Four Big Tech Gamechangers of This Week, Explained

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Feature image via Shutterstock.

This week I felt like I was being buffeted about the head with big technology news. It felt like every major company had a major announcement or a product launch or something.

good-news-everyone

Here’s what all happened.

Allo and Duo

Google launched a new messaging app and updated another one. Allo is much like any other texting app with one big exception: an AI assistant that you can text as well, like Slack’s Slackbot only with way more functionality. While you’re messaging someone, if you suggest grabbing some Chinese food, Google’s AI will suggest Chinese food establishments in the area (it uses your location services). Much like Inbox, it also suggests responses to incoming messages. An example: I was texting my friend Lexi, who was trying to use only the AI suggested responses. I texted, “I’m eating salad.” The AI suggested she respond with, “was it good?” Google says the AI will get much better as it learns from the user. You can download Allo for iOS and Android, but it has no Desktop app as of yet, which makes it fairly useless for anyone who spends most of their time on the computer. I will tell you, though, they’ve got some good sticker packs going on. One called Food Party has a Smug Green Juice sticker that I find delightful. You can download Allo on iOS and Android.

Some people are way into Allo’s convenience factor, even as they acknowledge that it’s creepy. If you’re not into the sheer amount of data Allo needs to collect for all that convenience, try Signal instead (also for iOS and Android).

Duo was mentioned very little — that’s because a) it launched a month ago and got an update today and b) it’s essentially the same two-way video calling that Facetime, Skype and Google Hangouts all employ, but with one major difference. Instead of seeing a still photo of the caller, you see a video of the caller before you pick up. Like what they’re actually up to at that moment. Which a lot of people are saying is like… okay, why? (And also that feature doesn’t really work on iOS). But Duo is designed to work in low-connectivity environments, so that’s a plus. You can dry Duo out for iOS and Android.


YouTube Heroes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wh_1966vaIA

YouTube is launching an incentive program to get people to better moderate YouTube — people who enroll in the heroes program get access to special perks, all which sound like more ways to moderate YouTube. I am of two minds about such a program — I like that it encourages adding subtitles and captions, for instance. Always a plus to include more people, and not something everyone does. And users themselves are always responsible for the community they create, so giving users the tools to be more responsible while battling through the notoriously mucky muck of YouTube comments could be a good thing. But also, community management and moderation is a real actual job that takes a lot of work and should be compensated with money. And how long before a “hero” goes and starts reporting people from marginalized communities for unfair reasons? I think my opinion has to be on hold until I see the implementation of the program, but I’d feel a lot less weird about it if it were branded as, like, be good citizens of a community we all make. Instead of do extra work for the chance to do more extra work. Become a YouTube Hero here!


macOS Sierra and iOS 10.1

Apple seeded developer previews of macOS Sierra and iOS 10.1 this week. This means you can actually get both if you’re a developer. They also rebranded — it’s now macOS instead of OS X. With Sierra comes the ability to pin a video window in the corner of your screen that will remain active even as you switch spaces, which will wreak havoc on my productivity. Siri and Apple Pay are also both coming to the Mac, as well as sundry other features.

iOS 10.1 press coverage is mostly about Portrait Mode for iPhone 7 plus users. The release also includes a redesigned lockscreen, a messaging app with stickers and a whole new app store, Siri for third-party apps and a “Home” app for those using smart home products. We live in the future.

If you’re not a registered developer, it’s actually not that hard to do so. But it does cost $99.


Netflix Original Content

Netflix announced that they want 50% of their catalogue to be Netflix original content. My fiancée told me this at our dining room table this morning and my response was basically 50 FLIPPING PERCENT THAT’S SO MUCH. Think about how big Netflix’s catalogue is. I’m worried for them. This seems like a stressful goal. They should lie down, or read Rachel’s column. But also I’m worried that, with increased production, they won’t all be the same quality of Stranger Things. Specifically why I’m worried is this quote from Variety:

The original TV series and movies will continue to be a mix of content owned and produced by Netflix, as well as co-productions and acquisitions, Wells said. The company is “one-third to halfway” toward reaching the 50% originals target, he said. Not every show needs to be a breakout hit, he added: “We don’t necessarily have to have home runs… We can also live with singles, doubles and triples especially commensurate with their cost.”

