Weekend news roundup: the social Olympics and Elon Musk envisions a Jetsons tunnel

16 Jul 2012

In our trawl through tech coverage in the newspapers this weekend, we get an insight into the sheer amount of work going into the Olympics from a technology perspective – from social/TV news coverage to cashless payments. We also discover entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk’s next big vision for the future of travel – a Jetsons tunnel.

Covering the Olympics in the age of social

The Wall Street Journal reported how NBC – which views the Olympic Games as one of its major franchises for the US market – has been beefing up its resources for covering the London Olympics.

Executives of the network, which was taken over last year by Comcast, have decided to do away with the old formula of keeping big events under wraps until its prime-time evening broadcast. Instead, every Olympic event will be available live online for cable and satellite subscribers, who will be able to select events from a menu at nbcolympics.com.

At stake is the billions of dollars NBC paid for US broadcast rights and hundreds of millions in advertising revenues in an audacious bet that viewers will still come to the network at prime time.

The wrinkle for NBC is that people will certainly know the results of the gold-medal volleyball match, for instance, or who wins the Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte 200-metre swimming showdown, hours before the prime-time show.

NBC is banking that the chatter at the water cooler, as well as on Facebook, Twitter and the like, will encourage viewers to tune into the network’s taped broadcast that night.

Olympic flame ignites the UK’s cashless economy

The Telegraph on Sunday reported how the UK’s cashless economy will be given a major boost as tech and financial giants endeavour to turn the Olympic Games into a showcase for the next big leap in contactless payments – near-field communications (NFC).

Over the course of 26 years of sponsorship, Visa has never used the Olympics to push a product. Until now – the London 2012 games will be the first where the company is pushing so-called contactless payments. This technology, already built into most credit and debit cards, removes the need to do anything more than touch the card on a reader and can, using new NFC technology, also be built into a mobile phone. It’s faster than ‘chip-and-pin’ and gives users a greater ability to see what they’re spending and how much money they’ve got left.

Triallists have been equipped with a new, special-edition Samsung Galaxy S3 phone, the ‘Official Phone of the Olympics’. It means the phone, associated with a Visa card, can be used to pay for things up to the value of stg£20 anywhere that accepts contactless payments, and for any purchases within the Olympic areas. As part of the sponsorship deal for those zones, such as Stratford’s Olympic Park, only Visa cards will be accepted.

Growing up digital

Noting how young children are naturals with computers, leaving their parents baffled, The Observer asked should we be worried?

The paper’s Miranda Sawyer interviewed Moshi Monsters’ Michael Acton-Smith and wrote that gone are the days when children sat rapt in front of TV programmes, consumed films or books passively, bought the merchandise and that was that.

“Kids want input – they’ve always drawn alternative characters, dressed up as their own superheroes – and what the digital world does is give them that opportunity. It lets them shape and share their entertainment. So, with Moshi Monsters, not only do they customise their avatar-monster, but they get to design its room, spend their Rox (Moshi currency, earned by completing tasks), choose their Moshlings. And they can communicate with each other.

“All of which brings brilliant, inspiring excitement for kids; and instant, hum-dinging, digital fear for their parents.”

Imagining the future of transport, Elon Musk’s Jetson Tunnel vision

Elon Musk is not satisfied with creating superfast electric sports cars or bringing consumers into space – he wants to build a superfast mode of transport that could travel between LA and San Francisco in 30 minutes.

The Atlantic reported how Musk, who has PayPal, Space X, and Tesla to his credit, has envisioned a technology called the Hyperloop that would be something like the Jetsons’ tunnel.

The Hyperloop would be three or four times faster than a bullet train, Musk said, and twice as fast as an airplane. It would be powered by solar panels. It would be “immune to weather.” It would be unable to crash.

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years