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June 21, 2024 20 mins

Apple still plans to launch a more affordable mixed reality headset before the end of next year, but the Vision Pro sounds like a one off. Plus, Nvidia, Microsoft and Apple vie for the title of most valuable company in the world. And much more!

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:04):
Welcome to tech Stuff, a production from iHeartRadio. Hey there,
and welcome to tech Stuff. I'm your host, Jonathan Strickland.
I'm an executive producer with iHeart Podcasts. And how the
tech are you. It's time for the tech news for
the week ending on Friday, June twenty first, twenty twenty four.

(00:26):
And we've had a little shuffle this week for the
title of world's most valuable company. And by that I
mean how a company is valued based upon the number
of shares that are available and the price per share.
All the contenders are tech companies and earlier this month,
Apple toppled Microsoft after Apple held its Worldwide Developer Conference

(00:51):
and got investors all excited, but that victory was short lived.
Microsoft regained the throne just two days later. This week,
a new challenger pushed past Apple to take a swing
at the king that was Nvidia. Like Apple, Nvidia achieved
the title of most valuable company in the world, only

(01:11):
to relinquish it back to Microsoft a couple of days later.
But on June eighteenth, Nvidia was on top of the
world with a market value of three point three four
trillion dollars. Geez Louise. Anyway, since then Nvidia stock price
dipped about three point four percent, and that was enough

(01:32):
to give Microsoft the top spot again, even though Microsoft
had also had a smaller dip in stock value in
that same time. Now, in case you're not familiar with Nvidia,
it's a microprocessor design company. Like they make the designs
for things like, you know, microprocessors, specifically graphics processing units
or GPUs, and then other companies fabricate those designs. Recently,

(01:56):
in Vidia's really big business has been in designing chips
that are used by companies for the purposes of running
AI implementations. On the tech and politics front, the US
White House has banned the sale of products and services
from the Russian cybersecurity company Kispersky Labs. So Kispersky Lab
it's a huge name in the cybersecurity space. They've played

(02:18):
a key part in identifying and mitigating various threats across
the Internet. Kisperski also makes lots of different products, including
antivirus software. So why would the US ban it? Well,
the main concern is that the White House believes the
Russian government could and would force Kaspersky Lab to harvest

(02:38):
and weaponize data from other countries, you know, primarily the
United States obviously, but there's also a fear that the
Russian government could force Kisperski Lab to actually serve as
a delivery system for malware rather than as a protection
against it. Imagine being told that your antivirus software needs
to be updated, and so you update it, but secretly

(02:59):
it's actually delivering malware to you. That's part of the concern. Now,
Kasperski Lab has protested this ban, which makes sense, and
have said that well, this is a case where the
US government is reacting to a perceived hypothetical threat as
opposed to know an actual threat, which is a sentiment
that we may have also heard regarding the upcoming US

(03:22):
ban on TikTok. I'll talk more about that in just
a moment. Kasperski Lab says it will pursue all legal
avenues open to the company to push back against this ban.
I don't know how I feel about this one, honestly,
because I mean, Kaspersky Lab undeniably has done some amazing work,
and without their contributions, I do believe the Internet would

(03:43):
be a much more dangerous place than it is already.
On the flip side, I don't think there's any way
you can deny that Russia has an authoritarian government in
place with various agencies that have shown in the past
to be more than willing to put pressure on whatever
levers they have to gain an advantage. But is that

(04:04):
potential enough to justify a ban. If you don't have
a specific instance to point out of saying yes, this
is happening, then are you justified in banning. I don't know.
It doesn't feel good to me, but at the same
time I can understand the concern. So you could also
argue that this is really just more political posturing, that
it's the US attempting to kind of shut down an

(04:29):
important business that's in Russia as a way to indirectly
pressure Russia itself. I'm not smart enough to understand all
the ins and outs, so I just look at it
and think, wow, that's a big mess. Also, speaking of TikTok,
Reuter's reports that TikTok and its parent company byte Dance,
the Chinese company, have requested essentially a dismissal of the

(04:52):
upcoming national ban on TikTok in the US that's scheduled
to happen on January nineteenth, twenty twenty. So the argument
that TikTok is making is that despite several attempts to
negotiate a solution to the various concerns the US government
has raised regarding TikTok and its relationship to its pairing company,

