineers have joined forces to establish what actually happened. Please do listen as we have a definitive answer. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari. Studio Manager: Tim Heffer Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image: Wikipedia logo seen on screen of laptop through magnifying glass. Photo by Altan Gocher/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) ... Read more

14 Mar 2023



14 Mar 2023


Digital identity: Where are we now?

It may seem that in some countries surveillance cameras are everywhere – recording almost our every move. We are using fingerprints and facial recognition to get access to our banking, work emails and even our healthcare systems. Alongside this rise in use comes a rapid increase in biometric data gathering, spurred on by contact tracing apps during Covid-19. But where is this very personal data going, who is using it and how. We bring together a panel of experts to discuss what’s happening now and what’s next for our biometric data – shouldn’t we be the ones in control of our own digital identity? Dr Stephanie Hare, author of Technology is Not Neutral: A Short Guide to Technology Ethics, Alice Thwaite, founder of the Hattusia consultancy and The Echo Chamber Club a philosophical research institute, and BBC China Editor Howard Zhang are all on the show. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington. Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz Sound: Andrew Garratt (Illustration: A fingerprint scanner is integrated into a printed circuit. Credit: Surasak Suwanmake/Getty Images) ... Read more

07 Mar 2023



07 Mar 2023


Ukraine’s drone spotting app

As Ukraine enters the second year of the full-scale Russian invasion, we hear about an app through which citizens can help alert defence authorities of air attacks. To help prevent future attacks, the country’s Air Defence Forces want people to use their phones to report hostile airborne objects. Simply install an app, point your handset at the object, select the category – say a drone or a missile - and press the button. It means observers on the ground can pick up objects flying too low for radar detection. Gareth speaks to one of the app’s developers, Gennadiy Suldin of the tech start up NGO Technari. Supercomputing predicting weather in Brazil – has it worked? The clear up continues in Sao Paulo following last week’s devastating floods and landslides, which have claimed dozens of lives. But could these extreme weather events have been better predicted with supercomputers? Angelica Mari has been asking if Brazil’s supercomputers are super enough? Spotting illegal farms in Taiwan with citizen tech With 1500 hectares of farmland lost to illegal usage each year in Taiwan, an environmental advocacy group tried to find ways of bringing this attention to the wider public. Stuck for what to do and not wanting to use conventional means like petitions, they turned to Taiwan’s volunteer technology community for inspiration. Shiroma Silva went to find out more for Digital Planet. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari. Studio Manager: Giles Aspen Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image: A drone approaches for an attack in Kyiv on 17 October 2022. Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images) ... Read more

28 Feb 2023



28 Feb 2023


Data in disaster zones

After the devastating earthquake in Turkey and Northern Syria, how do you collate data to aid those coordinating the disaster response? Cecilia Utas from DEEP (Data Entry and Exploration Platform) explains how important data is in disaster relief and crisis management. And Aziz Şasa from the Turkish Amateur Radio Association also explains the vital role of amateur radio as a key communication method in the region after the earthquake. High altitude communication platforms After multiple objects have been shot down in US airspace, Professor David Grace from the University of York is on the show to talk Gareth through these high-altitude communication and surveillance platforms. The devices serve many purposes and take many different forms, from balloons to airships. Electricity from human waste In the village of Lelo in South Western Kenya, 21 year old Vincent Odero is harnessing electricity from a surprising source – human waste. Using the warmth from human waste in a pit, he is making enough electricity to power his home. Wairimu Gitahi went to meet Vincent and to see his invention in action. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington. Studio Manager: Andrew Garratt Producer: Hannah Fisher Image: Digital earthquake wave with circle vibration illustration Credit: Varunya/Getty Images ... Read more

21 Feb 2023



21 Feb 2023


Internet shutdowns around the world

Within hours of the magnitude 7.8 earthquake across Turkey and northern Syria, the internet in Turkey was partially shutdown. And it wasn’t just because of damage to network infrastructure from the quake itself, but Twitter was blocked, as the authorities raised concerns over misinformation online. Internet shutdowns are used by governments around the world to control people’s access to information, for example during protests, but also somewhat surprisingly to prevent cheating during public examinations. Shutting down the internet costs individuals and countries huge amounts of money. The TopTenVPN annual report which analysed every major intentional internet shutdown in 2022 has revealed that they cost a world economy, already reeling from a number of shocks, a further $24 billion. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson. Studio Manager: Michael Millham Producer: Alun Beach (Image: Keyboard lit up in red in the dark. Credit: Sean Gallup/Getty Images) ... Read more

14 Feb 2023



14 Feb 2023


What’s the future of bots on Twitter?

