Friday Fun Time! Get ready to take a ride on this week’s digital wave with the Weekly Wins. Grab yourself a drink and a snack and make yourself comfortable. The rabbit hole awaits.
A laundry list of digital heavyweights get honourable mention in this edition of the Weekly Wins as we tackle notable news surrounding Amazon, Snap, Gmail and of course, Facebook.
1. Snap’s Spectacular Spectacles
Perhaps in a bid to claw itself out of a Kylie Jenner induced malaise, Snap has released two parries for market share in the past week. Will they be lauded by the Snap community or greeted with the same infamous disdain that followed their last round of innovations? Only time will tell!
The first item on the docket is a fresh iteration of the Snap Spectacles; an interesting gambit since the first kick at the can with Spectacles played out with underwhelming results. The new Spectacles have been slimmed down and they’re now waterproof (!). Was the lack of ability to get the old Spectacles wet what produced such incredible indifference in the product’s fan base the first time around? Probably not, but let’s wait and see if this hot new feature makes a splash!
The next item is a new lens that aims to spur users to play games with their friends using the app. ‘Snappables’ allow users to play games using touch, motion or facial expression. The promo vid for the new addition features users digging into Snapables in a variety of everyday situations. Everyone knows that forging a slice of social media heaven takes some real world work, but if Snappables proves popular if nothing else it will provide a wealth of entertainment as its denizens perform weird, wild and wonderful displays of public behaviour.
2. Zuckerdroid Triumphs
If Facebook overlord Mark Zuckerberg were human and not just an android created by Dr. Noonian Soong, he would likely feel the human emotion that we know as happiness at this week’s release of the company’s quarterly revenue report.
It appears that the dust has settled and the Cambridge Analytica scandal has impacted facebook in exactly the way that most people thought that it would, that is, in no way at all. In fact, it appears that despite calls from a growing list of celebrities to dump the service, Facebook usership has actually grown. Of course, the data corruption scandal broke late in the quarter so we’ll see how it plays out in the long run. At 2.2 billion users strong, however, it’s tough to imagine that a little indiscretion like offloading data that was used to affect the US election could cause any lasting harm to the social media juggernaut.
If Zuck has succeeded in mimicking human responses to joy, he’s probably smiling right now.
3. Alexas ‘R’ Us
Most children are likely looking for ways to integrate a digital assistant into their daily routines. After all, the daily rigor of playtime vs. nap time can be difficult to navigate.
With that in mind, Amazon is launching the Echo Dot Kids Edition and a new kid-friendly Freetime service for Alexa. The service aims to add such features as time limits, parental controls, a host of Audible stories and an educational Q and A that will, presumably, give kids with the Echo Dot Kids Edition a sizable leg up on any of their woefully tech deficient peers. In a move that will surely impact an entire generation’s politeness quotient, the device offers positive reinforcement for use of the word ‘please.’
As the debate swirls about how and when to safely introduce tech to children, the Echo Dot Kids Edition enters the playground swinging, the question remains of how parents will respond to it. More importantly, how will the supremely fickle consumer cohort of children take to it? Will the Echo Dot Kids Edition become the precursor to digital helpers of the future that are fondly remembered by the youth of yersteryear? Or will it go the way of discarded, flash-in-the-pan kid fancies like karate outfits, nerf guns and instruments that didn’t make the longevity cut? Either way, Amazon is betting on making the Echo Dot Kids Edition the gateway device of choice for parents and kids everywhere.
4. 23andMe and Minority Report
If you ask a Canadian what their heritage is, you’ll likely be answered with a list of country names and percentages. To learn that information, it’s become standard practice for people to send a spit swab to a genealogy site, that will analyze your sample and respond with the makeup of your genetic melange. The cost to perform this presumably advanced procedure is shockingly low–there’s a reason. Genealogy sites unabashedly and controversially sell your genetic data.
It turns out that this nefarious sounding practice actually does some good; much of the data is sold to research projects that are aimed at curing or eliminating debilitating illnesses. Criminals beware though. This week, genealogy site GEDMatch, an open-source site that allows users to share their genetic information for free was used to capture the Golden State Killer, in a case that had stumped police for decades. Amazingly, no one from GEDMatch was informed that their service was being used in the investigation. Good thing it was though!
This just proves, once again, that we are collectively inching ever closer to a Minority Report-eque future wherein committing crimes is an exercise in futility. So criminals beware! If you’re inclined to commit crimes you should know that some form of your personal data that will lead to your capture is out there in the world so there’s really no point in trying.
5. Gmail Gets a Facelift
Gmail has changed!
This always interesting news to people that use the service daily. The changes are small but useful. Perhaps most importantly, there is a self-destruct feature now, so go ahead and send that incendiary note. In the past your email was a living archive of all correspondence but you can now safely scuttle an email that you don’t want to live on for eternity. Of course, the receiver can always take a screenshot of it before that happens, but you can keep your fingers crossed that they won’t have the foresight to take that step. Other innovations include snooze, which allows you to continue the procrastination habits that you started the day with only this time with an email that you’d prefer to ignore for a while, and Smart Reply, which lets you run on auto-pilot to let AI do the talkin’ for you.
Small but welcome changes that prove that once again Google isn’t out to reinvent the wheel but they do want to perfect it.