The Download: a bold fusion claim, and a new augmented reality game

The news: A startup called Helion, backed by Sam Altman, claims it’s on track to flip on the world’s first fusion power plant in five years. That’s a dramatically short timeline for a carbon-free energy source that’s eluded scientists for three-quarters of a century.

The details: Helion has signed a deal with Microsoft for it to buy power generated by its Washington-based plant once it goes online in 2028. If it pulls it off, it’d be a huge deal. Fusion plants could deliver a steady stream of clean electricity to help meet soaring electricity demand as the world races to cut pollution from transportation, homes, office buildings, and industry.

But, but… It’s an astounding claim, and a questionable one, according to several nuclear experts. That’s because the company hasn’t said, and won’t comment, on whether it’s passed the first big test for fusion: getting more energy out of the process than it takes to drive it. Read the full story.

—James Temple 

A first look at Peridot, the new AR game from the creators of Pokémon Go

A new mobile augmented reality game called Peridot launched this week from Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go. It’s heavily inspired by Tamagotchi, the virtual-pet phenomenon of the ’90s. It places the player in the role of caregiver to a cadre of cartoonish pet characters superimposed into the real world via your smartphone’s camera.

The big question is whether Niantic can re-create the success of its blockbuster game Pokémon Go, which became a cultural phenomenon in 2016. Our senior reporter Tanya Basu tried it out and found that, although it did give her the same fuzzy feelings you get from pets, it became a little repetitive after a while, and drained her phone’s battery unbelievably quickly. Read the full story.

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