Bytes: What’s new in tech
Roomba maps your home
“Your Roomba may be vacuuming up more than you think,” said Maggie Astor in The New York Times. The high-end robotic vacuum cleaners collect data on the placement of walls and furniture as they clean your floors, creating maps of a home’s layout. Manufacturer iRobot said last week it might share users’ data in the next few years to a company like Google or Amazon, in order to help power smart-home products. The maps could also become a valuable marketing tool. “No armchair in your living room? You might see ads for armchairs next time you open Facebook.” iRobot’s CEO Colin Angle stressed that the firm would not share data without its customers’ permission, but he expressed confidence most would give their consent in order to access smart-home functions.
Farewell to Flash
Adobe is pulling the plug on its much- maligned Flash media player, said Brian Barrett in Wired.com. The firm announced last week it will stop updating and distributing the browser plug-in at the end of 2020, largely because of obsolescence. The plug-in was pivotal to the early 2000s web, enabling sites to run videos and online games. But as the internet evolved, add-on extensions, especially ones as bug-prone as Flash, became less necessary. “Chances are you already lead a mostly Flashless life.” In 2010, Steve Jobs famously blocked Flash from being installed on iPhones; Android followed in 2012. Still, Adobe will work with companies to come up with a plan for updating or abandoning any sites that still use the plug-in. Overall, the “web will be safer, faster, smoother without it.”
Google revamps its feed
Google is taking “one step closer to competing with Facebook’s news feed,” said Travis Andrews in The Washington Post. The search giant has unveiled a news feed for mobile devices that uses machine learning “to create customized collections of news stories based both on your search history and topics of your choosing.” Stories that appear in your feed will be affected by your location, and users can control some of the topics they see, by searching for phrases or personalities and clicking Follow. Google says the feed will eventually appear on its main search page, which has “long been iconic for its minimalism.” The change is designed to encourage users to spend more time using Google’s app and desktop version, beyond simple searches. ■