[News] Our future is monkey mind-pong
The future is here, and it’s monkeys using brain implants to play the video game Pong with their minds. Neuralink, a company owned by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, released a video last week that shows Pager, a nine-year-old macaque monkey, swigging down banana smoothies from a straw as he plays Pong using only his mind.
As Musk pointed out in a tweet, “First @Neuralink product will enable someone with paralysis to use a smartphone with their mind faster than someone using thumbs.” To be sure, if this technology can work in humans, it will be a revolutionary advance. Imagine how it could be a game-changer for people with ALS, for example, making it easier for them to communicate and possibly use a variety of electronic devices. It’s plausible that the tech could someday also take virtual reality to the next level.
But for now, we’ll have to be happy watching monkeys crush their computer opponents in video games.
In other news
- Mobile apps continue to increase in popularity. In the first quarter of 2021, the global average for people using mobile apps was 4.2 hours a day, according to App Annie, a company that provides mobile data and analytics. This data is only for Android devices, as iOS data is not available (but we assume would be similar). This growth in app popularity is an increase of 30% compared to 2019 and is likely due in part to the pandemic. App Annie reports that the two runaway apps seeing significant increase are messaging platforms Signal and Telegram. And while folks in the United States, UK, and elsewhere in Europe really love their mobile devices and their apps, it’s Indonesia, Brazil, and South Korea that spend the most time (5+ hours a day) using mobile apps.
- Sheet music comes to WordPress. WordPress Tavern reports that it’s now possible to display full sheet music on a WordPress website. The Viennese company PhonicScore released an OpenSheetMusicDisplay (OSMD) plugin. By downloading the free plugin, you can add a WordPress block to your website to allow you to render digital sheet music. As PhonicScore notes on their website, this plugin provides “an open source solution for your MusicXML sheet music projects,” and they provide additional documentation on their site.
- Microsoft taking steps to purchase a dragon. Writers everywhere may rejoice if Microsoft succeeds in acquiring Nuance, a company best known for speech-recognition software Dragon Dictate. According to Engadget, the approximately $16 billion deal would allow Microsoft to incorporate better speech recognition into their tools and make inroads into the healthcare industry, among others. And who knows, maybe they’ll reach out to the folks at Neuralink and we’ll soon have an infinite number of monkeys typing out the works of Shakespeare… in their minds!
- The touch-free fast-food revolution. One post-pandemic investment trend looks here to stay, as Nasdaq reports the first digital-only Taco Bell restaurant opened in Times Square, Manhattan, this week. How’s it work? Hungry customers still visit a location in person but can’t dine in. They order food by self-service kiosk or by app and wait as an electronically sealed booth magically slides open to reveal their food. Yum!Brands, the owners of this innovative restaurant, plan to open 25 more digital Taco Bells in the city this year. Others, including Chipotle Mexican Grill and Starbucks, recently opened similar digital restaurants. It’s a clear signal big fast-food operators want to continue with a street-side brand presence—but without the personal ‘touch.’
Tip of the week
If you’re worried about the amount of time you’re on your mobile devices, you might want to check out our recent article on the attention economy, a term used to describe all of the different things (television, video games, social media, etc.) that competes for our time and focus.
And you might be interested in our article on security within messaging apps WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram.
But maybe it’s worth just putting your devices down for a bit and getting some rest.