Tech Headlines of the Week: Bard to Gemini and $90M for Last-Mile Delivery

Once again, we saw a few common themes in this week’s tech news headlines, from AI chatbots and tech layoffs to deepfakes and subscription fatigue.

But Jack Dorsey returned with a message of hope and a mission to reshape social media through decentralization and user empowerment.

Here is this week’s tech news round-up. Enjoy your reading!

Key Takeaways

  • Google rebrands AI chatbot Bard to Gemini, introducing a premium tier.
  • Bluesky becomes publicly accessible, championing decentralization and user-driven content.
  • Microsoft’s Nadella pledges to train 2 million in India on AI technologies by 2025.
  • Starship Technologies raises $90M, advancing autonomous last-mile delivery solutions.

Goodbye Bard, Hello Gemini

Although Google has earned a reputation for axing products in recent years, this time, it’s killing a product name as the AI assistant Bard is replaced with the newly rebranded Gemini and dedicated mobile app.

Predictably, the best features will be available on a Gemini Advanced tier within Google One, priced at $20 monthly in the US, €22 across the European Union, and £19 in the UK.

Google Bard Is Now Gemini — What Does This Mean for the AI Market? (Techopedia)

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Twitter Alternative Bluesky is Open to Everyone

Bluesky, the decentralized social media platform spearheaded by Jack Dorsey, has officially ended its invite-only phase, welcoming all users to explore its innovative features.

Distinguished by its commitment to user autonomy and open-source development, Bluesky stands out with customizable feed algorithms and a novel “labeling service” for content moderation, reflecting a significant leap towards user-empowered social networking.

Bluesky aims to redefine social media dynamics by offering a seamless, user-centric experience by leveraging the AT Protocol for enhanced account portability and a federated network approach.

This pivotal move towards public accessibility underscores Bluesky’s potential to challenge existing social media paradigms and shape the future of digital communication.

Twitter spinout Bluesky ends the invite-only phase and opens its doors to all comers (The Register)

Ring Raises Prices of Its Doorbell Subscription

Just as Prime members get over the announcements of ads being added to its video service, Ring has revealed adjusting its financial model, a 25% hike in the cost of its most economical subscription plan.

Starting March 11, 2024, users must shell out $5 monthly or $50 annually to access recorded footage from their Ring video doorbells or security cameras.

However, please spare a thought for UK users who are outraged that the Amazon-owned company is raising the cost of its basic plan by 42%, elevating the annual fee from £34.99 to £49.99. As subscription fatigue sets in, maybe it’s time to question whether a doorbell subscription is a good idea.

Ring is raising the price of its cheapest subscription plans (The Verge)

Microsoft vs. FTC: The Truth About Activision Layoffs

As tech layoffs continue, Microsoft found itself refuting allegations from US regulators that it reneged on promises regarding job cuts following its acquisition of Activision Blizzard, marking the largest deal in gaming history.

Despite announcing 1,900 layoffs after the monumental $69 billion transaction, Microsoft maintains that these cuts were already in the pipeline, independent of its takeover.

Amidst these challenges, Microsoft and its gaming division, led by Phil Spencer, pledge to uphold their initial commitments, even as they prepare for significant strategic discussions about Xbox’s future.

Microsoft denies it went back on its word on job cuts (BBC)

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella Says ‘AI is Really in the Air Now’

In a week where Microsoft was hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, pledged to revolutionize the technological landscape with the ADVANTA(I)GE INDIA initiative.

The tech giant revealed plans to skill up to 2 million students, job seekers, and women in AI by 2025.

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella says ‘’AI is really in the air now is planning to train 2 million Gen Z in India with tech skills (Yahoo)

Can You Pass the AI or Real Quiz?

Do you think deepfakes are easy to spot?

BBC Bitesize invites its audience to take an AI or accurate quiz to test their skills and see if they can outsmart AI.

I managed to get 6 and 8 correct, but I think a certain amount of luck was involved in securing the correct answers.

The Monthly AI or Real Quiz: February 2024 (BBC Bitesize)

Can Apple Take Spatial Computing into the Mainstream?

Apple revealed that it expects to ship 350,000 Apple Vision Pro in the first year of launch. Despite predictions that the market will reach $280 billion by 2028, mainstream audiences still need to grasp precisely what spatial computing means.

Our comprehensive analysis addresses the high stakes of enterprise adoption, the technical and privacy challenges ahead, and the future of immersive technologies.

Can we pave the way for spatial computing to become as ubiquitous as the smartphone, or will barriers hinder its path to widespread acceptance?

The Challenges Apple Faces to Make Spatial Computing Mainstream (Techopedia)

The Myth of the 3 Million Smart Toothbrush Botnet

The cybersecurity community was abuzz with reports of three million smart toothbrushes allegedly commandeered for a DDoS attack in a tale that blurs the lines between reality and science fiction.

However, this intriguing narrative turned towards fiction as Fortinet clarified that the scenario was hypothetical, not based on actual events.

This story, while not true, is a stark reminder of the potential vulnerabilities in our increasingly interconnected world.

3 million intelligent toothbrushes were not used in a DDoS attack after all (ZDNET)

The Autonomous Robots Transforming Last-Mile Delivery

On a recent trip to Estonia, I was blown away by the dozens of robots performing deliveries. Passersby are so used to them that nobody even gives them a second glance.

This week, the Estonian tech pioneer Starship Technologies has successfully secured $90 million in funding to accelerate the deployment of its innovative delivery robots across Europe and the US, marking a significant leap toward integrating autonomous technology into daily life.

Known for their efficiency in navigating complex urban landscapes, these robots are at the forefront of revolutionizing the last-mile delivery sector by offering a seamless, on-demand service for food, groceries, and packages.

As they expand their global footprint and introduce features like wireless charging, Starship Technologies is on a mission to redefine how we think about delivery services, bringing a touch of science fiction to our streets.

Starship Technologies raises $90M to roll out delivery droids (TNW)

Why We Need To Talk About The Green Energy Problem

As the demand for renewable energy sources like solar and wind reaches new heights, the real challenge of efficiently storing and distributing the energy emerges.

With the US poised to double its battery storage capacity in 2024 nearly, and states like California and Texas at the forefront, we explore the innovative solutions and hurdles in creating a sustainable energy future.

From the environmental impact of lithium batteries to the potential of geothermal and clean hydrogen technologies, check out this in-depth look at the future of energy storage.

Why Green Energy Is Storing Up a Huge Problem (Techopedia)

The Bottom Line

The winds of change are blowing as we relentlessly march toward a future where technology aims to innovate, empower, and decentralize.

From Google’s strategic evolution with Gemini to Bluesky’s public debut to enhance user autonomy, reshape social media, and redefine our interaction with digital platforms.

It’s refreshing to hear a few tech for good stories.

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Neil C. Hughes

Neil is a freelance tech journalist with over two decades of IT experience. Celebrated as one of LinkedIn's Top Voices in technology and recognized by CIO Magazine and ZDNet for his influential insights, Neil has contributed to publications like INC, TNW, TechHQ, and Cybernews while also hosting the popular Tech Talks Daily Podcast.