Do you like podcasts? Do you like virtual reality? I'm hoping you occupy that particular sweet spot on the Venn diagram. I'm Ben Gilbert, and this is "Episode Zero" of "Three Bens in VR," the pilot episode of a podcast about all things virtual reality -- hosted by three guys named Ben! You've probably read some of the many, many pieces I've written on virtual reality right here on Engadget, and you've probably read the many works of my esteemed colleagues Ben Kuchera (of Polygon) and Ben Lang (of RoadtoVR). Regardless of our shared first name, what unites us on this show is a shared passion for the emerging medium of virtual reality.

So! Do us all a solid and give it a listen -- be warned that there's a brief section of wonky audio around three minutes in! Then let us know how you feel about the show in the comments, or via Twitter (all our handles are linked below), or however else you'd like! We want to hear it!

Hosts: Engadget senior editor Ben Gilbert, Polygon senior editor Ben Kuchera and RoadtoVR executive editor Ben Lang

Music: Steve Combs - +32 (FMA)

Producer: Jon Turi

Direct download: Episode Zero

Hear the podcast:

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Rats And Mice In A Medical School Laboratory

We've seen nanobots do some neat stuff so far (aquatic dance routines immediately come to mind), but them administering drugs inside a living organism's been the stuff of scientists' dreams. Researchers at the University of California San Diego, however, recently made it a reality by successfully administering acid-powered, zinc-based, self-destructing micromotors inside living mice. The ultra-tiny 'bots measured in at 20 micrometers long, roughly a human hair's width, and are tough enough to survive the harsh gastrointestinal environment autonomously. What's more, they destroy themselves without leaving any traces of harmful chemicals behind and being self-propelled apparently was a factor in "greatly improved" tissue penetration and drug retention. As the BBC points out, this would make them great for treating maladies like peptic ulcers and other stomach disorders.

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Unlike virtual reality, it's much easier to describe what it's like using Microsoft's "mixed reality" holographic headset, HoloLens. Imagine you're wearing sunglasses with completely transparent lenses, and overlaid on the world in front of you is a rectangular box. That rectangular box is your window into Microsoft's "mixed" version of reality, meant to convey a mix of standard reality with augmented reality (overlaid images) and virtual reality (immersion).

Does it work? Yes, it works. Is it any good? That's a much harder question to answer. In its current state, HoloLens is a series of demos with varying levels of polish, meant to demonstrate the possibility of the device. More clearly: In its current state, HoloLens is far from ready for public consumption. It's an impressive demo in need of long-term investment, which Microsoft says is happening. All that baggage aside, what's it like using HoloLens?

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I refuse to "unfriend" people on Facebook.

Well, okay, that's kind of false. I will unfriend you if we're not actual, real-life friends, and I eventually forget how we knew each other. But that's not the point. The point is that my Facebook friends list is made up of people I know, or knew, in real life. They may not be people I speak to every day, or people I see in person with frequency, but they are or were a tangible part of my life: part of what makes me me. To put that more eloquently:

"I see it as my network: a digital representation of my network. An archive of the people I've encountered and come across. If I want to understand my story, my history, all of the ways that I've come about, this is one of those vehicles. It's almost like this weird digital therapy space where you can get to the heart of where you are via the people you've interacted with."

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Beagle2

When British spacecraft Beagle 2 successfully ejected from Mars Express back on December 19th 2003, scientists expected to obtain confirmation of its touchdown on the Red Planet on Christmas Day. Unfortunately, no contact was ever received. Believing that it had been destroyed in a high-impact landing, the UK-led team abandoned the project, scuppering plans to search for signs of life on Mars. It's taken more than 11 years, but there's now finally some good news to report: Beagle 2 has been found intact on the planet's surface.

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3D Printed Kidney

Despite having millions of dollars of imaging technology at their disposal, surgeons often have to wait until they open a patient up before deciding the best course of action. Even for the simplest procedure, knowing the actual size and composition of the affected body part can make all the difference. When British patient John Cousins collapsed in pain from appendicitis and a 3.5cm "stags head" kidney stone, he wanted to provide specialists with as much information on his affected organ as he could, so he decided to 3D-print a replica model of it.

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Well, this is more than a little depressing: The politician who tried reducing NASA funding (and successfully shut it down for over two weeks) is now in charge of the senate subcommittee that effectively controls NASA. More than that, one of the most vocal climate-change detractors is now in charge of the United States Senate's Environmental committee. Let's let that sink in for a minute, shall we? Despite all the progress we've made so far with things like unmanned, deep-space space-flight and our efforts toward limiting the negative effects that humans have had on the environment, any future plans are now up in the air. Any major scientific progress is now at the mercy of Republican senators Ted Cruz and James Inhofe. With their actions and words over the recent years, the pair have proved just how little they understand about each area they're now controlling.

