What is QUANTech? An easy-to-digest selection of what’s hot in tech and the impact on society to help you keep ahead in this rapidly changing digital world.
Another past week with a lot to say. Google and Microsoft held their annual conferences and had announcements for both the public and professionals. Microsoft was more B2B focus this time and everything you need to know about it is here.
The real « wow » moments came from Google’s I/O developer conference where lots of novelties were announced for the public. Among them, it is undoubtedly Google Duplex which blew most people away. More on that below. Google has set-up quick Twitter recaps —we call them « Moments » on the microblogging site— for you to go through: day 1 – day 2 – day 3.
Notably, Google announced that it is rebranding its Google Research division to Google AI. This name change says a lot and signals « how Google has increasingly focused R&D on computer vision, natural language processing, and neural networks ».
Gatherings aside, blockchain is all the rage. At least interest-wise. Recode reported that Facebook is launching a new team dedicated to blockchain with Messenger’s David Marcus —who has been part of cryptocurrency’s most popular exchange Coinbase’s board of directors since last December— heading the batch of a few appointed in the team.
Cheddar later reported that the social network is considering having its own cryptocurrency in the future. Probably when the tech is more mature as pointed out by David Marcus on CNBC last year—perhaps regulated a bit, too.
Blockchain seems here to stay but critics have their word. The « Blockchain is crappy technology and a bad vision for the future » article published over the past week gets you thinking about the pros and cons of the technology.
Not only did we have Google showing off a seemingly successful Turing test over the course of a single week, but we also witnessed Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot new feat: jogging.
The company’s dog-like robot has on its part the ability to wander around warehouses autonomously. Another video worth watching as this little beauty is expected to go on sales next year.
• MIT’s self-driving car can navigate unmapped country roads.
• Uber unveils what it wants its ‘flying taxi’ to look like.
• Net neutrality is to die on 11 June in the US.
• Japan Display built a 1,001-ppi screen for VR headsets.
• Twitter has an unlaunched ‘Secret’ encrypted messages feature.
• What you need to know about LinkedIn’s layout update.
• Using Signal? Your Mac might be storing your ‘deleted’ messages.
• About privacy and encrypted genomic data.
No long thinking needed to pick up this week’s focus: Google Duplex.
Among all novelties brought up by the tech giant at I/O, having its assistant calling on behalf of a user was a striking moment for many. We can reasonably say that it was both fascinating and scary at the same time.
In short, what are we talking about?
What could it be used for in the future, and how does it question our humanity?
In context, what is the deeper look?
Google’s ambition is clearly defined: reaching a point in time where we will be able to have natural conversations with its assistant. At this point, it succeeds in doing it in the narrow field of booking a haircut or a restaurant table but we can reckon that this will evolve over time. Such technological innovation could have a profound impact on social interactions.
In its « Google’s AI sounds like a human on the phone — should we be worried? » article, The Verge’s James Vincent raises important questions: « does Google have an obligation to tell people they’re talking to a machine? Does technology that mimics humans erode our trust in what we see and hear? And is this another example of tech privilege, where those in the know can offload boring conversations they don’t want to have to a machine, while those receiving the calls (most likely low-paid service workers) have to deal with some idiot robot? »
And while the public was amazed by the demonstration, it was obvious that the word « privacy » was not brought up as it should have been by Google’s chief executive Sundar Pichai, bringing us « back to the same debate we’ve been having for the better part of a decade between maintaining personal data privacy and advancing the boundaries of technological convenience » as Engadget puts it. A debate worth having while dealing with a company this big that we use its brand name as a verb.