Facebook unveils a virtual reality workplace. Global chip shortage impacts numerous industries. The US government launches a probe into Tesla Autopilot. Tougher regulation on cryptocurrency is coming. The Biden administration recommends a booster shot for fully vaccinated Americans. Here are this week’s stories.
1. Facebook unveils virtual reality workplace
Facebook has announced Horizon Workrooms — a new way for office workers to connect using virtual reality. The app allows people to sit around a virtual conference room together in the comfort of their homes. Each user can be represented by a custom avatar that moves based on hand and head movement. Users can present drawings or their computer screens on a digital board. They can also use their computer while in a virtual meeting because a pass-through feature displays the computer screen, keyboard, and mouse in the virtual setting. These virtual meetings are more engaging than zoom meetings, but they are not practical: each user needs Facebook’s $299 Oculus Quest 2 headset, and they need to wear the uncomfortable headset through the meeting. But, Facebook is not trying to compete with Zoom, instead, they are experimenting with virtual reality. The tech giant has invested over two years to emulate a conference room in virtual reality, and it’s just the beginning. Facebook is planning on building a metaverse — a digital world where people could work and play.
2. Global Chip Shortage continues
The Coronavirus pandemic has caused a variety of unexpected consequences, including a global chip shortage. The chip shortage is affecting numerous industries from cars to smartphones. Chips pieces of silicon with electronic circuits on them, and they function as tiny electrical switches. They are necessary for all electronic devices to operate, and that is why there is always a high demand. During the pandemic, chip production halted because factories closed, but demand spiked due to the unprecedented usage of devices, causing the global chip shortage. Almost all automakers have reported production setbacks due to the chip shortage, and worldwide auto production is expected to fall 4 million vehicles short in 2021. Toyota, the world’s biggest carmaker, is cutting production by 40%. Video games are also suffering from the shortage: Xbox and PlayStation consoles are still not keeping up with demand ten months after launch. Apple iPhones will also face production cuts. The chip shortage will likely end in 2022
3. Tesla Autopilot probe
After multiple Tesla crashes, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced an investigation into Autopilot. The Autopilot feature on most Teslas allows the vehicle to drive itself on the highway and even change lanes, but it requires a fully attentive drive to take over whenever necessary. Teslas with Autopilot enabled have crashed over 11 times into stationary first-responder vehicles, which has promoted the investigation. The NHTSA could declare a “defect” in Autopilot and force Tesla to correct it. It could also slow the deployment of advanced driver-assistance technologies and erode the trust people have in them. Many new cars have started to implement autonomous systems similar to Tesla’s Autopilot to improve safety and comfort for drivers, but investigations like this could slow progress. Consumers have also developed confidence in the technology, but the probe has caused concern. Self-driving cars are the future, and they will eliminate traffic deaths, so it’s key to build trust among consumers and develop this technology.
4. Tougher regulation on Crypto
Cryptocurrencies have gone mainstream over the past year, and the market is estimated to be worth over $2 trillion. In the past year, the value of Bitcoin has risen 300%, attracting amateur and traditional investors. But, crypto is very unpredictable and is used to conceal illicit activity. Recently, hackers have demanded ransomware payments in Bitcoin because it is easy to transfer and hard to trace. Reports of thefts and heists at cryptocurrency exchanges have also become increasingly prevalent. Since the market developed so fast, regulations have not kept up, but the US government is trying its best. There will be tougher enforcement for hackers and thieves that steal Cryptocurrencies. Congress is also considering laws to regulate crypto exchanges. The senate toughened tax enforcement on cryptocurrency players in the $1 trillion infrastructure bill. New regulations should help investors as long as they are not too stringent, and it could help Cryptocurrencies become more widespread.
5. Coronavirus vaccine booster shots
The Biden administration has announced booster shots for Americans who have been fully vaccinated for over eight months. Recently, the administration recommended a third dose for immunocompromised people, but now the guidance has expanded to all Americans. Scientists sharply criticized the push for booster shots, claiming the data is not compelling enough. One study in New York showed that vaccine protection against the virus dropped from around 92% to 80%. There was a drop in protection against mild disease, but the vaccine efficacy was maintained against severe disease. That’s why breakthrough cases are becoming more common, with most of them being mild cold. People with weaker immune systems will benefit from the third dose, but it is unnecessary for the general population. Instead, we should try to give these extra doses to other nations in need. The supply has outpaced the demand for vaccines in the US, but that’s not the case for the rest of the world.
Above were my top stories for the week of August 22nd, 2021. I hope you enjoyed them. Thank you and see you next week!