Friday Five: reading brainwaves and underwater tents
Zone’s Matt Blackwell handpicks and shares the five best stories on new digital trends, experiences and technologies…
1. I spy a new data drama for Facebook
We may have entered a new year, but it looks like Facebook is experiencing the same old PR problems, with news emerging that it has been paying teens to install a VPN on their smartphones that allows the company to monitor nearly all phone and web activity, duly sending US lawmakers into fits of apoplectic rage.
I get that Facebook’s quest for a competitive edge through data is unrelenting, but seriously, in the wake of everything that happened last year, who genuinely thought this would be a good idea? Nevertheless, through it all — and despite Gen Z-ers being adamant that Facebook is, like, totally uncool — both user growth and revenue continue to rise. It seems we’ll never learn. Sigh.
2. Is it time for a digital detox?
The numbers are in and it’s official. We’re pretty much addicted to the internet. At least that’s what the stats from Digital 2019, the global report from We Are Social and Hootsuite, seem to suggest. The study delved into the digital habits of more than 200 countries to reveal that we spend an average of six hours 42 minutes online every day, which equates to 101 days a year spent plugged in to the web.
Other headlines include the news that nearly half the time people spend online is on a mobile phone and 92% of internet users now watch videos online each month. Check out the full report for in-depth breakdowns by country, or you could go outside and plant a tree. Or read a book — I’ll leave it with you.
3. A new way to speak your mind
Brace yourself, as things are about to get really sci-fi. An article published this week detailed how a team of neuroengineers at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute have come up with a way of using deep learning algorithms to read brain activity and translate it into speech. Mind = blown.
The tech is in its infancy, but if you follow this through to its logical conclusion, we could one day be looking at some sort of implant that bypasses speech altogether and turns thoughts directly into speech. And while the idea of giving voice to every thought that crosses your mind sounds like a social disaster waiting to happen, it could be life-changing for those who have lost the ability to speak.
4. MPs urge tech firms to do their data duty
Is social media healthy or harmful for children? The chances are you could argue yourself hoarse regardless of which side of the debate you come down on, but now MPs in the UK are pressuring social media platforms to be more transparent with their data so that researchers can come up with a definitive answer.
Technology, screens and social media pervade children’s lives more than ever, and with all of that comes concerns over disruptions to sleep patterns, cyberbullying and grooming to name but a few. You can bet that the tech giants won’t give up their data freely, but I don’t see how they can legitimately resist. Surely the kids come first?
5. Deep blue sleep
This one’s definitely getting filed under ‘Slightly Odd’. Do you like scuba diving? Do you like camping? Well great, because now you can combine the two thanks to the Ocean Space Habitat (OSH), an underwater tent designed and patented by a National Geographic explorer and a university professor.
The OSH functions as a portable base for divers, with carbon dioxide scrubbers and air-circulating fans providing a breathable atmosphere for six hours, meaning you can take off your mask, have some grub or even take a short snooze. If it passes the prototype phase, the OSH could bring a whole new meaning to marine tourism.