3D-printing breakthrough and other tech news you need to know

A 3D-printed hand.
Researchers at ETH Zurich believe they've opened up new possibilities for robotics.
Image: ETH Zurich/Thomas Buchner
  • This monthly round-up brings you the latest stories from the world of technology.
  • Top technology stories: 3D-printing breakthrough for robotics; New US plan for space regulation; Smartphone sales rise for first time in over two years.

1. Researchers successfully 3D print hand with bones, ligaments and tendons

For the first time, researchers have successfully printed a robotic hand complete with bones, ligaments and tendons made of different types of polymers. The breakthrough was possible thanks to a new laser technique.

Researchers ETH Zurich, who conducted the work, believe it opens up new possibilities for the production of robotic structures that combine soft, elastic and rigid materials.

"Robots made of soft materials, such as the hand we developed, have advantages over conventional robots made of metal. Because they're soft, there is less risk of injury when they work with humans, and they are better suited to handling fragile goods," ETH Zurich robotics professor Robert Katzschmann explained.

2. White House announces new proposal for space regulations

The US administration has announced a proposal to split regulatory powers for private-sector space activities between the transportation and commerce departments.

The draft legislation would expand the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Commerce's oversight of key areas. The FAA would see its remit expanded to cover areas including the licensing of crewed and uncrewed activities in space. Meanwhile, the commerce departments would have greater responsibility for various uncrewed spacecraft, including in-space servicing spacecraft.

The proposal is in response to a global treaty that requires countries to authorize and supervize the space activity of non-government bodies.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

The World Economic Forum was the first to draw the world’s attention to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the current period of unprecedented change driven by rapid technological advances. Policies, norms and regulations have not been able to keep up with the pace of innovation, creating a growing need to fill this gap.

The Forum established the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network in 2017 to ensure that new and emerging technologies will help—not harm—humanity in the future. Headquartered in San Francisco, the network launched centres in China, India and Japan in 2018 and is rapidly establishing locally-run Affiliate Centres in many countries around the world.

The global network is working closely with partners from government, business, academia and civil society to co-design and pilot agile frameworks for governing new and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous vehicles, blockchain, data policy, digital trade, drones, internet of things (IoT), precision medicine and environmental innovations.

Learn more about the groundbreaking work that the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution Network is doing to prepare us for the future.

Want to help us shape the Fourth Industrial Revolution? Contact us to find out how you can become a member or partner.

3. In brief: Other tech stories to know

Researchers at MIT have developed a new process to create fuel from carbon dioxide. The new approach turns CO2 into formate, a solid fuel, that could be used to heat homes or in industry.

A new floating desalination machine, powered exclusively by waves, could help in the drive to create fresh water from salt water while avoiding the use of fossil fuels, the device's inventors say.

The European Space Agency has announced a new rocket, the Ariane 6, has passed a key rehearsal ahead of hopes for a debut flight next year. Ariane 6 is a joint venture between Airbus and Safran.

Mobile data traffic in Europe is set to triple in the next five years, industry group GSMA announced on 23 November.

It comes as new data shows the global smartphone market grew in October, the first month of year-on-year growth since mid-2021. Sales have been hit by a number of issues, Counterpoint Research said as it released the data, including component shortages.

Resonac, the Japanese chip materials producer, has announced plans for an R&D centre in the US's Silicon Valley.

4. More on technology on Agenda

The raw materials for modern technology - and the innovations of the future - can be rare and difficult to extract. Urban mining could help tackle this and improve the sustainability of technology by extracting these sorts of material from waste. Read our explainer to learn more.

Japan's share of the global semiconductor industry has declined since the 1990s, but the government is working to boost domestic production. Read more about the steps they're taking to maintain and strengthen the local semiconductor industry.

What's next in the electrification of transportation? Olivier Rabiller, President and CEO of Garrett Motion, explores the variety of technological options available - from battery electric vehicles to hybrids and plug-in hybrids.

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