Friday Five: Asda trials age-guessing tech at self checkout
Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…
1. Asda trials age-guessing tech at self checkout
New technology that uses special cameras allowing customers to self-ID for items such as alcohol at self checkout is being trialled by Asda. The self-ID cameras mean customers will not have to ask a member of staff to verify their age, thus making the service faster. The trial is being carried out at stores in Stevenage and Pudsey.
Customers simply have to look up at ‘age estimation’ cameras in the self checkout screen. The camera will guess their age and verify the purchase. If the system detects that a customer looks younger than 25, they can prove their age through the Yoti and Post Office EasyID apps. The trial will be running until May.
2. Athletes told to use burner phones in China
The UK and the USA are among the countries that have advised their athletes not to bring their personal phones to China for this month’s Winter Olympics. The advisory was sent out last year to warn athletes about the possibility of digital surveillancewhile in China, while devices could also be compromised with malicious software.
The fears aren’t unfounded. In 2019, China was caught secretly installing spyware on tourists’ phones who entered from the Xinjiang region. And even if athletes use burner phones they still might not get unlimited access to the internet — during the 2008 Olympics China blocked a number of sites for visitors including BBC China.
3. Third of brands hit by data skills gap
A third of brands are trying to bridge a data and analytics skills gap, according to Marketing Week’s 2022 Career and Salary Survey. Over 33% of the 4,463 respondents report data and analytics as the main talent issue for their business, followed by content and copywriting (18%) and performance marketing (17%).
While recruiting to fill the skills gap is a pressing issue for many brands, the survey reveals a clear preference within business to hire external talent rather upskill existing employees. The data shows brands are twice as likely to bring in external talent to bolster their workforce (40%) than they are to train existing staff (21%).
4. DeepMind’s code system ‘competition-level’
DeepMind, the AI lab backed by Alphabet, claims its new code-generating system is competitive with human programmers. In programming competitions hosted on Codeforces, a platform for programming contests, DeepMind claims its AlphaCode system achieved an average ranking within the top 54.3% across 10 recent contests.
DeepMind principal research scientist Oriol Vinyals says it’s the first time a computer system has achieved such a competitive level in all programming competitions. “AlphaCode can read the natural language descriptions of an algorithmic problem and produce code that not only compiles, but is correct,” he said.
5. What’s the word on the NYT’s Wordle buyout?
News that Wordle had been sold to the New York Times earlier this week for an undisclosed seven-figure sum left many devoted players feeling anxious — would the game go behind a paywall? Would they be bombarded with ads and requests for data? Would they lose their stats and streaks when the game moves across?
Well, the NYT has said Wordle would “initially” remain free, which isn’t hugely reassuring, but many of the NYT’s current games are free to non-subscribers. Ads are unlikely to spring up either — the NYT’s head of games says they have a “minimalist design to their games”. And, according to this article, your stats are safe.