Emerging Tech Roundup — April 16
The Quantious team’s top picks for timely trending news in the tech world.
This week in tech: Rumors emerge around Apple’s new AR/VR headset, Oculus plans a VR gaming showcase, Uber, PayPal, and Walgreens launch a free ride initiative to COVID-19 vaccination sites, the real estate industry sees increased VR usage in home-buying, Twitter analyzes the negative impacts of its algorithms, experts urge Facebook to halt its plans for an Instagram catered to children, and Goodwill and Accenture develop a VR program to help job-seekers with criminal records find employment.
Apple’s AR/VR Headset Could Offer 15 Cameras, Says Analyst
(Phone Arena, April 14)
KGI Securities analyst, Ming-Chi Kuo, is known for his accurate rumors and reports for Apple, and he has more information about the company’s upcoming AR/VR headset. According to Ming-Chi Kuo, Apple’s upcoming headset will feature as many as 15 cameras. These cameras would be used to get a clear image of the surrounding space and track the user’s eye movements. To give these claims extra credibility, a February report by The Information mentioned that Apple has plans to include advanced eye-tracking, which will be crucial to the device’s function. Although nothing is official, speculation points to a 2022 product launch, and the price is rumored to fall between $1,000 and $3,000.
Oculus Plans a Virtual Reality Gaming Showcase for April 21
(VentureBeat, April 12)
Oculus is hosting a virtual reality gaming showcase on April 21st this year. The event will start at 3PM PST, and it will be streamed across Twitch, Facebook, and Youtube in the U.S. and Japan. This event is the first dedicated to games on the Oculus Platform, and Oculus has teased the event by saying that viewers can expect “updates to fan-favorite titles, never-before-seen footage from some unreleased games, and a few surprises in store.” Virtual reality has had a tough time connecting to an audience and finding success, but this seems to be another indication that things are finally starting to work out for the exciting new tech. The Oculus Quest 2 continues to set sales records, and this new event is sure to continue building on that momentum and excitement.
Uber, PayPal, Walgreens Launch $11 Million Vaccine Rides Fund
(Reuters, April 12)
Earlier this week, Uber, PayPal, and Walgreens launched an $11 million fund to provide free ride-hail trips to U.S. COVID-19 vaccination sites for people who don’t have access to transportation. The Vaccine Access Fund will be managed by U.S. non-profit, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, which will identify local partners to help communities in need of free rides. Consumer donations are being accepted through PayPal and Uber, and the companies are looking forward to welcoming other corporate donors for added support. In a joint letter to U.S. President Biden and Vice President Harris, the companies shared how their cooperation came in response to calls by the administration for companies to participate in the pandemic response. In a separate effort, Uber has promised to provide 10 million free or discounted rides to vaccination sites globally.
Industry Experts Say Virtual Reality Is Future of Home Buying
(SpectrumNews1, April 6)
Virtual reality programs are streamlining processes in the real estate industry and becoming the new normal. According to Manhattan Beach broker associate, Barry Host, there has been a 50% increase in potential homebuyers who relied on virtual reality software, like his iGUIDE, to tour a home for purchase during the 2020 pandemic. This program, and others similar to it, give users a tour into the house using cameras that recreate the exact dimensions and room measurements. “Before COVID, we were already using this because we really felt like this was the future, in developing and selling real estate, particularly, as more and more of the business has moved online,” said Host. Virtual reality has proven to be a game changer for homebuyers who still don’t feel comfortable viewing properties in-person, and for some realtors, they’ve seen a dramatic increase in website traffic with their virtual 3D walkthroughs.
Twitter Begins Analyzing Harmful Impacts of Its Algorithms
(TheVerge, April 15)
Responsible Machine Learning, a new initiative by Twitter, will be led by engineers, researchers, and data scientists to analyze “unintentional harms” caused by the social media platform’s algorithms. They’ll be assessing racial and gender bias leveraged by the image-cropping algorithm, as well as exploring timeline and content recommendations across racial subgroups, political ideologies, and more. Working with third-party researchers, Twitter plans to share results and gather feedback from the public. In addition, the company is exploring “algorithmic choice,” which could enable users to have more say around what content they’re served, choosing from various algorithms that control their feeds. Though it’s unclear how the initiative will impact the platform from a user perspective, it will be interesting to see what comes from the study.
Facebook Urged to Scrap Instagram for Children Plans
(BBC, April 15)
Facebook is under pressure over its plans for an Instagram tailored to children under 13 years old. In a letter from the Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood, over 99 groups and individuals claim that the platform promotes an “image-obsessed” and commercialized environment not suitable for young children. The letter cites a report from the Royal Society for Public Health claiming that Instagram poses an increased risk of eating disorders, online bullying, and sexual grooming among young people. Facebook argues that an Instagram specifically for under-13s would enable children who are already online to safely connect and learn while minimizing the number of kids accessing Instagram by lying about their age. Other tech companies are facing pressure too as experts argue that social media poses a threat to children’s development, health, privacy, and wellbeing.
Goodwill, Accenture Launch VR Tool for Job Seekers With Criminal Backgrounds
(HR Dive, April 15)
Goodwill Industries International and Accenture are teaming up in order to help individuals with criminal backgrounds find employment. The partnership has developed a virtual reality program, Project Overcome, to help the job seekers practice interviewing, interacting with HR professionals, and networking with others who have found jobs after incarceration. Through this initiative, job seekers will be able to practice speaking about their past incarceration, while also learning how to use up-to-date technologies. Around the United States, 10 non-profit organizations have agreed to begin implementing Project Overcome.