(05:13):
the US government has refused to really engage on a
serious level since twenty twenty two. So TikTok is saying,
We've come forward in good faith in an attempt to
work this out, and the government has just roadblocked us
and then gone to a ban which doesn't seem fair.
And then also TikTok's arguing that this is a violation
of First Amendment rights as well. TikTok reps have also

(05:36):
claimed that divestiture from the Chinese pairing company is quote
not possible technologically, commercially, or legally end the quote. I
don't know. I feel like I need to call bs
on at least the first two of those three, simply
because we've also read reports that TikTok has quietly been
working on an alternative recommendation algorithm, which sounds like it

(05:58):
could be a contingency plan if this band does go through.
You know, the band hinges on TikTok's relationship to Byte
Dance and by extension, China itself. The band has said
that if TikTok were to be divested from Byte Dance,
that this band would not necessarily happen. So the fact
that TikTok has apparently been working on this alternative recommendation algorithm,

(06:21):
one that's distinctly independent of the version that Byte Dance
uses for say du Yan, the Chinese version of TikTok
or the Chinese you know, like close cousin of TikTok,
That to me suggests that TikTok is quietly exploring those possibilities.
But obviously the company wants to avoid having to do

(06:43):
that at all, and it would be better for the
company if they didn't have to go through the whole
divestiture process. As for commercially, I mean, TikTok still operates
rather independently from the other products of Byte Dance, so
I would imagine that divesting it commercially actually is entirely possible.

(07:03):
I mean, no one by Dance wouldn't want to do
it because TikTok makes money, so why would you want to?
But I still think it's possible. I don't think it's impossible.
That's based on my own opinion, but yeah, the legal part,
that's harder for me to answer. That's what the courts
are for. I personally have doubts that the courts are
going to reach a decision as to whether the ban

(07:25):
is legal or not before the deadline actually gets here,
But we'll see. Reuter's also reports that Apple has recently
switched gears and has stopped work on a successor to
the Apple Vision Pro, which is Apple's mixed reality headset.
That headset has a hefty price tag, and it's also
had a fairly slow start, which I believe mostly comes

(07:49):
down to two really big reasons. The first is obviously
the base cost. It is huge. It's a whopping three
five hundred dollars at the beginning, before you've done any
like upgrades or accessories or anything like that. And that's
a lot more money than most people can PLoP down
for a new tech gadget. But the other big barrier

(08:09):
is that development for this platform is still in its
very early days, which means there's really not that much
you can do with the darn thing. Yet every review
I have read of the Vision Pro says that it
performs really well. It's really impressive. But that outside of
the basic things you're able to do, there's just not

(08:29):
much there yet. And for developers, I could see why
there'd be a reluctance to jump on board because if
the installed base of potential customers is a very small one,
you might not be able to capitalize on the invested
time and energy it took to make something compelling because
there's just not enough people to pay that investment off anyway. Now,
Apple is reportedly backing away from making a true Apple

(08:53):
Vision Pro two or whatever they would call it, but
the company is still working on a more affordable mixed
reality headsint at that would be available before the end
of next year. Presumably such an affordable model will have
fewer features than the Vision Pro. What I find interesting
is whether or not customers will flock to a cheaper
version of this platform, or if the lack of those

(09:17):
certain features is going to sap away any excitement about
the technology and people won't be willing to pay for
it because you know, it'll be a cheap imitation of
the thing that came out a couple of years earlier.
If I had to make a guess, I would say
more folks would be willing to buy a less expensive
headset made by Apple, because Apple's reality distortion field is

(09:37):
still a thing, and maybe we would hear folks later
complain that the headset isn't as impressive as they were
led to believe, but who knows. I guess we'll find
out before the end of next year. Okay, we've got
more tech news to cover before we get to that, though,
Let's take a quick break to thank our sponsors. Ilia Sutzkev,

(10:04):
one of the co founders of open ai, who later
was forced to resign from the board of directors and
then a couple months later resigned completely from the company itself,
is now starting his own AI company, which is called
Safe Superintelligence, and as the name indicates, the founding principles
are similar to what inspired the initial creation of open Ai,

