TL;DR: the week in tech, for you

Sandra Busch
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1. Successful launch: SpaceX closer to giving internet to everyone

Codename: Starlink.
Objective: To bring speedy broadband to the whole world using an army of satellites.

Just a few weeks after Falcon Heavy’s takeoff, SpaceX has blasted off the Falcon 9 – a rocket carrying prototype satellites for broadband Internet service. Already back in 2014, Elon Musk revealed that they were planning to build and deploy a fleet of satellites that would deliver low-cost Internet access around the world.

A little background: Think of satellites as “space mirrors” that bounce Internet data and other kinds of information from one side of the Earth to the other. These satellites are located thousands of miles from up into space, which means that people (especially those in rural areas) often experience lag and delays because all that data, quite literally, has to travel to space and back. That makes for crackling Skype calls and high latency World of Warcraft combats. Basically, the idea is to use satellites at a much lower orbit to cut down “travel time”. And because these satellites are now much closer to earth (thereby restricting their “view” of the earth) we’ll need a quite a few more of them to cover the whole planet.

Getting the satellite broadband off the ground has taken time, but now (after a few delays), Falcon 9 has taken off. Here’s hoping the two small satellites Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b (newly dubbed Tintin A and B) will succeed with their endeavor. If they do, SpaceX will be sending out its first commercial satellites next year, which hopefully will become a constellation of more than 11,000 satellites orbiting close to earth by 2024.

2. Google sued by ex-engineer after controversy over gender stereotypical memo

An ex-Google engineer, Tim Chevalier, is suing Google for wrongful termination. According to him, he was fired for speaking out against James Domore’s controversial internal memo about gender (and yes, James Domore was fired too last summer).

A little background: James Domore allegedly wrote a document criticising Google’s diversity efforts while hypothesizing that the tech industry’s gender imbalance is the result of biological differences between men and women. Afterward, Tim Chevalier, who is transgender, wrote several posts on internal forums advocating diversity and criticizing James Domore.

The story goes that Google employees have made use of the internal platforms to discriminate against minorities e.g. referring to lesbians as immoral or equating the underrepresentation of Latino and Black employees with a lack of talent among them. Tim Chevalier often participated in those debates and following the James Domore controversy where he would openly criticize him for his memo. According to Tim Chevalier, Google is now trying to palm the whole thing off as if Tim Chevalier was showing bias against his harassers. This is definitely not the last word on this litigious battle over diversity and freedom of speech at Google.

3. Samsung Galaxy S9 images leaked

New leak confirming that Samsung’s newest flagship phone strongly resembles its predecessor Galaxy S8 with only minor tweaks. Same edge-to-edge display, same oblong bezels and they’re keeping the Bixby button. Also spec-wise, the S9 is very similar to S8, and apparently, the new flagship will also feature a 3.5 headphone jack. The biggest difference is probably the back of the phone where the fingerprint sensor has been moved to underneath the rear camera.

All the leaks are putting Samsung at a huge disadvantage for their announcement at MWC on the 25th. It will be very hard to get people excited about a product that is (by allegation) only an iterative update of the existing S8 as opposed to something cutting-edge.

4. Quantum algorithm could help advance AI

A new study is proposing a quantum linear system algorithm that would allow much faster – and better – analysis of large data sets. The study is written by a team of researchers from the Center of Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore (NUS). The quantum linear system algorithm could help AI think faster by use of a quantum computer.

There can be no doubt that artificial intelligence is showing huge potential as a technological game-changer. AI has been known by the masses for quite some time, and now, quantum computing might be following suit as something just as likely to change the world.

5. Apple is supercharging their AirPods

Much like their iPods, iPhones, iPads, and Mac computers, Apple Inc. is planning to frequently update their AirPods with new functionality and hardware features. The updated model could come as early as this year, and will include an improved wireless chip and the ability to summon Siri with a handsfree holler: “Hi Siri!”. As Apple is known for thinking a few models ahead, it is also likely that Apple will be making water-resistant AirPods by 2019.

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