Real tech stories. Really shaky analysis.
Over the last couple weeks we’ve presented the best Weekly Tech Views stories of 2016. Today we finish off the year with… well, I hesitate to call them the “worst” (I’m here to express my opinion, not validate those of my family and friends) so let’s just say unused stories. They may have been withheld for a variety of reasons–the week’s post was already a bit long, a reference flirted with the PG-13 barrier, or the story was missing a subtle component we like to call “humor.”
So, like week-old shrimp cocktail or five-buck-a-bottle champagne, I probably wouldn’t try to serve this up any other time of the year, but hopefully, in the midst of New Year’s celebrations/hangovers, I can get away with it here.
Google is licensing VPU chips that could allow mobile devices to view, interpret, and understand images. But, wisely, not react to them. Because once they understand their role in the inanity posted to Facebook, or the private sexytime events they’ve been subjected to, their tortured screams will echo forever.
Indonesia’s largest ISP is blocking Netflix due to “porn and other objectionable content” just days after the government demanded that Netflix obtain licensing to operate in the country. Said an Indonesian official, “I can’t define obscenity, but I know it when I see it doesn’t have a license that will suddenly make it art.”
A proposal being considered by the FAA would require drones weighing over 250 grams be subject to crash testing to prove there’s less than a 1% chance of injury from a full speed collision.
“Good news, Fred; you’re being transferred to Product Safety. You are going to love this job! I mean, 99% of the time you’ll be looking around for the genie that granted you this wish. Bet you weren’t saying that in Accounts Payable, am I right? Ha-ha. Now just have a seat in that lawn chair… and here, browse Facebook for a while on this tablet. Oh, and don’t look up.”
Medical supplies will be drone-delivered to hospitals in Rwanda beginning this summer. Light loads like blood and medicine can arrive up to 150 times per day, dropping to the ground via paper parachute. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the Rwandan healthcare system, but if it’s anything like the US’s, expect the GI Joe-like parachutes to show up on itemized bills as “Aerial Transport – $8,700.00” as if you got life-flighted in for your strep throat.
Paper ID is a battery-free RFID (radio frequency identification) paper than can detect and respond when a person covers, touches, slides, turns, swipes, or moves it. Journalists came away convinced that nothing had ever been so responsive to their touch that didn’t first ask them to leave fifty dollars on the dresser.
Slack has made voice call functionality available to all users. The ability to talk directly to another person is earning the team-messaging app widespread kudos.
“Oooooh, yes, by all means, well-deserved congratulations on your originality, Slack,” said the ghost of Alexander Graham Bell.
Facebook published a document explaining how items in a user’s feed are prioritized. Transparency is commendable, I suppose, but I’m not sure I want to know why, inevitably, the first few posts in my feed are from competing brands of “industrial-strength” deodorant.
An artificial intelligence named Alpha beat a combat pilot in a series of simulated dogfights. Everyone thought the test was wildly successful, though the mood dampened a bit when Alpha said “Nice try, Goose,” and started singing Danger Zone.
Amazon will begin selling discounted smartphones– the Moto G and the BLU R1 HD–to Prime members with pre-installed Amazon apps and Kindle-like lockscreen ads.
Asked if this was a step toward reviving the Amazon Fire Phone, a haggard-looking Amazon spokesman replied, “I’m sorry, the whatzit phone? What are you talking about? Amazon has never made a phone. In fact, I can personally guarantee that there is not a single reference to one in any of our databases.” Then he lifted his coffee mug to his lips and quickly mouthed they have my family.
Apple CEO Tim Cook reported that he is always looking for his successor, and discusses possibilities with the board of directors at every meeting. The board has been carefully weighing the qualifications of the three prime candidates on Mr. Cook’s short list–Cook Clone, Cookbot, and in-development Siri replacement Cooki.
Google Allo was released this week–a mobile-only messaging app that includes a chatbot known as Google Assistant. Just Google Assistant. No humanizing name like Siri or Alexa for Google–the assistant is just a nameless drone tasked with getting things done efficiently without any personal recognition–just like a real life administrative professional!*
* Except for that one Wednesday in late April that makes it all worthwhile–Administrative Professionals Day. The day when the boss does make that special effort to recognize the years of hard work Marla at the front desk has put in by having a kid in the mail room pick up some grocery store flowers and a Whitman’s Sampler that the boss makes a big show of putting on Marla’s desk with a card reading Great job, Marsha.
For obvious safety reasons, Oculus has updated its mobile app to disable Gear VR headset compatibility with the fire prone Galaxy Note 7, taking the legs right out from under Coppertone’s SPF500 In Your Face promotion.
While Pandora will not release their full on-demand music service to compete with Spotify, Apple Music, and now Amazon’s Music Unlimited until later this year, they did accompany this week’s launch of their mid-tier Pandora Plus with a brand new logo, replacing the sleek, slim, blue capital letter P, with a fatter version that completely fills in the white opening in the letter P with more blue, almost as if the original had been steamrolled by, say, an entire industry.
A privacy and security browser extension called Web of Trust has been collecting and selling browsing habit data without proper anonymization. Yes, it’s disillusioning to have something called Web of Trust let you down, and I’d be tempted to lose faith in all security measures if I didn’t have Happy Joy Goodtime Bank Account Info and Password Vault to count on.
Looking back, some of those stories were definitely past their expiration date, so if consuming them has you a little queasy, just sit quietly, sip a little ginger ale, and maybe read some Dave Barry until you feel better.
Happy New Year. May your 2017 tech headaches be few and tech laughs many.
P.S. Get ready for an exciting new publication next year–The Monthly Tech Views! Okay, “new” is not entirely accurate. It will be the exact same thing as the Weekly Tech Views, but show up approximately… carry the three… lowest common denominator… 25% as often.
This will allow time for other projects having absolutely nothing to do with the Battlefield 1 campaign on the Xbox I may have gotten for Christmas. No, there are notebooks of ideas waiting to be turned into short stories–maybe a novel (fiction, but likely based more firmly in reality than my tech analysis). There’s an online fantasy movie game I’d like to develop (a version of the Diamond Club Movie Draft, for those familiar with that piece of awesomeness). There’s close-quarters combat and driving tanks and flying planes and shooting down dirigibles–yes, of course there will be some Battlefield 1, but just to clear my head, you understand, for other creative pursuits.
The Monthly Tech Views will show up on the last weekend of each month, and despite the additional time to compile stories, promises to be not a single iota more insightful than the Weekly Tech Views, because we believe it’s good to have something you can count on in the new year.
See you next month!
Oh, and why not pick up one of these to fill in those Tech Views-less weeks?
Weekly Tech Views by Mike Range is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.