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Cathie Wood is CEO, CIO and founder of ARK Invest, a closely watched investment fund known for its prescient high risk, high reward strategy (Wood was early on Bitcoin and Tesla) and radical transparency (she explains her decisions to buy and sell in a public newsletter). ARK has had a wild ride in the last two years. Its flagship innovation ETF was up 150% in 2020, gaining Wood celebrity status, but has been down 38% in the past 12 months. Wood spoke with TIME about her long- and short-term predictions for the business world and what she has learned from her fund’s bumpy ride.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Typically, we lean into it, and this time is no exception. We tend to concentrate our portfolios towards our highest conviction names, during risk-off periods [times when most investors are selling off risky stocks and investing more safely] in particular. One of the reasons we do that is because in the traditional asset management world, portfolio managers and analysts tend to diversify during risk-off periods to get closer to their benchmarks. So typically, they will be selling our names and we will be waiting to buy them.
Well, we’re very excited about the five innovation platforms around which we have centered our research that are scaling exponentially. DNA sequencing, which we think is going to transform healthcare completely. Robotics is the second, especially adaptive robotics, which can work alongside human beings. Many people might worry about the impact of robotics on jobs, but as we’ve learned through this pandemic, there are major labor shortages, especially in the jobs that are very rote, which are perfect for robots. The third platform is energy storage. I wouldn’t have predicted that the coronavirus would trip the switch for electric vehicle demand. But you’ll notice electric vehicle sales have been taking off while gas powered vehicle sales have stalled. Then, our latest work is informing us that artificial intelligence training costs are dropping at a 60% rate per year. And whenever a cost for an important technology drops that quickly, we get a lot more of it. And then finally, blockchain technology. I think the latest development is in De-Fi, decentralized finance, which we think is going to take a lot of share from traditional financial services companies, and NFTs, non fungible tokens, which are really putting a lot of power back into the creator’s hands. It has been fascinating to watch NFTs proliferate this year, and we think they’re going to continue to do so in 2022.
Because of all the supply chain issues that we have been facing, businesses might have scrambled a little too much in the last six months, and I do think we’ll see some inventory issues next year. We’re seeing consumption growth in the U.S. has started to disappoint. Consumer sentiment, as measured by the University of Michigan, has dropped back to a level we last saw at the depths of the coronavirus. I think consumers are upset at inflation and are going to cut back a bit, especially now that their saving rate has dropped to 8%. And then in China, I think that the government’s actions are going to slow that economy down more than most economists anticipate. So I think there could be some cyclical concerns next year.
Well, in 2020 the coronavirus accelerated the pace of innovation and the pace of uptake of innovation. This year, we had the rotation into cyclical stock, meaning out of some of our technology-oriented stocks and into energy, financial services, materials and industrials. But we have a five-year investment time horizon, so we take all of this in stride.
If we were in a bubble, our strategy would be very strong and it hasn’t been. What I like about 2021 is the stock market didn’t continue to favor our strategy alone, it broadened. That does not characterize a bubble, which tends to favor a few groups of stocks. The other thing is that really strong bull markets that are not in bubbles tend to climb walls of worry. And we’re seeing a lot of worry. Many skeptics are saying that growth rate is going to continue to decelerate. We don’t think so. If you look at tech companies’ growth rates, yes, they were supercharged during the heart of the coronavirus. But for example, Zoom is still growing—it grew 35% in the last quarter, which is a very strong growth rate relative to the economy’s growth, which was less than 10%.
They said the same thing when we put out our original forecasts for Tesla and Bitcoin. They considered them very bold forecasts, and a setup for disappointment. And if anything, it’s been quite the opposite. We have to be very careful; when we mention any number, we’re referring to our highest conviction names across ARK’s innovation universe. We want to be very careful not to mention any specific funds, which from a compliance point of view, we cannot do. But we have research to support the numbers that I suggested. We have a high degree of confidence in it.
After the 2008-2009 market meltdown, the financial services industry lost a lot of trust. And we’re trying to be part of bringing trust back. We’re democratizing investing in innovation. Many times retail investors felt left out of some of the biggest opportunities, which seemed to only be in the private markets. One of the reasons I started ARK was because I saw such magnificent opportunities in the innovation space in the public equity markets. And they were priced much lower from a valuation point of view than they are in the private markets. The same is true now. We wanted to bring transparency and democratization into investing in innovation; we consider ourselves the closest you’ll find to a venture capital firm in the public equity markets.
I would ask the same thing about the people shorting our strategies. This is what makes a market. We’re all taking calculated risks. And there are all kinds of risks to take. Meme stocks are not our kind of stock. But I was watching the calculated risks that the people buying those stocks were taking. What they were doing was asking, ‘Hey, which stocks are the most shorted out there? Maybe those people are going to be wrong.’ That’s what makes a market now. We tend to base all our investment decisions on our research. Some people base their investment decisions on technicals. These individuals were simply taking a look at how incredibly shorted these stocks were, all by the same kind of hedge funds. I’m not going to criticize it.
I cannot tell you how many people have come up to us—even now after our strategies are down—and thank us because we were able to help them pay off their children’s education, or increase their quality of life. Those are some of the best days to be honest. I also think that allocating capital to innovation increases the probability of success, that this innovation will reach many more people. These technologies are going to scale, and as they scale, costs come down, enabling more and more people to access them. The most obvious one is the cell phone. There are billions of people in the world who have access to financial services over mobile phones that have never been able to tap into a bank. The President in El Salvador is giving $30 of Bitcoin to every eligible adult. And what we’ve seen there is that, roughly, whereas only 1.2 million people have access to financial services, 3 million people now have access to new banking services and new financial services, thanks to blockchain technology. So in my book, the more we can allocate capital to innovation, the better we can make people’s lives around the world.
I think our industry is a wonderful industry for women, if they can move into a situation where their performance is measured objectively. And the way to do that is, if possible, to move towards asset management positions—portfolio managers, but also to research analysts, their contributions can be measured objectively as well. I’ve been in the business for 44 years. I’ve seen this time and again, when we go through a bear market, a lot of women drop out. What you will see is both a husband and a wife with children are in the financial services industry when we hit a risk-off period and one of the spouses will say to the other, ‘Hey, honey, you know, your salary doesn’t even cover our childcare or wardrobes.’ And usually one drops out, more often than not the woman. If there’s a couple making that decision, I would ask them respectfully to just evaluate their partnership. They’re both in this together. As far as my own experience and advice, it has been: work hard, keep your head down, make your boss look brilliant. If your boss does not give you growth opportunities, I would then suggest leaving and getting into a [better] situation. Because I really do think our industry is fantastic for women.
