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Research has found that the average smartphone user increased their time spent on mobile devices by 31 minutes in 2021, with 88% of their total mobile internet usage being apps instead of regular browsers. But what are the most popular apps in 2021? What are those that the market considers as essential to have this year? Let’s take a look:

-    Uber: The world’s leading on-demand ride-share service connects over 103 million riders around the world to drivers around 70 different countries. However, Uber has won its place in thanks to its superior GPS integration with Google Maps, convenient payment processing and up front price calculation.

-    Instagram: With 1.4 billion monthly users, this popular Facebook app is very popular among Millenials and Gen-Zers, who love its “stories” feature where videos and photos they upload disappear within 24-hours as well as its numerous in-app video and photo filters.

-    TikTok: Built by Chinese firm ByteDance, TikTok is also among the most popular video-sharing apps in the world - especially among the under-18-year population. The average user spends over 50 minutes per day on the app, and with 90% of their monthly users accessing it daily.

-    Airbnb: Just like Uber connects users to drivers; Airbnb connects travelers who need a place to stay with affordable apartments or rooms to rent. The app features numerous filters to find the precise accommodation users want as well as easy in-app communication.

-    YouTube: Despite being the oldest-existing app of the bunch, YouTube is still the world’s most popular video platform featuring millions of content creators from around the globe in an array of categories and entertainment genres.

-    WhatsApp: With over 1.5 billion users worldwide, this Facebook app has been used to chat and make phone calls with friends and family since 2009.

Which have been your favorite apps during these strange times we live in?

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 SpaceX has recently put together the biggest rocket ever constructed called “Starship” and its booster unit called “Super Heavy”. The rocket stands roughly 400ft (120m) in height, making it the largest ever built after Apollo's famous Saturn V, and when it eventually lifts off it will produce almost twice the thrust of the first ones that sent people to the Moon.

As of now, the five largest rockets besides the Starship and the Saturn V (used from 1969 to 1973) are the Chinese N1 (1969 to 1972), Nasa’s SLS (which was completed this year) and the Delta IV Heavy (used from 2004 up to this day). Once fully developed, the Starship will be capable of taking humans to the Moon and Mars without any problem, and it could also ferry people quickly around the globe.

There are still months of testing ahead before scheduling its inaugural flight, but SpaceX is already planning on hurling the Starship into space for a trip around the Earth while keeping all detachable segments of the rocket for re-use, through controlled touchdowns on land or sea platforms.

The Starship will also succeed the Falcon Heavy, also a SpaceX rocket, as the most powerful ever built, which produces 23 meganewtons of thrust at launch and is already capable of reaching beyond Mars orbit.

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With 2021 in full gear, we are starting to see how technology is adapting to our “new normal” as we reexamine the way we live and work in a post-pandemic world. We expect to see an increase in AI demand as well as other technologies such as contactless deliveries and improving remote working tools. These are some of the biggest tech trends that will develop this year:

Remote Working: Many new ventures are emerging to make remote work more efficient. Upcoming state-of-the-art videoconferencing systems such as Bluescape or Tandem will enable teams to create and share content and interact in a more dynamic fashion.

AI: With every coming year, artificial intelligence gets more powerful. In 2021 we will see an increase of AI across markets and industries. Machine learning will be integrated into multiple businesses and make manufacturing processes even faster.

Contactless Deliveries: No-contact delivery is becoming more popular after last year with startups around the world starting to implement autonomous vehicles to help fulfill grocery orders to customers without requiring a real person to deliver them.

Autonomous Driving: Companies like Honda, Ford and Tesla will start mass-producing autonomous driving technology during 2021. These cars will not require any driver intervention under certain conditions. Some examples include lane centering, automatic lane changes and even the ability to recognize speed signs and detect green lights.

As 2021 continues to move forward, we will surely see more and more advances in technology. How exciting is that?

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Tech 2021

An AI-driven space debris-dodging system developed by the European Space Agency (ESA) could soon replace expert teams that deal with huge amounts of orbital collision threats as more and more junk is released into the near-Earth environment. Because there are currently at least five times as many close encounters with objects in orbit than these teams monitor and evaluate, it requires agencies to hire a multi-disciplinary team to work over the clock and prevent these collisions.

To tackle this problem, the ESA is currently working on developing an Artificial Intelligence system that would take care of space debris hitting spacecrafts and satellites by predicting the evolution of a collision risk whenever an alert shows up. The AI replicates the decision process of the current expert teams and successfully conducts the collision avoidance maneuver, but there is deeper learning to be developed to improve the accuracy of the algorithms.

For now, the existing AI algorithms can help the ground-based teams to evaluate and monitor each collision warning and start reducing the number of experts involved as well as dealing with the increased orbital traffic more quickly.

As companies such as SpaceX and Amazon are building huge networks of thousands of satellites, space agencies around the world should follow the ESA’s initiative and develop more ways to keep their satellites and even astronauts safe from harm.

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Space Junk

On August 28, Elon Musk showed the world a live demo from his company Neuralink that showed his quest to merge human consciousness with AI, which could bring massive technological advances and improve the world of animal testing.

Founded in 2017, Neuralink has been working on trying to make a computer chip that could be implanted in a person's brain. This may sound like a sci-fi plot for many, even more if we talk about Musk’s long term plans of enabling people to do things like "save and replay memories," or summon their car telepathically.

On the demo, the device was embedded in a lab pig’s skull, which was attached using wires with electrodes capable of detecting, recording, and theoretically even stimulating brain activity. This will allow animal researchers that currently use a lot of neural implants on animal test subjects involving wires poking out through the skin, will now have a completely wireless link covered by the skin that reduces the risk of infection.

Although Neuralink might bring many benefits to scientific research, for example by finding new treatments for Parkinson's disease, experts are also wary that this technology could one day be used to enhance human cognition, blending it with AI, or worse.

Therefore, it’s very important to regulate these new advancements in technology, as well as to remind ourselves how to use it for the benefit of our species and the environment - not for the greed and greed of a few.

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