175 episodes

Technological and digital news from around the world.

Digital Planet BBC World Service

    • Technology
    • 4.6 • 105 Ratings

Technological and digital news from around the world.

    Robots that can assemble almost anything.

    Robots that can assemble almost anything.

    Researchers at MIT have made significant steps toward creating robots that could practically and economically assemble nearly anything, including things much larger than themselves, from vehicles to buildings to larger robots. Many objects could be built from tiny identical lightweight pieces e.g. an airplane wing or a racing car, and this latest work is a big step towards a fully autonomous self-replicating robot assembly system. Two of the authors are Professor Neil Gershenfeld, Director of the Centre for Bits and Atoms, and doctoral student Amira Abdel-Rahman, they explain how these robots self-assemble.


    War of words on Wikipedia.

    We’ve reported on the disinformation on the War in Ukraine on Twitter and Facebook, now reporter Shiroma Silva looks at what’s happening on Wikipedia. From paid editing, harassment of editors and using multiple online identities to push certain messages, Wikipedia entries are being pushed towards a pro-Kremlin stance. It’s not the first time that these coordinated activities have happened. Last year the Wikimedia Foundation banned seven editors linked to a mainland China group for editing articles with the objective of promoting “the aims of China”, potentially threatening the very foundations of Wikipedia.

    Can AI predict suicide risk?

    Predicting if someone is at risk of suicide is incredibly difficult and increasingly researchers are attempting to train AI to be able to do this. However with data bias and complex medical histories of patients the AI being developed are not yet reliable. Even if accurate machine learning can be created, will there be services in place for those patients identified as being at high risk of suicide? Much needs to be considered before this type of diagnosis is used in patient care. Joseph Early from Southampton University and Karen Kusuma from the Black Dog Institute at the University of South Wales in Australia explain more.


    The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington.

    Image: MIT - Swarm Robot
    Courtesy of the researchers at MIT

    Studio Manager: Bob Nettles
    Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

    • 43 min
    Twitter – what next?

    Twitter – what next?

    What is happening with Twitter and what can we expect? Bill Thompson give us his assessment while Angelica Mari discusses the how the new direction of the platform

    Pix payments two years on
    PIX payments have revolutionised how people in Brazil use money – especially the 40 million of the population who are unbanked. We discuss with Fintech expert David Birch why Pix has been so successful and where does it go from here.

    What’s new in WhatsApp
    Angelica Mari brings us up to date with WhatsApp’s latest plans for one of its biggest markets. It aims to bring "everything that matters to business and consumers" into its app. WhatsApp is central to people's lives in places like India and Brazil, and the company want to monetise that by taking people of browsers and allowing them to complete transactions from start to finish on the app. Could this signal the end of some apps e.g. food delivery apps?

    Can video games improve your memory?
    Parents often worry about the harmful impacts of video games on their children, whether it's staying indoors too much, or the impact of the online world on their mental health. But a large new study in America indicates that there may also be benefits associated with the gaming – although the work does pose many more questions than it answers. Our gaming reporter Chris Berrow has been finding out more.


    The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Angelica Mari.

    Image: Twitter logo displayed on a phone screen.
    Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images


    Studio Manager: Bob Nettles
    Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

    • 36 min
    The Open Internet for Africa

    The Open Internet for Africa

    We hear about a new plan to drive economies and improve lives across Africa – the Open Internet project between the continent and the EU. A report “The Open Internet as Cornerstone of Digitalisation” is funded by the EU and points out in detail what needs to done to secure easy, reliable and cheap online access without which development will simply stall. We speak to two of the report’s authors – one from the EU and the other from Africa.

    Monitoring Mangroves in the Pakistan Indus Delta
    Mangrove forests are hugely impacted by climate change and monitoring them from space with satellites doesn’t deliver enough data to know fully how they are being impacted by rising temperatures and sea levels. Now a pilot project in the Indus River Delta, just south of Karachi in Pakistan, has used drones to image the mangroves allowing the researchers to study one of the world’s largest forests. The project’s director Obaid Rehman is on the show to tell us about their work and also how these mangrove forests can be used for carbon capture. He says their work should lead to more plantations of the forest too.

    The talk at Web Summit 2022
    Technology gatherings are back in full swing and Web Summit in Portugal is one of the biggest. This year’s conference was at full capacity and tech reporter Jane Wakefield joined the queues to see what was preoccupying the tech industry as 2022 draws to an end – and the big thing appears to be the Metaverse.


    The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington.

    Studio Manager: Tim Heffer
    Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

    (Image: Getty Images)

    • 36 min
    Controlling protesters in Iran via phones

    Controlling protesters in Iran via phones

    A new report shows how the authorities in Iran can track and control protestors phones. An investigation by The Intercept news organisation has found that mobile phone coverage is being switched from a healthy 5G or 4G network to slow and clunky 2G coverage when protestors gather. This means they no longer can communicate using encrypted messages or calls on their smartphones and instead have to rely up traditional phone calls or SMS messages which can be intercepted and understood easily. This, according to the report is being done by a web programme. One of reports authors Sam Biddle, a journalist specialising in the misuse of power in technology, is on the programme.