That verse I read and bookmarked many, many times as I started our business, because this has been a walk of faith and an important one, and I was meant to do it. But when it comes to our investments, I set up the firm in order to focus exclusively on innovation. And I set up what I believe is the best research team when it comes to innovation in the world. Our faith, I suppose, was that we could attract people who would want to do this, because we have not hired, with a rare exception, anyone from the traditional financial services industry, except for [director of research] Brett [Winton] and me. The reason it’s worked is that it’s much easier to teach a biochemical engineer how to read financial statements than it is to teach an MBA biochemical engineering.
They know what they know. And they know what they don’t know. That’s the most important thing. The people who do not end up working well in our firms are those who think they have to know everything. That’s just not an honest or a realistic way of approaching our world. There are some people who are very academically oriented, who cannot take the day-to-day stress. And a few of those people have left ARK. Those who stay love the excitement of our industry, love trying to figure out where is the truth. What destresses it for those who choose to stay is our five-year investment time horizon, such that in a year like this year, they’ve not been ruffled at all. It has been keeping your eye on the prize; if we’re right, we are going to have very satisfied investors. In another firm, with our performance this year, my sense is the pressure would have been extreme. It has not been extreme at ARK because of that five year investment time horizon.
In 2021, I started a foundation focused on education through the lens of innovation. We are developing the curriculum, it will go into pilot test in the middle schools and St. Petersburg, Fl., Pinellas County, next fall, and then we hope to make it a part of the curriculum the following fall. We want to prove that innovation is the great leveler. My parents sacrificed everything they had to give us our education—they’re Irish immigrants—and I think I’m taking a leaf from their book and just saying, ‘Okay, how can I give back?’ I’m funding this completely right now.
We’re going to do this until it works. If we can, we’d love to roll this out throughout the country, if not the world, you know, because innovation does inspire people. That wow effect that I had when I studied economics is what we want to see in students. I was just in awe of Professor [Arthur] Laffer and how he understood the way the world worked and the problems that he was helping the world solve and I wanted to be a part of that. And there’s nothing like being an inspired student. I do think that’s linked to success long term.
Well, right now the run rate, just for this first year is a million dollars. And it’s going to scale significantly from there.
AI is based on data, which is historical. If the world is going to pivot and change away from that history, AI is going to have to adjust. So I think the human brain, in terms of a future-oriented strategy, will stay ahead of artificial intelligence for quite some time. Now, do I think that it could displace most of funds management at some point? I think the way our business got off track is they only considered quantitative strategies to be scalable, because you could put a computer on them, and then charge a fee. Well, those days are ending. That’s not how our business works. That’s not how it worked when I entered it, and it’s not the way it will work. I think that any position that involves human relationships—like handling people’s money, and especially high net worth wealth advisors—any relationship-driven job is going to be very difficult to displace, because in that relationship, many advisors are playing part psychologist. ‘Do I understand this individual’s risk profile? I need to get to know this person, because I need to understand how much risk this person is willing to take. And I need to be able to explain this to them consistently, and constantly.’ The more a position in the financial services industry is relationship-driven, the more secure that position will be.
We think a lot about that. That’s one of the reasons I’ve started this foundation. We want the educational system to get on the right side of change, so that there will be fewer people left out. Typically, innovation solves problems. And sometimes, as you say, they can create others. But typically, innovation is better, cheaper, faster, more creative, more productive. On the other hand, it does displace people. I think corporations will have no choice but to train people to do specific jobs and create specific certificates for specific jobs. I think the educational system is going to change dramatically given the amount of change that we’re going to see ahead. But I think also that the opportunities are so great, that if we do train people and retrain people and get them on the right side of change, their lives are going to be so much better than what otherwise would have been the case.
I think parents know, inherently, that the ground is shifting underneath them and their children. We give away our research, all of it. We want grandparents and parents to read our research and influence their children, even have their children tune into our webinars or podcast, or read our newsletters and, you know, even join our brainstorming sessions if they’re that interested. That’s one of the reasons we’re so open and transparent. We want to say, ‘Hey world. Look at what’s about to happen. It’s so exciting. But make sure you get and stay on the right side of change.’
Source: Tech – TIME | 17 Jan 2022 | 1:00 am
A version of this article was published in TIME’s newsletter Into the Metaverse. Subscribe for a weekly guide to the future of the Internet. You can find past issues of the newsletter here.
Over two thousand companies descended on Las Vegas last week for the annual tech exhibition CES, which is organized by the Consumer Technology Association. Given the way that the last year has gone you can probably guess the conference’s buzzword.
Hint: It was “metaverse.” Ina Fried, writing in Axios, joked that “Many CES observers suggested a drinking game in which keynote watchers took a shot every time the metaverse was mentioned—but that would have been a recipe for alcohol poisoning.” Nima Zeighami, who works in the immersive technology industry and was at the conference, posted an extremely entertaining and derisive Tweet thread chronicling all of the uses of the word “metaverse” on various ads and branding exercises.
In this thread I will post every ridiculous usage of metaverse I see at #CES.
— VR Nima (@NimaZeighami) January 5, 2022
While some of the uses of the term bordered on meaningless, there were also several pieces of technology to get genuinely excited about. (My colleague Patrick Lucas Austin also has a more general roundup here.) And for many at CES, the buzzword was simply an entry point into more specific and technical dialogues. “The concept of the metaverse is starting to pivot from just a hot topic into a way to have more informed conversations about these technologies: the difference between AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality), between digital twins and virtual objects,” Chris Stavros, the founder of the AR/VR platform Makesea who attended CES and spoke on a panel about education in virtual spaces, says.
Here were the announcements coming out of CES that caught my eye, for better or worse:
A full decade after Google announced Google Glass—eye glasses with built-in smart displays— smart glasses have yet to permeate mainstream culture in the slightest. But the public’s lack of interest isn’t stopping many companies from developing their own prototypes. The concept makes a lot of sense in the abstract: since we spend so much time looking at screens, why wouldn’t we want to transpose some of that information onto what we see in the real world? On the other hand, the idea of smart glasses poses a bevy of privacy and security risks. Such devices open the door to people being surveilled without their knowledge more easily. The technology could also be hacked or abused by stalkers.
Regardless, the Chinese electronics maker TCL unveiled smart glasses that enable you to take and share photos, navigate with GPS directions that are projected into your field of vision and set up a work display with multiple virtual monitors. Microsoft announced a partnership with Qualcomm to develop lightweight AR glasses. And smart contact lenses are coming, too. Mojo Vision is partnering with Adidas and other athletic-focused companies to develop contacts that provide real-time performance data, like your running pace or the upcoming turns on a ski slope. The company, however, is still awaiting FDA approval.
So when might you see people wearing smart glasses on the street? John Egan, the CEO of the tech analyst firm L’Atelier, told me last month he thinks it will still be quite a while. “If the utility of a product is very high, the aesthetic barrier is lowered, and vice versa,” he says. “Lensware and glassware have not reached the point where they have achieved an aesthetic value for which people will accept the low level of utility. That’s a chasm that it has to cross.”
