A roundup of the week’s tech news including autism & cyber-crime, loving voice assistants, and drone wars.
Assange safe (for now)
Ecuador’s elections this week didn’t generate much in the way of headlines. But one person watching closely was WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Lenín Moreno’s victory means Assange will be free to remain in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Opposition Guillermo Lasso, had threatened to kick Assange out of the embassy. However, Moreno has warned Assange against “meddling in European politics.”
Assange, however, couldn’t resist sounding off. “I cordially invite Lasso to leave Ecuador within 30 days (with or without his tax haven millions),” he tweeted after the result was announced.
Twitter fights abuse, kind of
After years of inertia, Twitter is finally innovating at a rate most technology companies would describe as merely slow. In an effort to combat abuse and trolls, the social network has…changed its anonymous egg default image to an anonymous human-shaped silhouette. The company admitted in a blog that there was “an association between the default egg profile photo and negative behaviour” and that the change would “encourage people to upload their own photos for more personal expression.” We’ll see how that goes.
In other news, Twitter also finally realised that there’s gold in them thar emerging markets, even if they don’t have great internet. The company this week released Twitter Lite; a lightweight version of Twitter that takes up less than 1MB of memory, uses less data, and loads faster than the traditional version. All this only a mere two years behind Facebook, and just a year behind everyone else. Slow down guys.
More Snapchat clones
I get it. Snapchat is trendy. It’s popular with the right demographics. But it’s still tanking money and I would argue doesn’t do zeitgeist and influence in the way Twitter [despite the above, I still like it] or Facebook. So maybe people can ease off all the clones?
Aside from trying to buy Snapchat (and a Korean equivalent), Facebook has made nearly 20 attempts to copy the ephemeral photo app across FB, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram, which has led to a weird convergence no one asked for.
Now Microsoft is getting in on the action. The Redmond company has debuted an AI-infused Snapchat clone for iOS. The disgustingly-named Sprinkles offers “a camera with fun ideas” that scans pics to automatically add “witty captions” as well as the usual filters and stickers. It also includes that service that can guess your age built in.
Apple has also announced Clips, a video-centric Snapchat clone. Guys. Stop.
Accenture has acquired Genfour, F-Secure has bought Little Flocker, OVH now owns VMware’s vCloud Air business, Iron Mountain has snapped up Endless Document Storage Services, Yelp has got its hands on Turnstyle Analytics, Adblock Plus’ parent company Eyeo has purchased micropayments service Flattr, and Akamai has snaffled SOASTA.
Oracle has denied any interest in buying Accenture. A spokesperson for the company told Business Insider that the rumour was “completely untrue, completely made up” and not something the company even considered.
The rumour mill suggests Apple, Amazon, and Google all want a hoover up Toshiba's flash memory unit.
Microsoft will shut down its GitHub-like Codeplex service, and recommends you use GitHub instead.
Intel has spun out McAfee, which is now an independent cyber-firm again. Kim Dotcom launched a new Bitcoin-focused version of MegaUpload called Bitcontent, and MOOC-provider Udacity is spinning out a self-driving car startup called Voyage.
Robots and jobs
To combat these losses, governments could start introducing ‘human quotas’ that require a number of human workers per robot. “The state could introduce a kind of ‘human quota’ in any sector and… to what extent and whether it intends to introduce a ‘made by humans’ label or a tax for the use of machines,” says a new report from the International Bar Association. “Another alternative is the introduction of social security funds into which the industries – such as the oil industry in Alaska – must pay or into which the operators of smart factories could pay in a few decades.”
Autism & cyber-crime?
Is there a link between autism and cyber-crime? A new study lead by Research Autism and Bath University looks to find out. “There is a growing perception among law enforcement agencies that a significant number of those being arrested in connection with cybercrime may be on the autism spectrum,” says the research page, which aims to see if this rings true, as well as identify risk factors that lead to cybercriminal activities, and potential preventative measures.
Sexy Siri, Cute Cortana, Alluring Alexa
Last year one exec said up to 5% of requests made to voice assistants were of the NSFW variety. This Valentines, analytics platform Dashbot claimed around 2.5% of images sent to chatbots are equally unsavoury. A new study from Mindshare and JWT Innovation group reports that over a third of the 1,000 people it asked said “they love their voice assistant so much that they wish it were a real person” and a quarter admitted “they have had a sexual fantasy about their voice assistant” for some reason. The report follows this up by saying there is an opportunity in “navigating this ever-closer relationship.”
Drone racing is pretty cool. So is Robot Wars. So, how cool would it be if you combine the two? DroneClash answers that question, offering a kind of assault course-come-gladiatorial areas for drones. It looks awesome.
Rap & tech marking = bad times
For as long as tech marketing has existed, there have been terrible songs created to push products. If you really hate yourself, you should lose 3:43 of your life listening to Symantec’s Revolution as the prime example as why it’s a terrible idea. Moto apparently didn’t get the memo, however, and just released this rap ditty:
Adrian Schofield sheds light on tech in South Africa
Mark Chillingworth on IT leadership