Facebook has rolled out customizable avatars in the US. The feature was released internationally last year. Avatars allows people to express themselves through a virtual lookalike. They can be used in comments, stories, and in Messenger. Users can customize the avatar's hairstyles, complexions, outfits, and more. The feature can be accessed through the sticker tab in Facebook's comment composer or in Messenger.
Tesla has warned its employees that they could lose unemployment benefits if they choose to stay home due to COVID-19 concerns after being called back to work. Elon Musk reopened Tesla's Fremont plant recently in defiance of local health orders. Musk has threatened to move Tesla's operations out of California and will be filing a lawsuit against Alameda County over the stay-at-home orders. Tesla has not faced any repercussions for opening resuming vehicle production.
In 2009, a Harvard University stem cell biologist published a paper on turning patients' own skin cells into stem cells, but they later lost a majority of their funding and the future of the research was looking grim. The researcher then received a grant from a stranger who had Parkinson's disease. In 2017, the benefactor had dopamine-producing neurons made from his skin injected into his brain. Eighteen months after the procedure, the patient regained some motor function. Brain scans showed that the neurons in his brain seem to be producing dopamine and the patient was able to tie his laces and swim again.
The reddish-brown 'scars' that form on the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa are actually etched into the layer of water ice that covers the surface of a potentially habitable subsurface ocean. It is thought that the cracks form when Jupiter tugs at Europa and breaks the ice apart. In 2000, the Galileo probe found that there were fewer than expected fast-moving protons in the vicinity of the moon. Scientists found that some of this proton depletion was due to a plume of water vapor shooting out into space. These plumes could hold information about what lies beneath Europa's icy surface. The European Space Agency is planning to launch a probe in 2022 to investigate Jupiter and its moons. It will arrive in the Jupiter system in 2029 and it will be able to collect samples to study these plumes.
Epic has just released its first look at Unreal Engine 5. It is an attempt at achieving photorealism on par with movie CG and real life while still being accessible to development teams of all sizes. A 9-minute demo video is available. Two core new technologies, Nanite and Lumen, will debut in Unreal Engine 5. Nanite allows artists to create as much geometric detail as the eye can see. Lumens is a fully global illumination system that can render diffuse interreflection with infinite bounces and indirect specular reflections in environments at scales ranging from millimeters to kilometers. Artists will be able to move a light inside the Unreal Editor and have it look exactly the same as the game when it is run on console. Unreal Engine 5 will be available in preview in early 2021, with a full release late in 2021. Games developed using Unreal Engine will now have their royalties waived on the first $1 million in-game revenue. The new Unreal Engine license terms are retroactive to January 1, 2020.
Sciter is an embeddable engine that allows developers to build cross-platform desktop applications with HTML, CSS, and script. Over the last 10 years, Sciter has become a popular platform of choice for some of the most prominent antivirus products on the market. Applications built with Sciter can be more than 10 times smaller than ones built with Electron or Qt.
The FBI claims that it has seen hacking attempts on US groups researching vaccines, treatments, and testing for the coronavirus. It issued a public service announcement on Wednesday that healthcare, pharmaceutical, and research sectors working on COVID-19 response were prime targets for hackers. China has been blamed for the attacks. China-linked hackers have stolen data from the US before, including from the US Military.
Kickstarter has laid off 25 employees and had a further 30 employees voluntarily resign. The platform has seen a 35 percent drop in new projects and it doesn't look like business will be picking up. Kickstarter had warned employees of potential layoffs last month. It is one of the few tech companies that has unionized. The union was involved in negotiating severance packages for employees.
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