Bytes: What’s new in tech
Google buries the (fake) lede
Google isn’t planning to rid its search results of fake news, “but it’s trying to purge it from the top,” said Mark Bergen in Bloomberg.com. The company is “making a rare, sweeping change” to the algorithm that powers its ubiquitous search engine. Google’s 10,000- plus staff of “raters,” who are responsible for assessing search results, will now flag web pages hosting hoaxes, conspiracy theories, and other items the company has dubbed “low-quality content.” Articles that are found to be “misleading, false, or offensive” will be demoted in search results, so they won’t be among the first a user sees. Last month, for example, searches for “is Obama planning a coup” returned “a blatantly wrong article” as the top result; that item will now be buried further down.
Alexa’s eye for style
“If a computer tells you with 64 percent certainty that what you’re wearing isn’t your best, would you change?” asked Mike Murphy in Qz.com. Amazon’s artificially intelligent personal assistant Alexa will now dish out fashion advice though the company’s Echo Look, a camera-equipped version of its Echo home speaker. A new feature called Style Check uses machine learning and advice from fashion specialists to help users decide which outfit to wear. Ask Alexa to take photos or videos of you wearing different clothing combinations and Style Check will show side-by-side results to help you choose the ideal outfit. The device could help Amazon, which is already the top online clothing retailer, further cement its hold on the fashion industry.
Arizonans test self-driving cars
“Waymo’s self-driving minivans are now offering rides to real people,” said Andrew Hawkins in TheVerge.com. The autonomous vehicle startup, which spun off from Google last year, recently launched its “early rider program” in Arizona. Residents living in the Phoenix area can apply on Waymo’s website for free rides, with the company using their feedback to improve the technology. A backup driver will be behind the wheel of Waymo’s Chrysler Pacific minivans “at all times, but the company insists that the vehicle will drive without human intervention as much as possible.” It’s a “major milestone” for Google’s parent company, Alphabet, “which has been operating self-driving cars on public roads for years without allowing real people to experience the technology first-hand.” ■