    Policing the metaverse
    Imagine being attacked in virtual reality – will the experience be as traumatic as in real life? Perhaps not yet but in the near future if we are living as least part of our live in the Metaverse, crime will also be part of the virtual life. But currently there is little if no protection if a crime committed against our virtual selves. Now Europol – the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation – has published a report into Policing the Metaverse. Journalist Emma Woollacott has been reading the report and she explains the many perils that we could face and also how we need to act now to manage these crimes in the Metaverse.

    Hollyplus -a digital twin AI that sings anything you want to (even if you can’t!)
    Imagine being able to sing any song you like – and in any language you choose – even in musical styles that you have never studied? That’s now possible thanks to artist, musician and composer Holly Herndon. She has trained a computer algorithm to sing like her – the cloned voice can sing in any language or style she chooses – even extending her own vocal range. The project is called Hollyplus and the digital twin has just released its version of Dolly Parton’s song Jolene. The real Holly explains how she’s done this.


    The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Bill Thompson.

    Studio Manager: Sue Maillot
    Producer: Ania Lichtarowicz

    (Image: Protest in Iran. Credit: Getty Images)

    • 41 min
    The Twitter takeover

    The Twitter takeover

    Elon Musk completed on a 44-billion-dollar takeover of Twitter last week. He’s expressed the want to restructure the platform and create a digital ‘town square’, a potential space for free speech, growth and learning. But defining freedom of speech is a minefield, and some parties are afraid that Elon’s vision could provide opportunity for greater disinformation and misinformation. Gareth and Becky Hogge speculate as to whether Twitter can ever fulfil the digital idealism that many first dreamt of at the conception of the internet.

    As social media platforms have become ever more adept at seeking out and closing bots, a thriving underground ecosystem has grown up where people make a living from setting up multiple fake accounts. Clients buy their services through so called ‘click farms’ that sell packages of likes and shares. For a few dollars a celeb, a business or a politician can simply buy a big following, and influence. A new report highlights the stories of the largely exploited gig economy workers behind the clicks. One of the authors is Rafael Grohmann of University of Toronto, Canada.

    At the Digital Doorstep is a recent report that shines the spotlight on the manner in which novel doorbell cameras alter the behaviour and management of delivery drivers. Harrison Lewis speaks to the authors, Eve Zelickson and Aiha Nguyen from Data and Society, to find out how some of our doorsteps have become a social enigma; where does surveillance belong on private property when that same space also acts as a work place for others?


    The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from Ghislaine Boddington.

    Studio Manager: Bob Nettles
    Producer: Harrison Lewis

    (Image: Elon Musk 'Chief Twit' Photo Illustration. Credit: Getty Images)

    • 40 min
    Chip exports and US-China relations

    Chip exports and US-China relations

    The Biden administration announced a monumental policy shift earlier this month, set to limit and control the exportation of artificial intelligence and semiconductor technologies to China. The restrictions will block leading U.S. chip designers from accessing the Chinese market; selling goods that form the backbone of AI and supercomputing. Gregory Allen from the Centre for Strategic and International Studies explains how these actions could potentially ‘strangle’ large segments of the Chinese technology industry.

    Whilst access to the World Wide Web becomes ever more integral to modern day life, the digital divide is growing. Those residing in Africa and the Americas appear to have the least affordable, least reliable and slowest internet. Elena Babarskaite at Surfshark, a VPN service company located in the Netherlands, unpicks their latest investigation into our Digital Quality of Life.

    In one Ghana household, an AI powered chatbot tutor called Rori, developed by Rising Academies, helps its student stay up to date with his favourite subject, maths. Lucinda Rouse hears how this smart teacher, available through Whatsapp, could soon reach 200,000 children across West Africa, bypassing expensive tuition fees.

    (Image: Semiconductor and circuit board. Credit: Getty Images)


    The programme is presented by Gareth Mitchell with expert commentary from
    Bill Thompson

    Studio Manager: Giles Aspen
    Producer: Harrison Lewis

    • 44 min

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5
105 Ratings

105 Ratings

World Traveler Expert ,

Technology at its best

Great. Engaging and educational.

Sijacko ,

Taken over by social justice warriors

This used to be a fantastic show - look at the reviews from a few years ago. Bill and Gareth’s passion for tech used to shine through and I am sure this show was enjoyed by everyone….Now its more of a politics show discussing the impact on technology on social justice and vice versa. What a shame.

6009 Interactive ,

Digital Planet

Gareth and Bill do a great job with this show. They must have a great deal of difficulty mAking sure the article is at the right level but gets full coverage. Brilliant. It reminds me of Tomorrows World and Blue Peter rolled onto a radio show.

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