(10:25):
before that company began to embrace profit to a greater degree.
The Safe Superintelligence website says the company will have offices
in Palo Alto, California, and Tel Aviv. Sutzkever posted on
x that the plan is for the company to focus
entirely on the safe development and deployment of AI, without
regard to stuff like market forces and trends and things

(10:46):
like that how he's going to achieve that remains to
be seen because AI development is a really expensive thing.
In fact, that's why open Ai launched a for profit
arm in the first place. But I do think it's
a lofty goal to aim for. I just don't know
how achievable it is. AI company Anthropic has unveiled the

(11:07):
Claude three point five Sonnet AI language model this week.
In fact, I've already started seeing ads online for this thing.
The model can do pretty much all the things we
associate with chatbots built on generative AI. You know. It
can respond to prompts, it can write code, it can
analyze text. According to Ours Technica's Binge Edwards, it can

(11:28):
be really difficult to compare different AI models to each
other for various reasons. But that being said, Claude three
point five Sonnet seems to perform pretty well impressively so.
In fact, now I haven't used it yet, but then
I don't use any AI models on a regular basis.
I've only dipped my toe in goofy ways to see
what kind of response I can get for silly queries.

(11:48):
But for those of y'all who are either researching AI
or occasionally making use of AI. It might be something
you want to check out just to see if it
gives you better responses than alternatives on the market. Back
to Reuters, which reports that Amazon is looking to monetize
its Alexa service soon. The plan, which is code named Banyan,

(12:09):
is to introduce a more advanced version of the Alexa assistant,
capable of holding generative AI conversations with users. Access to
this level of Alexa will actually require a monthly fee
somewhere in the neighborhood of five dollars a month. The
report says that Amazon is given developers until August to
get this version of Alexa ready, though that doesn't necessarily

(12:30):
tell us when such a service would actually launch. I
honestly don't know if this is going to work from
a commercial standpoint. I'm not sure most folks care if
their personal assistant is generating a conversation or just pulling
something directly off the web to answer various questions. That's
possibly due to the fact that as I get older,
I see fewer reasons for me to use tools like

(12:52):
this for anything beyond really basic stuff like, you know,
asking for an update on the weather or whatever, which
is like ninety nine times out of one hundred, if
I'm asking my smart assistant speaker for something, it's to
give me an update on whether. Other times it's to
play music so that my dog can listen to music

(13:13):
while I'm leaving the house. The rare occasions I do
that or to ask if certain fruits are safe for
dogs to eat. Those are like my three go tos.
But Amazon's trying to find a way to make Alexa moneymaker,
and maybe this will work out for them. I personally
have my doubts. I think a lot of people will say,
why am I going to pay for something that previously
I got to use for free, even if the new

(13:34):
version is at least in theory better. Meta has reorganized
its Reality Labs division. A quick reminder, this is the
part of Meta formerly Facebook that is tasked with bringing
the metaverse into reality, whether people want it or not.
It's the division that Meta has dedicated billions of dollars
to in that effort, which is something that has concerned

(13:55):
many investors in that company. But anyway, this reorg has
divided Reality Labs into two major organizations, one that will
focus on wearables and the other that will focus on
the metaverse. So wearables are things like the Quest VR
headsets and the ray Band smart glasses. The Verge reports
that the reorganization also meant the company laid off a

(14:16):
quote unquote small number of employees, although I haven't seen
any sources that give more detail as to how much
a small number actually is. Bloomberg reports that Elon Musk
is pushing hard to get an X payment service launched
before the end of this year. You might recall that
one thing Musk wanted to do with Twitter, apart from
opening it up to folks who had previously been banned

(14:36):
from the platform for violating various policies, was to convert
it into sort of an everything app, an app where
you could chat with friends, post to the general population,
shop for goods and services, and pay for stuff like
transfer money, all from one app. The payment service thing
is part of this overall puzzle, and one that Musk
has aggressively pushed for this year. To that end, X

(14:59):
has secured payment transmitter licenses with twenty eight states here
in the US, by the company's goals to secure such
licenses for every state by the end of the year.
It sounds to me like this is really a matter
of when not if, and at some point we will
see the X payment services roll out, possibly with many
other features to follow. Must's goal is to get users

