Innovation of the week
A “seriously intimidatinglooking” robotic tractor has been drawing crowds at Iowa’s annual Farm Progress Show, said George Dvorsky in Gizmodo.com. Unlike a conventional tractor, this futuristic piece of farm equipment— called the Autonomous Concept Vehicle—doesn’t have a cabin for a driver. Instead, the tractor, built by agricultural equipment firm Case IH, finds its way using built-in cameras, radar, and GPS. A farmer can program and control the machine using an app on a tablet computer, and once the tractor gets its orders, it sets to work “without any further human intervention.” The bot can operate day or night, and is designed to plant seeds and harvest crops, among other tasks. Because of legal concerns, such as the fact that the self-driving tractor will sometimes cross public roads while moving between fields, experts say it will likely be years before the machine appears on an actual farm.
Bytes: What’s new in tech
Samsung recalls explosive phone
“Samsung’s nightmare scenario is happening,” said Rob Price in BusinessInsider.com. The South Korean electronics giant is recalling its new flagship smartphone, the Galaxy Note 7, after reports that the device may catch fire while charging. Samsung has shipped more than 2.5 million Note 7s since the phone debuted last month, with the waterproof, large-screen device selling for more than $800 in the U.S. But Samsung halted sales last week after receiving at least 35 reports of exploding phones worldwide. The company is now working on exchange programs for the 10 countries where the Note 7 has been released. The recall comes at an especially painful time for Samsung, with rival Apple having unveiled the latest iPhone models this week.
Google gets in Uber’s lane
“Alphabet and Uber are inching closer to a showdown,” said Daisuke Wakabayashi and Mike Isaac in The New York Times. Google’s parent company is expanding a carpooling program through its navigation app Waze that could eventually challenge established ride-hailing services. Waze Carpool matches drivers and riders “already headed in the same direction.” For now, the pilot program is only being offered to employees of companies near Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. But Waze plans to expand to San Francisco, where Uber is based, this fall. It’s another sign of the “intensifying competition” between the Silicon Valley rivals. Uber is working furiously to overtake Google’s efforts on autonomous vehicles, with plans to offer rides in self-driving cars in Pittsburgh within weeks.
Pokémon Go’s short life span
Mobile app fads are getting shorter, if Pokémon Go is any indication, said Hayley Tsukayama in The Washington Post. The enhanced-reality app took the world by storm this summer, but just two months after its launch, tech journalists are “declaring the game all but dead.” A report last week found that fewer people are playing the game every day and that players are devoting ever less time to the app. Google search trends show that interest in Pokémon Go peaked in July, dropping by half by August. It took FarmVille, “another game that seemed to be everywhere all at once,” months to register a similar decline. But Pokémon Go is hardly a failure. The game has earned $400 million worldwide and is currently the top-grossing app in the U.S.