Tech Beat by Namecheap – 25 August 2023
Have you wondered what happened to the ‘Metaverse,’ the virtual world that Meta promoted a few years ago? How has everything gone since its launch —or is it really going anywhere? In this week’s lead story, we decided to look closer at the progress Meta is making with its new world and if it’s really worth the effort.
In tech news:
- Bots catch up with CAPTCHA. Researchers have found that computers are now better than humans at completing CAPTCHA tests. CAPTCHA, which stands for Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, is a bot defense measure that has been used since 1997. The Register reports that a study conducted by researchers at the University of California-Irvine found that humans took 9-15 seconds with an accuracy of just 50-84 percent on distorted text fields, while bots were able to beat the tests in less than a second with 99.8 percent accuracy.
- Parmesan fights imposters with microtransponders. Italy’s famous Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, otherwise known as parmesan, is one of the most counterfeited cheeses in the world. To combat this issue, the Parmigiano Reggiano Consortium (PRC) has introduced microchips to authenticate the cheese. The Guardian states that the PRC has been fighting against cheaper imitations for a century, and parmigiano reggiano gained protected designation of origin (PDO) status in 1996. However, counterfeit sales still reach around $2 billion annually. The microchips, about the size of a grain of salt, are inserted into labels on the cheese’s rind.
- The New York Times blocked OpenAI’s GPTBot from crawling content. Open AI’s web crawler GPTBot can no longer use content from The New York Times to train the AI model. According to TheVerge, the publication’s robot.txt page now disallows the crawler from crawling its web pages. Previously the NYT had updated its terms of service to forbid AI models from using its content for training purposes. To add even more fuel to the fire, the publication is also considering suing the popular AI for intellectual property rights violations.
- Tech pro almost tricked by AI-generated phishing scams. If you spend a lot of time online, you may think you can spot an online scam from a mile away. The truth is AI is helping make online scams more authentic, and ZDNET’s Jason Perlow has revealed that even he nearly fell for one. He received very convincing emails masquerading as invoices for cryptocurrency purchases from payment processor Stripe. Even more convincing was the inclusion of a support number users can call if they don’t recognize a transaction. Perlow called the number and reached an operator who asked for his 2FA code and credit card number, which alerted him to the scam. This is yet another reminder to be cautious with all online interactions and that phishing can take many forms.
- One missed step for Russia, one giant leap for India. India made significant strides in its space program this week when the Chandrayaan-3 mission successfully landed a lunar module on the southern polar region of the moon. As reported in the New York Times, this achievement has not only bolstered India’s position in the global space community but has also ignited waves of national pride, with celebrations erupting across the country. Also this week, Russia, attempting to relive its lunar glory days after a 47-year hiatus, experienced a rather “rocky” reunion with the moon. Space.com described how the Luna-25 lander, which was supposed to be a major milestone for Russia, ended up crashing into the lunar surface after an orbital maneuver went awry. It seems while India was busy making lunar footprints, Russia was leaving impact craters!
- A new AI is watching out for all of us. In other space news, a cutting-edge AI algorithm, HelioLinc3D, designed to detect potentially dangerous near-Earth asteroids, has identified its inaugural space rock. According to Space.com, this asteroid, designated 2022 SF289, is approximately 600 feet wide. The asteroid is predicted to come within 140,000 miles of Earth, a distance shorter than the average gap between Earth and the moon. Although its proximity qualifies it as a Potentially Hazardous Asteroid (PHA), don’t panic. Astronomers say there’s no imminent threat of a collision with Earth.
- NFT could soon stand for ‘No Funds Transferred.’ In a new development casting a shadow over the already waning NFT ecosystem, OpenSea, once a major NFT marketplace championing artist royalties, has announced its decision to make royalty fees optional. Previously, NFTs promised artists a percentage from resales of their work, ensuring continuous revenue. However, according to The Verge, OpenSea will stop enforcing royalty fees on all new NFTs at the end of this month, and starting March 2024, royalties for existing NFTs will be mere “tips” that sellers might choose to give to original artists. This move comes amidst a broader trend of declining NFT market values and platforms reducing their fees to lure sellers. This latest setback only exacerbates the challenges facing the NFT system, further eroding its popularity and credibility.
Previously in Tech Beat: The battle for digital privacy at work
As remote work becomes the norm, ‘bossware’ — digital tools that monitor employees’ every move— has surged in popularity among employers. However, this technology, which includes keyloggers, mouse-tracking software, and mandatory webcam usage, is drawing criticism for its invasive nature. While companies argue it ensures productivity, many see it as a breach of privacy, with AI systems often misinterpreting genuine work tasks. Moreover, studies indicate such surveillance can lead to decreased job satisfaction and higher turnover. In response to this technology, some ingenious workers are already finding ways to outsmart these systems. Curious about the future of workplace surveillance? Dive deeper into this topic in our article, How digital bossware is changing the nature of work.
Tip of the week: Take a test drive in a Metaverse alternative
While the Metaverse made some headlines, there are several established virtual reality (VR) technologies that offer free online exploration. The quality and complexity of VR experiences can vary, but these platforms provide great starting points for exploring virtual reality without any initial cost. Here are four platforms you can try right now.
- Second Life. A virtual world platform that’s been around since 2003 (really!) is Second Life, which continues to offer a rich environment for exploration and interaction. Users create avatars and navigate through a vast virtual landscape where they can engage in social activities, attend events, create content, and even trade virtual goods. It’s a unique blend of virtual reality and social interaction, making it an interesting platform to experience and connect with others in a virtual space.
- Mozilla Hubs. A social VR platform, Mozilla Hubs allows users to create and customize their virtual spaces. It’s accessible through a web browser, and you can create your own virtual rooms, customize avatars, and invite others to join. It’s a great platform for socializing, holding events, or even for educational purposes. Since it’s web-based, you don’t need any specific VR equipment; you can join using a computer or mobile device.
- WebVR Experiments by Google. Google’s WebVR Experiments showcase various VR projects accessible directly through a web browser. These experiments cover a range of VR experiences, from interactive artworks to immersive games and educational simulations. WebVR Experiments are designed to be accessible to a wide audience, and you can explore them using VR headsets or even without one.
- Sketchfab. Launched in 2012, Sketchfab hosts a vast collection of 3D models and VR experiences. While it offers both free and paid content, there’s a substantial amount of free VR content available. You can explore 3D models, environments, and VR experiences created by artists, designers, and creators from around the world. Many of these experiences are accessible through web browsers and can be enjoyed using a variety of VR headsets or even in 2D mode.
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