Friday Five: deceptive web designs and scooters under scrutiny
Zone’s Matt Blackwell handpicks and shares the five best stories on new digital trends, experiences and technologies…
1. Using deceptive tricks to steer your clicks
As Sir Tim Berners-Lee pointed out during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics, the internet is for everyone. But somewhere along the way tech has been hijacked by dark patterns and deceptive designs that are used everywhere, from social media to ecommerce, to create impulsive and addictive behaviour in users.
Have you ever viewed a hotel online, only to be told that 45 people are looking at that exact same room? Dark pattern. Or maybe you’ve felt a phantom buzz in your pocket? Part of the deceptive design that has hardwired a scroll-and-reward cycle into our brains. The article offers fascinating insight into the psychology of the digital realm, including tactics borrowed from the gambling industry to keep us scrolling. If this doesn’t bring out your inner cynic, then I don’t know what will.
2. New AI launches with a big bang
Scientists have been using simulations in an attempt to reverse engineer the origin of the universe for a while now (as you do). And now a team of researchers have built an AI that produces accurate results in milliseconds and understands things that it shouldn’t, such as how much dark matter the universe holds.
There’s a whole lot of really clever stuff going on here that I won’t pretend to understand, but it basically looks like the AI is doing things it wasn’t trained to do, and doing them scarily well. While this is good for figuring out where we all came from, it could spell the end of mankind. Did someone say Skynet? No? Okay then…
3. Fatal accidents put scooters under scrutiny
No matter where you live, the chances are you’ve seen grown adults zipping around the city centre on electric scooters. Their never-ending weaving from pavement to cycle path to road can be mildly irksome at times, but one US city has made a stand and banned them after the first scooter-related death.
This isn’t the first time the safety of the devices has been called into question. Paris experienced its first scooter death last week, while earlier this year software glitches were blamed for sudden braking that led to rider injuries. Similar to the hoverboards that were popular a couple of years ago, I guess the potential dangers that surround scooters need to be assessed before they’re given free rein on the streets.
4. Taking the laundry industry to the cleaners
Laundrapp and Zipjet, two titans of the on-demand laundry industry, have merged this week, with the intention of taking on a European market worth an estimated £17.9bn per annum.
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t even realise on-demand laundry was a thing. But I guess it’s no surprise really, with the runaway success of services like Deliveroo, Uber and Monzo proving that modern consumers crave convenience above all else. And they’re willing to pay for it too, with the start-ups jointly processing more than 150,000 items of washing each month.
5. App puts a stop to missing your, er, stop
Right, everyone stop making apps. This student has just won, so let’s give him a prize and we can all go home. His ingenious creation, called Stay On Route, wakes rail passengers up with a reminder a mile or so before they arrive at their station. I’m filing this one under ‘Why Didn’t I Think of That?’
As the article points out, it’s not just a handy tool for drunken passengers who are prone to a snooze — the app has several potentially important use cases, such as alerting blind or deaf travellers, or giving a heads up to people who require a bit more time to gather their things and move to the exit. Stay On Route is available on iOS now, and its creator is after feedback from early adopters to improve future versions.