Tech Thursday: The Changing Faces of Technology


Click to learn more about author Mathias Golombek.

From healthcare to tech takeovers, I discuss the latest stories and hottest trends in our Tech Thursday round-up.

Saving Face

A facial recognition experiment has sparked a heated debate over “reckless findings,” and the world has taken notice. The study was done at Stanford University, where researchers have claimed that AI software was able to recognize facial features relating to sexual orientation, which are undetectable to human observers. The software was able to determine the sexuality of males 81 percent of the time and 71 percent of the time in women. LGBTQ civil rights groups have called the study “junk science,” while the researchers claim that’s a “knee-jerk reaction.” Some wonder what the value of this study is and why it is being conducted, while human rights campaigners are concerned about the study being used by surveillance technologies and what the impact could be. What do you think? Join the debate.

Big Data: The Battle Against Cancer

Merk, a global healthcare company also known as MSD, has signed on to the Global Oncology Big Data Initiative (GOBDA) with Project Data Sphere. The initiative aims to connect oncology researchers around the globe with big data and advanced analytics in order to speed up the discovery of new cancer treatments. Join some of the members of our team in going sober for October for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Data for Dogs

Move over, fat cats. It’s overweight dogs we are worried about right now. Scientists are analyzing whether Labradors are just “genetically hungry” and are assessing the impact of obesity on underlying joint issues in the breed. Dr. Eleanor Raffan from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science warns that we should not “assume it is normal” for certain dogs to be overweight, as “obesity is a serious issue for our dog population.” It seems dog ownership is no longer just a walk in the park.

Trust Me, I’m a Chatbot

Irish start-up Medxnote has had their “eureka moment” successfully piloting their new PharmaBot in Galway. Surprisingly, pagers and Whatsapp are still widely used in hospitals. PharmaBot is a secure system for communicating between hospital departments and accessing medical records via a smartphone. Medxnote CEO Niall Rafferty envisions a vast array of possible hospital chatbots and, despite needing €3 million to take things forward, he is confident that “we’ve hit all our milestones to take this global.”

Turning Conversation into Conversion

Spanish start-up Typeform has raised to date over £52 million. By providing interactive and conversational forms, they have an average conversion rate of 57 percent. They are looking at integrating with established platforms such as Mailchimp and are beginning to look at using AI as they develop. How do you feel about filling out forms? Do you think a conversational approach would make you more forthcoming?

Outrunning a Storm

Car giant Telsa has been extending the battery life of its electric cars for free to help Florida’s residents evacuate ahead of Hurricane Irma. We think this is worth applauding. Our thoughts go out to everyone who has been affected by the severe weather of recent weeks across the globe.

The Winds of Change

For the first time, Offshore Wind power plants provide cheaper energy than nuclear power plants. EDF still assures us (and them) that a mix of different production types are needed and, as it is currently estimated that wind power will supply just 2 percent of the UK’s electricity demand, they may be right. It is certainly a work in progress, and, although, as Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, says it is a “huge boost for the renewables industry,” I would not go as far to say that it is “the nail in the coffin for new nuclear” just yet. I agree. The simple fact that solar energy and wind power plants will soon produce the cheapest power in the market will quickly lead to an energy revolution. Once smart power storage solutions are available, it just won‘t make sense to use oil and coal anymore.

How Will Our Smart Cities Get Smarter

With all the developments in AI, robotics, IoT, the growth of our cities, and the increase in working remotely, it’s difficult to visualize what our cities could look like in years to come. Should we be looking at Switzerland or Canada for inspiration? Canada is certainly upping its game with its Smart Cities Challenge.

I see big data playing a big role. As smartphones have revolutionized our daily life with countless convenience features, the future smart cities will also facilitate our lives. Whether it’s government services, security, traffic control, or energy efficiency, big data will have a huge impact.

Tech Giant Takeovers

Huawei has taken a big bite out of Apple by becoming the world’s second-biggest Smartphone maker in sales and has Samsung in its sights. With calls for higher Tech Giant Taxes and the recent leak in the iPhone X, Apple seems to be having a bad time. However, with all the hype over the new Apple Watch and TV, I am sure they will push back. Tune in for Apple’s iPhone 8 event.

Exciting or Scary?

It seems we are not alone. Mars’ rover Curiosity discovers boron on Mars, indicating our red neighbor could have been harboring life long before us. How do you feel about sharing our universe? Exciting or scary?

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