Bytes: What’s new in tech
Innovation of the week
“To help end the blind search for a parking gap in crowded city streets, Mercedes-Benz cars will start giving each other a heads-up when a space is free,” said Elisabeth Behrmann in Bloomberg.com. The luxury automaker is testing a pilot program in Stuttgart, Germany, that uses the Mercedes E-Class sedan’s built-in ultrasound sensors to spot available parking spots while driving. The car’s sensors scan for empty spaces big enough to park in, even when a driver isn’t looking for one. It then transmits that information to the cloud, to be shared with other Mercedes drivers. Initially, the system will share the probability of finding a parking spot on a particular street or block. But eventually it will be able to display a digital parking map to drivers showing the exact location and size of nearby available spaces.
LinkedIn fixes male search bias
Up until last week, “LinkedIn’s search algorithm apparently favored men,” said Ashley Rodriguez in Qz.com. The professional social network tweaked how it handles search results after a Seattle Times investigation found that searches for common female names often produced suggestions for men. A LinkedIn search for “Stephanie Williams,” for example, returned the result “Did you mean Stephen Williams?” in addition to people actually named Stephanie Williams. A search for “Stephen Williams,” however, simply displayed users with that name. Likewise, “LinkedIn wondered whether users searching for Andrea meant Andrew, that Danielle meant Daniel, and that Alexa meant Alex.” The company says the skewed results were inadvertent, and that its algorithm was meant to suggest names with similar spellings, based on past searches.
ISIS vs. Google ads
Google is using its search savvy to disrupt ISIS recruiting, said Andy Greenberg in Wired.com. A new program developed by Google-owned think tank Jigsaw targets would-be ISIS members and tries to “dissuade them from joining the group’s cult of apocalyptic violence.” Jigsaw’s campaign takes searches for keywords and phrases that are commonly used by people attracted to ISIS, and places those results alongside ads that link to videos that undermine the terrorist group’s message. The videos include testimonials from former extremists, religious leaders denouncing ISIS, and clips showing the harsh realities of life in Northern Syria and Iraq. Jigsaw is planning a similar campaign targeting white supremacists.
The web’s romantic horizons
“The internet is systematically changing whom we date,” said Ana Swanson in The Washington Post. Decades of research have shown that people tend to pair off with partners who are similar to them in terms of race, education, or religion, which often reinforces divisions between social groups. But a recently published study by the University of Lausanne, in Switzerland, suggests that the rise of online dating is breaking down some of those barriers. Americans in the survey who met through friends or school were the most likely to date someone similar to them. Meeting online, however, was “associated with more racial and ethnic mixing than any other meeting venue.” One possibility is that people searching online are finding partners similar to them in other ways, such as personality, hobbies, or lifestyle.