RIP Musical.ly: The massively popular lip-sync app Musical.ly this week was scuttled by its new Chinese owner, Bytedance, who paid $1 billion for the service last year. User accounts were ported to Bytedance’s Vine-like video app called TikTok. These apps are not as similar as you would think, and the public outcry of users this week was fierce. And some of us are still getting ads for Musical.ly on TikTok itself. The social singing trend is not going away anytime soon, however. Look for Facebook’s Lip-Sync Live and Talent Show to emerge as strong alternatives in the coming months.
Smart Mirror Madness: “Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest tech-company-with-a-scan-of-my-naked-body-stored-on-their-servers of all?” This week 3D body-scanning startup Naked Labs raised $14 million and started shipping its first product — a $1,400 smart mirror that uses biometric scanning technology to assess your health and fitness, and offer training and nutrition tips. Naked is in talks with ecommerce companies about using this data to personalize clothing and shopping, too. Amazon recently acquired a 3D body scanning startup of its own and has been testing “commercial applications,” such as custom-fit clothes. Will mirrors be the future of fitness and shopping? Probably not. But the trend of having a 3D biometric scan of yourself to shop and get health advice is one to watch.
Midterm Meddling Underway: This week Facebook announced it had deleted 32 pages and fake accounts that it says are part of a false influence campaign designed to influence the midterm elections. The company did not link the pages to Russia, but Facebook officials said the tactics they used were similar to those of the Kremlin’s Internet Research Agency. By proactively disabling the accounts but not directly placing blame, Facebook is testing a new strategy to be seen more as a platform than a responsible curator of content.
Here’s a key quote from Facebook’s Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos: “Companies like ours don’t have the necessary information to evaluate the relationship between political motivations that we infer about an adversary and the political goals of a nation state. As a result, we don’t think it’s appropriate for Facebook to give public commentary about the public motivations of a nation state.”
Amazon Patents a Real-Time Accent Translator: You know that feeling where you and another person are speaking the same language but their accent is so thick you’re having trouble understanding? Well, Amazon has applied for a patent for an audio system that detects the accent of a speaker and changes it to the accent of the listener, potentially eliminating that breakdown. Given advances in natural language processing, Alexa’s deep base of audio sampling, and our continued outsourcing of customer support — with millions of phone calls between people in distant countries where accents can be a barrier – it’s exciting to think about new maching learning technology that would improve the quality of communication.
The 6 Kinds of Terrible Yelp Posters: We love Yelp, especially when exploring restaurants in a new city. But after a while you can start to suss out themes, patterns, and troll behavior from the reviews you’ll see – no matter the locale. This week The Outline published a hilarious article about the six kinds of terrible posters on Yelp, including The Self-Proclaimed Newbie, The Fearful Reviewer, The Language Police, The Way Too Long Review, The Expert Review and The Harping on Service Review. 5 out of 5 you’ll never read a Yelp review the same way again.