Hungary to build $1bn carbon-neutral town from scratch

31 May 2019

Image: © Ruud Morijn/

In a barren strip of land off the Danube river, developers are to spend $1bn creating a carbon-neutral town with 1,000 homes and amenities.

Hungary is to be the site of one of Europe’s most ambitious smart city endeavours with the announcement of the Hegyeshalom-Bezenye project. Based in north-west Hungary, the $1bn project will see co-developers Eon and German property firm Fakt build a whole new town from scratch that aims to be carbon-neutral.

According to Bloomberg, when complete, the town will have approximately 1,000 homes, a restaurant, hotel, train station, shops and schools. It will be a sweeping infrastructure and horticulture project and, according to Fakt board member Nikolai Ulrich, it will show “how a scrap of land and vision can create a green business and community venture of scale”.

The partners involved in the town’s construction – including the Hungarian government – hope that it will act as a model that could be replicated across other sites in Europe, particularly in regions dependent on coal for electricity.

In addition to its production of fruit and vegetables, the town will also host the continent’s largest inland fishery.

DeepMind AI is now able to beat humans in multiplayer games

While once impossible to achieve, DeepMind researchers have taught artificially intelligent (AI) gamers to play a popular 3D multiplayer first-person video game with human-like skills.

The AI used a method called reinforcement learning, which has shown success in producing non-human players that could dominate single-player video games including StarCraft II and Dota 2.

However, now it has been shown to achieve superhuman mastery in the iconic multiplayer shooter game Quake III Arena. Unlike many of its other efforts that crushed human players, DeepMind’s AI was shown to be the perfect teammate for humans, even with its reactions slowed down.

Pitted against one another, a population of AI agents learned to play the game over thousands of matches in randomly generated environments. According to the authors, over time, the agents independently developed surprisingly high-level strategies, not unlike those used by skilled human players.

Hydrogen-powered flying taxi working towards first take-off

A transportation company has revealed its next major project, which it hopes could bring cleaner hydrogen power to the flying taxi model. According to AP (via Tech Xplore), Alaka’i Technologies unveiled its six-rotor Skai craft, which could carry up to five people.

Similar to a drone, it can take off and land vertically. However, unlike other battery-powered flying taxi concepts, the Skai uses very light hydrogen fuel cells to power its motors. It will have a range of up to 644km and be able to carry a weight of 454kg, either with passengers or cargo.

While the current prototype includes a pilot, the company said that the technology is there to allow it to be controlled remotely, or eventually autonomously.

Alaka’i Technologies’ CEO, Stephen Hanvey, admitted that there is still a long way to go before the Skai can take off on any journeys, mostly because of regulations regarding autonomous passenger vehicles. It will, however, look to perform test flights soon near its headquarters in Massachusetts.

Brain-machine interface devices to surge in number

New data from Juniper Research has found that the global number of shipments of brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) – devices that connect computers to the brain – is set to surge.

The market research firm predicts that by 2030, the number of BMIs will reach 25.6m, up from an estimated 350,000 to ship by the end of this year. By this time, they would have expanded beyond purely experimental medical use cases and into consumer homes.

Of the various technologies that BMIs will apply to, electroencephalography (EEG) will remain the most dominant, with the utilisation of machine learning being crucial to improving the quality of EEG performance.

“While other areas will drive shipments, the potential to change lives with medical BMIs is boundless,” said research author Nick Maynard. “The race to get to market at scale is on, with clinical trials set to ramp up rapidly.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic