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Facebook launches vaccine finder tool, other features for vaccine awareness

TK Maloy

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vaccine finder tool

Facebook announced Monday plans to assist in informing the public about COVID-19 vaccine options, vaccinations sites, and related information, using a vaccine finder tool and other features.

“We’re launching a global campaign to help bring 50 million people a step closer to getting COVID-19 vaccines,” said Mark Zuckerberg, company founder and CEO, in a press statement, adding that “data shows the vaccines are safe and they work. They’re our best hope for getting past this virus and heading back to normal life.”

The company said it would be bringing millions “one step closer” to getting vaccinated, as the social media giant pushes a plethora of new features regarding COVID-19 vaccines on their various subsidiaries – Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger.

Among them is the development of a new tool that connects people to information regarding where and when they could be eligible for vaccination by expanding Facebook COVID-19 Information Center to Instagram.

In parallel, it would also expand WhatsApp’s chatbots responding to inquiries about the virus by getting more people registered to take the jab with the relevant health authorities, while adding labels on vaccine-oriented posts, showing information from the World Health Organization (WHO). 

The tech company has also partnered with Boston Children’s Hospital to power the vaccine finder tool to aid people in identifying nearby vaccination centers for respective American citizens, with location information being processed by VaccineFinder.org which would include hours of operation, contact info, as well as the ability to book appointments online.

Facebook users can access the tool within the COVID-19 Information Center, with social media platform noting that it will be supported in 71 different languages, with plans “to expand into other countries as vaccines become available more widely.”

“We are thrilled to be joining forces with Facebook to build tools that aim to support consumers in their search for COVID-19 vaccines. Improving vaccine access and equity across the country will be a critical step in achieving herd immunity and bringing this pandemic to a close,” John Brownstein, CIO of Boston Children’s Hospital said in a separate statement.  

Connecting People to Resources on Instagram

Facebook’s COVID-19 Information Center expansion into Instagram, which was first launched back in March of last year, will aid people to discover the latest information about the virus from local health ministries and the WHO.

Not only that, but the social media titan announced that they would support the United Nations’ “Only Together” campaign, which calls for the fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccinations around the world.

“In the coming days, we will be launching in-feed informational messages to promote content posted by health organizations who are participating in the UN’s campaign,” Zuckerberg noted.

Launching CrowdTangle COVID Vaccine Live Displays

Facebook is also making it easy to track how COVID-19 vaccine information is being spread on social media through CrowdTangle’s COVID-19 Live Displays. Publishers, global aid organizations, journalists, and others can access real-time, global streams of vaccine-related posts on Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit in 34 languages.

CrowdTangle also offers Live Displays for 104 countries and all 50 states in the U.S. to help aid organizations and journalists track posts and trends at a regional level as well.

TK Maloy has been in the journalism/media profession for over 30 years, with a writing portfolio that includes coverage of Capitol Hill, Wall Street, Main Street, and the world, doing business, economic, political, and feature reporting, with specializations including corporate and high-tech topics.

Technology

AI-equipped robot shocks fans during the basketball Olympics

Rim Zrein

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Olympics

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games kicked off in July, showcasing its technological advancement after it got postponed due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.  

Luckily, the postponement gave creators and innovators the time to utilize the latest technology to offer those who tune in to watch an experience of a lifetime. 

One of the many inventions that took audiences by surprise is Toyota’s AI-equipped basketball robot, which hones the ability to shoot hoops that might arguably put professional basketball players to shame. 

Under the name CUE, the AI-robot made an appearance during halftime of USA-France men’s basketball Olympics and showed the crowd its ability to shoot with almost a 100 percent accuracy from short distances. 

The 6-foot-10-inch-tall Japanese robot shocked audiences when it scored a free throw, a three-pointer, then nonchalantly walked over to the midcourt line and shot a half-court pointer.  

CUE uses its built-in sensors in its torso to calculate the distance, angle, and strength in order to perfect its aim.  

However, NBA players should not feel replaceable, as CUE can’t dribble or jump and is somewhat slow as seen in the video below where it took quite some time for Toyota’s AI-robot to shoot the three-pointer. 

Technology is arguably the star of Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games. The state-of-the-art technology witnessed during the sports games is fascinating. 

The fact that an AI-equipped robot was able to replicate some of our human abilities, might just be a step into accelerating the drive to replace humans with artificially intelligent machinery.  

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What to expect from Facebook’s smart glasses

Rim Zrein

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Facebook

During Facebook’s recent earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg confirmed the company’s next hardware release will debut the tech giant’s collaboration with Ray-Ban eyewear on a pair of augmented reality glasses. 

The long-awaited Ray-Ban “smart glasses” were supposed to launch in 2021. However, as a steep plunge in COVID-19 cases forced most of the world into a lockdown, a lot of tech firm’s plans changed. 

“Looking ahead here, the next product release will be the launch of our first smart glasses from Ray-Ban in partnership with EssilorLuxottica,” Facebook head and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said. “The glasses have their iconic form factor, and they let you do some pretty neat things.”  

The “neat things” Zuckerberg is talking about remains a mystery. However, the smart glasses concept came up while Zuckerberg was describing his outlook on Facebook’s future, which includes a virtual reality unlike no other

“I’m excited to get these into people’s hands and to continue to make progress on the journey towards full augmented reality glasses in the future,” Zuckerberg expressed. 

