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News Roundup: AI carmageddon, diversity woes and AR in space

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Pirate Party Iceland, Middle class problems and pizza projectors.

Pirate Party rules Iceland

Although it performed pretty poorly in the UK, the Pirate Party is riding high in Iceland. Icelandic research firm MMR had the party polling at 24% back in March, but a new Gallup poll has seen support for the Pirates soar to 34% - more than the both the current coalition parties put together. Could we soon see a technology-centric political party in power?

AI carmageddon?

In the same week that Google announced a new self-driving prototype car was hitting the streets, it nearly hit another autonomous automobile. According to Reuters, a Google self-driving Lexus suddenly cut off a Delphi self-driving Audi as it drove along San Antonio Road, causing it to abandon a lane change. There was no collision between the two cars – which both use similar technology - but this was the first near miss involving two self-driving vehicles. The search giant recently started publishing the first of monthly reports in an effort to be more open, detailing accidents [13 so far] which have all been due to human error.

A spokesperson for Delphi has told Ars Technica that Reuters has overblown the story. “Our car did exactly what it was supposed to,” she wrote in an email. “Our car saw the Google car move into the same lane as our car was planning to move into, but upon detecting that the lane was no longer open it decided to terminate the move and wait until it was clear again.”

Diversity woes

As we march towards Pride weekend, there’s been plenty of tech diversity news lately. Intel has pledged another $125 million towards promoting diversity – on top of the $300 million it had already committed a few months prior – in an effort to get more women and minorities into leadership roles.

Following on from Google’s example a few weeks ago, Facebook has updated its diversity figures for 2015. Despite a long post detailing all the new initiatives the social network is putting into place, very little has changed in the last 12 months. Hispanic and Black people make up just 4% and 2% of the company’s workforce, the same as last year, while the percentage of women has risen by just 1%.

In the UK however, tech loves women! A new report from Wayra UK found that UK startups are three times more likely to be female than their US counterparts. It did, however, note that men are more likely to gain investment, and most startups in the UK are “overwhelmingly middle-class.”

AR in spaaaace

What’s cooler than Augmented Reality? Augmented Reality in space, that’s what! NASA is planning to take a pair of Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality goggles to the International Space Station this Sunday on board a SpaceX flight. Dubbed Project Sidekick, NASA plans to use the devices to help relay instructions using Skype while performing complex repair tasks or experiments. “HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station,” a statement read. “HoloLens and other virtual and mixed reality devices are cutting edge technologies that could help drive future exploration and provide new capabilities to the men and women conducting critical science on the International Space Station.”

Meanwhile Facebook has reportedly scrapped plans to create its own internet-providing satellite. According to The Information via one of those ever-reliable unnamed people with “direct knowledge”, Facebook axed the idea of building and launching a satellite – which would have provided internet service on continents such as Africa - due to the high costs involved, possibly as high as $1billion.

NSA

The usual dose of NSA-related headlines.

-          WikiLeaks has revealed that the NSA has been spying on “high-level officials from successive French governments over the last ten years.” Coincidentally, the French government has passed its own spying bill

-          The NSA has been reverse engineering security software from the likes of Kaspersky

-          Former Foreign Secretary David Miliband gave GCHQ permission to exploit software, and are still collecting lots of data

-          Firms previously targeted by the NSA are now among the best at protecting their users’ privacy, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. However, NSA spying has cost US Tech some $35 billion according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF)

-          A former National Security director says the NSA has seen very little fallout from the Snowden files

-          Germans shouldn’t fear Big Data, according to Angela Merkal

-          The Sunday Times publish what the Government say

-          Amnesty want amnesty for Ed Snowden

Amazon Web Services has published its first transparency report. The eCommerce/Cloud giant received 800 subpoenas and 25 search warrants – data was provided in more than half of requests. The company also received up to 250 National Security requests. “Amazon never participated in the NSA’s PRISM program,” said Stephen Schmidt, Amazon’s security chief. “We have repeatedly challenged government subpoenas for customer information that we believed were overbroad, winning decisions that have helped to set the legal standards for protecting customer speech and privacy interests.”

Ear scanning, pizza box projectors and Moonrakers

Anything Apple and IBM can do, Samsung and Red Hat can do better. The two companies have formed a “Strategic Alliance” aiming to deliver “Next Generation of Mobile Solutions for the Enterprise,” according to a statement. Expect a bunch of industry specific mobile apps over the next few months.

They might still be making a loss, but BlackBerry refuse to give up. Rumours circulated recently that the company may be running Android as the OS for its new devices, and it seems those rumours are true. “We only build secure phones, and BlackBerry is the most secure phone,” CEO John Chen said in an interview with CNBC. “So, if I can find a way to secure the Android phone, I will also build that.” That’s not confirmation, but that’s not a denial either.

Nokia was apparently working on a smartwatch before it was acquired by Microsoft. Codenamed “Moonraker,” images appeared on a Microsoft employee’s Tumblr before shortly being removed.

Move over thumb and retina scanners, Amazon has developed ear-scanning. The eCommerce company has also recently patented a Google Glass-like device for its warehouse workers.

It’s an unwritten rule that if you order pizza at home, you’re going to be watching a film. But why not watch the film using the pizza box itself? That’s the new idea from Pizza Hut Hong Kong, which has designed a box which comes with a projector lens which beams a film downloaded onto your phone via a QR code. Box designs come in four styles; Slice Night (horror), Anchovy Armageddon (Sci-Fi), Hot & Ready (romance), and Fully Loaded (action).

Reddit button

So after a month of relentless clicking, Reddit’s Button-based April Fool’s prank-cum social experiment is over. /r/TheButton, where users clicked a button to reset a 60 second countdown timer, saw over million clickers join in since it was announced. The prank created a whole ethos of clickers and non-clickers [aka “The Greys”, named after the grey icon next to their name indicating they were yet to press the button]. And what happened after the clock finally reached zero? Nothing much. Just a short message that simply read: “The experiment is over.” Almost as underwhelming the ending of Lost

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Dan Swinhoe

Dan is a journalist at CSO Online. Previously he was Senior Staff Writer at IDG Connect.

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