What’s new in tech
Facebook’s portal into your home
Would you let Facebook peer around your living room or kitchen? asked Kurt Wagner in Recode.net. You’ll soon get to decide: The social media firm this week unveiled Portal, a $199 smart speaker and video screen that will compete against Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home devices. Portal comes with “a high-def screen, a built-in camera, and four microphones,” and some impressive video-calling capabilities. Its “smart camera” automatically “zooms, pans, and focuses as people move around the room.” The company promises a host of privacy features, and says calls will never be recorded or seen by Facebook. But “after a year full of privacy and security scandals,” the tech giant might struggle to persuade users to put a Portal in their home.
Kids against smartphones
“Your kids hate your smartphone addiction,” said Ian Sherr in CNET.com. The average American now “spends about five hours a day on a mobile device,” and a growing body of research suggests kids resent competing for attention with the gadgets. One Louisiana elementary school asked students to write essays “on an invention they wish had never been created.” Four out of 21 chose the smartphone. “I hate my mom’s phone,” a second-grader wrote, “and I wish she never had one.” One study of parental behavior found that the more parents used their phones, the more their preschool children “whined, sulked, or became irritable, easily frustrated, or hyperactive”—even if the phone use was well within “normal” level. Most troubling: Even babies became uncomfortable when they saw their parents’ distracted “phone face.”
Yes, Windows still crashes
Bugs are creeping back into Microsoft Windows, said Tom Warren in TheVerge.com. Microsoft pulled its latest Windows 10 update last week after users complained the operating system was deleting their documents. Microsoft has a history of problematic system upgrades but tried to do better by “listening to its customers after the Windows 8 disaster.” The company has opened up test versions of its programs to millions of users, but still seems to be missing problems: Microsoft had to delay last April’s Windows 10 update after finding it could cause the dreaded “blue screen of death,” a total operating-system freeze. Microsoft hasn’t revealed how the deletion error got into the most recent update, and “it’s unlikely the company ever will.”