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News Roundup: Google I/O, AI Uber, and smart surfboards

A roundup of the week’s tech news including Nokia’s return to mobile, not so Peachy, and hyper-reality.

I/O, Let's go

This week saw Google’s I/O developer conference take place, and there were plenty of interesting headlines.

There were not one, but three chat and messaging apps.

Some major Virtual Reality announcements in DayDream, a VR mode for Android N, as well as saying that the company will be building a dedicated VR headset & controller.

Google also revealed Home, its own rival to Amazon’s Alexa, completed with Google Assistant.

There was also more info on Android N, an update to Wear and Auto, the Play Store coming to ChromeOS, the release of Firebase as a mobile backend service, and Instant Apps.

According to IDC, Chromebooks outsold Macs in the US for the first time in Q1 of 2016.

Google has no plans to no plans to expand its partnership with Fiat Chrysler beyond the self-driving minivans.

Google will start making its own custom ASIC data center chips dedicated to machine learning.

The company also thinks it’s a good idea to ask the internet what N-word should be used for the next iteration of Android.

In other, non-IO-but-still-Google news:

Google data centers are having pretty murals painted on them.

Google is Open Sourcing its language parsing model, SyntaxNet, and renaming it Parsey McParseface.

Google is experimenting with making hyperlinks black instead of blue.

Trump vs Bezos

The Trump train rolls on. This week the presumed Republican presidential candidate warned that Silicon Valley might be in the midst of a tech bubble, before accusing Amazon of “getting away with murder tax-wise,” partly through CEO Jeff Bezos’ use of the Washington Post to influence politicians. 

It’s not the first time Trump has taken pot shots at Bezos, Amazon, and the WaPo, and this latest broadside prompted the Amazon CEO to say Trump’s actions were “not an appropriate way for a presidential candidate to behave.”

Brexit

The sooner the referendum is over, the sooner we can put what has been a particularly nasty campaign behind us. The latest headlines show more support for the Remain camp. All 14 of the UK’s billion-dollar Unicorns are either against a Brexit or wish to remain neutral, according to the Guardian.

Microsoft has followed the likes of IBM and HP in supporting a vote to stay. “We appreciate and respect that there are a range of reasons that motivate people on both sides of the debate,” Microsoft Chief Exec Michel Vand der Bel said this week. “But as a business that is very committed to this country, our view is that the UK should remain in the EU.

Facebook

This week has seen Mark Zuckerberg trying to deal with the fallout over the possible suppression of conservative headlines on Facebook’s “Trending News” section. The social network’s CEO met with various bigwigs within Republican circles in a behind-closed-doors meeting to try and allay any fears they might have had, and also published a post on his page reaffirming the site’s openness.

The Facebook community includes more than 1.6 billion people of every background and ideology -- from liberal to conservative and everything in between,” he wrote. “Donald Trump has more fans on Facebook than any other presidential candidate. And Fox News drives more interactions on its Facebook page than any other news outlet in the world. It's not even close.”

NSA

-          Twitter has reportedly blocked U.S. intelligence agencies from using the Dataminr analytics tool.

-          A former MI6 boss thinks a Brexit would be bad for security.

-          Encryption apparently is a “dilemma” and a “problem in 75% of Europol cases.”

-          The FBI might be listening to your smarthome microphones.

-          GCHQ has joined Twitter. It also thinks companies should stop telling people to change their passwords.

-          You can now search a database of the Ed Snowden leaks.

M&A

A lot of news around Microsoft and Nokia this week. Satya Nadella’s company announced it is selling its feature phone business to Foxconn, while Nokia is forming a new company, HMD, and will be getting back into the smartphone & tablet market shortly. 

Formlabs has acquired 3D printing marketplace Pinshape (who we talked to last year), Accenture has snapped up machine learning startup OPS Rules, IndieGoGo has bought Celery (the startup, not the vegetable), Infor now owns Merit Globe AS, Digital Reality has taken over eight data centers from Equinix, ARM has purchased Apical, Fitbit has snaffled the wearable payments part of Coin, GoDaddy has splashed out for FreedomVoice, Nice has coughed up for inContact and Logicalis has got its hands on Lantares.

Apple has invested $1 billion in Chinese car-hailing app Didi Chuxing, possibly as a precursor to a move into driverless cars.

Not so Peachy

The world of crowdfunding is littered with failures and accusations of shady goings on. The latest to suffer is 3D printer manufacturer Peachy. According to the company’s own video, the company’s financial chief embezzled more than half of the $500,000 the company raised on Kickstarter for its $100 3D printer and used the money to instead build himself a house. The matter is being investigated by both Kickstarter and the local authority in Canada, where the company is based.

All the money

HP this week announced its first commercial 3D printer aimed at enterprises. At $130,000, they’re not cheap, though. It’s probably a clever play from the printing giant; 3D printing is predicted to be worth in the region of $21-23 billion over the next four years, depending on which analyst you prefer.

Another industry analysts predict big things for is commercial drones. PWC suggest the global market for UAVs coulis already at $127 billion, chiefly within infrastructure and agriculture. In other drone-related news, Nigerian government has placed a ban on launching drones without a permit from the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) as well as the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).

PWC has also been working with Facebook to work out how beneficial bringing internet (and Facebook) to all corners of the world could be. According to the study, worldwide internet could “bring 7% of the world’s population – 500 million people - above absolute poverty levels, and add US$6.7 trillion to global economic output.”

Samsung surfboard

Yep. A Samsung Surfboard. Apparently it’s a real thing. The April Fool’s-sounding product was apparently developed for Brazilian surfer and former world champion Gabriel Medina “to improve communication between him and his coach.”

The Truth

Ever voiced a few outlandish theories on social media and been chastised for it? Well fear not, there’s a new platform catering to your specific kind of crazy! Awake Social (from the creators of Awake Dating) is a new social network built for Truthers. This “Facebook for conspiracy theorists” is currently failing miserably on IndieGoGo, but then that’s what the New World Order would want, isn’t it?

Cars

BMW this announced plans to launch an electric, autonomous car by 2021m under the name iNext. “We are further expanding the BMW i line-up.” Said Chief executive Harald Krueger. ” In just a few weeks, we will offer an i3 with 50% more battery capacity. In 2018, we will launch a BMW i8 Roadster. This will be followed in 2021 by the BMW iNext, our new innovation driver, with autonomous driving, digital connectivity, intelligent lightweight design, a totally new interior and ultimately bringing the next generation of electro-mobility to the road.”

This week also saw Uber finally confirmed it’s working on autonomous vehicles, and gave the world a snap of how they look. It’s been no secret the king of the sharing economy wants to replace human drivers with machines, but this is the first time the company has released any official details.

Grab, Southeast Asia’s answer to Uber, is also exploring driverless cars. CEO Anthony Tan reportedly told ReCode that once the technology is ready, his company will look to deploy it in the likes of Singapore.

Will the rise of driverless cars actually make congestion worse? That’s a new theory from KPMG, which predicts the usefulness of these technologies will see the use of cars increase and see the number of miles driven annually increase four-fold.

The Future looks bleak

When the technology companies get their way and mixed/augmented reality headsets are the norm for everybody, prepare for migraines. Film-maker Keiichi Matsuda made a video exploring what our “hyper-reality” future might look like. It doesn’t look very appealing.

HYPER-REALITY from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.

An Ode to Excel

Do you love spreadsheets? Do you wish you could truly express how you feel about Excel to the world? Well now you can. A University of Texas business professor reworked Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself into a beautiful ode to Microsoft’s table-based software.

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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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