Weekend news roundup

14 Jun 2010

A quick glance at some of the technology stories breaking in the weekend papers.

Part man, part machine

The New York Times reported how Google co-founder Sergey Brin became part man, part machine at the search giant’s-sponsored Singularity University. While the flesh-and-blood version of Brin sat miles away at a computer capable of remotely steering a robot, the gizmo rolling around consisted of a printer-size base with wheels attached to a boxy, head-height screen glowing with an image of Brin’s face. The BrinBot obeyed its human commander and sputtered around from group to group, talking to attendees about Google and other topics via a video-conferencing system.

Mobile uploads explosion

The same newspaper also revealed how Facebook’s nearly half a billion users are now uploading 20 million videos each month, many of which are shared through mobile phones.

Facebook members also watch 2 billion videos each month, according to Meredith Chin, a company spokeswoman. Last month, comScore reported that web users watched 30.3 billion videos online during April.

Josh Wiseman, an engineering manager at Facebook, said the company had seen a steady rise in video views across the web because of the rise in video-ready mobile smartphones. “Video traffic has grown over the past year as more people upload video directly from their mobile phone,” he said.

The iPad can swim with dolphins

The Observer carried an interesting report at the weekend on how scientists in Miami are using the iPad to talk with dolphins. When Apple CEO Steve Jobs launched his latest must-have computer to the world, he might not have been thinking about the dolphin market. But, at the Dolphin Discovery swim facility in Puerto Aventuras, Mexico, Apple’s groundbreaking iPad is engaged in some remarkable groundbreaking inter-species research.

Scientists there are using a waterproofed version of the iPad to help them communicate with a bottlenose dolphin called Merlin. “Merlin is quite curious, like most dolphins, and he showed a complete willingness to examine the iPad,” according to Jack Kassewitz of Miami-based SpeakDolphin.com, who is looking for ways to allow dolphins to better express themselves around humans.

Two-year-old Merlin can tap symbols on the waterproofed iPad and Kassewitz reckons the dolphin will be able to get the hang of a wide assortment of symbols.

“The use of the iPad is part of our continuing search to find a suitable touchscreen technology which the dolphins can activate with the tip of their rostrums or beaks,” says Kassewitz. “After extensive searching and product review, it looks like our choice is between the Panasonic Toughbook and the Apple iPad.

Apple’s grip on apps market to be probed

The Sunday Times reported that US regulators are planning to investigate Apple’s business practices to see if it is harming the developing market for software that runs on mobile phones and the iPad, its latest hit device.

The investigation by the Federal Trade Commission is one of a string of challenges in the pipeline as concerns over the technology giant’s increasing dominance continue to grow.

Arch-rival Google is most concerned about Apple’s attempt to break into the mobile advertising market. It complained last week that Apple’s new rules for applications developers in effect barred it and other competitors from selling advertising inside iPhone and iPad apps.

Apple wants to cap the sharing of audience data between developers and other advertising services, such as Google’s AdMob, saying it wants to protect its customers’ privacy. Its own advertising network, iAd, will be launched next month with $60m (£41m) of spending already committed by brands such as Chanel and Nissan.

Book festival goes social

The Sunday Business Post reported that the organisers of the Dalkey Book Festival have made major use of Twitter and Facebook to publicise the event next weekend, and believe it has ‘‘never been cheaper to get a festival advertised’’.

The use of such viral social networks – which are free and have a large online following – has been key to the marketing of the new festival, according to organiser Sian Smyth.

‘‘Once you get your programme for your festival organised – based around the strengths of your locality, such as GAA and soccer clubs, societies, food producers – you have to shout it from the rooftops. This has never been easier, with Twitter and Facebook free. Viral networks are extremely and increasingly powerful,” she said.

Smyth came up with the idea for the festival to boost trade for local businesses, who are continuing to feel the effects of the recession.

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