Week In Tech: Voice Assistants, Net Neutrality, and… Holograms of the Dead Famous?

Oh yes, it’s that time of the week again. It’s time to strap yourself in for our weekly digest of all the important (or merely interesting) happenings in the world of tech. Quite frankly, with the media landscape overly-saturated with ‘breaking’ news on the royal wedding, Brexit (yes, still), and Kanye West – tech news acts as a welcome reprieve. Well, it does to us at least. And don’t worry, we don’t mention GDPR once in this entire blog, excluding just now, of course. So, without further ado, let’s delve into the big stories of the week.

Google assistant calls to make appointment

And what better way to start off our re-cap of the week’s events than with everyone’s favourite search engine, Google? After years of work, the tech giants have unveiled Google Duplex, a voice assistant that combines natural language understanding, deep learning, and text to speech, to provide a product that can book appointments for you. Seriously. Pretty cool, right? It’s like something out of Inspector Gadget… you know, in one of the more mundane episodes where he needs to tick off his to-do list in an efficient, time-saving manner. Anywho, Duplex is capable of holding a conversation with a real human, answering logically and taking the user’s preferences into account while doing so. It can even adapt to a conversation if it doesn’t go to plan, which of course is the biggest test. If Duplex can really manage to successfully book appointments on our behalf, then we’ve got an exciting development on our hands.

Net neutrality rules will end June 11 with the FCC’s final say-so

After much debate, and arduous bureaucracy, the FCC has this week confirmed that net neutrality rules in America will officially end on June 11th. The FCC has claimed that this is a positive thing, stating that the internet was never broken in 2015 when this law was enacted, and that this move will restore internet freedom, whatever that means. The announcement gives providers time to comply with transparency requirements, which is intended to make users better informed when surfing the web. This is far from a universally popular move, however, with companies such as Vimeo, Mozilla, Kickstarter, and Etsy filing lawsuits to preserve net neutrality protections.

Inside the bitter war to bring Tupac and Michael Jackson back to life

In slightly bizarre news – that raises questions about both morbidity and copyright infringement – WIRED have shed light on why dead celebrities reincarnated as holograms are big business. Yes, you did read that correctly. It’s like something out of Back to The Future (or a slightly more exciting episode of Inspector Gadget). The technology in question would enable companies to create ‘live’ performances of deceased entertainers in a manner that allows fans to enjoy the act as if it were the real thing. Whilst a slightly odd experience, it’s easy to see why these life-like holograms represent big bucks – which is precisely why the race to monopolise the opportunity is well and truly on. Watch this space. Or, potentially, watch this hologram of Michael Jackson perform Thriller from beyond the grave… you can’t put a price on that, can you?

The emergency services can now video call anyone using a text

In more uplifting news, a select number of NHS ambulance services across the UK have started testing a revolutionary new technology that allows them to video call a 999 caller using a single text. When the person clicks on the link they’ll be asked to give access to their camera and microphone. Once accepted, this activates a video call between the caller and the 999 operator, which shares their location. All of this gives the emergency services a chance to make an important, visual assessment of the situation, to give them as much information as possible to correctly approach the situation. Pretty nifty. What’s more, there’s no need to install an app, it’s all done through the browser on your phone.