VR (virtual reality) headsets, which completely cover your field of vision to transport you into 3D graphic worlds, have also been slow to take off. Personally, I’ve found wearing a headset disorienting and headache-inducing; I have a hard cap of how long I can wear the thing before my temples start throbbing. (It seems like many people are having better luck, though: Meta’s Oculus VR app was the most downloaded app at Christmas.)
And, a couple of new prototypes were announced at CES that could make VR even more mainstream. Playstation’s VR2 promises “new sensory features” and eye-tracking, which allows you to swivel your eyes to look to your left and right instead of turning your head. Panasonic, in contrast, is going for utility with its headset MeganeX, which weighs about half of Meta’s Oculus Quest 2.
To bridge the physical disorientation of spending time in virtual worlds, companies are developing projects that allow you to feel bodily sensations based on what’s happening inside the metaverse. The Spain-based startup Owo is hawking $450 haptic jackets that are meant to allow users to feel “a gunshot, the wind, someone grabbing your arm and even a hug from a loved one.” Shiftall, a subsidiary of Panasonic, has a bodysuit that makes you feel temperature changes via a sensor placed on the nape of the neck. These flourishes might seem trivial, but a recent study from the National Research Group found that a majority of consumers responded that a key draw of the metaverse would be its ability to “more closely resemble physical interactions.”
One of the main questions the general public had about NFTs last year was “how do you even look at them?” Well, Samsung thinks it has the answer: its new TV sets will be compatible with NFTs, so that you can view your Bored Apes and browse NFT marketplaces on a big screen. It’s not exactly high up on the list of things the world needs, but I bet plenty of newly wealthy NFT whales will buy them.
Few companies expressed as much enthusiasm at CES for metaverse-related developments than Hyundai Motor Company, who used a lot of lavish rhetoric to wax poetic about a lot of big, nebulous metaversian ideas. (I’d honestly love for someone to explain to me what metamobility is.) The company also announced a partnership with Unity to build digital twin factories; I wrote about the phenomenon in an earlier newsletter.
There were also a couple of metaverse-focused panels at CES, including “Learning in a Virtual World.” The panel may have lacked splashy announcements, but gave a solid overview of progress made in the space. Stavros, the founder of MakeSea, was one of the panelists; he’s excited about how MakeSea is starting to be used in K-12 education across disciplines. “One kid is doing drone scanning, another one is looking at skeletons and MRI scans. We’ve got a student who’s focused on architecture and modeling, and another kid that was working on a robotics project,” he says. “They’re learning how to use this technology as a universal communication tool.”
Source: Tech – TIME | 13 Jan 2022 | 10:41 pm
Between presentations launching new PC processors and candy-colored refrigerators at last week’s CES, companies at the annual tech industry jamboree made a lot of big, flashy proclamations about climate change, some more serious than others, and most seeming to include at least one stock video clip of trees, solar panels and children frolicking in grassy meadows or on pristine beaches.
General Motors unveiled a new zero-emission pickup truck and dropped hints about new EV models to come, while Panasonic, which calculated that it released 110 million tons of CO2 per year and accounted for 1% of global electricity consumption, reiterated a pledge to decarbonize its operations by 2030 and promised to make its products more efficient. LG—which has pledged carbon neutrality by 2030, and to use fully renewable power by 2050—rolled out glass-fronted refrigerators (to avoid wasting energy while you look inside) and washing machines that use AI to shorten wash cycles. Samsung, whose CO2 emissions actually rose in 2020, and which has faced controversy over its reliance on coal energy, offered promises like devices that would use less standby power, which some environmentalists criticized as greenwashing.
A version of this story first appeared in the Climate is Everything newsletter. To sign up, click here.
Two years ago, before globally reported climate disasters reached their current alarming level of constancy, it might have been possible for events like CES to barely mention climate change, or to give sustainability only the barest lip service. But in this year’s celebration of a sector responsible for up to 3% of all global emissions, many tech companies found that ignoring the world’s rising temperatures wasn’t a palatable option. Some companies, like Panasonic, characterized their efforts in sober terms. Others tried to walk a fine line, presenting themselves as being serious about climate change, while also characterizing a sustainable transition as a fun, exciting prospect for customers.
All throughout, the tech CEOs spoke about how components from phones can be recycled, televisions made using less energy, and remote controls forever freed from disposable batteries. As for the remaining emissions from the supply chains that manufacture those products—they’re working on it. The consumption paradigm needs a big overhaul, they said, but the basic premise is workable. In fact, buying their newer, smarter products is a great way you can help.
In a series of scripted videos, LG showed off energy efficient appliances as part of “the better life you deserve” with actors demonstrating uncanny appreciation for the products enabling their luxurious, connected lives—“Eco-friendly materials and packaging? I’m impressed!” Hisense, a Chinese television giant, said its new line of TVs were more energy-efficient than older models, and it would do its part to save the planet by selling more of them. Samsung CEO JH Han was even more blunt. “Sustainability,” he said, “can be part of your product experience.”
On a basic level, the climate messaging of CES was more or less consistent: that consumerism is compatible with climate action. In some respects, that makes sense. Some of these companies’ technologies, like EV battery cells supplied by LG and Samsung, are essential for the world’s green transition, and people have to buy the cars that use them to get gasoline vehicles off the roads. And it’s not as if we realistically should try to do without computers, phones, refrigerators and innumerable other essential products that these firms make. As long as we sometimes need new ones, their replacements certainly should be more energy-efficient than the older models.
But at the same time, there’s something that doesn’t quite match up between these tech companies’ climate pledges and their simultaneous announcements of endless new lines of gadgets and appliances—as if buying new smart speakers and robot vacuum cleaners every year is completely sustainable, as long as they come in recyclable packaging. In fact, those buying habits play a big part in our individual emissions, as my colleague Alana Semuels reported in a deep analysis of consumption habits last week. It’s not hard to see why tech companies are trying to marry consumerism and climate action anyway—they’re trying to sell their products and stay in business, after all. But the fact remains that a serious effort to address climate change may involve shared sacrifice. And no one at this year’s climate-tinged Consumer Electronic Show was much in the mood to mention that, to cut CO2 emissions, a good place to start might be for us to consume a bit less.
Source: Tech – TIME | 13 Jan 2022 | 5:13 am
During the COVID-19 pandemic, patients’ fears of getting infected in health care settings pushed many to use telehealth from the comfort of their own homes. That has come with some upsides. As telehealth has become more common, many providers and patients alike have appreciated the ease and convenience of doctors’ appointments from home, and it’s helped patients who have struggled to get access to healthcare—either because they live far from their provider, or due to a health condition that makes mobility difficult.
But remote appointments have made certain kinds of care and monitoring more difficult. Without touching a patient, for example, checking vital signs is more challenging.
