Friday Five: New digital regulator targets tech giants

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

1. New regulator to curb tech giants’ dominance

There is a new tech regulator in town and it’s coming for Google, Facebook and Amazon. The Digital Markets Unit (DMU) has been set up to create new codes of conduct for the UK’s tech giants and their relationship with content providers and advertisers. Digital secretary Oliver Dowden has described it as “a major milestone for the industry on the path to creating the world’s most competitive online markets”.

Set up to be “pro-competition”, the DMU hopes to help curb the dominance of tech giants, reducing their lion’s share of the digital advertising revenue. We will have to wait a bit though, as first on the DMU’s task list is to set the codes of conduct — which then have to be put into law before any action can be taken.

2. Beware ‘Zoom zombies’ behind the wheel

A lot of people are pretty fed up with using Zoom — and here’s another reason to add to the list. A US report conducted by the Root Insurance Distracted Driving Awareness Survey has found that 54% of drivers had trouble concentrating on the road soon after using video conferencing platforms.

The age of the person behind the wheel impacts how well he or she can focus on driving, with older people less likely to turn into ‘Zoom zombies’. For Generation Xers, the attentiveness problem drops to 48%, while for millennials, it’s 61% and Gen Z, 65%. We await the first ‘Don’t Zoom and drive’ campaigns with interest.

3. eBay introduces Pokémon card scanning app

Anyone who’s been a collector will be familiar with the phrase “those Pokémon cards will be worth an absolute fortune one day”. But you’ll soon be able to find out if those shiny yellow cards really are made of gold, as eBay have introduced a new card scanning feature to its app, due to arrive at the end of April.

The new scanning option will automatically build the listing once the card is scanned, making it easier for sellers to create their listings. The value, however, will still be in the hands of the bidder as it won’t determine the price of your card. Fear not, if you didn’t collect Pokémon, the feature also works on Yu-Gi-Oh! and other cards.

4. TikTok adds automatic captions to videos

In a step towards a more accessible world, TikTok has added automatically generated captions to its videos. It’s currently only available in American English and Japanese, but it has plans to add support for more languages soon. The platform wants to make it easier for deaf and hard of hearing users, as well as being useful for those times when it might be inconvenient to enable audio.

As automatic transcription has improved over the years, services have increasingly been adding it to their software to make content more accessible. Last month, Google built the feature into Chrome, allowing it to generate captions for audio played through the browser, while Zoom can auto-generate captions during calls.

5. Amsterdam’s bin boats not a rubbish idea

In their latest efforts to tackle the congested streets of Amsterdam, electric waste collection boats have begun a trial in the city’s canals. Residents will still put their rubbish out as normal, but the waste collectors will toss the rubbish into the canal — onto a boat — don’t worry — instead of a rubbish truck.

Houses not on a canal will have their rubbish collected in small trucks, which then take the waste to the boat. Part of the aim is to reduce the weight strain on the canal’s bridges and walls from heavy trucks. This isn’t Amsterdam’s only smart waste initiative; the city also has bins that send automatic alerts when they are full.

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