"the fitbit for your brain" and more tech stories from the week

Sep 02, 2020 2:31 pm


The week's again surrounded by two big events: Trump vs TikTok and Fortnite vs Apple. They're going overtime. But thankfully, it's probably the second last coverage of those events. (Probably).

And if you care about any of the two events, make sure you've read previous Wire Weekly newsletters.

But if you haven't, don't worry we've linked to the previous story of both updates. You can read it there.

PS: We've added share links so you can share news on Twitter. We'll expand and experiment soon. (We welcome suggestions and critics)

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Update: Fortnite vs Apple

[Read: Epic vs Apple, explained in 5 mins to understand the context]

Fortnite is splitting into two

  • Apple and Fortnite's battle has made the iPhone and macOS versions of the game pretty much a separate game.
  • (Yes, you can still play it if you've downloaded it before)
  • Players who play on an Apple device can neither play the latest season of the game nor play with players on other platforms.
  • (Fortnite's new season is based on Marvel)
  • Even on macOS, where Fortnite runs on it's own launcher, the new update of the game will be absent.

(The Verge)

Epic's App Store Developer licenses.

  • Epic has two developer accounts on the App Store: one for Fortnite and another for Unreal Engine.
  • After Apple threatened to terminate both of them, Epic took the matter to court.
  • The court saved the Unreal Engine's developer account because apps of many other creators depend on it but the Fortnite one, it's gone.

Unreal Engine's future

  • Epic reports although Unreal Engine's account is not yet banned, just Apple's threat is making developers stop using it.
  • If, by any chance, it happens that Apple terminates Unreal Engine's account, then Epic will suffer.
  • Apps that currently run on Unreal Engine will run as usual — unless a big bug pops up and breaks a major functioning of any app.
  • Epic will be able to just see it happening — without a developer account it can't help those developers by fixing bugs on Apple platforms.
  • Future game makers will mind this fact and not choose Unreal Engine to create games anymore.
  • This ultimately means game developers will have to use different engines to make apps on Apple platforms and different ones to make on non-Apple platforms.
  • Microsoft said in court, “[this] may be prohibitively expensive and difficult. In any event, it is not as cost-effective as using a game engine that supports different platforms."
  • Not only games, Unreal Engine also supports Hollywood productions like The Mandalorian and Star Wars and even car makers like Audi and Porsche use it to make visualisation. Heck, even The Weather Channel uses it for mixed reality segments.

(The Verge)

The Court said Apple can choose to terminate Epic's Fortnite developer account

  • Apple accused Epic was repeatedly submitting the update to Fortnite designed to violate the guidelines.
  • But Epic CEO Tim Sweeney denied and tweeted that they hadn't "spammed [the] app store review process" as Apple says.
  • He said they just released three updates: 2 bug fixes and one season update. With a note:


Apple promoting PUBG

  • After that, Apple started promoting PUBG, a Fortnite rival game on the App Store.
  • And Tim Sweeney tweeted quoting App Stores' PUBG promotion tweet: "While waiting for Apple to #FreeFortnite on iOS and Mac, here’s another awesome battle royale game powered by Unreal Engine!


Meanwhile, Apple updates some App Store policies — and allowed Developers to challenge App Store rules

  • In June's WWDC, Apple announced it will no more hold bug fix updates for apps that violate App Store policies. (Except for those related to legal issues)
  • Also: now app developers can submit suggests changes to App Store policies.


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Update: Trump vs TikTok

[Read previous events to understand this story]

TikTok CEO resigns, as the deal nears end.

