The Tech’s Best Friends
Top-5 Controversial Tech Stories of The Week
Last week in technology was bursting with ideas and concepts — some too good to miss. In the innovation pipeline: a real Hoverboard by Lexus, Taylor Swift against Apple moguls, Google’s dream of healthy nation, modular electronic startup LittleBits raising whopping $44.2M and yet another next big thing in technology, which, in fact, has a human face.
Check out my weekly digest to be on top of tech industry wave — and share your thoughts.
Humans Are Tech’s Next Big Thing — And That Could Be Risky
By Julia Greenberg, Wired
Sometimes it seems like technologies are actually becoming smart enough to guess out thoughts. Each and every new app claims it can curate news, music, videos, any content to the tastes of one and only user — and millions of others. But Julia Greenberg makes a fair point — when it comes to delivering the most attention-grabbing and quality content, the automation or leaving users to their own devices might not be enough.
Real people of flesh and blood are that next big thing which tech industry is looking for every day, she says. And tech majors are already catching up — Apple hires editors and DJs for upcoming News and Music apps, Twitter plans to find editors around the globe for events-based feeds. Even Snapchat is looking for content analysts.
So, is it true that content curation is just another word for classic journalism editing? And are tech companies ready to take responsibility for bias and subjectivity of humans again, when algorithms are no longer an excuse?
The answer comes from another side.
Yes, technologies need people. Even the algorithms are created by humans, framed and defined by their mindsets. But we’re facing much deeper shift than merely returning humans the functions which they can perform better.
For a few years now I’ve been petting an idea that media future doesn’t look like newsrooms or specialized production studios. Media of the future is a patchwork of numerous outlets curated by companies and people. Look at Elon Musk or Nike — they create their own messages and stories bearing a greater social value than any newspaper feature.
But it could be bigger than that. Julia Greenberg brings the point that tech giants start becoming media outlets curated by humans. I think that not only tech companies can do it. When the key businesses start looking beyond PR and realise they have something to say not just about themselves, then the disruption of media space will become unstoppable.
Mail.Ru, among others, went through this shift. A few years ago we had a typical content aggregator curated by algorithms. But we chose another way and created a professional editorial team, responsible for agenda building and content creation. And the efforts paid off — we became a respectable source of news for millions of readers.
I bet that more and more people from traditional media will come to non-media businesses. They will bring the high standards of professional journalism on board and marry them with companies’ goals. And if they do it right, the next big things will have a human face and speak to people in their language.
Lexus Hoverboard is One Smooth Ride
By Fox News
Lexus, the well-known car manufacturer, has developed “Back to the Future”-inspired hoverboard, just like the one Marty McFly cruised around town. Using magnets and nitrogen-cooled superconductors, it indeed can levitate. But it only works on a metallic surface, so don’t expect to ride one to work soon.
Why could Lexus be bothered?
Hoverboard is a dream coming true for the whole generation on 90's kids. And Lexus’ move just proves my point — companies become cool when they look beyond profits and dig into culture. Sci-fi for years has been an inspiration to millions of engineers — and the gap between a fantasy and real prototype shrinks every year. Ideas of Jules Verne needed a century to become true. Hoverboard was created within one generation. Who knows, maybe Interstellar turns into reality within a few years — as we see, Mars One is already on the table.
All Aboard! Indie Labels Agree to Apple Music’s New Terms. What About Taylor?
By Peter Kafka, Re/code
Apple was not planning to pay artists during the trial period of Apple Music launch, which is expected on June 30th. But music industry showed the teeth. Taylor Swift, a country music star, published an open letter to Apple saying she wouldn’t allow “1989,” the album she released last fall, on Apple Music because of its free trial terms. Apple capitulated — and got some indie artists on board. Still it is uncertain if Swift appears among them.
There are no doubts that Taylor Swift within a few days became Joan of Arc for indie musicians. Could she be considered one of them, is still a question though. Swift is a star, and she can afford playing at high stakes. But will the less-known indie artists benefit in long term from joining the rebellion? Apple is the biggest seller of music online, and supporting its new product now — even for free — might turn into bigger profits later on. I guess that strategic thinking is the best option for independent labels in that case, while Taylor Swift can enjoy her well-deserved publicity.
LittleBits Raises Big $44.2 Million Round
By Connie Loizos, TechCrunch
Some exciting news on a startup side! LittleBits, who manufactures modular components that allow both children and designers create everything from toy robots to lightweight industrial products, has raised $44.2 million in Series B funding. Grishin Robotics joined a pool of investors to support pushing LittleBits ambitions in a bigger world.
Why is it important?
Big things emerge from little details. Perhaps, from those small open-source components produced by LittleBits. Pushing the boundaries of creativity, the projects like Lego Mind Storm, Google Project Ara or LittleBits allow to create prototypes which are just different. Considering the surge on internet of things (IoT) which will amount 26 billion units by 2020 as Intel forecasts, modular sets have all the reasons to become a mainstream. And, as a fact, funding LittleBits fully complies with Grishin Robotics’ plans for consumer robotics market.
Google Reveals Health-Tracking Wristband
By Caroline Chen and Brian Womack, Bloomberg
Google jumped into health research wagon, showing a health-tracking wristband that could be used in clinical trials and drug tests, providing doctors with minute-by-minute data on patients’ conditions. Company envisions that in 20 or 30 years physicians will give it to all patients to predict and prevent life-threatening diseases.
Will it work out?
Let’s be honest — as much as we like the idea of healthy lifestyle, only a few of us can be bothered to go through a regular medical checks. If FitBit, Apple and eventually Google talked millions of people into using their products, they might be the ones to make people finally look after their health. Of course, this trend comes with challenges — ensuring privacy and processing big data at such a scale might be tricky. But it could bring a bigger social impact — just imagine a platform based on real-time data which sends a GP an alert of worsening medical conditions, allowing to prioritise the patients who need care the most.
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Spotted some trendy and mind-blowing news? Feel free to write me during a week on Twitter handle @ksenia_valley