Craziest tech news stories of 2010


1 Jan 2011

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The year 2010 had its fair share of crazy technology news stories. We take a look back over the year to see which ones made us raise our eyebrows the highest.

Roxxxy is world’s first robot (ahem) girlfriend

As predicted by many a science fiction movie, 2010 saw the first appearance of a robot girlfriend. And I use the term “girlfriend” lightly.

Way back last January at the Adult Entertainment Exposition, a manufacturer called TrueCompanion developed Roxxxy, who was more of a human-shaped sex toy than someone you could bring home to your mam.

"She’s a companion. She has a personality. She hears you. She listens to you. She speaks. She feels your touch. She goes to sleep. We are trying to replicate a personality of a person," said Douglas Hines, president of Roxxxy manufacturer TrueCompanion.

Roxxxy can’t walk or move her limbs independently, but she boasts three “inputs” and is also a good listener, too. I’ll take their word for it.

And good news for lonely hearts with more than a casual interest in robots – TrueCompanion is looking to ship Roxxxy to Europe from the end of the year.

Crystal Swing and the viral web

Crystal Swing epitomised cheesy Irish showband flavour. Made up of a mother and her teenage children, after uploading a video of their performance to YouTube, they crooned their way into viral notoriety.

The video was reposted by well-known bloggers, including Irish drag performer Panti and comedy writer Graham Linehan. It then made it to the Newstalk website, boosting the hits further.

It gained international infamy when it caught the eye of top American chat-show host Ellen DeGeneres and the trio made an appearance on her show.

We took the opportunity to look at the viral phenomenon as a whole, causing consumers to become contributors and shaping things to come in new media.

The only question remains: do we actually love or hate Crystal Swing?

‘Dry Erase Girl’ story a hoax

We all dream of dramatically quitting a soul-destroying job in style, which is why the story of the Dry Erase Girl grabbed our hearts – and broke them soon after it was revealed to be a hoax.

A story had been making the rounds of a girl who emailed her employees with 33 photos, containing the reasons why she left the job written on a white board.

The photos explained that she was quitting because she heard her boss refer to her as a “HOPA” – a “Hot Piece Of Ass”.

She went on to note that her boss was lowering office morale and spent 19.7 hours a week on social game FarmVille while at work.

It was all a hoax from The Chive, a comedy website. The girl was an actress named Elyse Porterfield, who responded to an ad requesting a model for a photo shoot.

The concept had a lot of thought put into it, with the site founders even developing the etymology of HOPA to go with it. It fooled mainstream media sources such as Jay Leno and Fox News.

Girl ‘playing dead’ caught on Google Street View

Google Street View was big news in 2010 and it was inevitable that, in Google’s data-gathering expedition, a few dodgy photos would be taken.

One such story involved a photo on the service of a nine-year-old girl playing dead.

She did a pretty good job, as the photo made viewers think the girl was actually dead.

Panicked, these viewers contacted Google and newspapers to find out if the photo was accurate and if there was any other information on the matter.

However, it was all cleared up, leaving the nine-year-old girl in question, Azura Beebeejaun, feeling pretty proud of herself.

“I’m quite chuffed I’m on the internet. It is quite funny and I can’t wait to tell my classmates when I go back to school," said Azura.

Video of girl throwing puppies into river causes internet outrage

Internet backlashes are not exactly uncommon these days, for big and small causes, but one story that elicited a quite an emotional one was of a video depicting a girl flinging puppies into a river.

The 43-second clip showed the girl with a bucket of puppies, throwing them one by one into the river. The footage sparked enormous rage net-wide, particularly on Reddit and 4chan.

The Facebook page against the video attracted thousands of fans, with many angry and violent comments made against her.

Bosnian police managed to trace the girl through this footage, thanks to leads from animal protection groups.

Overheating mobile phone causes emergency landing at Shannon Airport

A plane was grounded at Shannon Airport after an overheated mobile caused emergency on the transatlantic flight.

A passenger had plugged in his phone to charge it and had not realised it was overheating. The phone melted, emitting smoke into the passenger cabin which activated the fire alarm at a nearby toilet.

The American Airlines flight, which was carrying 167 passengers and had been travelling from Milan to New York, was 100km south-west of Ireland at this point. The captain contacted air traffic controllers in order to get permission to divert to Shannon.

Local fire service units were sent in while fire crews from Ennis were mobilised to a holding point elsewhere in case they were needed.

After speaking with the passenger, it was made clear that it was a genuine error on his part and he was allowed to remain on board.

The flight was grounded for four hours and then cleared to continue on its journey.

Robots could beat ‘world’s best’ footballers by 2050

These days, humans are simply watching the clock, waiting for a time when computers will best us at every task. But can we, as a society, stand idly by and watch robots beat us at football?

A professor at New South Wales University, who is involved in a project called RoboCup, claimed that by 2060, autonomous robots will be able to beat the best human footballers at their own game.

While today’s less skilled robots have difficulties learning to control the ball and dribble, in the future, they’ll be able to beat the top football players of the future.

He did acknowledge it will take huge advancements in the next 40 years.

I, for one, welcome our robotic football overlords …

Woman ‘on mobile’ in Chaplin film becomes internet hit

Some of us have been waiting for confirmation of time travellers existing among us. I mean, who’s to say that guy waiting at the bus stop isn’t secretly some sort of timelord?

Sci-fi fans gained some hope, after an Irish filmmaker found footage of a woman in a 1928 Charlie Chaplin movie, who appeared to be talking on a mobile phone – which weren’t around in 1928.

The clip became a viral hit, with millions of views. Many major media sources weighed in, trying to disprove the filmmaker’s findings.

Theories range from being the woman adjusting her hat, to her hair, to her hearing aid. The footage isn’t anywhere near conclusive evidence of secret time travellers existing, but we can dream, can’t we?

Man shoots TV over Bristol Palin’s Dancing success

Did you get angry about how Katie Waissel avoided getting voted off the X Factor week after week? You haven’t seen anything yet …

A man in the US shot his TV set after Bristol Palin, daughter of US politician Sarah Palin reached the finals of Dancing With the Stars.

The format of the show follows the UK’s Strictly Come Dancing. Apparently, Palin had been receiving low marks week after week, however, the panel of experts decided to put her through, based on the combination of ballots and dancing scores.

According to a criminal complaint, the man in question, Steven Cowan, "jumped up and swore” when this happened.

“Steven was upset that a political figure’s daughter was on this show when Steven did not think that she was a good dancer," said his wife.

He then took up his shotgun and blasted a round into the TV screen. It led to a 15-hour standoff with police, ending in his surrender. He was charged with reckless endangerment and use of a dangerous weapon.

Backlash prompts former beauty queen to close Twitter account

Speaking of Sarah Palin, it must have been embarrassing for the almost-vice-president of America to mix up North Korea and South Korea on live radio. But it could have been worse …

Former Miss Universe Alicia Machado had to close her Twitter account after backlash arose when she mixed up the Koreas with the “Chinas?”

The winner of the 1996 pageant, concerned about North Korea’s artillery attack on a South Korean island, tweeted, "Tonight I want to ask you to join me in a prayer for peace, that these attacks between the Chinas do not make our situation worse."

A flurry of insulting posts followed Machado’s mistake, prompting her to shut down her Twitter account and open a new one, claiming that she had a “lot of psychopaths on the account.”

Damn, geography is hard!