Companies who exhibited their inventions at the 2022 tech convention CES are trying to fill that void. Their innovations are providing novel ways for patients to connect with health care providers while also gathering new sources of information about patient health. These data have the potential to give health care providers a more complete picture of their patient—and offer more personalized, and potentially better, care. Here are a few of the notable innovations at CES 2022 aiming to make telehealth more useful.
Abbott’s NeuroSphere Virtual Clinic app gives patients a platform where they can conduct video chats with their doctors and access treatments remotely. While a patient sits in their living room, their clinician can connect to their implanted medical device via WiFi and remotely conduct treatments for chronic pain and movement disorders like Parkinson’s disease, including spinal column stimulation, dorsal root ganglion therapy and deep brain stimulation therapy. The patient can also take their therapy into their own hands and access prescribed stimulation settings on their smartphone. The Virtual Clinic received U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval in March.
During Abbott’s demonstration of the tool at CES, Dr. Fiona Gupta, director of the Movement Disorders Outreach Program at Mount Sinai Health System and an assistant professor of neurology, said one of the advantages of the tool is that she can see how her patients are moving around the spaces where they’ll be the most: their own home. “They can show me how they are playing the piano, how they interact with their pets, and how they navigate their kitchens,” Gupta said. “This gives me the opportunity to personalize their deep brain stimulation and help them continue to do the things they love to do.”
Many new tools connecting patients with their health care providers require patients to interact with a device, but EarlySense InSight at Home only asks them to sleep in their own bed. The sensor, which is placed under a person’s mattress, collects data overnight about breathing patterns, heart rate and body movements, and flags issues like heart rate instability or respiratory rate depression. The sensor then uses algorithms and AI modeling to detect shifts in a patient’s health and uploads data into the Early Sense cloud, which can be integrated into patient care systems or dashboards. It’s expected to be broadly available during the second half of 2022.
Undergoing cancer treatment may never be easy, but the Jasper digital oncology platform aims to make it more organized. It enables patients to track their care regimen—by recording appointments, medications and symptoms—and connects them to support, including experts who can answer patients’ questions. Jasper can also connect patients to clinical care and case management by linking to biometric monitoring devices.
Some wearable devices are now not only able to record patients’ vital signs but also to transmit them straight to their doctors. Two of the new tools are the BioSticker and BioButton, produced by the company BioIntelliSense. The disposable, wearable devices can record information like skin temperature, respiratory rate and body position. The devices have been utilized during the COVID-19 pandemic; for instance, when University of Colorado Health first distributed Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine to health care workers, it used the BioButton to track patients’ vital signs to detect adverse reactions. The BioSticker is FDA approved.
Source: Tech – TIME | 12 Jan 2022 | 6:23 am
The European Parliament was given a one-month ultimatum to fix a privacy flaw that allowed lawmakers’ COVID-19 test data to be illegally sent to the U.S. via tracking cookies owned by Google and digital payments company Stripe Inc.
The assembly hired a company in 2020 to provide mass testing via a dedicated website for members and officials, but failed to comply with strict curbs on transatlantic data flows, the privacy watchdog in charge of E.U. institutions found.
From Sept. 30 to Nov. 20 of that year “during which the trackers remained on the website, personal data processed through them were transferred to the U.S., where both Stripe and Google LLC are located,” the European Data Protection Supervisor said in a Jan. 5 decision, which was posted online by privacy group Noyb on Tuesday.
The bloc’s top court in 2020 struck down an E.U.-approved tool for companies such as Meta Platforms Inc.’s Facebook and thousands of others to transfer data across the Atlantic, amid fears of potential U.S. surveillance. Privacy campaigner Max Schrems, who set up Noyb, was at the origin of the E.U. case, arguing that E.U. citizens’ data is at risk the moment it gets sent to the U.S.
The EDPS said in a statement that it trusts that the Parliament “will implement the necessary measure.”
Source: Tech – TIME | 12 Jan 2022 | 2:28 am
Facebook parent company Meta Platforms has delayed plans to bring employees back to the office, and will require those who do come back to have a booster shot to protect against Covid-19.
Employees are expected to return to the office on March 28, according to a company spokeswoman. Meta already announced last summer that it would require vaccinations for those going back in.
Meta employees can request to work remotely permanently, or can apply for an extension to continue working from home for an additional three to five months.
“We’re focused on making sure our employees continue to have choices about where they work given the current Covid-19 landscape,” said Janelle Gale, Meta’s vice president of human resources, in a statement. “We understand that the continued uncertainty makes this a difficult time to make decisions about where to work, so we’re giving more time to choose what works best for them.” Dow Jones earlier reported the extension.
Meta employees have been working remotely since March 2020, and multiple return-to-office plans have been delayed due to the continued prevalence of the coronavirus. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has leaned into the idea of remote work, and said in 2020 that he expect as much as 50% of Meta’s workforce to work remotely within the next five to 10 years.
—With assistance from Naomi Nix.
Source: Tech – TIME | 12 Jan 2022 | 1:02 am
When Reddit moderator asantos3 clicked on a thread inside the group r/Portugueses in December and found it full of racist comments, he wasn’t exactly surprised. The group is often home to nationalist and nativist rhetoric, and in this instance, users here were responding angrily to a new law that allowed increased freedom of movement between Portuguese-speaking countries including African nations like Mozambique and Angola. “Wonderful, more stupid Blacks to rob me in the street,” read one comment in Portuguese, which received 19 likes. “This Africanization of Portugal can only lead the country to a third-world backwardness,” read another.
So, asantos3, who moderates the much larger and more mainstream group r/Portugal, quickly sent a report to Reddit staffers with a link to the thread. Within minutes, he received an automated response: “After investigating, we’ve found that the reported content doesn’t violate Reddit’s Content Policy.”
The response was disappointing but predictable for asantos3, who has served as a volunteer content moderator for six years. As part of his duties, he deletes comments that contain racism, homophobia, sexism and other policy violations, and sends reports to Reddit about hate speech coming from smaller satellite groups like r/Portugeses. Asantos3 spoke on the condition that he would be identified only by his Reddit handle. He says his duties have led to him being doxxed—with personal details including his Instagram and LinkedIn profiles posted online— and threatened. And asantos3 says that the company itself has repeatedly ignored reports of harassment from him and other moderators. “We mostly stopped reporting stuff, because we don’t have feedback,” he says. “We have no idea if they read our reports, or if there are even Portuguese-speaking people in the company.”
Reddit’s problem is a global one, say current and former moderators. Indian subreddits like r/chodi and r/DesiMeta include Islamophobic posts and calls for the genocide of Muslims. In subreddits about China like r/sino and r/genzedong, users attack Uyghurs and promote violence against them. And members of r/Portugueses regularly traffic in anti-Black, anti-Roma and anti-immigrant sentiment.