Considering Zuckerberg’s comments on the release didn’t satisfy tech fan’s curiosity, CNET spoke with Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s head of AR/VR hardware, who explained that they’re indeed smart glasses, but not AR glasses as Facebook has said so far. 

“We’re being careful not to call them augmented reality glasses. When you’re overlaying digital artifacts onto the world, that’s really augmented reality. These aren’t augmented reality glasses. However, they do a lot of the concepts we think will eventually be critical for augmented reality glasses,” Bosworth said. 

The features of the smart glasses aren’t all unique. However, as much as it’s ironic to state, Bosworth made it clear that one of the things Facebook is looking at for all their AR, starting with the smart glasses, is how can they help users be more present. 

This isn’t the first attempt a major tech company produces smart glasses, as Google did quite a stir back in 2014 following the release of “Google Glass,” which was a bold move, but failed nonetheless.  

The idea seemed exciting, but eventually transformed into an online meme. Besides, many weren’t keen with the idea of having a tech tool constantly emitting radiations at face level. 

The road to actual AR glasses could take more time than anticipated, while other tech giants hunt after similar goals.  

The Ray-Ban glasses coming this year will be a steppingstone into Zuckerberg’s “metaverse” vision for Facebook, but they likely won’t do as much as we’d like to believe. 

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Facebook profits top $10B as its CEO exalts the ‘metaverse’

Associated Press

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Facebook profits top $10B as its CEO exalts the 'metaverse'

Concerns about a revenue growth slowdown pushed Facebook’s shares lower in after-hours trading Wednesday, not long after the company reported that its second-quarter profits doubled thanks to a massive increase in advertising revenue.

But CEO Mark Zuckerberg set his sights far beyond the second half of 2021, exalting what he sees as the next phase of how people experience the internet. What the rest of the world might know as augmented and virtual reality with a dash of science fiction, Zuckerberg and others are calling “the metaverse,” a futuristic and somewhat vague notion that encompasses AR, VR and new, yet-to-be-imagined ways of connecting to one another via technology.

Zuckerberg expects the metaverse to be the next big thing after the mobile internet, although he’s had a spotty track record when it comes to predicting major trends of the near future. At Facebook’s f8 conference four years ago, for instance, Zuckerberg predicted a future where you will sit in your bedroom wearing a headset and take a virtual vacation with faraway friends and family, or use your smartphone’s camera to virtually spruce up your dinky apartment.

So far, this has not materialized. Then there’s Libra — now known as Diem — a cryptocurrency project Facebook launched in 2019 amid great fanfare. At the time, Facebook envisioned Libra as an emerging global digital currency; its ambitions have since been scaled back considerably amid regulatory and commercial backlash.

In a conference call with analysts, Zuckerberg called the metaverse the “next generation of the internet and next chapter for us as a company,” one that he said will create “entirely new experiences and economic opportunities.”

For now, though, Facebook still has to contend with more mundane matters such as antitrust crackdowns in the U.S. and elsewhere as well as concerns about how it handles vaccine-related and political misinformation on its platform. The company said, as it has before, that it expects challenges in its ability to target ads this year — including regulatory pressure and Apple’s privacy changes that make it harder for companies like Facebook to track people who can opt out of that form of surveillance.

Although the social network doubled its profit in the second quarter, in part because of higher average prices it charged for the ads it delivers to its nearly 3 billion users. But the company said it doesn’t expect revenue to continue to grow at such a breakneck pace in the second half of the year.

“This quarter’s results are extremely strong and show little sign of impact from Apple’s iOS update as of yet,” said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson, noting that in the year-ago quarter Facebook saw its slowest revenue growth since going public, so it was an easy comparison. “But it’s also due to the fact that there is enormous demand for Facebook and Instagram advertising, and more competition leads to higher ad prices.”

Separately, Facebook said on Wednesday that it will make vaccines mandatory for employees in the U.S. who work in offices. Exceptions will be made for medical and other reasons. Google announced a similar policy earlier in the day.

The Menlo Park, California-based company earned $10.39 billion, or $3.61 per share, in the April-June period. That’s up from $5.18 billion, or $1.80 per share, a year earlier. Revenue jumped 56% to $28.58 billion from $18.32 billion. Analysts, on average, were expecting earnings of $3.04 per share and revenue of $24.85 billion, according to a poll by FactSet.

Advertising revenue growth was driven by a 47% year-over-year increase in the average price per ad and a 6% increase in the number of ads shown to people. Facebook said it expects ad prices, not the amount of ads it delivers, to continue to drive growth.

The company predicted uncertainty for 2021 back in January, saying its revenue in the latter half of the year could face significant pressure. Because revenue grew so quickly in the second half of 2020, Facebook said at the time that it could have trouble keeping up that pace.

Williamson said the third quarter will be an important one for the company, “as the full effects of the Apple update take hold.”

“We will have a much better sense of how well Facebook has been able to adjust its core ad targeting products to manage the reduced amount of information it can tap into,” she said.

Facebook had 2.9 billion monthly users as of June, up 7% from a year earlier.

Shares fell $11.77, or 3.2%, to $373.28 in after-hours trading. Earlier in the day, the stock hit an all-time high of $377. 55 in anticipation of the results, so the decline wasn’t unexpected.

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