Zone’s Ross Basham handpicks and shares the five best new stories on digital trends, experiences and technologies…
1. Google releases cheaper phone for Covid era
Google’s new flagship smartphone is being released at a lower price to take into account the economic downturn caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. While not exactly cheap at £599, the Pixel 5 is £330 less than last year’s Pixel 4XL, having abandoned some of the 4XL’s headline features and running on a slower chip.
However, it does gain 5G connectivity and some new photography capabilities, while benefitting from the included bundle of Google services. “What the world doesn’t seem like it needs right now is another $1,000 phone,” said Rick Osterloh, Google’s senior VP of devices and services, and the Friday Five is inclined to agree with him.
2. Amazon puts paying in the palm of your hand
Forgotten your wallet AND phone? How careless of you. But no matter — Amazon is introducing a new biometric technology that will allow you to pay for things by simply scanning your palm. Called Amazon One, this tech is being introduced in Amazon’s own retail stores in the US, but Amazon is going to licence it to third parties.
While most companies are experimenting with facial recognition tech, Amazon says it picked palm recognition for privacy reasons and because it requires an intentional gesture. As well as contactless payments, Amazon One could also be used for employees to gain entry to their offices, loyalty cards (and basically everything else).
3. New tool can detect deepfakes in a heartbeat
In the war against misinformation being spread online, sophisticated deepfake videos are a big problem. But researchers from a New York university have developed a tool called FakeCatcher that uses a clever way to expose videos that have been digitally modified by looking for actual signs of life — a person’s heartbeat.
Though it can’t be seen with the naked eye, your face subtly shifts in colour as your heart pumps blood through the arteries and veins under your skin. Baby video monitors use a camera to spot this effect, and now this technique is being used to spot unstable pulse measurements in faces that have been swapped for deepfakes.
4. Jet suit idea for paramedics takes flight
A jet suit that would allow a paramedic to fly to the top of a fell in 90 seconds rather than taking 30 minutes on foot has been tested by the Great North Air Ambulance Service in the Lake District. The suit has two mini engines on each arm and one on the back, allowing the paramedic to control their movement by moving their hands.
The flying paramedic would be armed with a medical kit, strong pain relief for walkers who may have suffered fractures, and a defibrillator for those who may have suffered a heart attack. Andy Mawson of GNAAS said: “We could see the need, but we didn’t know how it would work in practice. We’ve seen it now and it is awesome.”
5. Fashion labels zoom in on waist-up design
Go on, admit it — you might have been wearing a smart, freshly pressed shirt for that Zoom meeting, but below the waist you had your trackie bottoms on, didn’t you? Well, fashion labels have got in on the act, focusing on a ‘waist up’ approach at Milan and London Fashion Weeks that is perfect for those important video calls.
Prada placed its logo near the collars of its tops, with large coats pulled around shoulders like a blanket, while there’s also been a trend for flatter shoes and elasticated trousers. Prada commented that it was not inspired by Zoom, but by the “contemporary human relationship with technology”. So… Zoom, then.