(15:21):
to rely on X for financial transactions and to store
their money in high yield savings accounts, which might work.
It might actually entice people who have so far either
stayed off of the platform for various reasons or who
left due to similar reasons, and to have them come
back and jump in and order not to lose out
on an opportunity. However, I think it's safe to say

(15:42):
that skeptics like myself, you know, folks who have seen
Musk apply the ban hammer on X in a very
mercurial way, are less eager to put our money into
a platform where the owner has been shown to be unpredictable, temperamental,
perhaps unreliable is another good word. I just I think
it would be very risky to do personally. That's my

(16:04):
own opinion though, so you know, if you don't value
my opinion. One, I don't know why you're listening, but
thank you anyway, And two, yeah, do you don't make
your own decisions? It's totally cool if you happen to
live near Dallas, Texas or King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. I
have a homework assignment for you. Don't worry. It's not
coming up anytime soon. It'll be next year, but it's
to visit either of the two Netflix House venues that

(16:27):
are opening up in the upcoming months. They're slated to
open in twenty twenty five. Netflix first announced the intent
to debut some brick and mortar locations, and now we
know where those first two are going to be. Dallas, Texas,
King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. They'll be taking over the spaces
of former department stores and shopping centers, which I don't know.

(16:47):
Maybe that'll breathe some new life into malls. I haven't
been to a mall in years, but in fact, the
place where I used to go when I was a
kid is now essentially vacant. I think there's like only
a handful of stores that are still open and everything
else is closed down, which, as I understand, it is
not that unusual today. But then I don't ever leave
the house, So what do I know anyway? What's going

(17:08):
to go on in these Netflix houses beats me. Netflix
has not shared a whole lot of information. They have
said that there will be themed experiences as well as
some special food and drink offerings, and that presumably these
are going to draw inspiration from original Netflix films and series.
And when I think back to some of those originals
on Netflix, I'm not convinced I really want to experience

(17:30):
that stuff myself in real life, but I am definitely curious,
and heck, maybe I'll go to the King of Presha
one because my partner has family up in that area,
So maybe if we're happy to be there, I'll be like, hey,
let's go see what this is all about. The two
astronauts who recently journeyed to the International Space Station aboard
a Boeing Starliner spacecraft are staying a little bit longer

(17:51):
than they had planned. This is because the Starliner experienced
some technical issues that engineers really want to review further
before bringing the astronauts back home in the spacecraft on
June twenty six. So, during the trip to the ISS,
the star Liner had a few helium leaks, like five
of them. Now, helium itself is non toxic, it's non flammable,
so as long as the leaks weren't bad enough to

(18:12):
displace oxygen and cause asphyxiation, then the astronauts were deemed
to be safe. Then five of the twenty eight reaction
control system thrusters on the star Liner also failed as
the spacecraft was nearing the iss. It's not exactly the
sort of thing you want to chance when you're bringing
folks back home, as these thrusters play a part in
orienting the spacecraft properly upon re entry. NASA reps have

(18:35):
said the agency wants to review the test spacecraft's issues
before signing off on future missions, which makes perfect sense
to me. Okay, some quick reading recommendations for y'all. Mickey
Carroll has a piece for sky News titled self driving
cars found to be safer except at dawn, dusk, or
when turning according to a study. I recommend reading that
it's one of the biggest selling points for R and

(18:56):
D and self driving vehicles. This idea that you know,
ideally they would be fre safer on the roads than
vehicles that were driven by human beings. But as this
study points out, there are still scenarios in which AI
powered vehicles are more prone to accidents, and obviously that
shines a spotlight on areas where engineers need to improve safety.
Next up is a piece by Mike Masnik at tech

(19:17):
Dirt titled five hundred thousand books have been deleted from
the Internet Archives Lending Library. I talked a little bit
about this when I did an episode about the Internet
Archive recently, but this piece dives into how publishers have
leveraged their considerable power to deny the archive access to
library copies of various works. And last up is a
piece by Ashley Bellinger of Ours Technica titled lawsuit Meta

(19:40):
engineer told to resign after calling out sexist hiring practices.
This article details the claims made by a former Meta
employee who says the company retaliated against him after he
brought forward concerns and misogynistic practices in the company. All
of those are well worth your time to read. That's
it for this week. I hope you are all well
and I will talk to you again again really soon.

(20:07):
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