In today’s Bulldog wrapup of technology and science news:

  • Google is expected to unveil virtual reality and artificial intelligence advances
  • A report declares genetically altered food as safe
  • Alibaba’s CEO cancels speech to counterfeit group meeting
  • Has the time come for Twitter to drop its 140 character limit?

The details:

  • Expect virtual reality, artificial intelligence from Google

Google is expected to dive deeper into virtual reality and artificial intelligence during an annual conference that serves as a launching pad for its latest products and innovations.

The three-day Google I/O conference in Mountain View, California, starts Wednesday.

Google is keeping its plans under wraps, but the conference agenda makes it clear that virtual reality and artificial intelligence, or “machine learning,” will be among the focal points.

That has spurred speculation that Google will release a virtual-reality device to compete with Facebook’s new Oculus Rift headset, as well as Samsung’s Gear VR. Analysts also believe Google may release an artificial-intelligent gadget to compete with Amazon’s Echo, which is a cylinder-like device that includes a virtual assistant named Alexa.

  • Report: Genetically altered food safe but not curing hunger

Genetically manipulated food remains generally safe for humans and the environment, a high-powered science advisory board declared in a report Tuesday.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine concluded that tinkering with the genetics of what we eat doesn’t produce the “Frankenfood” monster some opponents claim — but it isn’t feeding the world with substantially increased yields, as proponents promised.

With the line between engineered and natural foods blurring thanks to newer techniques such as gene editing, the 408-page report said, regulators need to make their safety focus more on the end-product of the food that’s made rather than the nuts and bolts of how it’s made.

The report waltzed a bit around the hot political issue of whether genetically modified food should be labeled. The study’s authors said labels aren’t needed for food safety reasons but potentially could be justified because of transparency, social and cultural factors, somewhat similar to made-in-America stickers. That stance was praised by some environmental and consumer groups, but criticized by some scientists as unnecessary because the food poses no unique risks.

There’s no evidence of environmental problems caused by genetically modified crops, but pesticide resistance is a problem, the report said. Farms that use geneticallymodified crops in general are helped, but it may be a different story for smaller farmers and in poorer areas of the world, it said.

  • Jack Ma cancels keynote speech at counterfeit group meeting

Jack Ma, the head of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, is withdrawing from an anti-counterfeiting convention in Florida just two days before he was scheduled to give the keynote speech.

The move follows last week’s suspension of Alibaba’s membership in the International Anti-Counterfeiting Coalition, a small but influential group that lobbies U.S. officials and testifies before Congress.

Ma is a self-made billionaire, and Alibaba, which he founded in 1999, went public in 2014 in the biggest initial public offering of stock to date. But some IACC members view the company as the world’s largest marketplace for fakes.

Members of the IACC rebelled against Alibaba’s membership in the group and were further upset about conflicts of interest involving the group’s president.

  • Twitter’s 140 character limit – time to ditch it? 

Many Twitter users — and more importantly, the billions more who don’t use Twitter — feel constrained by the company’s somewhat archaic 140-

Whoops! That’s what happens when you hit the character limit imposed by Twitter. Is it time to ditch it as Twitter searches for ways to grow its stagnant user base?

The limit was created so tweets would fit in a single text message, back when people used Twitter that way. But most people now use Twitter through its mobile app, where there isn’t the same technical constraint.

And Twitter users already employ creative ways to get around it. They send out multi-part tweets, or take screenshots of text typed elsewhere.

CEO Jack Dorsey, in such a screenshot that he tweeted in January, appeared amused by the fact that people — not to be constrained — are finding creative workarounds such as the text block photos. Maybe it’s something Twitter could build on.

“(What) if that text…was actually text?” he mused. “Text that could be searched. Text that could be highlighted. That’s more utility and power.”

This suggests that the company is at least thinking about creative ways to keep the spirit of the 140-character limit while giving people more freedom to share their thoughts and rants. But there’s history, nostalgia, and the Twitter brand being inexorably tied to quick, short bursts of text. Twitter is still often described as a “short messaging service,” after all.

Dorsey called the limit a “beautiful constraint” that inspires creativity, brevity and a “sense of speed.” Twitter, he wrote, will never lose the feeling.

A few months later, Dorsey insisted to “Today” show host Matt Lauer that the 140-character limit was here to stay, even as Twitter itself evolves.

But a news report this week, citing unnamed people, said the company was planning to stop counting Web links and photos in the 140 characters, a move that would further erode that limit. Twitter declined to comment on the Bloomberg report.

Gartner analyst Brian Blau called the idea “a good compromise.” Twitter already shortens long links to give users more room to write. This might be a logical next step.

Easing the character limit, though, might not be enough to reverse Twitter’s stagnation. The San Francisco company, which recently celebrated its 10th birthday, has long lagged behind Facebook as a place for everyone. It has 310 million users, less even than the professional networking service LinkedIn.