Sadly, there's no Pulitzer Prize for clever intros, but there are ones for amazing journalism which our society so desperately needs — and here are this year's winners.
The Notre Dame cathedral on fire on Monday. Photo: Philippe Wang/Getty Images
As YouTube viewers Monday followed the latest news updates from the fire at Paris' Notre Dame cathedral, some saw a gray box at the bottom of their screens that had excerpts and links to encyclopedia articles on the 9/11 attacks.
The big picture: These "information panels" pop up automatically as part of a YouTube program aimed at combatting conspiracy-theory-style misinformation — but in this case they arguably promoted such theories instead, Axios' Scott Rosenberg reports.
Details: It's unclear why the information panel feature kicked in.
Our thought bubble: The way conspiracy thinking works, the very fact that YouTube briefly linked the two events and then deleted the information might just "prove" to some observers that something fishy was going on.
What they're saying:
"We are deeply saddened by the ongoing fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral. Last year, we launched information panels with links to third party sources like Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia for subjects subject to misinformation."
"These panels are triggered algorithmically and our systems sometimes make the wrong call. We are disabling these panels for live streams related to the fire."— YouTube spokesperson
Background: YouTube announced the information panel plan a year ago.
Between the lines: This incident underscores the fiendish difficulties big platforms still face when handling breaking news events, even after years of focus on combating misinformation.
The bottom line: Tech companies approach software as a game of incremental improvement. YouTube's information panels will doubtless work better at handling this particular problem tomorrow — but by then, there will be new problems.
Holodome. Photo: Ina Fried/Axios
The TED conference often serves as a preview for where the virtual reality industry is going. This year, it's all about entering immersive VR domes rather than strapping on a headset.
Why it matters: Destination VR, despite its promise, has struggled financially, with IMAX closing many of the locations it had opened. Paul Allen's company Vulcan is seeking new partners as it debuts new experiences for its Holodome.
The centerpiece of the dome movement is Holodome, which was a pet project of the late Microsoft co-founder.
My thought bubble: Both new exhibits do exactly what good VR should — that is, convincingly take you to a place you couldn't go, somewhere either inaccessible, like Everest, or unreal, as with Monet.
Details: The centerpiece of the technology is 4 very-high-resolution projectors.
Pros: It's a more social experience — you don't have to strap anything on. Unlike VR, which is usually limited to those 13 and over, Holodome itself is suitable for all ages.
Cons: While immersive, you don't feel quite as transported as in goggles-style VR given the hole for the projector and the fact you see shadows. Like other destination VRs, it's expensive, with units currently costing on the order of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The bottom line: Holodome is captivating, but translating such experiences to business success has proven tougher than expected. Vulcan is wise to be seeking partners to help it bring the technology to market.
Go deeper: Read my full story.
Arnav Kapur speaks during TED Fellows session at TED2019. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED
Over the years, TED has been home to a lot of impressive demos on ways to augment human senses or even add entirely new ones.
This year, TED fellow and MIT grad student Arnav Kapur showed another impressive merging of man and machine.
Why it matters: The technology could allow those who have lost the ability to speak to regain a voice while also opening up possibilities of new interfaces for general purpose computing.
The latest: At TED, Kapur demoed the latest iteration publicly for the first time and showed video of the technology allowing someone with ALS to speak a command for the first time since losing that ability.
How it works: Alter Ego doesn't read people's minds, but rather detects the speech signal being sent to the face from the brain.
What's next: While Alter Ego remains a research project for now, Kapur hopes the technology will be used both to help those who have lost the ability to speak (it has been tested with people with a range of conditions) and also to augment human capabilities more broadly.
Carole Cadwalladr, the U.K. journalist who first exposed the Cambridge Analytica scandal, used a TED talk yesterday to blame Facebook and other tech giants for nothing less than the undoing of Western democracy.
Why it matters: She called Britain and the Brexit vote the "canary in the coal mine" of what happens to democracy in the era of social media.
Details: Cadwalladr said she was using her talk to address the "gods of Silicon Valley."
What's next: Dorsey is set to be interviewed on stage today. TED curator Chris Anderson also added that there is an open invitation for Facebook's executives to join the TED stage this week.
Since allowing scooters back on its streets in October, San Francisco has found a mixed bag of results, Axios' Kia Kokalitcheva reports.
What's happening: While locks have greatly decreased complaints of sidewalk vehicle littering, the two companies with permits to operate have also signed up few customers to their low-income rider program.
Driving the news: Ahead of today's board of directors meeting, San Francisco’s transportation agency said on Monday that it will let Skip and Scoot each add 175 scooters if they each sign up 150 users for their low-income program.
By the numbers: The transportation agency also ran a survey, which found that 63% of scooter riders are white, 82% are male, and 68% have incomes over $100,000 annually. (A Skip spokesperson highlighted to Axios that the survey’s respondents may not fully represent the ridership’s demographics.)
Yes, but: The companies are still short on some of initiatives they pitched as part of their permit applications last year.
Go deeper: Read more of Kia's story here.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Microsoft is almost doubling its internal carbon tax that helps fund the company's sustainability work and is joining a Big Oil-backed group pushing for a federal emissions fee, Axios' Ben Geman writes.
Why it matters: These announcements arrive amid scrutiny of Big Tech's carbon footprint and work with oil companies.
What's next: Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a blog post that they will...
For a sense of scale, Microsoft said that last year it collected $20 million from the tax to pay for internal carbon neutrality work and fund grantees of its AI for Earth program.
What they're saying: Lucas Joppa, Microsoft's chief environmental officer, said there's huge potential in using AI and other advanced tech to help industries cut emissions.
Go deeper: Read Ben's full story here.
Ever wanted to make your own 10-pound giant Tootsie Roll? Here's how.