The Last Week In Digital - 5th July 2016

Facebook can’t stop making headlines, self-driving cars suffer setback


Facebook makes its chatbots useable

In an attempt to make chatbots on its messaging service more useable, Facebook has added quick reply buttons to messenger in the hope that they’ll make chatbots a little easier to interact with. I’ve never been entirely sold on chatbots as a tech, and Facebook’s measure is a nod to the fact that people just aren’t willing to have a conversation with a bot in the way they would a human.

Chatbots have been billed as the future of company/consumer interaction, but few have seen widespread adoption as yet. For many, though, Facebook’s Messenger is likely to be (outside of China) the medium on which they first engage with a branded chatbot. Messenger will see a selection of possible responses given to the user, in place of expecting them to manipulate the bot using text functions, a feature that makes the experience less of a ‘chat’ and more of a series of options.

Fatal Tesla crash sets automated vehicles back

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened an official investigation into Tesla’s fatal Autopilot crash, in which a Model S collided with a trailer in West Florida, killing the car’s passenger. Autopilot is still in public beta phase, and Tesla have been keen to express how rare the circumstances of the crash are.

According to Tesla: ’Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied.’ Public perception of automated vehicles is a fragile thing, though, and Tesla will need to demonstrate improvements to their Autopilot feature before many will be comfortable using the technology. A setback, certainly, but one Tesla should overcome with further testing, development, and consumer reassurance.

Apple may buy Tidal

As the next step in Apple’s battle with Spotify for music live-streaming dominance, the tech giant will potentially acquire Jay Z’s Tidal. A report for the Wall Street Journal claims that talks are underway, albeit in the very early stages and with no guarantee of any deal.

Since Jay Z bought Tidal for $56 million in 2015, the strategy seems to have been to get both exclusives and co-ownership from some of music’s biggest names. The likes of Beyonce, Jack White, Alicia Keys, Madonna, Kanye West, Rihanna, and Arcade Fire have all been made co-owners as part of a deal allowing exclusive rights to release their albums. Even a considerable outlay would likely see a return for Apple - Tidal’s 15 million paying subscribers could just give Tim Cook and co. the muscle to properly challenge Spotify’s 30 million.

Self-driving car startup Zoox raises $200m

According to TechCrunch, ‘auto startup Zoox is raising about $200 million at a $1 billion valuation.’ The company is just one of a plethora to wade into the automated car race. With the likes of Tesla and Google already so established - the former, in particular, is taking real steps to seeing self-driving cars become ubiquitous - Zoox will need to bring something new to the table to set itself apart.

Renderings released by the company in 2013 suggest that the vehicles will have neither a windshield nor a steering wheel, will be able to drive in any direction and will allow four passengers to sit facing each other inside. The designs are quite something, and if the funding can be translated into actual production, it seems there’s no reason Zoox couldn’t compete with its giant rivals.

Facebook ditches Paper

Facebook added to its list of failed projects when it announced that it would be discontinuing Paper, its news reading and sharing app. The app, though well-designed, plummeted in the app download charts shortly after its release, and failed to embed itself into smartphone users’ daily routine.

Had the app been successful, it could have lessened the blow to publishers that came with Facebook’s announcement that it had changed its algorithm to favor user-generated content - a move that will see an inevitable downturn in traffic generated from Facebook. The social media giant claims it will integrate the technology from Paper into its primary service; Instant Articles was built by the same team, and users can expect further improvements to how Facebook presents news pieces. 


Denys Prykhodov /

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