Category Archives: Tech News

Bitcoin 2022 Dazzles Miami

The Miami Beach Convention Center was hopping last week as participants swarmed to attend the Bitcoin 2022 Conference. With the pandemic dismissing any possible gathering the past two years, cryptocurrency fans made sure to take this opportunity to come out and make their presence known. Over 25,000 people were in attendance each day at the convention center, which was designed as a literal crypto universe. A giant moon hung from the ceiling, reminding attendees to always reach higher. A huge Mars replica couldn’t be missed just a little further away. A spreadsheet was passed around listing details about the many scheduled parties. Fog machines were activated and dance music blared. All the big names of the crypto world were in attendance, if not on stage speaking.

When Bitcoin was first released in 2009, conferences barely attracted more than a dozen attendees. There weren’t enough people willing to take Bitcoins that were being distributed for free. Now, the crypto coin and industry in general has multiplied immensely.

The excitement was clear and the fervor could be felt at the gathering in Miami. With the paramount hustle and bustle throughout the convention center, the energy was contagious. Through all the glitz, though, there was a clear focal point – a 40-foot volcano adorned with the Bitcoin 2022 logo, proudly displaying the ambitious future of crypto. Another impossible-to-miss site was a mechanical bull, again sending the message of a bright future. The lucky participant who rode it the longest was to be awarded a single Bitcoin.

Even before the convention ended, participants were already expressing anticipation for next year’s. Will future crypto gatherings outdo the glamour of Bitcoin 2022? We’ll have to wait to find out!

Honda and Sony Collaborate to Build EVs

In an exciting revelation, Honda and Sony have just announced plans to partner up and develop electric cars. The two Japanese companies have not yet announced the name of their upcoming entity. The vehicles will be manufactured in Honda’s facilities and Sony will provide the mobility service platform. Their goal is to team together this year and begin selling the first car in 2025.

While the joint venture is unique, the announcement is not entirely surprising, as there has been an international push for zero emission vehicles as well as systems that provide more advanced features. This gives tech companies like Sony an opportunity to enter the automobile market. Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida reiterated the vision, remarking: “In the joint venture, we would like to lead the mobility evolution by combining our technology and experience with Honda’s long experience in mobility development and vehicle body manufacturing technologies.” When asked about the possibility of others joining the partnership, Honda CEO Toshihiro Mibe responded, “In the future, we would like to expand our business with an open mindset,” while adding that the focus remains on building the electric car model for now.

Soc-Media Giants Looking for Clues From Biden Team

The US presidency may have shifted parties, but social media giants Google, Facebook and Twitter are in a wait-and-see pattern vis-à-vis President Biden’s approach to the social media sector .

At home, all three platforms have come under fire in recent years for allegedly violating federal antitrust statutes. In December, the Federal Trade Commission filed suit for what the Commission called “a years-long course of anticompetitive conduct.” That followed a trifecta of antitrust cases filed against Google.

The companies have also run into trouble in recent months on the socio-cultural stage, with social and political conservatives accusing the platforms of censoring conservative voices, and progressives arguing that the lack of oversight has facilitated the spread of disinformation and fake news.

Here, too, the battle is likely to play out in court: Parler, a Twitter-like platform favored by many conservatives that have been banned by Twitter,  sued Amazon after the latter’s Amazon Web Services announced it would cut service to Parler.

In the international arena, too, the social media giants are facing unprecedented scrutiny and legal challenges. In Brussels, the European Commission has opened an investigation into Google’s advertising practices, while in Australia the company is embroiled in a political fight with Canberra  over paying for news articles that appear in the company’s search results.

Ecosia Founder Plants Trees with Profits

Christian Kroll, the German founder of search engine Ecosia, says he wants “to make the world a greener, better place.”

He adds that he also wants “to prove that there is a more ethical alternative to the kind of greedy capitalism that is coming close to destroying the planet.”

Ecosia, which the 35-year-old Kroll launched in 2009, has a unique business model. Most of its profits are spent on planting trees, via 20 tree-planting projects it supports around the world.
The search engine makes money the same way as Google: by charging advertisers every time someone clicks on their ads. Since not everyone searching the internet clicks on an advertisement, the company estimates that it takes about 45 searches to raise just 0.22 euros (about 26 US pennies), which is the cost to plant one tree.

But strength is in numbers. Although the Berlin-based Ecosia has only 15 million users, compared to Google’s 5.6 billion searches per day, by giving away 80% of his profits Kroll has been responsible for the planting of over 105 million trees in Indonesia, Brazil, Kenya, Haiti, and beyond.

Despite this success, Kroll is thinking big. He is planning to “scale massively, win more users, and plant billions of trees.”

Kroll also says he will never purchase a yacht, as some other search engine founders have done. He explains why not:

“While they have big yachts, I have an inflatable dinghy that I take to lakes. Ego consumption is not appropriate in a world where there’s climate change.”

There is a more technical reason he will never buy a yacht, or any other expensive luxury: he put two legally binding restrictions on his business—shareholders and staff are forbidden from personally selling their shares or taking profits outside of the company.

Ecosia has 70 employees and puts its financial statements online monthly. All the company’s electrical needs are met through solar power. The company says that 80% of its users are under age 29.

Masks Mess with Facial Recognition Systems

Woman wearing face mask.

Now that we are out of lockdown and cautiously venturing back into society, masks have become a new fact of life. Although some people are refusing to wear them despite a study showing that when the mask order went into effect in New York City the new coronavirus case rate began to plunge by 3% per day, the vast majority are complying.

Along with social distancing and frequent hand washing, mask-wearing has proven the best way to prevent rampant COVID-19 infections, however, masks have some disadvantages. Many people are finding it difficult to recognize what otherwise would be familiar faces among the masked multitude. In addition to thwarting human facial recognition, masks are making it almost impossible for computer facial recognition systems to function.

The National Institute for Standards and Technology began a study to understand how facial recognition programs perform when faces are partially masked. In the meantime, some companies have tried to deal with the new situation.

A few companies that work with law enforcement agencies have experimented with creating algorithms that home in on eyebrows and eyes.

The NIST says under ideal conditions the best facial recognition systems fail only 0.3% of the time. This rate changes radically when conditions are not ideal, for instance when the face belongs to someone who is not the “ideal” race, age, or gender. With masks the ideal recognition failure rate skyrockets to 5% or more. The agency added that when asked to deal with masked faces, “many otherwise competent algorithms failed between 20% to 50% of the time.”