Week In Tech: Kodakcoin, news feeds and missile alerts, oh my!

So here we are, past the perils of Blue Monday and with plenty of more positive things to look forward to in the rest of the year, probably. The big news in tech is the glut of new information from CES 2018, as the annual conference wraps up in Las Vegas. Being shown off this year was yet again a wonderful collection of the innovative and the unusual, many of which will likely be part of our lives much sooner than we think – Remember not having a smartphone just 10 years ago?! No, me neither… So here’s my (slightly) optimistic look at the week in tech.

Kodak announces move onto bandwagon

One of the most eye-catching announcements to come out of CES 2018 was photography Kodak’s announcement that they plan to move into the decidedly not-photography world of cryptocurrency, and loaning out hardware to mine coins. The Blockchain based cryptocurrency called ‘Kodakcoin’ is meant to help photographers control their digital image rights. The company was famously late to the noughties digital photography revolution, and perhaps wants to compensate for this by moving into an emerging market early, despite having no expertise in the field. While tracking digital image rights via the Blockchain sounds interesting in theory, the idea to offer a rentable bit of hardware called the Kodak KashMiner to assist with Bitcoin mining seems deeply misguided. As with many companies recently announcing buzzword heavy, detail-light strategies exploiting the cryptocurrency market hype, Kodak duly received a share price boost. As the phrase goes ‘what goes up.… stays there indefinitely?’

What next? Polaroid to announce a surprise move into self-driving cars? Nikon to launch a streaming service to rival Netflix? We can only wish them luck, and wait.

Pals and Palettes

CES has been a strong week for autonomous vehicles and AI companions. As covered in last week’s blog, we’ve seen robots that can fetch your beer from Aeolus Robotics, cute robo-dogs from Sony (note – it is a good boy), and robots that are embarrassingly disobedient from LG (note – it is not a good boy).

But one of the biggest splits in opinion has come from Toyota’s announcement of the e-Palette. Looking like a billboard on wheels, the concept autonomous vehicle could be configured to deliver packages and pizza to people, or as a taxi service. There’s no doubt that the boxy vehicles look a little strange, and Toyota are touting a pretty wide range of uses, but with the rapid advances being made in self-driving vehicles, this idea could really work. Toyota has announced it will work with a range of companies including Amazon and Uber, both of whom are also working on self-driving tech.

Facebook’s algorithm is different but the same

Speaking of intelligent AI; Mark Zuckerberg. Away from the noise of CES the Facebook founder announced several behind the scenes tweaks to the News Feed algorithm. The society altering mega-site has been criticised for altering society by enveloping people in online echo chambers and allowing fake news to spread, harming mental health and perverting the course of democratic elections. According to Facebook’s marketing gurus the new algorithm will place a greater emphasis on ‘meaningful social interactions’ with friends and family. That is supposed to sound a little cosier and should help users distinguish content / adverts from personal connections. Let’s hope that it also adds some much-needed transparency to the platform. It’s a pivotal year for the company with negative sentiment brewing and the 2018 US Mid-Term elections in November.

 Hawaii missile alert caused by clunky interface

Finally, in case you thought my take on Facebook was a bit too breezy: nuclear annihilation. For 38 minutes Hawaiians were alerted that a nuclear missile was inbound, causing mass panic. Fear has quickly turned to anger in the aftermath, and the blame is falling on an employee accidentally clicking the “missile alert” button, instead of the “test missile alert” button. These two options are apparently situated right next to each other in the early warning system’s drop-down menu, making this incident the result of one of the most consequential pieces of bad software design in memory. So let’s hope that this increases organisations’ commitment to up-to-date, well designed systems. And that the nuclear button is a bit more deliberate.