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What’s going on in tech? - 14th Dec 2018

The sounds of martian winds, Google holds onto its facial recognition tech and Youtube predicts Christmas.

Google won’t be selling its facial recognition tech any time soon 


Google has been working on AI that can detect a symptom of diabetes by analysing images of the back of the human eye. In a blog post, Kent Walker, SVP of Global Affairs, wrote that Google has been rolling the initiative out to clinics in India, as well as conducting research in Thailand and pledging a grant for the “Asia Pacific AI for Social Good Research Network.”

Regardless of their progress, the search giant has vowed not to sell the tech - not just yet anyway. Walker wrote: “facial recognition merits careful consideration to ensure its use is aligned with our principles and values, and avoids abuse and harmful outcomes… unlike some other companies, Google Cloud has chosen not to offer general-purpose facial recognition APIs before working through important technology and policy questions.”

This could be a very smart move for Google. The firm is clearly trying to differentiate itself from rivals such as Microsoft and Amazon, which sold AI and technology services to military and law enforcement agencies with no measures in place to prevent their abuse.

Elsewhere in the world of AI this week, Rolling Stone reported that Taylor Swift used facial recognition tech at her Rose Bowl concert back in May - in order to spot stalkers. The system was built into a kiosk displayed highlights of her rehearsals - whilst secretly scanning onlookers faces. Afterward, the data was sent to a “command post” in Nashville, Tennessee that attempted to match hundreds of images to a database of her known stalkers. The ethics of this are iffy, but she isn’t the first to trial the tech in a public space. Ticketmaster has invested in startup Blink Identity, which aims to move fans through entry points more efficiently and combat touting, whilst Israeli AI company AnyVision said it was employing the tech at an unnamed London arena to reduce bottlenecks at turnstiles.

The sounds of Mars and Virgin Galactic takes flight

It’s been week of firsts for SpaceTech. On the 9th of December, NASA released a recording of winds tearing across Mars - the first of its kind. The audio was recorded by sensors on the InSight lander.

Capturing the sounds was a happy accident, Bruce Banerdt, InSight's principal investigator at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. "But one of the things our mission is dedicated to is measuring motion on Mars, and naturally that includes motion caused by sound waves," he added.

NASA also made history in November, when its Voyager 2 probe became the second man-made object to enter interstellar space.

Unlike its predecessor, Voyager 1, Voyager 2 is still functioning and communicating back to Earth.

The probe is now more than 18 billion kilometres away from our planet, as it managed to break through the boundary between the heliosphere and interstellar space; known as the heliopause. This is no easy feat. The heliopause is battered by hot solarwinds.

Voyager 2 has been a loyal spacecraft for 41 years; NASA first launched it way back in 1977.

Youtube sets the Christmas toy agenda


When I was a kid, I would pour over Argos catalogues, circling the toys that I hoped would appear under the tree come Christmas time.

In 2018, kids shopping habits are being influenced by Youtubers.

Among this year’s list of the hottest holiday toys, based on Google shopping search data, at least four of the top 10 most searched toys were among those heavily featured in YouTube unboxing videos.

Another of the top rated toys is the 3 Singing doll — a product from the YouTube star of the same name.






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