What is happening with API’s, more commonly known as bots, on Twitter? The platform is set to eliminate free access to its APIs this Thursday, although there appears to have been some backtracking following announcements that bots providing “good content” will have access to the Twitter API for free. Tech writer, broadcaster and bot user and creator Kate Bevan will be on the show with the latest. The right to disconnect Kenya is the latest country to propose a new law that will block employers from interrupting their staff during their time off. The Employment Amendment Bill aims to give Kenyans “the right to disconnect in the digital age” and protect them from working out of hours, at weekends and public holidays – often for no additional pay. Nairobi based tech reporter Wairimu Gitahi is on the show. Tech that tells you when fruit is ripe Harvesting a crop at the correct time is vital to ensure higher profits for the farmer and also to reduce food waste. Reporter Rani Singh has met two entrepreneurs in India who have developed a device that checks 19 vegetable and fruits for ripeness, texture and taste – just by scanning their skin. The handheld device checks the chemical composition e.g. sugar levels of fruits and veg and can tell if there has been damage from insects or disease. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson. Studio Manager: Michael Millham Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image: Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, California Credit: David Odisho/Stringer/Getty Images) ... Read more

07 Feb 2023



07 Feb 2023


A smart glove to save babies

One of the main causes of maternal mortality during childbirth is that the baby cannot be delivered vaginally, most likely because it is not positioned correctly in the womb. Without a plethora of medical equipment and training to check the baby’s position, midwives and doctors in developing countries struggle to reposition the baby safely. Scientists at UCL have developed a smart glove that links to an app, which in lab tests appears to be able to correctly identify the position of a baby’s head and how much pressure is being applied to it. The glove costs $1, making it an affordable solution in developing countries. Dr Shireen Jaufuraully and Carmen Salvadores Fernandez of University College London, lead authors on the study, explain their work so far. Photometric-stereo 3D imaging reveals secrets of the past At the Bodleian Library in Oxford, England, a series of previously little studied copper plates is now, finally, giving up its secrets after three hundred years. The shallow engravings on the copper have become worn and difficult to read after more than three centuries. So, researchers are picking out relief on the metals surface by moving a light around, to draw out the shadows and give contrast. Except, this is a moveable virtual lamp, thanks to some clever 3D imaging. Hannah Fisher has been to the library to find out more about the ARCHiOx project. Wi-fi seeing through walls Scientists at Carnegie Mellon University are able to detect the 3D shape and movements of human bodies in a room, using only WiFi routers. The WiFi method overcomes problems with cameras e.g. poor light. The tech could be used to monitor elderly people at home or check on intruders. Professor Fernando De La Torre Frade and Dr Dong Huang from Carnegie Mellon University tell Gareth more. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson. Studio Manager: Tim Heffer Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Photo: Smart glove embedded with a sensor on the fingertip of the index finger. Credit: Wellcome/EPSRC Centre for Interventional and Surgical Sciences) ... Read more

31 Jan 2023



31 Jan 2023


What happens when the Bitcoin miners leave?