“Anything outside the anglosphere is pretty much ignored, to be honest,” 11th Dimension, a former moderator of r/Portugal who stepped down from his role due to burnout, says. “It’s hard to convey to the company what’s racist and what’s not when the admins are so far from the details and the cultural differences.”
TIME spoke to 19 Reddit moderators around the world who shared similar stories and concerns about the San-Francisco-based company’s reluctance to control hate-speech in its non-English language forums. Nearly all of the moderators agreed to speak on the condition that their real names would not be published because they say they have received death threats and other attacks online for their work.
This all-volunteer corps of moderators, of which there are at least tens of thousands, is only growing in importance for the company. Reddit announced in December that it intends to make an initial public offering of stock in 2022. The company was recently valued at $10 billion, is one of the 25 most visited websites in the world according to multiple trackers and has made its international expansion a key aspect of its post-IPO growth strategy. But some of its most devoted users—its unpaid moderators—argue that while the company aims to be the “front page of the internet,” it has not invested in the infrastructure to combat vile content that is rife on many of its non-English language pages.
Reddit has acknowledged that its expansion to international markets makes policing its platform more difficult, and some moderators said the company has taken steps in recent months to correct the longstanding problems. “When we begin to open in non-English speaking countries, moderation does get more complex,” a Reddit spokesperson said in a statement to TIME. “We are investing now to build and hire for non-English capabilities and add support for more languages.”
These problems are not unique to Reddit. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have each struggled to contain hate speech and misinformation as they pushed into new markets around the world. Facebook groups and posts, for example, have been linked to real-world violence in India, the Philippines, Myanmar and other countries even as the platform spends billions of dollars a year on safety and security. This year, other Silicon Valley companies will be watching closely as Reddit embarks on a precarious balancing act: to gain legitimacy and generate revenue while retaining its freewheeling, decentralized structure. Can the company preserve free speech while protecting its users? And will its model of running a lean operation with few paid staffers allow it to adapt to the responsibilities of hosting growing, diverse communities around the world?
Many moderators and analysts are skeptical. “Reddit has very little incentive to do anything about problems [in subreddits] because they see them as a self-governing problem,” Adrienne Massanari, an associate professor at American University who has been studying Reddit for years and wrote a book on its communities, says. “They’re creating a very successful business model in pushing work to moderators and users, who have to be exposed to horrific stuff.”
Reddit, founded in 2005, is essentially a messaging board, but it could be compared to a high school extracurriculars fair. The site comprises hundreds of self-contained forums arranged by varied interests, from sports to makeup to art to pets. While many of these subreddits are innocuous, it’s no secret that Reddit has long been a haven for unseemly behavior. Reddit CEO, Steve Huffman, even explicitly stated in 2018 that racism was not against Reddit’s rules, elaborating that “on Reddit there will be people with beliefs different from your own, sometimes extremely so.”
However, over the two years—following intense criticism rained down on the company over its hate speech and harassment policies, including in the wake of the murder of George Floyd—the company backed away from its original hands-off ethos and has been hard at work to clean up its communities and clamp down on noxious, racist behavior. Toxic communities like r/The_Donald have been banned; AI-powered tools aimed at curbing hate speech and abuse have been rolled out; backchannels between moderators and company employees have been established.
But many non-English moderators say that cleanup has not extended to the pages they monitor. R/India is one of the largest national subreddits, with 693,000 members. There, users will typically find a fairly tame mix of news links, memes and local photos. That’s partly down to the hard work of unpaid moderators to remove Islamophic content. A group of five r/India moderators, speaking to TIME over a Zoom call, say they can spend several hours a day actively responding to queries, removing hate speech and banning rogue accounts. (Old moderators approve the applications of new ones; the primary draws of the gig, according to moderators, are community-building and the ability to help shape a discourse.)
One moderator for r/India has served in his role since 2011, when there was a more laissez-faire approach. Moderators soon realized that a hands-off moderation style “wasn’t working because it allowed the worst people to dominate the conversations,” he says. “There would be lots of people just saying things like ‘Muslims need to die.’”
When moderators began to block these users, some would simply return with a new account and taunt them, creating an endless game of whack-a-mole. Moderators say they saw other users instead start or join offshoot groups that allowed more controversial posts.
The largest of those r/India offshoots currently is r/Chodi, which was created in 2019 and has 90,000 members who create hundreds of posts a day. R/Chodi—which translates as a crude slang in Hindi—contains ample examples of far-right Hindu nationalism that often spills over into hate speech and sectarian bigotry. Dozens of posts a week denigrate Islam, often depicting Muslims as ignorant, violent or incestuous.
“Poorer, dumber, breeding like rats. They’ve got it all,” one post says about Muslims in India, which is still online. “India needs to eliminate them before they rise up,” read another, which has since been deleted. (R/Chodi’s increased popularity has coincided with a steep rise in religious hate crimes in India.)
As r/Chodi has faced criticism from communities like r/AgainstHateSpeech, the group’s own moderators have made efforts to halt the most overt examples of hate speech, including creating a list of banned words. But r/Chodi posters have simply turned to code words and increasingly slippery rhetoric, to get around the moderators and Reddit’s AI-driven natural language processing techniques, according to r/India moderators. Muslims are referred to using coded language such as “Abduls,” “Mull@s,” “K2as,” or, derisively, “Peace loving” people. Christians are referred to as “Xtians”; while Pakistan is called “Porkistan.”
Reddit said in a statement that automation and machine learning “help moderators remove 99% of reported hateful content.” But, studies have shown that AI is far less powerful when working outside the language it was designed in.
The moderators who spoke with TIME say they have tried to flag these alternative slurs to the Reddit administrators, paid employees who are largely based in the U.S., but have been mostly ignored.
“I have tried to report these comments 20 or 30 times, easily,” a second r/India moderator says. “I’ve tried to collate these slurs and send them the translations, but it was never even replied to.”
In a statement responding to the moderator’s claim, Reddit wrote that “harassment, bullying, and threats of violence or content that promotes hate based on identity or vulnerability” are prohibited on the platform and that they “review and work with communities that may engage in such behavior, including the subreddit in question.”
Extremists around the world use code words in a way similar to the users of r/Chodi. The user DubTeeDub—who moderates r/AgainstHateSubreddits and wrote a widely shared open letter last year excoriating racism on the platform and demanding change—says that Reddit’s administrators have failed to keep up with racists’ constantly evolving dog whistles, such as Neo-Nazis putting Jewish names in triple parentheses to signal their identity.
“It’s very clearly a white supremacist symbol, but the admins will just say, ‘that seems fine to me,’ and they’ll ignore it,” DubTeeDub, says.
But the moderators of r/India feel that Reddit is not only allowing hate speech to spread on r/Chodi and other similar groups, but actively pushing users toward the group. They have found posts from r/Chodi within r/India itself, algorithmically suggested as “posts you may like” and giving the subreddit a veneer of tacit official approval.
