This week, we learned that Amazon is not the only company that wants to use drones, that many people would love to see selfie sticks become obsolete, that Facebook "likes" may vanish, and that Google may bring us dirt-cheap wireless service. The big news -- we finally got to see what the Apple Watch looks like. The weird news -- a company hopes to market a wearable device that will tell people when to go to the bathroom, and researchers found that intellectually lazy people like to use search engines on their phones.
Drones For a Good Cause
Mark Zuckerberg will not rest until every human on the planet can connect to the Internet. The Facebook CEO told a crowd at the recent Mobile World Conference that his company's Internet.org initiative is forging local partnerships to bring free connectivity to Columbia, India, and four countries in Africa. Facebook will be using innovative technology -- possibly including satellites, drones, and lasers -- to deliver the free data in a cost-effective way.
The Internet.org site describes how Internet access will encourage people to create new inventions, let people share their unique knowledge and experiences, and enable small local business owners to sell to the world. Although the site doesn't mention it, Zuckerberg probably wouldn't be heartbroken if all these new Internet users decided to sign up for Facebook too.
Put Down That Selfie Stick!
Lots of people find selfie sticks annoying and even dangerous to everything in their vicinity -- innocent people, delicate objects, and other electronic equipment. Various museums and sports stadiums, along with the entire country of South Korea, have banned the cell phone-extending sticks. Now, the inventors of a new gadget called the Podo hope to make the selfie stick obsolete.
The Podo is a cute little camera that can stick to almost any flat surface, thanks to a special pad on the camera's back, which is filled with microscopic suction cups. Unlike tape, the pad's stickiness never wears off. The camera is adorable, tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand, with a simple design that comes in bright cheerful colors.
Response to the idea has been very positive. A Kickstarter campaign to manufacture the cameras has raised more than $187,000 so far, almost four times the original $50,000 goal. Selfie-stick hatred runs deep!
Love May Be Forever, But "Like" May Not Last
Facebook announced that it will soon be deleting some inactive accounts. When the accounts are removed, the "likes" that the accounts had bestowed will disappear as well. That means that some people and companies may find that the total number of "likes" they had received will go down.
Some teenagers (and insecure adults) may be crushed to find themselves less "liked" than before, but the hurt won't stop there. Companies that use "like" data to gauge their popularity may also find their "like" numbers declining. Facebook, however, says that the change is good for businesses because they will get more accurate information about who actually follows their pages.
Google Hopes to Save You Money
Google continues on its quest to extend its tentacles into every aspect of your life. Soon, it will unveil its own wireless service plan. which Slate thinks will be far cheaper than current mobile phone plans from the major carriers. It's a good bet that Google's plan will offer mostly Wi-Fi, with cellular service just as a backup, similar to the plans now being offered by FreedomPop and Republic Wireless.
Wi-Fi is much cheaper to provide than cellular service, so a Wi-Fi-centric plan can be offered at a price much lower than what most people are used to paying now, although users may face some trade-offs in lower call quality and some gaps in coverage.
Google's entrance into the wireless service business could be a game changer. Although it won't be the first company to offer a cheap Wi-Fi-centric plan, it will be by far the largest and, therefore, the most influential. Resistance, it hopes, will be futile.
Here's One Way to Spend the Money You'll Save on Google's Wireless Plan
The Apple Watch has finally been unveiled. Have you decided you want one? If so, you have plenty of time to think about which model, colors, and materials you want because pre-orders won't be accepted until April 10.
CNET found a site, mixyourwatch.com, that lets you play with different combinations of case materials and band colors. Or you could always look at the Apple store. Don't worry if the $10,000 gold watch is too rich for your blood. There are plenty of other great-looking choices starting at $349.
A Device That Tells You When to Go
On first hearing, this sounds really weird. A start-up company is creating a wearable device called the D Free that will monitor what is going on inside your intestines and tell you how much time you have left before you better start finding a toilet.
This sounds like something from a Saturday Night Live sketch satirizing the hype about the health-monitoring features of the Apple Watch, but the D Free could have useful real applications. The company says that it will help elderly people and people with disabilities who need extra time to get to a bathroom. So hold the toilet humor!
Smart Phones and Dumb People
A new study from the University of Waterloo found that smartphones have made people mentally lazy -- or perhaps it's that mentally lazy people are more drawn to using the devices. Either way, the problem arises when people reach for their phones to Google information rather than trying to remember things they already know or could figure out for themselves.
According to the study, people who are intuitive thinkers, who rely on gut feelings, are more likely to use their phones' search engines than analytical thinkers, defined as those who rely more on logic. Stories about the study did not indicate whether the researchers themselves were intuitive or analytical, whether they were smart or dumb, and whether they used search engines in their work or relied only on their memories.