In the summer of 2021 Kazakhstan was the second biggest producer of Bitcoin in the world, but what has happened since the crypto currency crash? Tech reporter Peter Guest is on the show to tell us about his trip to the country and how mega warehouses that once contained the computing power to make crypto millions now stand empty in the country’s rust belt. He tells us the story of the rise and fall of the bitcoin miners in this remote part of the world. Wearable tech, AI and potential new treatments for rare diseases Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) and Friedreich's ataxia (FA) are very rare genetic diseases neither of which has a cure. Now scientists and engineers in the UK have used motion sensors to capture the way patients move. They processed this data through new AI medical technology that they say can predict disease progression and significantly increase the efficiency of clinical trials in these conditions. Treatments are desperately needed as both diseases can lead to paralysis and currently there are often not enough patients for clinical trials. Dr. Valeria Ricotti, honorary clinical lecturer at the UCL GOS ICH and lead author of the studies is on the show to tell us more. Sony’s new game controller for disabled gamers Our gaming correspondent Chris Berrow reports on Sony’s new “Project Leonardo”, its PlayStation 5 controller for disabled gamers. The company teamed up with accessibility experts and charities to design the modular controller which can be adapted in many different ways to allow as many people as possible to use it. Launched at CES it still doesn’t have a release date or price though. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington. Studio Manager: Duncan Hannant Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image: Huge transformers and high tension cable to power bitcoin mines in Kazakhstan. Credit: peterguest.co) ... Read more

24 Jan 2023



24 Jan 2023


Self-driving cars could be a massive source of global carbon emissions

MIT researchers have concluded in a new study that computers that power self-driving cars could generate as many greenhouse gas emissions as the total of the world’s data centres do today. We’ve reported many times on the huge carbon footprint of data centres as well as the massive amounts of electricity needed to run them. They currently account for 0.3% of global greenhouse gas emissions – a similar level to Argentina - according to the International Energy Agency. The models created show that 1 billion autonomous vehicles, driving for one hour a day each, need a computer consuming 840 watts. These would consume enough energy to generate similar emissions as data centres currently do. Lead author Soumya Sudhakar joins us on the show to explain how hardware efficiency will need to advance rapidly to avoid these high levels of emissions. Brazil’s antisocial media Following last week’s events in Brasilia we look at the role social media played in the violence by far-right protestors. Angelica Mari, and activist and researcher Bruna Martins dos Santos who specialises in the Politics of Digitalization discuss if President Lula’s new government can reclaim the social media space and curb the spread of far right disinformation. Getting South Africa connected – a new initiative Last week we heard from one of our listeners about how he tries to stay online during power shortages in Ukraine following Russian air strikes. Another country that is significantly affected by energy shortages is South Africa. In addition, getting a reliable internet connection is also very hard. The government has announced that it’s going to spend over 160 million dollars over the next three years creating 33,000 community Wi-Fi hotspots as well as investing in improving IT skills across the population. Our reporter Rani Singh has been looking at how this might be achieved… The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari. Studio Manager: Michael Millham Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image: Stylised car icon. Credit: Smartboy10/Getty Images) ... Read more

17 Jan 2023



17 Jan 2023


Getting online in Ukraine’s blackouts

One of our listeners in Ukraine contacted us to tell us how he stays online during power outages following bombing in Ukraine. Volodymyr Bielikov is on the show to explain the issues he’s regularly facing with internet connectivity. AI avatars undressed and virtual employees Ghislaine Boddington looks at the alarming story of how a young female reporter created avatars in the AI avatar app Lensa and was shocked to find that out of 100 avatars, 16 were topless and another 14 wore very skimpy clothing and were in provocative poses. Why has this app created astronauts and warrior avatars for her male colleagues and is undressing her avatars? Ghislaine also looks at the rising employment of virtual staff. The tech company Baidu says the number of virtual people projects its working on has doubled in the last year with prices of a virtual employee starting at just under $3k. Why are they becoming popular and what jobs are they being used for? Evelyn Cheng, senior correspondent from cnbc.com in Beijing, has been investigating the story. An AI age verification system Age verification has long been a topic of discussion, particularly in the online space with regards to young people who often don’t have verifiable ID such as a driver’s licence. Now a promising AI powered age estimation system, called YOTI, which analyses a person’s face is gaining popularity. Shiroma Silva has been testing it out on her colleagues – including Gareth – and reports how some major platforms are using it to keep younger users safe online. The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington. Studio Manager: Tim Heffer Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz (Image: Power outage, blackout in Ukraine. Credit: Anton Petrus/Getty Images) ... Read more

10 Jan 2023



10 Jan 2023