“These are very hateful subs, and we don’t want our subscribers going there,” a second r/India moderator says. “They can discover them on their own, but that should not be happening from inside our sub.”
The fraught interplay between r/India and r/Chodi is emblematic of cat-and-mouse games playing out in subreddits in other parts of the world, especially as far-right political groups amass power in many countries and gain legions of followers.
In Portugal, r/Portugueses (6,900 members) is filled with anti-Roma and anti-Semitic rhetoric, homophobia, and racist depictions of Africans. “How is it possible for someone to want to see a place like this full of Africans, Brazilians, Indians and I don’t know what else?” posted one commenter alongside an idyllic illustration of a Portuguese town.
Concerned moderators have attempted to report these posts and, in turn, become targets of abuse. One of the most common tactics is for zealous users to band together and report moderators for invented reasons in an effort to get them suspended or banned by unsuspecting admins. DubTeeDub says these types of tactics have led to his suspension at least seven times.
But the attacks often turn much more personal and vicious, as trolls dig up moderators’ personal information. Asantos3, the r/Portugal moderator, says he’s been stalked across LinkedIn and Instagram. One user offered Bitcoin to anyone who could find out his address. “It’s so weird, but some of these actions are so common that we kind of ignore them now,” he says.
In Brazil, a São Paulo-based student and r/Brasil moderator who gave his name as Tet said he was threatened and doxxed when he and other moderators tried to crack down on the hate speech on r/Brasilivre (176,000 members), on which users post transphobia, anti-Black racism and homophobic slurs. “Stay smart because we’re watching you. Don’t think I’m the only one,” wrote one commenter in Portuguese. “I will find each one of you and kill you slowly.” Another user posted Tet’s address and personal Facebook account, writing, “Just let the hate flow and f— with them… bring trouble to their lives.” Neither of those posters have active accounts anymore, and Tet has since stopped moderating the subreddit partly due to burnout.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that there’s a high level of fatigue among moderators, who are often forced to see the worst aspects of Reddit on a daily basis. One r/India moderator tells TIME that women are especially vulnerable to harassment. “I know female mods are regularly hounded, targeted, not given space: it’s not a place to identify as a woman,” he says.
Many other social media platforms are struggling to balance free speech ideals with the aggressive spread of hate speech and misinformation on their platforms.
This fall, documents released by the whistleblower Frances Haugen showed that Facebook deprioritized efforts to curtail misinformation. In July, Black soccer players for England’s national team received torrents of racist abuse on Facebook and Twitter following the Euro 2021 Championship final, provoking British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to demand “the urgent need for action” from social media companies. In India, Facebook allowed Hindu extremists to operate openly on its platform for months, despite being banned by the platform.
Facebook, in response to criticism, has pledged to bolster its safety team and resources: it has 40,000 employees working on safety and security alone. Reddit, similarly, is pledging to ramp up its efforts, although its team is skeletal in comparison. Over the last year, the company has expanded its workforce from 700 to 1,300.
A Reddit spokesperson said that the company opened offices in Canada, the U.K., Australia and Germany, and would “continue to expand to other countries” in an effort to get closer to their global communities. Reddit created a Mod Council to receive feedback from moderators last year. It is also testing a new feature to give users more advanced blocking capabilities to limit the mobilizing power of extremists, harassers and bigots. In October 2021, the company posted a statement laying out statistics about its efforts toward “internationalizing safety,” and wrote, “The data largely shows that our content moderation is scaling and that international communities show healthy levels of reporting and moderation.”
Many Reddit moderators feel the site’s system of using volunteer moderators is less healthy than the company suggests. “There are a lot of people who just move on,” Jonathan Deans, a Scotland-based moderator of r/worldnews, says. “They’re like, ‘I’m sick of doing this. We just remove hateful comments all day, and what do we get out of it? Not really anything.”
Massanari, the American University professor, argues that Reddit’s problems will continue to worsen without a concerted internal effort. “Reddit’s defense has been, ‘If you ignore these spaces, they’ll go away,’” she says. “But the scholars and experts who have researched extremism and hate speech for years have clearly said that the more you allow that stuff to continue, you get more and more extreme versions of it.”
“We take safety extremely seriously and are committed to continuously enhancing our policies and processes to ensure the safety of users and moderators on our platform,” Reddit said in a statement. “We are seeing some improvements in the prevalence of hateful content as a result of our efforts, and we will continue to invest in our safety capabilities as well as moderator tools and resources.”
Ellen Pao, the former interim chief executive of Reddit and current CEO of Project Include, agrees that the company’s unpaid moderation model has severe limits. When she led the company in between 2014 and 2015, Pao made it a priority to take down revenge porn and unauthorized nude photos and to ban toxic communities like the fat-shaming community r/fatpeoplehate, which spurred a huge backlash from many of Reddit’s most active users. Pao says that Silicon Valley has historically sidelined efforts like these in favor of their bottom lines.
“You have these platforms that were founded by white men, who do not experience the same levels of toxicity, harassment and harm themselves, so they don’t see or understand these problems and let them fester,” she says. “It’s something they’ve been able to ignore for a long time.”
Pao says that hiring more people whose jobs involve confronting these issues is the first step. “If you really care about your users, and if you really want to prevent harassment and harm, then why wouldn’t you take on those roles yourself?” she says.
Back in Portugal, the moderator asantos3 is still spending his free time trying to clean up Portuguese-language subreddits. After receiving the automated message about the racist thread, he sent a frustrated note with more details to the Reddit’s staff administrators. This time, an admin wrote back—a rare occurrence in itself. But the note only reinforced the gap between him and the company: “I think some things may be getting lost in the translations here but am happy to take another look,” the admin wrote. “It would also help if you were able to explain a bit more directly how the linked article promotes hate.”
Asantos3 responded with some details, and reported a few more comments in the thread, which asserted that the influx of Portuguese-speaking Africans would lead to “population replacement and genocide,” “kidnap and rape,” and “violent possessive monkey rage.” But he received the same automated brush-off and never heard back from a human. The whole thread, as of publication, is still online.
“I’m feeling frustrated,” he said. “I guess it doesn’t matter at all.”
Source: Tech – TIME | 11 Jan 2022 | 1:57 pm
Take-Two Interactive, maker of “Grand Theft Auto” and “Red Dead Redemption,” is buying Zynga, maker of “FarmVille” and “Words With Friends,” in a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $12.7 billion.
The acquisition announced Monday would wed a powerhouse in console gaming, Take-Two, with a mobile gaming company with an almost cult-like following.
Zynga shareholders will receive $3.50 in cash and $6.36 in shares of Take-Two common stock for each share of Zynga outstanding stock at closing. The transaction is valued at $9.86 per share of Zynga common stock.
“This strategic combination brings together our best-in-class console and PC franchises, with a market-leading, diversified mobile publishing platform that has a rich history of innovation and creativity,” Take-Two Chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick said in a prepared statement. He will retain those roles when the companies become one.
