Weekly Digital News Roundup: Oct 29 – Nov 2
With Google and Twitter still blocked in China, executives woo Beijing
- According to The LA Times, China’s Great Firewall is still blocking the services of Facebook, Google and Twitter, but that hasn’t stopped top brass from all three Silicon Valley firms from visiting Beijing in a span of less than 10 days, perhaps hoping to boost their business prospects on the mainland. Following in the footsteps of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, senior executives from Google and Twitter made appearances in Beijing on Monday, attending a technology conference hosted by San Francisco-based TechCrunch.
- When Google decided to abandon the Chinese search market because of censorship and hacking concerns and move its servers to Hong Kong in 2010, it kept about 500 employees on the mainland who are mainly responsible for selling Google’s ad services to Chinese companies looking to reach consumers overseas.
- Helping Chinese companies to “go out,” echoing the Chinese government’s campaign of promoting Chinese businesses globally, has been the business strategy for Facebook and Twitter as well. Numerous Chinese firms, including smartphone makers, airlines, the Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily and the official New China News Agency, have set up official accounts on both Facebook and Twitter — in English and Chinese — to reach out to audiences abroad.
“Circle With Disney” Is A New Device That Helps Families Manage Online Usage And Apps
- According to TechCrunch, parents looking to manage their children’s internet usage and screen time have a new option with today’s launch of Circle with Disney, a hardware device that works in conjunction with an iOS application that allows moms and dads to filter web content, set “bedtimes,” block ads, view insights and usage history, and even pause the internet entirely. In addition, the independent company has forged a partnership with Disney for use of its brand name and access to select, short-form Disney content, including trailers, video clips, games, social media postings, promos, and more.
- This content comes from across Disney’s properties, including Pixar, Star Wars, Disney Animation Studios, Vinylmation, and its Babble content network, and is available through the company’s MyCircle feature. This is essentially a personalized, web dashboard for each family member where you can view your own settings, usage and time limits as well as browse age-appropriate Disney content, including videos, music, games, GIFs, blog posts and more.
- The app will then provide defaults which are appropriate for those ages, which parents can customize further if they choose. In addition to the web filtering component, Circle can also block apps from working – if installed, the app could be opened, but not used. And parents can set time limits on web usage, or specifically by app or content category. They can also set a “bedtime,” which will disconnect all devices from the internet until the next morning. Parents can pause the internet, too, including pausing access for only a specific device. Call it the modern-day “time out.”
Soon, Gmail’s AI Could Reply to Your Email for You
- According to the Wired, ever wished your phone could automatically reply to your email messages? Well, Google just unveiled technology that’s at least moving in that direction. Using what’s called “deep learning”—a form of artificial intelligence that’s rapidly reinventing a wide range of online services—the company is beefing up its Inbox by Gmail app so that it can analyze the contents of an email and then suggest a few (very brief) responses. The idea is that you can rapidly respond to someone while on the go—without having to manually tap a fresh message into your smartphone keyboard.
- Dubbed Smart Reply, the system learns to generate appropriate replies by analyzing scads of email conversations from across Google’s Gmail service, the world’s most popular internet-based email system. A deep learning service feeds information into what’s called a neural network—a vast network of machines that approximates the web of neurons in the human brain—and this neural network analyzes the information in order to “learn” a particular task. By analyzing thousands of cat photos, for instance, a neural net can learn to identify a cat. By analyzing a database of spoken words, it can learn to recognize the commands you speak into your smartphone. In this case, the system learns to compose email replies by analyzing real-world email conversations.