Every day we wake up, drink some coffee, get ready for work and check on the latest tech. So here’s a handful of stories from around the tech world condensed to fit into that first cup. These are things you need to know before you step foot out of your door (or in front of a webcam) and into the real world this morning.
FDA gives green light to Neuralink for human testing of brain implants
The FDA has approved the first-in-human clinical study of Neuralink, a company that aims to create a direct link between the brain and machines. Neuralink, founded by Elon Musk, has developed a brain implant and a surgical robot that can insert electrodes into the brain.
The company hopes to use its technology to treat neurological disorders and enhance human cognition. Neuralink has not yet revealed the details or timeline of the human trials, which are expected to be small and focused on safety.
The approval comes after Neuralink faced several challenges and controversies, including a rejection by the FDA in March, allegations of animal abuse, and violations of transportation rules. Neuralink has addressed the FDA’s concerns and cleared a major hurdle for its ambitious project
OpenAI CEO launches eye-scanning crypto startup with $115M funding
Sam Altman, the former president of Y Combinator and current CEO of OpenAI, has raised $115 million for his new venture, Worldcoin. Worldcoin is a cryptocurrency project that aims to distribute digital money to everyone in the world using a device that scans people’s eyeballs.
The device, called the Worldcoin Orb, is designed to verify a person’s identity and uniqueness by capturing the pattern of their iris. Worldcoin claims that this method will ensure a fair and inclusive distribution of the currency, as well as prevent fraud and abuse.
Worldcoin has already tested the Orb in several countries, including Kenya, India, and Mexico, and plans to launch a global beta later this year. The project has attracted investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Coinbase, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.
Minnesota leads the way with broad right-to-repair law
A new right-to-repair law in Minnesota will make it easier for consumers and independent repair shops to fix their own electronics and appliances. The law, which was signed by the governor on Wednesday, obliges electronics manufacturers to offer access to manuals, tools, and parts for most devices. The law aims to help consumers, small businesses, and the environment by reducing waste and prolonging the life of devices.
The law does not cover video game consoles, medical gear, farm or construction equipment, digital security tools, or cars. It also lets manufacturers stop offering parts or tools if they are no longer made or the devices are no longer sold. Some repair advocates have expressed disappointment with these limitations as they reduce the reach and impact of the law.
The law will go into effect on July 1, 2021, and violators can face consequences under the state’s Deceptive Trade Practices law. Minnesota joins New York and Colorado as states that have passed some form of right-to-repair legislation.
Chinese hackers infiltrate US and Guam critical infrastructure using router malware
A hacking group backed by the Chinese government, called Volt Typhoon, has breached critical infrastructure systems in the US and Guam by using malicious firmware that hijacks home and small-office routers, according to Microsoft and five government agencies.
The hackers use the routers as proxies to hide their traffic to their command and control servers. They also use tools already installed on the infected systems to steal network credentials and sensitive data.
The campaign, which has been going on for at least two years, is likely aimed at disrupting communications between the US and Asia in case of a conflict. The malware, named Horse Shell, can run commands, transfer files, and exchange data using SOCKS5 protocol.
Microsoft has urged users to update their router firmware and scan their devices for signs of infection.
Virgin Orbit collapses after failing to secure funding, lays off 90% of staff
Virgin Orbit, a space company founded by Richard Branson, announced on Thursday that it will cease operations for the foreseeable future and lay off nearly all of its workforce.
The company failed to secure a funding lifeline from potential investors, leaving it unable to continue its rocket launch business. CEO Dan Hart told employees during an emotional all-hands meeting that the company will keep only 100 positions, or about 10% of its staff.
He also said that the company will provide severance packages and support for the departing employees. Virgin Orbit was one of the leading players in the small satellite launch market, using a modified Boeing 747 jet to carry its LauncherOne rocket to high altitude and then release it.
The company had successfully launched two missions to orbit this year, but faced increasing competition from rivals such as Rocket Lab and Astra.