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2015 Winter TCA Tour - Day 1

Fans hoping for a Neil deGrasse Tyson fix this year needn't worry if Cosmos will be renewed -- the astrophysicist will bring his popular StarTalk podcast to the National Geographic Channel. The new show will be filmed before a live audience at the Hayden Planetarium in a Bill Maher-style roundtable format featuring comedians and celebrities. Tyson said that because the established podcast is already streamed on video, the show "is kind of low-risk, I think, for National Geographic." He added that it'll let him "continue to spread wonder and excitement (of Cosmos) through Star Talk."

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Stone-cold bad guys don't worry about lie detectors, because they can only suss out fibs 60 percent of the time -- not much better than someone without one. But there's a new hope for cops. Scientists at the University of Cambridge have used full-body motion capture suits to cajole the truth at a much better clip. They put 90 volunteers in $12,000 Xsens mocap suits, and had them lie to other volunteers. By tracking joint displacements, their algorithms could pick three out of four liars -- a much more useful result for law enforcement. One researcher said "put simply, guilty people fidget more... independent of cultural background, cognitive load and anxiety." The team thinks it can fine tune it for even better accuracy, so police may one day be squeezing perps into skin-tight suits rather than finger sensors.

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Brio's

That is indeed the question, especially considering how inexpensive a standard, non-smart, non-"safe" power outlet is. This nice one from Home Depot costs under $10! What the outlet from Home Depot won't do for you, however, is tell you via smartphone app if it's being used, or which outlets in your house are being used. And it certainly won't kill the power when you're not using it; power outlets, sadly, may be constantly drawing power. If you've got anything plugged in to your standard outlet, even if it's not on, it might still be drawing power. That's both extremely inefficient and a waste of money. There's a company at CES 2015 that's aiming to change that, but what should it charge? Should it even make a "smart" power outlet, or just focus on the "safe" angle? That's still up in the air, but what it's got so far is worth knowing about.

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Exercising While Working

If you work anywhere in or around technology, chances are you've either witnessed or are a member of the standing-desk craze, the natural offshoot of the increasing medical research suggesting sitting in your Herman Miller Aeron chair will actually kill you faster than smoking. But standing's the tip of the iceberg. Treadmill desks, work-walking, whatever you want to call it -- more and more people aren't just standing while they work; they're clocking in 10 slow miles a day on the job. With treadmill desks popping up everywhere from home offices to the cube farms of Google to the open newsrooms of The New York Times, the definition of what it means to be "at work" is changing more than ever before.

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Much as we'd love to discover grey aliens with warp drive technology, any extraterrestrial life we're lucky enough to find will likely be pretty basic. But the chemical detection methods used by space probes like Curiosity or Philae are hit-and-miss -- they can't actually tell if something is alive or not. Scientists in France have developed a new nanosensor that may help: a simple cantilever with a laser motion sensor that can accept about 500 bacteria. As long as they're alive, the cells will cause minute vibrations on the cantilever, which are captured by the lasers as a sign of life. After scientists kill the cells, the signals stop.

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Mission Control

We have a soft spot for all things outer space here at Engadget, so naturally an EP of tunes constructed entirely with audio clips from said exploration caught our eye... and ears. NASA recently released a massive library of sound files on SoundCloud, including rocket engine sounds and radio transmissions -- even President John F. Kennedy makes an appearance. Two musicians found the collection while working on another space-related project and decided to make 80UA: a four-track EP of "space music" that's constructed using only the space agency's collected audio. Of course, the clips were tweaked to fit each song, but all of the source material comes from NASA's archive. After roping in a few pals to help, Davide Cairo and Giacomo Muzzacato released the effort for free via Bad Panda Records, and as you might expect, SoundCloud was the appropriate landing spot. Head there to download the tracks, or jump past the break for a quick listen.

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Pop quiz, hotshot: What do you get when you heat gas above 3 million degrees Celsius? High-energy X-rays, of course -- just the kind that NuSTAR was launched to detect. The space telescope took a break from hunting black holes to snap its first-ever shot of the sun. When that X-ray image (blue and green) is overlaid onto an infrared photo from the Solar Dynamics Observatory (in orange), it shows how X-rays relate to high-temperature solar activity like flares and sunspots. Scientists want to figure out why the sun's corona (outer atmosphere) is 1 million degrees Celsius, while the surface is a mere 6,000 degrees Celsius -- a discrepancy that's like a "flame coming out of an ice cube," according to NASA. Though it might sound risky to point the world's most sensitive high-energy X-ray telescope at the sun, it's actually quite safe -- our star emits plenty of X-rays, but very few of the high-energy type.

[Image credit: NASA/JPL]

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