Last week in tech: Google’s AI gets chatty and Nerf has new laser tag blasters
Hello, yes, this is robot speaking.
Humans have a complicated relationship with artificial intelligence, and it’s only getting more complex. Some worry that AI will replace us as the dominant species on the planet, while others envision the digital assistant as a panacea for the tedious tasks we humans hate doing. But, since we don’t have those robot butlers just yet, here’s a look back at the tech news you may have missed last week while you were toiling away, building a better world for our future robotic overlords.
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This week’s episode includes a first-hand account of what it’s like to talk to the Google Duplex AI bot that makes restaurant reservations—while doing a surprisingly convincing human impression (you can read more about that here). We also talk about the latest batch of waterproof gadgets to use by the pool, and fully admit how addicted we are to technology in light of the recent outages for Google Assistant and the group chat app, Slack.
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Nerf has new laser tag blasters
Nerf Laser Ops Pro
We got the first chance to try out Nerf’s new Laser Ops Pro blasters. You can check out the review, but here’s the short version: They’re really fun, even when you play in scorching summer heat.
Niantic is opening up its AR platform, so get ready to catch digital creatures
Pokemon Go! was a massive AR success, but the rest of the augmented reality gaming industry has been somewhat slow to catch on. Now, the developers behind Pokemon Go! are opening the underlying platform to enable other studios to put digital creatures—or other objects—into the real world through your phone’s camera. The company also showed off its new tech that allows virtual animals to hide behind real-world objects, which makes the whole thing seem a lot more convincing. Expect to chase Pokemon behind flower pots on a regular basis.
Segway made some gyro-powered skates, and our ankles are crying just looking at them
Remember when self-balancing, two-wheeled slabs we called hoverboards roamed the streets and filled vacant stores in dying malls? Those days are long gone, but now Segway has introduced the evolution of the concept. The Segway Drift W1 skates operate independently and I think I pulled my groin watching the demo video.
NASA’s fancy new space telescope hit another delay
If you love fancy pictures from outer space, last week was a sad time. NASA announced its James Webb Space Telescope won’t launch until 2021. The telescope has been the victim of several delays, which you can read about here.
Fortnite had a giant rocket launch that’s changing up the game
There’s no video game in the world right now that’s more popular than the battle royale wackiness of Fortnite. Over the weekend, the game put on a real-time rocket launch event that caused a rift in the virtual sky and will change the game in the coming weeks.
Instagram may pin the Stories bar to the top of the screen while you scroll
There has been a lot going on in the Instagram app lately, and not all of it looks fantastic. Now, however, some users are reporting a story bar that stays at the top of the app display, even when you scroll down through your feed. It’s unclear if Instagram will roll this out to everyone, but you can be sure a lot of research will guide that decision if it does.
Apple is redesigning Maps, because it didn’t go great the first time around
The launch of Apple Maps went so badly that it warranted an apology from CEO Tim Cook. Now, however, the company is reportedly re-working the entire platform to make it more accurate and useful. It will be a while before it hits your device, though. Apple plans to cover San Francisco in the next version of the iOS 12 Beta, and encompass more of northern California by the fall. Everyone else will have to wait and use Google Maps like we have been for years, anyway.