Take-Two anticipates the deal will help bring about mobile versions of some of its console and personal computer based games.
Take-Two said Monday it anticipates approximately $100 million in annual cost savings within the first two years after the transaction is complete.
Zynga CEO Frank Gibeau and its president of publishing, Bernard Kim, will oversee the integration and day-to-day operations of the combined Zynga and T2 Mobile Games business, which will operate under the Zynga brand as its own label within the Take-Two.
Take-Two will also expand its board to 10 members upon closing, adding two members from Zynga’s board.
The transaction includes a go-shop provision, giving Zynga 45 days to hear alternative proposals.
The deal is expected to close during the first quarter of Take-Two’s fiscal 2023, ending June 30. It still needs approval of both Take-Two and Zynga stockholders. It has received approval from both companies’ boards.
Shares of Zynga Inc., based in San Francisco, jumped 52.5% to $9.15. Shares of Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., based in New York City, fell 8.7% to $150.25.
Source: Tech – TIME | 11 Jan 2022 | 6:43 am
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PayPal’s CEO and president did not learn his most important business lesson in the C-suite of the $215-billion fintech platform, which he has led since 2014; nor in his previous top jobs at T-Mobile, Sprint, Virgin Mobile or Priceline. In his mind, it came from Krav Maga, the Israeli martial art, which he learned as a teenager and, at 63, still practices every day: “If you stand still, you’re asking to be hit,” Dan Schulman says. Introducing the new season of his podcast (called “Never Stand Still”) he says, “You have to stay in motion to thrive and be competitive. I’ve applied that lesson throughout my career, not just to business, but in life.”
Schulman’s industry is in rapid motion these days: The new technologies of distributed finance and cryptocurrency are radically reshaping people’s behavior, and prompting central banks to scramble to adapt. PayPal itself lagged in embracing crypto, but in April 2021 it began offering digital currencies for all payments. Now Schulman is convinced that crypto will dramatically change people’s financial lives for the better.
Dating from a time when financial executives were far less likely to reveal their opinions, Schulman has not been shy in stating his, about everything from discriminatory bank practices and wealth inequities. That, he says, has meant putting his views into reality in the way he leads PayPal. In 2019 he raised wages and cut health-care costs for lower-pay employees.
Schulman agreed to sit still long enough for a Zoom interview in December. He spoke with TIME’s Vivienne Walt about how his very public commitments to social justice mesh with the way he leads PayPal’s 26,500 employees.
(These answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.)
I think that companies have an obligation and the CEOs who run those companies have an obligation to stand up and address the societal issues that are around us. You can’t have values on a wall without acting on them. Otherwise, it’s just propaganda and employees, and customers and share holders see through that.
For me, it was like the second or third week coming in [as PayPal CEO] and saying, ‘Do we pay equally across gender and ethnicity?’ Of course the answer was no. We finally got the study back, they were like, ‘Do you want to take three years to address that inequality?’ And I was like, ‘How about we do it next week?’
Then, North Carolina passed the bathroom bill. [In 2016, the state banned schoolkids from using bathrooms for genders different from their birth certificates.] I felt it was a bill that allowed for discrimination. We had just announced a huge deal with the Governor of North Carolina to establish a 600-person operation center. Once I heard that, I walked down the hallway and said to our corporate communications, ‘We’re going to pull out of North Carolina, and within a week.’
I look at it not just externally, but internally. Are we driving financial health for our employees? My view of this is, we’ve gone from talking about employees’ physical health, to their mental health, to now their financial health.
So I’ve created internal metrics to measure the financial health of our employees, not just kind of talk about it, not try and increase our minimum wage, but how much net disposable income do they have, after they pay all of their taxes and essential living expenses? We feel it needs to be a minimum of 20% for people to feel financially healthy. And when we did our initial study that ranged between 4% and 6%. And so we invested tremendously in our own employees, because that was consistent with the values that we have.
It’s expensive to be poor. The less money you have, the more it costs you to do basic transactions. If you want to cash a check, and you’re part of the banking system, it’s simple and easy. It’s usually free of charge. But if you’re outside the system, you need to stand in line waiting at a cash checking location, and pay. You’re waiting in line, you’re losing money on every transaction, and then if you want to pay a bill, you need to stand in line again, and pay a transaction fee to pay your bills. This is the kind of system we have today.
In the U.S., people who are outside the banking system spend about $140 billion on unnecessary fees and high interest rates to complete basic transactions. Think about that amount of money going to those populations that most need it.
The underlying infrastructure of the financial system today is quite antiquated. If I cash a check, it can take three days for me to get that money. If I do an international remittance, the receiving party may not get that for a week to 10 days. Why is that so important? Because those who have less income, usually their expenses are not greater than their revenues coming in. Getting money efficiently and quickly is essential for so much of our world’s population.
There’s a solution to this issue. It’s rooted in technology, and it’s why PayPal wants to do what we call ‘democratize financial access,’ which is a fancy way of saying that managing and moving money should be a right for everybody, not a privilege for just the affluent.
If you send an international remittance to somebody, it doesn’t matter if it’s to Mexico or India, it can cost $8 for every $100. If you do that from one digital wallet to another digital wallet, it can cost under $2, and you have access to your money instantaneously. That’s a 6% savings. Multiply that on an industry level of international remittances, that’s $635 billion dollars. Just think about how much more money can go to those who absolutely need this.
No, you can use PayPal by putting cash in a retail store. If you want to do a transaction, we can create a virtual card. People are doing that, quite a number of them. You just go in and give cash to a cashier. Instead of giving it to a bank, you give it to a cashier. Your mobile phone has all the power of bank branches in your hand. There’s an ability to bring more people into the system and create a more inclusive system with lower costs, and the ability to access your money quickly. I think it’s essential and possible.
We need to modernize so we can get a payment instantaneously. If I send a digital wallet to digital wallet transaction, you get that money instantaneously, I could send you a PayPal transaction, and you will get it in less than two seconds. You have it in your wallet to spend. It’s remarkable.
The other thing is, if we can do away with some of the intermediaries in the system, we can probably lower the cost as well. And so the promise of this new technology is that it can be more inclusive, it can lower the costs of basic transactions, it could speed the time to get your money, make the system more efficient, and bring in more people. That is why we established a full business unit around blockchain technology and digital currencies. It’s why we are working with central banks and governments around the world to help shape what a future might look like that that’s more inclusive.
About 80% of the world’s central banks have some kind of studies or limited experiments underway. There’s clearly an understanding that the world is moving more and more to digital forms of payments. Central banks are looking towards all forms of digital currencies, for efficiency sake and lower costs, but also, the digital economy is upon us now. And clearly the pandemic accelerated that.
