Friday Five: Disney+ glitches and a hedgehog’s facelift

Zone’s Ricky Wallace handpicks and shares the five best stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Disney+ hit by glitches after US launch

The House of Mouse finally launched its new streaming service, Disney+, in the US this week. With its impressive back catalogue of much-loved films and exciting originals including Star Wars spin-off series The Mandalorian and the live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp, the subscription service is sure to give Netflix and Amazon Prime a run for their money.

However, Disney+ got off to a rocky start with thousands of users hit by technical issues on its first day. Disney put this down to demand that “exceeded our highest expectations”, but with the entertainment juggernaut needing 60 million subscribers to break even, let’s hope the glitches get resolved before it hits the UK in March.

2. Tech issues causing cross faces at Crossrail

Technology is massively transforming businesses around the world, but it can also be the cause of disruption, as Crossrail found when it announced more delays to the launch of the Elizabeth Line. Europe’s biggest infrastructure project is stalling because of a software meltdown, as it requires three different signalling systems to be integrated with absolutely no room for error.

This article perfectly sums up the problems Crossrail is facing, expertly telling impatient souls like myself that creating tunnels under one of the world’s busiest and oldest cities isn’t actually the problem, but rather it’s the tech running the signalling system that’s the biggest challenge. Who knew?

3. Apple’s credit card investigated for sexism

Apple is being investigated by a financial regulator in the US amid claims that its credit card offers different credit limits for men and women. Goldman Sachs, which runs the Apple Card, received a number of complaints, including one from Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak, that its algorithm was biased against women.

Machine-learning technology is increasingly used by banks and other lenders to cut costs and weigh up risks, but it seems that their algorithms may be prone to unintentional bias. This opens up a debate on what information is being fed into these opaque systems and what processes need to be in place to ensure fairness.

4. Electric passenger planes still some way off

The UK government aims to ban the sale of conventional new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, but what about planes — one of the most carbon-intensive modes of transport? Well, Israeli firm Eviation has revealed a prototype of what it claims to be the world’s first commercial all-electric passenger aircraft. As well as replacing jet fuel with batteries, it uses a new design concept that improves how the plane’s propulsion system is integrated into the airframe.

But it will be a while before we’re jetting off to Barbados on a battery-powered plane. Batteries are heavy, and with the amount of power needed to fly thousands of miles across the globe, planes would be around 30 times heavier than they are now — so we literally won’t be getting off the ground any time soon!

5. People power leads to a new-look Sonic

Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog has held a special place in the hearts and minds of gamers since the early 90s. So when a live-action film was announced, their excitement was palpable — that is, until they saw how their super-speedy hero was to be portrayed (ie not how they remembered — and with very weird teeth).

The backlash on social media led to a hasty rethink from the film’s director, Jeff Fowler, and Sonic has had a facelift (and a hairlift, and a muscle reduction). We can now all rest easy that our spiky friend can speed around the planet and battle injustice in a more suitable, cartoonish skin.



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