Friday Five: eHighways and fact-checking photos

Zone’s Matt Blackwell handpicks and shares the five best stories on new digital trends, experiences and technologies…

1. Taking the eHighway to greener driving

Thanks to higher tax rates and extra surcharges in certain areas, it seems like diesel is running on fumes as a fuel source. And while fully electric vehicles are yet to truly take off, our German cousins have been carrying out some encouraging trials using hybrid lorries that draw power from overhead lines.

Siemens has teamed up with heavy vehicle manufacturer Scania to produce lorries with an extendable power coupler that automatically attaches to electric lines, much like a tram or train. They operate emission-free when using the power lines and can use energy from onboard batteries on other roads, only switching to diesel as a last resort. If the test data is positive, motorways could look a lot different in the future.

2. Google searches for new ways to help

I/O, Google’s annual developer conference, took place in California this week and played host to a ton of announcements. Rather than put you to sleep with the minutiae of it all, here’s a handy wrap that covers the important stuff.

Addressing the company’s voracious growth beyond a simple search engine, CEO Sundar Pichai stated that Google’s aim was to shift from a company that “helps you find answers” to one that “helps you get things done”. And to aid in this shift will be a faster, more intuitive version of Google Assistant; a budget range of Pixel smartphones; and the highly anticipated (beta) arrival of Android Q.

3. Insta fact-check separates photo from fiction

Barely a week goes by that Facebook doesn’t somehow worm its way into the news, and Zuck & Co have done it again, this time by announcing they will be setting their fact-checking partners to work on Instagram to weed out misleading content.

Flagged pics will be sent to the same dashboard as Facebook posts and blocked from the Explore tab and hashtag results if proved false. Social media is a hotbed of misinformation, so you’d think any move to combat its spread would be welcomed, right? But some have criticised the choice, saying Instagram is different to Facebook and needs a bespoke approach instead of this square-peg-round-hole scenario.

4. Nike kicks ahead with new trainer tech

Did you know that six out of 10 people are wearing the wrong size shoes? I imagine it’s partly because the method used to measure our feet hasn’t changed in the best part of a century — until now. Nike is looking to bring the shoe industry into the digital age with its new augmented reality feature, Nike Fit.

Using a combination of computer vision, data science and machine learning, Nike Fit scans the length and width of feet to the nearest millimetre and suggest the best fit across Nike’s range of trainers. It’d be sweet if this could roll out across the entire footwear industry, but I guess that would take a lot of cross-brand cooperation so I won’t get my hopes up. In the meantime, look out for Nike Fit in stores from summer.

5. Taking charge of battery anxiety

Nomophobia isn’t the irrational fear of small garden sculptures, it’s the fear of being without a smartphone. They’ve become de facto extensions of our limbs and when power levels get low, it can seem like the world is imploding. Battery anxiety affects most of us in some way or another, tapping in to a deep-rooted fear of being alone.

People like to know exactly where they stand with batteries, but the percentage shown in the corner of the screen is just an estimation and can vary wildly depending on usage. So what’s the professional advice? Until battery tech improves you’ll have to embrace the uncertainty and get used to disappointment. Easier said than done.

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