There was an understandable amount of skepticism when Amazon announced its grand plans for delivery drones last year. But if the last twelve months are any indication, Jeff Bezos and his fellow tech heavyweights are actually kinda serious about the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles. Speaking at the Social Good Summit in New York on Monday, engineering director at Facebook Connectivity Lab, Yael Maguire, has further detailed the company’s vision of internet-carrying drones, with plans to begin testing in 2015.
Mark Zuckerberg unveiled Facebook’s Connectivity Lab and its partnership with the Internet.org project in March this year. The initiative ultimately seeks to use solar-powered UAVs to beam internet down to the two thirds of the global population who aren’t yet connected. But to achieve this, Facebook’s Connectivity Lab and other Internet.org partners must first develop solar-powered aircraft with the ability to fly at high altitudes for long periods of time.
There was word of Facebook snapping up Titan Aerospace, a drone company whose unmanned aerial vehicles are designed to fly for five years at a time. These plans were short-lived, however, with Google reportedly topping Facebook’s offer and leading Zuckerberg to instead acquire Ascenta, a UK-based company also working away at solar-powered UAVs. With these tech giants jostling for position, Facebook has been tight-lipped on its progress so far.
Maguire, in conversation with Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore, likened the vehicles to planes rather than drones, a word that does carry some negative connotations. He says the aircraft would be around the size of a commercial aircraft – about six or seven times the length of a Toyota Prius, while weighing the same as just four tires.
“In order for us to fly these planes — unmanned planes that have to fly for months, or perhaps years at a time — we actually have to fly above the weather, above all airspace,” Maguire said. “That’s between 60,000 and 90,000 feet. Routinely, planes don’t fly there, and certainly not drones.”
These altitudes would put Facebook’s UAVs in the same space as Google’s Project Loon, a fleet of internet-enabled balloons also designed to provide connectivity to remote areas. Coincidentally, whether it be the all-embracing forces of technological advancement or a timely PR move, head of the Google X research lab Astro Teller announced today that the Loon balloons will also take to the skies within the next year.
Project Loon would entail a network of balloons around 20 km (12.4 mi) above the surface of the Earth. Fitted with solar panels, the balloons when inflated measure 15 x 12 m (49 x 39 ft) and carry a set of communication instruments in a box underneath. Google has tested the technology in pilot programs in New Zealand, California and Brazil and now, according to Teller, should soon have enough balloons in the air to demonstrate that the idea is feasible.
“In the next year or so we should have a semi-permanent ring of balloons somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere,” he claimed, speaking today at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference.
So whether unmanned aircraft or floating networks hold the key to a worldwide internet, it’s more than just Google’s high-tech balloons that are starting to heat up. The value of bringing billions of new users online is plain to see, and means there’s plenty at stake for all concerned. As for when this might actually occur, Maguire is hopeful that following testing in 2015, Facebook’s drone-delivered internet could become a reality in three to five years.
daily alternative | alternative news – Facebook to start testing internet beaming drones in 2015
Google Upgrades Digital Wallet to Pay by Facial Recognition
As we march steadily toward a cashless society, Google is naturally at the forefront of seeing it come to fruition as quickly as possible.
Despite the fact that several years ago Google had a major security scare with its first incarnation of the digital wallet smartphone app, which required a temporary shutdown, they are announcing a new system being tested which does not even require the smartphone at all.
A growing number of people apparently find that having to remove their smartphone is just such a hassle that they are prepared to embrace payment via biometrics – in this case, facial recognition.
As a perfect indicator of the target market, please read this sad quote:
“Imagine if you could rush through a drive-thru without reaching for your wallet, or pick up a hot dog at the ballpark without fumbling to pass coins or your credit card to the cashier,” Bhat said. (Source)
In one sentence, that quote might represent literally everything that is wrong with modern society.
The new system is being cleverly called Hands Free; and, as the second indicator of its potential mass appeal, it will be rolled out first at McDonald’s and Papa John’s fast food restaurants.
A second more serious component to this ties in with the recent rollout of citywide WiFi systems that keep people connected at all times. Layered on top of that is the arrival of billboards with hidden cameras built in that can film you, then track you through your mobile phone. This reality makes the following information more chilling than convenient:
The digital wallet uses Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections alone [sic] with location sensing capabilities in smartphones to detect when someone is near a store enabled with Hands Free payment technology.
“When you’re ready to pay, you can simply tell the cashier, ‘I’ll pay with Google,’” Bhat said.
“The cashier will ask for your initials and use the picture you added to your Hands Free profile to confirm your identity.”
At some locations, Google is experimented [sic] with using cameras in stores to recognize people with Hands Free digital wallets so they could pay without even pausing. (emphasis added)
The number of people already prepared to accept this system numbers in the millions, according to Google.
Although this announcement would appear to border on satire, please view the videos below to get an idea about a world where cash is seen as a major annoyance, and laziness is embraced as a virtue.
daily alternative | alternative news – Google Upgrades Digital Wallet to Pay by Facial Recognition
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|Quotes delayed up to 3 minutes.|