Amazon's robots in action at a warehouse

Amazon leans heavily on warehouse robots to assist workers and fulfill your orders on time, but these machines still can't pack items quickly enough to replace humans. However, the internet giant is determined to make these mechanical helpers more useful. It's holding a competition at a conference this May to see who's best at producing an autonomous robot that grabs products off shelves and stuffs them into boxes. This may sound like a relatively straightforward challenge, but it isn't -- the bots have to grab a variety of objects while breaking as little as possible, including fragile things like food.

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One asteroid into universe near earth planet, sun in the background - Elements of this image furnished by NASA

NASA is finally done assessing its two options for the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM). Its final choice? Option B: it plans to grab a chunk of its target asteroid and take the boulder-sized piece to the moon's orbit. While Option A sounded more exciting -- it entailed capturing an entire asteroid -- NASA has decided to go with this one, because it will allow the agency to test new technologies for future manned trips to Mars. One of those technologies is called Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP), which uses sunlight instead of traditional fuel. More specifically, it uses solar arrays to convert sunlight into power, which propels charged atoms that move the spacecraft -- it's not as fast as rocket propulsion, but it could save manned missions a lot of money.

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The Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft is rolled out by train to the launch pad at the Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Wednesday, March 25, 2015. NASA Astronaut Scott Kelly, and Russian Cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko, and Gennady Padalka of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station in the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan March 28, Kazakh time (March 27 Eastern time.) As the one-year crew, Kelly and Kornienko will return to Earth on Soyuz TMA-18M in March 2016.  Photo Credit (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

When American astronaut Scott Kelly Russian Cosmonauts Mikhail Kornienko and Gennady Padalka leave Earth for their 12 month stay on the International Space Station, they'll be riding this Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft. The launch is scheduled for this Friday from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and the team will return March, 2016 aboard the TMA-18M.

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Last summer, the UK government said it was working with the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to bring age ratings to music videos available online. The scheme is intended "to help parents protect their children from some of the graphic content in online music videos," by grading them in the same way movies and video games are -- based on the amount of sex/drugs/rock and roll depicted. As part of a pilot program to see how this might work, the labels Sony, Warner Music and Universal have been running any video they suspect may deserve a 12, 15 or 18 age rating by the BBFC for judgement. And today sees the first batch of ratings being adopted by pilot collaborators YouTube and Vevo.

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iPad Air 2

When the UK's Members of Parliament get down to work following the election in May, they'll have more than just a new government on their hands -- they'll have a tablet, too. The Parliamentary tech team is handing out cellular-equipped iPad Air 2 units to all 650 House of Commons MPs so that they have a secure way to do business wherever they are. While 209 of them already had iPads, this move makes them standard issue.

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Science needs your private data to speed up breakthroughs. Researchers find it increasingly hard to recruit participants. Apple did its part earlier this month with ResearchKit and made an attempt to get users involved in medical studies. But it soon ran into its share of limitations. Now Open Humans Network, a new public database, hopes to make medical research less opaque. The site finds a connection between people who want to share their medical data with researchers in need of that information. It relies on people who, given the choice, will feel encouraged to share their personal data on an open, research platform. Jason Bobe, project director, calls it "open-sourcing your body."

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A drone flying for the police

The US' national law enforcement has been using drones to help nab crooks for almost nine years, but it's still making plenty of rookie mistakes. The Department of Justice's Inspector General has published an audit that shows its agencies not only making poor uses of drones, but wasting a ton of money in the process. Units in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spent $600,000 on drones that didn't live up to their promised abilities or couldn't even fly in the first place; in one case, a unit blew $15,000 without telling headquarters. Meanwhile, only half of the FBI's 34 drones (which cost a total of $3 million) worked as of 2014, and the agency has just two pilots that have to fly across the country to deploy their unmanned machines. It's no wonder that investigators have used drones a mere 13 times since 2006, then -- it's rarely practical to even consider the idea.

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Starting on Friday (or March 27, if you prefer) you'll be able to stroll into one of about a hundred Best Buys and walk out with a Gear VR Innovator Edition to combine with your Galaxy Note 4. This isn't the first time Samsung and Best Buy have tied up to promote one particular vision of VR; after all, you've been able to demo a Gear VR headset for about a month now. This is, on the other hand, the latest in a series of inexorable steps meant to push Oculus and Samsung to the very front of the virtual reality wave that's set to come crashing down on us.

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Steven Spielberg

If you read through Ready Player One and thought its virtual gaming world deserved a first-class movie adaptation, you may just get your wish. Deadline has revealed that Steven Spielberg will direct the big screen version of Ernest Cline's novel for Warner Bros., with both the author and The Avengers writer Zak Penn producing the most recent script. That's promising stuff, although there are quite a few challenges if it's going to be faithful to the book -- it may need a lot of visual effects wizardry to make people suspend their disbelief, and the pop culture references could make for some problematic rights issues. Provided everything goes according to plan, though, the book is going to get much, much more than just a quick cash-in.

[Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images]

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