Friday Five: Facebook frostiness and brilliant battery power

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

1. Facebook currency may not be on the money

Facebook’s grandiose plan to launch a global digital currency has, perhaps unsurprisingly, been met with the frostiest of receptions from, well, everyone. Bank chiefs, politicians and industry regulators have all lined up to give Libra — which Mark Zuckerberg says will change the world of finance for billions — a good kicking.

The proposed currency would be managed centrally, making it more stable than the likes of Bitcoin, and Facebook is only one of the members of the Libra Association, alongside PayPal, Uber and others. But the powers-that-be are hugely reluctant to allow Facebook to take on a government-style role, so watch this space…

2. Brands fall foul of gender stereotyping rule

Back in December, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced stricter rules on gender stereotyping in ads, meaning an end to tired, old-fashioned tropes such as men who can’t work a washing machine or women struggling to park. And now Volkswagen and Philadelphia have become the first brands to be hit with a ban.

Philadelphia went for the bumbling dads routine, while Volkswagen showed adventurous men coupled with women in a caregiving role. Both ads had been given the green light by Clearcast — which suggested the ASA had been overzealous in its approach — showing the grey area this new rule has created. If the ASA continues its hardline approach, advertisers will have to tread carefully.

3. Touchscreens get the finger from US Navy

Many children these days learn to swipe and tap touchscreens before they can even talk, and almost all of us use them daily on our phones or tablets. But digital displays aren’t welcome everywhere, with the US Navy announcing it is to replace the screens on its ships after they were implicated in two fatal collisions.

Poor training meant sailors didn’t know how to use the complex systems in emergencies, and a survey found that crews “overwhelmingly” preferred to control ships using wheels and throttles, which are standardised across the fleet. Perhaps these surveys should have been done before they were changed in the first place?

4. Switch off the realities of a long-haul flight

In the latest “is virtual reality finally entering the mainstream?” news, British Airways is offering its passengers VR entertainment in their seats. The programming includes 2D, 3D and 360-degree format movies, documentaries and TV shows, as well as guided meditations for those nervous fliers.

OK, so it’s only for first-class passengers on selected flights between Heathrow and JFK, with no plans to bring the headsets to the rest of the plane (shock horror), but if VR headsets were ever going to be socially acceptable, surely the peace and tranquility of the first-class cabin is the place to do it.

5. Battery power stops the outage in its tracks

It was a normal Friday afternoon in Zone’s King’s Cross HQ — the cocktail trolley was making its rounds as Zoners began to think about finishing up for the weekend. Then everything went dark. Of course, it wasn’t just Zone hit by the power outage — more than a million people were affected by the issues with two power generators.

But it could have been much worse, were it not for a handful of battery firms. As this illuminating article explains, a fleet of batteries dotted around the UK pumped power into the system, preventing a rapid drop-off in transmission frequency. Not that this was much comfort for the Zoners trying to get home via King’s Cross station…

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