News Roundup: F8, Robot phones, and MacOS

A roundup of the week’s tech news including the new Boston Dynamics, AI waiters, and predicting gentrification.

A roundup of the week’s tech news including the new Boston Dynamics, AI waiters, and predicting gentrification.


Facebook held its annual developer conference this week. The company kindly laid out its 10 year plan for world domination, including video, search, messaging, connectivity, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual/Augmented Reality.

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There was a big focus on FB Messenger and the introduction of bots; the company has partnered with over 30 companies to provide automated customer service, and will open up the platform to allow others to develop their own bots. M, Facebook’s own chatbot assistant is reportedly still months away from released.

The company also revealed it had poached one of Google’s executive to lead its new hardware division. The company laid out its vision for the day when AR/VR glasses were indistinguishable from regular spectacles, as well as revealing its design for a high-quality 3D-360 video capture system. and Facebook’s Free Basics service may have a low take-up, but more than half of users switch to a paid service within a month of joining, suggesting Zuckerberg’s Facebook for All plan is slowly working.

We also learned that FB at Work – the social network’s attempt at moving into the enterprise, is still happening, but has been delayed until later this year.

The pro-immigration Zuckerberg wasn’t afraid to take a pot-shot at Donald Trump. “Now, as I look around and travel around the world, I'm starting to see people and nations turning inward against this idea of a connected world,” he said. “I hear fearful voices call for building walls and reducing trade and stopping immigration.”

A spokesperson for Trump wasn’t very impressed. “I think I'll take Mark Zuckerberg seriously when he gives up all of his private security, moves out of his posh neighborhood, and comes live in a modest neighborhood near a border town,” she told NBC.

Who needs chatbots, when you’ve got robot phones?

While automated chatbots are taking over customer service, and artificial intelligence will be taking over the world, Sharp have made the most adorable little robot phone you’ll ever see.

The $1800 RoBoHon, first revealed last year and due to go on sale next month, is a walking, talking cute-as-a-button robot with smartphone capabilities. Apparently its AI capabilities will enable it not only to understand voice commands, but also recognise your face and greet you by name.

Standing at nearly 8 inches and featuring arms & legs, it’s not particularly practical to put in your pocket. Despite the steep price tag and general ridiculousness of the product, Sharp hopes to sell 5000 RoBoHons a month.

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Sadly, requests by IDG Connect to adopt one of the little dudes have so far come to nothing, as a Sharp spokesperson says they’re not sending the little buggers out of their home country, perhaps due to lack of passport.

Quite what Foxconn – who recently acquired Sharp – think of the little munchkin is unknown.

The new Boston Dynamics

Could Schaft be why Alphabet is trying to offload Boston Dynamics? The robotics company, spun out of the University of Tokyo and acquired by Google in 2013, showed off its latest design at the New Economic Summit (NEST) 2016 last week. The bipedal machine doesn’t have the same eerie natural walk of BD’s machines, but rather a rigid, mechanical movement that seems to work just as effectively. Perhaps the higher-ups at Alphabet think there’s more legs in Schaft’s work than BD’s.