If the first three months are any indication, 2018 is shaping up to be an interesting year for technology. It may be more appropriate to refer to it as the Year of the Robotic Dog, as we’ve seen tech advancements in robotics and self-landing rockets, as well as the continued drama surrounding Facebook and Uber. The following is a recap of some tech stories that have caught the Nereus team’s attention so far this year:
SpaceX aims for the stars
SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon Heavy rocket in February, completing the first test flight of the private space company’s most powerful rocket to date. The new design is made up of three core boosters based on SpaceX’s earlier Falcon 9 rocket, which all together provide approximately 5 million pounds of thrust. Blasting off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the Falcon Heavy test load was a cherry red Tesla Roadster convertible with an Astronaut dummy at the wheel blaring David Bowie’s “Starman.” The spectacle was complete when two of the three boosters, refurbished from previous missions, returned to Earth in almost perfect unison. Following this successful foray, SpaceX is poised to kick off the next phase. As the company continues to achieve major milestones and disrupt the commercial model of space missions with its reusable rockets, our team eagerly anticipates the results as SpaceX turns its attention to deep-space applications. By the way, you can track the roadster’s orbit online, at least until the end of 2020.
5G technology – coming to a city near you?
Hailed as the next wireless revolution, 5G technology dominated headlines at this year’s Mobile World Congress, including the possible launch of 5G smartphones by the end of the year and the first U.S. cities to deploy the tech. The Winter Olympics in PyeongChang even featured a 5G demonstration during the Opening Ceremonies. For the average consumer, the immediate benefits of 5G will be faster download and streaming speeds, shorter delays, and increased connectivity. There’s talk that the technology could also usher in a new era of smart cities.
UBER drama drives on
If last year was a bumpy road for ridesharing company Uber, 2018 looks to be more of the same. First, new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi stirred up controversy when he called out an MIT study on Uber driver pay (although the study was later revised – see our recent blog post for more). Following this, an Uber self-driving car struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona, once again raising questions about the safety of autonomous vehicles. Uber continues to lead the ridesharing market, but is losing ground to Lyft in some cities, likely due to the ongoing controversy.
Data scandal rocks Facebook
The social networking giant recently came under fire for allowing the personal information of 50 million users to be harvested by Cambridge Analytica, a UK data consultancy with ties to the Trump Campaign. Just a few weeks later, a leaked 2016 memo from VP Andrew “Boz” Bosworth revealed Facebook’s “growth at all costs” business model. But despite the deterioration of trust in social media platforms, the Facebook habit remains difficult to kick, with just 8% saying they plan to quit the platform cold turkey.
Unless they figure out how to open doors …
If you were creeped out by the episode of Black Mirror in which a woman is stalked across a barren landscape by a killer robot dog, then you might want to skip this next part. In February, Boston Dynamics released a video showing their SpotMini robotic dog’s new trick: opening a door. Amazing? Yes. Slightly terrifying? Absolutely.
In other potentially spine-tingling AI-related news, some users reported hearing unprovoked laughter from their Amazon Echo devices. Amazon explained Alexa’s newfound sense of humor as a misheard command, but we’re struggling to find the joke.
“Life would be tragic if it weren’t funny.”
One of the brightest stars in the cosmos went out with the passing of Physicist Stephen Hawking in March. Hawking, who died at the age of 76, provided warnings about the perils of artificial intelligence and speculated mankind will need to eventually find another planet to survive. He also made several guest appearances on The Simpsons and delivered some devastating – and hilarious – burns, as evidenced by this exchange with John Oliver.
With so much going on so early in the year, we are both anxious and excited to see what the remainder of the year will bring. Stay tuned for more stories from the Nereus team and more analysis of tech industry news!