Many people have forecasted the death of cash and been wrong, and I don’t want to be another in that long list! But everyone has a smartphone. It is becoming ubiquitous, and wireless connectivity is becoming more and more ubiquitous. The ability to leapfrog into the next generation of payments, that’s more efficient, faster, with less cost, is something governments are eagerly looking at. It just makes sense for them to do that for their citizens.
What we wanted to do with crypto was that you could easily use it at any of our 33 million merchants around the world. We know that merchants around the world do not accept cryptocurrencies. So what we did is we allowed consumers to instantaneously translate that cryptocurrency and sell it in into fiat currency to pay for that transaction. And so really what we were doing is enabling your crypto on your PayPal wallet to be used as easily as a credit card or debit card or your cash balance. That’s enabled quite a number of people to make transactions on it. And some use it some keep their cryptocurrency as an investment. Whatever they want to do is great with us.
My view of this is that profit and purpose are fully linked together. The only way to become a great company over time is to have the very best people, and over 90% of employees say that they want to work at companies that have a purpose. If you don’t have a purpose as a company, you will never attract the very best talent. And if you don’t have the very best talent, you will never be a great company. We can’t be about just maximizing profit next quarter. I am beginning to see more and more of our shareholders embrace that concept.
Source: Tech – TIME | 10 Jan 2022 | 1:00 am
As COVID-19 cases continue rising due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, this year’s CES was once again different from years past—some in-person events went on as planned in Las Vegas, but several big names in the tech world, like Google, Intel and Microsoft, took their announcements virtual instead.
Still, that doesn’t mean CES 2022 was without its share of high-tech splendor. Those who did show up in person—or logged on to the virtual announcements—were treated to innovations ranging from BMW’s color-changing SUV to Razer’s cutting-edge modular PC concept.
Here’s TIME’s Best of CES 2022:
With a trick that looks right out of a James Bond movie, German automaker BMW’s new electric iX Flow uses e-ink technology to completely change its color scheme from black to white and anywhere in between; it can also showcase complex patterns and designs. While the IX Flow’s color options are limited to the same grayscale gamut you’ll find on your e-ink reader, the tech has benefits beyond the cosmetic: on a hot day, drivers could reduce the car’s interior temperature by switching from black to a more reflective white option.
Sure, mesh network routers are the new media darling when it comes to home internet, but have you considered a router that literally moves its antennae to give you the best signal? Looking like a gadget from a Christopher Nolan film, all four of the antennae on TP-Link’s new AXE200 router move based on whichever position offers users the best signal. It’s a great idea in theory, and we’re eager to test its real-world performance.
The AXE200 is packing some serious networking heat, too. It’s tri-band (supporting 5GHz, 2.4GHz, and 6GHz), and can be dropped into a compatible mesh network. It also features Wi-Fi 6E, the newest Wi-Fi Alliance standard, meaning the AXE200 Omni can boost speeds and reduce latency for supported devices.
This CES, Sony is reviving a cult favorite among gamers: the PlayStation VR platform. Built for the PlayStation 5, Sony’s new PlayStation VR2 headset and Sense controller will take advantage of the new console’s processing power to provide a more high-resolution experience compared to the previous model. The new headset is full of high-end features, like a 4K OLED HDR display and eye tracking for improved realism. Sony’s new Sense VR controllers, meanwhile, offer more tracking fidelity without needing a camera pointed at gamers, similar to the controllers found on Facebook’s Oculus Quest 2 VR headset (though Sony says the PlayStation VR2 will require a cable).
A desk with embedded modular components, Razer’s new cutting-edge Project Sophia PC concept would allow users to swap parts and modules like displays, USB hubs or wireless chargers. It’s not the first time the company’s tried to make the PC more modular—last year, it showed off a more practical design using Intel’s miniature NUC, essentially a tiny CPU and motherboard combo. And its 2014 PC concept, Project Christine, gave us a glimpse at a possible PC future that made upgrading major components as easy as changing a roll of toilet paper.
Does that mean you’ll be getting a cutting-edge modular PC anytime soon? Well, no, this is only a concept for now. But when it comes to the envelope-pushing spirit of CES, Razer always delivers.
If you’ve been hoping for a relatively affordable, no-sacrifices electric vehicle, General Motors has you covered. This CES, the company announced a trio of all-electric vehicles with similar looks and range as their gasoline counterparts: the electric Chevy Silverado pickup truck, along with the Chevy Equinox and Blazer, two electric SUVs set to arrive in 2023.
The best part? The prices. The Equinox will cost around $30,000—not the cheapest car, of course, but an affordable electric model rivaling more expensive options like Tesla’s Model X and Ford’s Mustang Mach-E. It’s also not bad to look at, which could spur further adoption.
Is it a tablet? A laptop? A big folding Netflix screen? No matter how you slice (or bend) it, Asus and its Zenbook 17 Fold OLED is upping the cool factor when it comes to laptop design. It’s not the first folding laptop we’ve seen, but it might be the first with a screen that makes us actually want to use one—its 17.3-inch display is all OLED, meaning vivid colors and great contrast. With the folding Zenbook and its travel case, it’s easy to carry around a screen bigger than some desktop monitors, while the detachable keyboard make it a productivity porterhouse, too, giving you a great desktop-like experience almost anywhere.
Nvidia, the chipmaker whose cards power everything from gaming consoles to self-driving cars, used CES 2022 to introduce the next iteration of its consumer-friendly graphics cards. The RTX 3050, relatively affordable at $249, fill a major gap in Nvidia’s lineup, and makes cutting-edge graphics technology like ray tracing more accessible to those who can’t fork over more than twice that amount for top-of-the-line cards. These cheaper cards should also help gamers and PC builders actually find stock in an era when graphics cards keep getting snatched up by cryptocurrency miners who use them to get valuable digital coins like Bitcoin and Ether.
NFTs—essentially digital art bought and sold on the blockchain—are all the rage these days. But how do you display them in the real world? Samsung has an answer in the form of its latest TV lineup, which will come installed with an NFT browser allowing users to comb through various pieces up for sale, which they can then choose to buy and display.
LG just keeps pushing the envelope when it comes to televisions. With its new OLED EX models, the company has found a way to use deuterium—also called “heavy water”—to improve its OLED technology, improving brightness and picture quality while keeping energy consumption low.
Anker, the company that makes every accessory you could possibly need for your 21st-century life, is back with an upgrade to its much-lauded projector line. And it couldn’t have come at a better time, because the Nebula Cosmos Laser 4K projector might be perfect for everyone who never wants to sit inside a movie theater again. The 4K projector features 2,400 lumens of brightness, so movie night doesn’t have to start at the witching hour, and the built-in 30-watt speakers mean you don’t need extra sound gear. The projector also runs a version of Android, so you can simply install the streaming services you want right on the projector itself. At $2,200, it isn’t cheap, but since when has a good projector been cheap?
Source: Tech – TIME | 8 Jan 2022 | 7:55 am