This week’s digital news has been full of interesting developments, from how Uber uses psychological tricks to motivate its drivers, to Google’s new AI chips and a robot that makes perfect salads.
Trump and his administration get a mention, too, of course.
Uber users psychology to make drivers work harder
The New York Times has revealed how Uber uses psychological tricks to get drivers to work harder and longer.
Video game techniques, graphics, and non-cash rewards are used to push drivers further. Examples include local managers adopting female personas over text message to give them a better chance of persuading the predominantly male workforce to take more work.
Uber has even aped Netflix’s feature that automatically loads the next episode, but for loading the next fare opportunity even before the current one has ended. Exploiting drivers’ tendency to set earnings goals, Uber also alerts drivers to a nearly-achieved target when they try to log off.
Do check out the NYT article, it’s fantastic, and includes some simulations you can play with to investigate some of the dynamics involved.
Image from Uber driver’s app, via NYT.
Google’s new AI chips have implications for data centres and the market
Google has published a paper about the performance of its new chip, designed to run AI (pre-trained neural networks).
The Tensor Processing Unit works 15 to 30 times faster than regular GPUs and CPUs and Wired suggests the chip may mean Google can avoid building entire new data centers.
As Wired notes, Google’s inhouse creation of a chip has shifted the market somewhat:
“Google going in-house even for specialized tasks has wide implications; like Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, it’s among the biggest chip buyers on Earth. Meanwhile the big chip makers—including, most notably, Intel—are building a new breed of processor in an effort to move the market back in their direction.”
Twitter gets rid of eggs synonymous with trolls
Most people have seen an egg dishing out abuse on Twitter once in a while. No longer, as eggs have been replaced with gender neutral silhouettes that Twitter hopes will “prompt self expression” (i.e. put some humanity into the avatar and change behaviours).
— Alex Magdaleno (@amagzz) March 31, 2017
Net neutrality advocates protest against Republican lawmakers
U.S. Congress has invalidated a set of internet privacy rules brought in under the Obama administration. Uproar amongst opponents ensued as the change will allow internet providers to collect and sell customers’ information without their permission.
Among the most colourful responses was that of the creator of Cards Against Humanity, who said he’d make use of the change to purchase and publish the browsing histories of Republican lawmakers.
Bloomberg points out that “the change won’t immediately create a shadowy new market for online voyeurism, but it does serve as a preview for a much bigger policy fight likely to unfold over the next several months.” More contentious debates are still to come.
Morgan Stanley in Snap equity controversy
Business Insider reports that Morgan Stanley, which led Snap’s IPO, made a mistake in a recent equity research note it published, overstating forecasted earnings by $5bn over five years.
The significance is that Morgan Stanley recognised the mistake but did not revisit the $28 price target it put on the stock. That means Wall Street raising is casting a keener and more sceptical eye over equity research more broadly.
Sally the robot will make you a perfect salad
Chowbotics Inc (!) has created Sally, a 350lb machine that according to Bloomberg ”uses 21 different ingredients—including romaine, kale, seared chicken breast, Parmesan, California walnuts, cherry tomatoes, and Kalamata olives—to craft more than a thousand types of salad in about 60 seconds.”
The company sees Sally as the future of food serving in industrial settings, and will be available from Q3 at a price of $30,000.
Berners-Lee wins ‘Nobel’
Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the World Wide Web in 1989, has been awarded the ACM Turing Prise, thought of as the Nobel of computer science.
Amazon buys the rights for next fall’s Thursday night NFL games
In 2016, Twitter was the first Thursday night livestream partner with the NFL, showing 10 games.
Amazon has bought the livestream rights for next fall’s set of 10 games for about $50m (Twitter paid $10m last year). Facebook, Twitter and YouTube were reportedly interested, too.
Like the Twitter agreement, Amazon livestreams CBS and NBC coverage, complete with ads, with Amazon able to sell a number of additional ad slots, though it may promote its own offerings.
Verizon will merge Yahoo and AOL to form Oath
The proposed name for the company was reported by Business Insider and is alluded to in the tweet below from AOL CEO Tim Armstrong.
— Tim Armstrong (@timarmstrongaol) April 3, 2017
The future of warehouse picking
MIT Tech Review reports on RightHand Robotics and its RightPick platform which uses a combination of a hybrid gripper and machine learning to accurately handle a variety of objects during warehouse picking.
The machines learn collaboratively via the cloud, and use advanced robotics, computer vision, and teleoperation.
Argos to run date-stamped TV ads
The British retailer will run 80 different 10-second ads each with a date stamp and relevant to the day on which they run, tying in with weather or with seasonal events such as Wimbledon.
The ads will highlight Argos’ same-day delivery.