Each week we collate ‘Five Things You Should Have Read This Week’ – a summation of the tastiest tech stories from the past seven days. From disruptive apps to valuable stats, it’s a weekly feast of what’s most exciting and interesting in the tech world. It’s too good to keep just to ourselves, so for your reading and learning enjoyment we bring it to you here each week…

In the social sphere this week, Facebook came under fire with public accusations on its news feed authenticity, while Instagram confirmed live videos are on the way. It was Snapchat vs Google in a goggle- off with the launch of Snapchat’s ‘Spectacles’ and Google’s VR ‘Daydream’ goggles. While over In Japan machines can now actually judge a book by its cover. All your answers below.


In Wake Of Election Result, Zuckerberg Vigorously Defends Facebook’s Role

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg vigorously defended Facebook’s role in the US election result this week saying “more than 99% of what people see is authentic,” on the platform. In additional comments, he went on to say that fake news impacting the US election were a “pretty crazy idea. “Within the ranks at Facebook, there appears to be intense discussion on the matter, and the company is planning additional reviews and discussion this week, according to reports.


It’s almost impossible to claim that fake news on the platform don’t spread, and that fake news don’t impact people’s beliefs. From the New York Times:

“A fake story claiming Pope Francis — actually a refugee advocate — endorsed Mr. Trump was shared almost a million times, likely visible to tens of millions,” Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina who studies the social impact of technology, said of a recent post on Facebook. “Its correction was barely heard. Of course Facebook had significant influence in this last election’s outcome.”


Facebook has, over the past few years, made a significant push to get more and more publishers to create work for their platform. The result has been a boon for both sides – Facebook engagement is up and those publishers are making money off of ads. But it appears there are significant unintended consequences of this, especially as people spend more and more time on their mobile devices, and more and more time in just a few apps rather than traditional news portals. The company will likely need to make changes to address some of these concerns and expect to hear more in the coming weeks.

More: Facebook, The New York Times, The Columbia Journalism Review, Variety, Stratechery

Snap Inc. Launches Spectacles Product Through Pop-Up Vending Machines In California

Snap Inc., the holding company for Snapchat and their new hardware group, has released Spectacles. Spectacles are the firm’s new hardware product, a set of glasses which capture exactly what the user is seeing in video that is then shared with Snapchat via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Spectacles are on limited release, and only available through vending machine pop-ups that have thus far been limited to the company’s Venice Beach home and Big Sur, California.


It’s Snap Inc’s first foray into physical product, and thus far, in limited release, it has been a success. The company has generated a sort of streetwear style buzz around the product release by limiting the quantity and defining the experience around acquisition. Reviews have also been positive, with a focus on the product’s playful characteristics, which fits well with the brand.


It’s going to add a new, interesting way of capturing video for Snapchat that might be used in on-platform campaigns. But it also shows the intent of the company to evolve from just being an app to being a camera firm. This is unlikely to be the last camera innovation from the firm, especially as it ramps up for its IPO.

More: The Verge, The Verge

Researchers In Japan Have Taught A Machine Vision Algorithm To Determine A Book’s Genre By Its Cover

Brian Kenji Iwana and Seiichi Uchida of Japan’s Kyushu University have taught a machine vision algorithm to determine a book’s genre just by looking at its cover, according to the MIT Technology Review. The algorithm found the exact genre of the book more than 20 percent of the time, and was within the top three choices for that book’s genre 40 percent of the time.


This process for teaching the algorithm was complicated, but relatively simple to explain. The team used over 137,000 book covers on Amazon, coupled with the data on their genre found on the website, to teach the algorithm. They held out a portion of the books to test the algorithm, and then were able to confirm it is possible to teach it in this kind of way.


There are several potential results here. One, that machines will take over the classification of books as they learn more, automating a job previously performed by humans. Two, that machines will take over the design of book covers, as they learn more about genres and what performs best. In both instances, it’s important to think about the potential of automation being applied to businesses as well as the societal pitfalls (jobs).

More: MIT Technology Review

Instagram CEO Confirms Company Is Working On Live Video

Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom has confirmed that the company is working on a live video product for the platform, according to the The Verge. The confirmation comes after a Russian news site confirmed that the product was being tested.


It’s another addition to Instagram’s growing list of capabilities, with Stories debuting earlier this year, and new camera features for that product debuting last week. It’s also another push by Facebook Inc. for live, a product the firm is now advertising.


Once it launches, it will be interesting to see how and where Instagram users use live video. But overall, the live video product and whether it is meant for just a slim amount of the population or broader group remains to be seen. Broadcast is, for many reasons, more complicated for users to create than something they can curate, like a photo, video, or story.

More: The Verge, Instagram

Google Releases Low End VR Headset Called Daydream

This week, Google released a pair of face goggles coupled with a controller called Daydream. Daydream is the company’s next step in VR, an upgrade on Cardboard intent on bringing better VR to more people. Daydream works with the new Pixel phone, and will likely work with phones from other producers shortly.


The product is certainly not as advanced as the high end products like the HTC Vive, Oculus, or PlayStation VR. But it is a low cost product that can be used for longer and in a more interactive fashion than Cardboard. In short, it’s going to get a better quality VR experience into more people’s hands.


Scale – it makes scaling VR experiences a simpler process, even if the quality isn’t particularly high. Whether it is something people actually want to buy is another story. Content and experiences still aren’t there, and that’s likely what will continue to inhibit its progress.

More: The Verge

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