Innovation of the week
Scientists have created a flexible display screen “that can be cut with everyday scissors,” said Haniya Rae in PopSci.com. The plastic screen, created by researchers at the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan, can be trimmed to fit any shape and doesn’t need a continuous power supply. The manufacturers say it could free device makers from traditional rigid rectangular or square screens, which are pricey and come in predetermined sizes. For instance, a retail store owner could place a flexible screen in the store window “to alert customers when a sale is happening, or carmakers could place it in the corner of a car window to inform drivers about weather updates or traffic alerts.” Right now, the screen can only show preset designs, but researchers are at work on a version that can be programmed via computer.
Bytes: What’s new in tech
Your smartphone’s good side
“Holding your phone in a certain hand can have a large impact on how effectively your phone’s antenna works,” said Akshat Rathi in Qz.com. That’s according to a new report commissioned by the Nordic Council of Ministers— an intergovernmental forum consisting of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden—which studied how effectively different smartphones send and receive radio signals. In general, smartphones vary widely in terms of the quality of voice calls, partly because the antenna is hidden inside the phone’s body, so users can’t tell if they’re obstructing it. The biggest impact was on the iPhone, which performed much better held in the right hand (to the right ear). The Microsoft Lumia 640 and Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, however, worked slightly better in the left hand.
Instagram’s new troll filter
Instagram is rolling out new tools to help users fight online trolls, said Nathan Olivarez-Giles in The Wall Street Journal. Users of the photo-sharing app can now block offensive comments from showing up next to their photos with their own personalized list of banned keywords. “Comments containing the offending words will be hidden from everyone, including you.” However, the commenter won’t be able to see that his or her words were hidden, in order to prevent retaliation. The moderation tool can be found in a new section of Instagram’s settings menu labeled Comments. It’s Instagram’s “biggest move” to fight harassment since April 2015, when it rewrote its terms of service to bar “serious threats of harm to public and personal safety.”
Kid sites punished for tracking
Authorities are cracking down on websites for tracking kids online, said Russell Brandom in TheVerge.com. Viacom, Hasbro, Mattel, and Jumpstart agreed to pay $835,000 in fines last week after a New York attorney general’s investigation found they were using ad-tracking software on websites for Barbie, Dora the Explorer, and other popular children’s brands. “While common on the web, ad tracking is forbidden for sites directed at children under 13.” In addition to paying the fines, each company has agreed to conduct regular scans of their sites and vendors to ensure they’re in compliance with the law. Despite protections for children, it’s difficult to escape web tracking. In a recent analysis, ore than 45 percent of the top 1 million most-visited sites included a tracker for Google’s Doubleclick ad network.