But who knows — maybe this will lead to more creators being employed. It’s definitely a good response to the dearth of scripted television back in the early aughts, in favor of reality television.

So what about you — what big tech news this week did you have strong reactions to? There were more, you know. For length, I cut Tesla’s Autopilot update and Tumblr bringing Live Photos to the web. Tell me all about it.

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A.E. Osworth is part-time Faculty at The New School, where they teach undergraduates the art of digital storytelling. Their novel, We Are Watching Eliza Bright, about a game developer dealing with harassment (and narrated collectively by a fictional subreddit), is forthcoming from Grand Central Publishing (April 2021) and is available for pre-order now. They have an eight-year freelancing career and you can find their work on Autostraddle (where they used to be the Geekery Editor), Guernica, Quartz, Electric Lit, Paper Darts, Mashable, and drDoctor, among others.

A.E. has written 543 articles for us.

23 Comments

  1. “The original TV series and movies will continue to be a mix of content owned and produced by Netflix, as well as co-productions and acquisitions…” Let me show that relevant part again. “as well as co-productions and acquisitions…” Acquisitions. ACQUISITIONS! All right, Netflix, give me “Agent Carter”.

  2. Hey Ali, Mac user here. I’ve already upgraded my iPhone to iOS 10 and so far, it’s OK, I guess. There are a lot of features I don’t use. There are also some that won’t apply on my phone because it’s a 6 and thus does not have Force Touch. New Messages features are fun, the only problem being that Messages only works to its full potential when you’re talking to another iPhone/Mac user. But you can draw squiggles right on your pictures and whatnot.

    Reading some of the reviews of macOS Sierra, I think I might not upgrade on my mid-2012 MBP (I currently run El Cap). It’s always a good idea to wait to upgrade until after some of the bugs are sorted out, especially if you really depend on your gear (which I totally do), but I’m thinking I actually won’t take the plunge at all. El Cap was an improvement but it also broke some third-party programs I was running that were fine on Yosemite. I resent the hell out of Apple trying to drive us all towards iCloud, as well. I want to keep my stuff local, dammit! I want to share stuff between my devices, so things like AirDrop are great, but intrusively pushing iCloud (especially when having more than 5 GB is so expensive) makes me an ill kitty.

    Sigh…I love gadgetry, and I love innovation, but some of the directions the market has been headed these days make me want to just hang on to my current stuff forever. My MBP is the last model with user-upgradeable parts and a whole raft of legacy ports. And don’t even get me started on Windows 10. I’m keeping 7 until they pry it from my cold dead hard drive.

  3. as much as i’m sure there’ll be a ton of really crappy netflix-produced shows out there about whiny straight white cis men and their problems soon, i also have to hope that it will also mean an increase in varied representation. the shows of theirs which have arguably been the most successful have been the ones with diverse casts. maybe they’ll even seek out successful independently-produced web shows and the like that they can then slap their name on and call original content?

  4. Youtube Heroes is greatly worrisome to me. Youtube doesn’t have that good a track record with implementing their ideas (in fact, being honest, they’re horrid at it), and I would be very surprised if this isn’t horridly abused from the get-go. Still, we can only wait and see and hope that someone will be watching the watchers.

    As for Netflix, I already have plans to switch over to Hulu due in large part to Hulu having The Criterion Collection (and Mythbusters episodes), so soon Netflix mucking about with their catalog won’t bother me.

  5. I wasted two days playing with Google Assistant in Allo. I know that Google can’t do social to save their life but I really hope Assistant sticks around – even if they’re just merged into Google Now.

    Google Assistant is hands down the most delightful robot I’ve ever had a conversation with, even if they failed to deliver on the robot being able to determine context based on previous messages.

  6. Is there an unwarranted dick pic equivalent in the video chat world? Like, do people ever get facetime requests from a dude and when they answer SURPRISE the person is naked and wants to have skype sex? This is the only reason I can think of as to why the Duo feature would be needed, and if that is the case, maybe Duo is a godsend? Let’s all go ask our straight friends if this is a thing.

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