Your WIRED.co.uk daily briefing. Today, a US study has confirmed that Zika virus causes birth defects, the proposed EU-US Privacy Shield has been slammed for clauses that would allow US intelligence services to carry out mass surveillance on EU citizens, PayPal has launched its virtual credit card in the UK and more.
Get WIRED Awake sent straight to your inbox every weekday morning by 8am. Click here to sign up to the WIRED Awake newsletter.
The USA's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have announced that Zika virus can be firmly linked to birth defects such as microcephaly (The New York Times). The findings, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, settle a long-standing debate about the relationship of the disease to often-fatal birth defects in infants born to infected mothers. CDC director Dr Thomas R. Frieden said that "never before in history has there been a situation where a bite from a mosquito can result in a devastating malformation."
2. New EU-US Privacy Shield must bar US mass surveillance
The Article 29 Working Party, the group assessing the proposed EU-US Privacy Shield, has said that the proposed exceptions that would allow the USA to carry out mass surveillance on EU citizens are "not acceptable" (Ars Technica). The Privacy Shield is the proposed replacement for the defunct Safe Harbor framework and, if passed into law, would once again allow EU companies to easily store clients' personal data on US servers without being in breach of European data protection regulations. However, US demands that its intelligence services be given access to EU citizens' personal data if it's stored on US servers continue to be a sticking point and Working Party Chair Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin said that "we believe it would have been better to have something simpler and less complex."
PayPal has launched its Credit service in the UK, allowing its users to take out loans from the company to fund purchases on anything they buy at PayPal-enabled online shopping sites (TechCrunch). Designed as a "virtual credit card", the scheme allows shoppers to pay for items in instalments and provides credit at an interest rate of 17.9 per cent. However, users who buy an item worth £150 or more using credit will get a 0 per cent interest rate on repayments for that item for the first four months, after which it goes up to the standard 17.9 per cent.
4. The Greenland ice sheet is melting earlier than expected
Scientists have reported that Greenland's ice sheet, which should be firmly frozen at this time of year, has begun melting "freakishly early" (Phys.org). Climate scientist Peter Langen of the Danish Meteorological Institute reports that on Monday and Tuesday this week, 1.7 million square kilometres of the ice sheet showed signs of melting, three weeks earlier than any previous records for early ice melt. Greenland has been hit by a weather system that's bring warm rain and increased temperatures up from the south, and its capital Nuuk reached 16.5 degrees on Monday – 6.5 degrees higher than prior record April temperatures. NASA ice scientist Walt Meier said that "things are getting more extreme and they're getting more common… One freakish thing every once in a while you might expect. But we're getting these things more often and that's an indication of climate change."
Facebook has revealed two new terrestrial wireless internet technologies that it says will be able to provide better-than-fibre connection speeds of 2.1Gbps (Gizmodo). Presented at the company's F8 developer conference, the Terragraph is built for use in dense urban areas and uses high-frequency radio bands that are ideal for carrying large amounts of data short distances – in this case between Terragraph poles to be positioned between 200 and 250 metres apart. For more remote users, ARiES (Antenna Radio Integration for Efficiency) is a large scale cellular transmitter that uses Massive MIMO to effectively combine a large number of antennas to deliver high data throughput to users.
Amazon has announced the Kindle Oasis, its thinnest, lightest and most expensive ereader yet (WIRED.co.uk). Instead of resembling a tablet, the £270 Oasis has one edge that is much thicker and heavier than the other and is designed to be held in one hand. This edge is weighted like the spine of a magazine or a book, according to Amazon, making the Oasis feel more like a real-life book than its predecessors. The six-inch touchscreen is an updated version of the Paperwhite display used on all of Amazon's current ereaders. The display is noticeably crisper and whiter than previous Kindle models and uses 60 per cent more LEDs for reading in low-light and bright sunlight.
7. Google is bringing new emoji to Android
As part of an update to the Android N Developer Preview, Google has announced a redesign of its emoji to make them look more human – current users will be familiar with the cute-but-improbable yellow Google emoji blob (The Verge). The emoji update also adds support for the full Unicode 9 emoji standard, from user-selectable skin colour to new symbols including bacon, selfie and face palm.
LibreVR has released a patch called Revive, which allows users with HTC's Vive virtual reality headset to play games designed for the Oculus Rift, such as Lucky's Tale (Ars Technica). While Valve has made its SteamVR platform explicitly compatible with Oculus's hardware as well as its own Vive headsets, Oculus has been cagier about allowing other hardware into its ecosystem, with no native third-party support built into its games and claims that "we can only extend our SDK to work with other headsets if the manufacturer allows us to do so". Fortunately, there are clearly very few technical differences between the standards, although Vive users who wish to play games from the Oculus Home store will still have to keep Oculus's data-mining runtimes running in the background.
9. Explore the land of Westeros in HBO's new 360-degree video
HBO has released a 360-degree video version of Game of Thrones' opening credits map sequence, allowing users with VR heardsets to explore the geography of Westeros as never before (Variety). It's been published via the Game of Thrones Facebook page, where it's accumulated almost 4 million views overnight, and will be coming soon to native Samsung Gear VR and Oculus Rift platforms. The sixth season of Game of Thrones sees its worldwide premier on 24 April.
10. Toho's first Godzilla movie in a decade gives the legendary monster a new look
Toho has released the first trailer for Shin Gojira (Godzilla Resurgence in its English language version), directed by Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi (io9). It's to be the company's first Godzilla film in over ten years and the trailer shows a redesigned and surprisingly menacing incarnation of the iconic Godzilla suit. Shin Gojira is due out in Japanese cinemas this summer, and will be coming to the rest of the world later this year.
The Wellcome Collection's latest exhibition is a cacophonous exploration of the human voice in all its forms. Visitors enter 'This is a Voice' through an anechoic chamber – a corridor coated with a material that absorbs all sound. After this muted start, the exhibition erupts with all manner of voices, from humans mimicking birdsong to the disturbing sounds of 'accent removal therapy'. Across five sections, the exhibition explores the human voice in all its guises and focuses on the ability that the voice has to convey emotion even without words. This is an exhibition that's best consumed through the ears, and the curators here have stripped back the accompanying information to let the audio take centre stage. The result is completely absorbing.
WIRED reveals the truth about online security. With inside advice from our moles at MI6, the NSA and GCHQ, we've assembled the planet's top security experts to define the threats – and advise on how to stay safe. Out now in print, iPad and iPhone. Subscribe now and save.
Sci-fi body architect Lucy McRae, and Jo Mountford, who is leading a breakthrough trial into lab-grown blood at the Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service, are among the speakers at WIRED Health 2016.
Listen now, subscribe via RSS or add to iTunes.