Video Game sales spike, Microsoft turn down facial recognition, and more top news| Product Perspectives #17

Video Game Sales Spike

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In a world gone mad, it seems that many of us are turning to video games as our favorite form of escapism.

It’s no secret that those under lockdown are turning to streaming services for entertainment. As we reported last week, many companies including Netflix are slowing down their streaming speeds to keep up with demand in Europe.

Our desperation for entertainment, coupled with the much awaited release of Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons, has seen a huge rise in popularity for the medium. CNET reported that not only are we playing more games, but we’re spending more on them. We’re downloading more titles on our phones, and spending an extra 10 million hours each day watching streamers on Twitch.

Part of the appeal is multiplayer. Many people are connecting with friends and family by playing games together. Some have been using online Role-Player Games as a substitute for IRL meetings. One couple even revealed that their friends threw them a virtual wedding on Animal Crossing after theirs was cancelled.

Nintendo have yet to comment on their sales figures, as the game was only released on March 20th. We can expect to see some very impressive numbers coming out of their quarterly review!

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Trace Tech Raises Concerns

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One of the contributing factors to South Korea’s well-handled response to the virus outbreak was their use of ‘Test, Treat, and Trace.’ Those who have been diagnosed with, or have recovered from the virus are tracked to see who they’ve come into contact with.

This allows the government to text anyone who comes into contact with a diagnosed individual. Singapore adopted a similar technique, using a Bluetooth app to track nearby phones.

It’s a system that works in a city-state like Singapore, but a similar system would be difficult to implement somewhere like the United States or the United Kingdom. The UK’s healthcare system, the NHS, has been collecting a set of ‘pandemic data’ which it promises to destroy or returned once the state of emergency has ended.

However, the widespread collection of mass public data, coupled with authoritarian responses to the crisis (police-enforced lockdowns and quarantines, etc) has led to some concerns.

Singapore is rumoured to be making its tracking app tech open source after the crisis has passed. Apple and Android phones already have the capability. Personal freedom and privacy are two of the hottest topics of the 21st century, and we could see a turning point caused by the crisis.

For more on this story, check out TechCrunch’s full analysis.

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Microsoft Pulls Out of AnyVision

Microsoft has pulled its investment from AnyVision, a facial recognition startup. It has also announced that it will be pulling funding from any companies selling facial-recognition technology.

Before investing, Microsoft funded an investigation into AnyVision to ensure it did not conflict with its company ethics. Despite a report by NBC that the company was misusing the technology, Microsoft’s investigation turned up no evidence.

In a statement on its M12 website, Microsoft said that investing in a company dealing with sensitive tech doesn’t give them the control they require.

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This isn’t the first time this year that facial recognition has been a contentious topic. Clearview AI faced major criticism for how it scraped photos from Facebook and Twitter without asking for user permission.

You might also be interested in: What’s the Deal with Deepfake?

Skyrora Pivots from Rocket Fuel to Hand Sanitizer

Skyrora, a UK based private aerospace company, has redirected its manufacturing efforts. Instead of building rockets they’ll be providing the NHS with as much healthcare equipment as they can.

The company has stated that it will be dedicating ‘the entirety’ of its UK operations to COVID-19 response.

You might also be interested in: 5 Lessons from SpaceX for Product Managers in 2020

Whilst not as globally recognized as Boeing and SpaceX, Skyrora successfully completed a more eco-friendly rocket fuel. In February of this year it was making progress towards test flights of its first space craft.

At the moment, they will be focusing on hand sanitizer rather than rocket fuel, which are surprisingly similar. Skyrora are also in talks with the Scottish government to see which 3D printed objects would be of most use to healthcare professionals. They’ll test a prototype for 3D printed masks before entering mass production, to ensure the safety of frontline healthcare providers.

Across the UK, and many other places, we’re seeing similar stories of companies halting business as usual in favor of COVID-19 response. Know of any companies who deserve a shoutout? Let us know on Twitter!

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