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Tech stories that caught our eye in March

Posted by Joe McNamara on 3rd April 2013

Live from Facebook: Your news feed changes – 7th March

This month, Facebook announced changes to its newsfeed, designed to increase ease-of-usability and allow users to access multimedia content more easily. This seems like a fairly good thing considering that photo and video content is proven to drive shares and engagement, meaning it must be popular.

The news feed options will include a photo-only feed and a music feed to tell you what your friends are listening to. For advertisers, points to bear in mind are that this is Facebook’s first attempt at a ‘mobile first’ design. There is an added emphasis on photos, EdgeRank is less important, meaning quality of content matters more, and timing is more important as the customisable views now include chronological feeds.

Samsung Galaxy S4: First impressions – 15th March

Samsung unveiled the eagerly anticipated Galaxy S4 at an, albeit unorthodox, launch event in New York. While the Oscars-style music and ‘unpacked’ theme seemed just a tad cheesy for the South Korean consumer electronics giant, the magnitude of this release is huge, mainly due to the success of its predecessors in the Galaxy range, particularly the S3, which became the best-selling smartphone range in 2012/2013. This was also the first time Apple had been knocked off its smartphone leading perch.

The device includes a few exciting touches such as eye-tracking and text translation software and we eagerly await technologies such as these becoming commonplace in smartphones. The continuing growth of the Android platform is also exciting for app developers across the world given the openness of the platform.

More HIV ‘cured’: first a baby, now a 14 year old – 14th March

This is a massive development for the medical world and is testament to the remarkable research in this area. After the news that a baby had been “cured” of HIV two weeks previously, it emerged that a similar therapy had shown proven results on 14 adults.

While the patients still have HIV in their blood, the amount is so low that it can be kept in check by their natural immune system rather than breaking it down, without the use of regular medicine. Medical research benefits from innovations in technology, design and engineering, and we can see here the tangible value of time and money spent on research into so-called incurable diseases.

Budget predictions 2013: what to expect – 20th March

The announcement of the 2013 UK Budget by George Osborne was greeted with mixed responses by science and technology companies. Science and technology, in the words of The Guardian, ‘escaped the worst impacts of austerity’, with a ringfence being placed around £4.6bn of annual funding for the research and innovation community.

That said, cuts were applied to research budgets and it is clear that a long-term strategy is needed to drive entrepreneurialism in the innovation sector. So, in summary, benefits are measurable but by no means game changing. What is more important is that innovation hubs, forums and design partnerships continue to add inventiveness and intelligence to the UK’s tech startup scene.

Engineering 3D-printed stem cells – 21st March

3D printing is a technology that many hope will revolutionise the design and engineering world. We saw an early sign of a truly revolutionary advance in this area this month. Now, I’m not saying advances such as 3D printing prototypes of cars aren’t interesting, or indeed extremely important, but 3D printing human stem cells takes things to a whole new level.

A 3D printer has now been developed with the ability to print clusters of embryonic stem cells without harming them in the process, using a series of microvalves. The possibilities are endless in terms of research and testing – the ability to replicate human organs and tissue means reliable testing can be performed on replicated cells rather than animals, for example. It’s like 3D printing live guinea pigs, which would be just as revolutionary in my eyes.

Joe McNamara