Technology & Innovation
Virtual party apps keep users close amid social distancing
Public shutdowns have provided a boost for apps that connect people in real time. Netflix Party lets users host digital movie nights complete with friendly banter during the showing. And Houseparty — a hangout and chat app that’s been loosely integrated into blockbuster video game Fortnite — has taken off, securing more than 10 million users. It’s unclear whether such apps will retain their newfound cachet after public restrictions ease, but in recent years several seemingly niche social media apps have carved out stable, lasting market presences.
Steering the development of autonomous vehicles may be difficult
Self-driving-car technology is moving quickly, but it’s still a devilishly difficult problem to solve. Part of the challenge lies in the sheer scale of the project: The hardware doesn’t exist yet. Even when existing devices can be adapted, they have to be altered to withstand a freeway-speed jaunt on uneven highways. And advances necessitate time-consuming rounds of machine learning. The upside of all this? It’s likely that established players will have a lot of sway in how this technology eventually plays out.
Japanese school closures underline ‘telework’ opportunity
With a surprise announcement that it would close all schools for the month of March, Japan showed it was willing to take large steps to battle novel coronavirus. But the closures underlined the country’s limited adoption of work-from-home technologies. The Japanese government wants to nearly double the number of companies with “telework” options this year — an effort that might get renewed attention from working parents who had to figure out how to watch their children for a month.
The hard seltzer market could get awfully crowded
Tiny bubbles were the big stars at the 2020 Beer Industry Summit. Hard seltzers are a breakout hit with consumers, and several companies have launched, or will launch, their own sparkling drinks this year. The space has been dominated by private company White Claw, which is now competing against more-established rivals in the industry.