  • Kevin Mayer, who left Disney to join TikTok as its CEO and ByteDance (TikTok's parent company) as it's COO, is resigning.
  • Now that TikTok's future in the US isn't so certain, Mayer wouldn't be able to work as ByteDance's COO, the global role he signed up for. That's what he says made him resign.
  • Also he feels "the political scenario has changed sharply," which definitely has, as bidding on TikTok nears end.
  • We've two main contenders: Microsoft who teamed up with Walmart and Oracle.
  • And reportedly, TikTok has choosen its master.
  • The bid: $20B-30B

Microsoft and Walmart

  • Walmart initially teamed up with Alphabet (Google's parent company) and a few other companies that formed a consortium to buy TikTok's US operations.
  • But that somehow failed and now, Walmart is joining hands with Microsoft.
  • Why does this make sense? Walmart's all American and has a wide existing customer base while Mirocosft has the technology and infrastructure to run TikTok.
  • Anyways, Microsoft says the result of the deal will be public by 15th September.


Oracle, the second big contender with a $20B deal

  • $10B cash in hand and $10B stocks. Plus 50% of annual profit from TikTok.
  • TheWrap reports Trump would like Oracle win the deal.


A third competitor, TikTok wasn't aware of

  • A TikTok like app, Triller and Centricus, a London-based investment firm wants to buy TikTok's US, India, Australia and New Zealand divisions too.
  • The deal: $10B cash up front and $10B in profit shares.
  • When asked about this, a TikTok spokesperson said, "What's Triller?"
  • That's probably because Centricus is talking about the TikTok deal to ByteDance (TikTok's parent company) and not to TikTok directly.
  • But again ByteDance spokesperson said, he's "unaware of any interest."

(The Verge) (Bloomberg)

With talks of TikTok deal happening all over, there's someone who doesn't like it much — Chinese authorities

  • TikTok is the most successful app by a Chinese maker yet and Chinese authorities won't like losing it.
  • So they updated China's export control rules making ByteDance require a license to sell TikTok's video recommendations engine to foreign countries.
  • Either China wants a bigger buck if selling TikTok or it doesn't want to sell TikTok at all.
  • Because if TikTok is blocked in the US without sale, the app's fans and influencers would go against Trump.


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Week's News

🧠 Elon Musk demoed Neuralink, "the fitbit for your head"

  • Neuralink, Elon Musk's brain-computer interface startup showed off their latest tech — a brain chip implanted on humans to help solve anxiety, stress, blindness, depression etc.
  • It looks like a large coin planted on your skull. Musk calls it
Fitbit for your skull.
  • Live on the demonstration, Musk showed the chip implanted on pigs. He brought to stage 4 pigs, one without the chip, one which had the chip for 2 months and then removed, another with the chip on his head and the last one with two chips together.
  • Musk hopes to further develop such brain chips to the point where one can be installed in a doctor’s office in under an hour.
 “This actually does work, it’s just not something the average person can use effectively.”
  • Musk believes billions of consumers will one day willingly place their heads, submitting as an automated saw carves out a circle of bone and a robot threads electronics into their brains.
 “I could have a Neuralink right now and you wouldn’t know it,” Musk said.

(CNN) (MIT Technology Review)

🚘 Japan’s SkyDrive ‘Flying Car’ Successfully Carries Out Test Flight

  • The vehicle takes off and lands vertically allowing quick point-to-point personal travel.
“Of the world's more than 100 flying car projects, only a handful has succeeded with a person on board" 

(Gadgets360) (Share to your followers on Twitter)

🚀 SpaceX launched it's first South-bound rocket from Florida in decades

  • Most flights that take off from the East Coast of the US head eastward to orbit the Earth h East to West (horizontally). 
  • But SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket took a northward turn and headed towards a polar orbit (North to South, vertically). 
  • This was, in fact, the first time since 1969 that Florida saw a rocket headed South. Usually, such polar orbiting rockets launch from the South Coast.

(The Verge)

🤳 Xiaomi's 3rd Gen Under Screen Camera tech solves the pixel density problem.

  • The under screen camera tech we see in prototypes currently have a tiny part of screen with reduced number of pixels so light can enter the screen and allow the camera to work.
  • This means that small area will have lower resolution than the rest of the screen.
  • But Xiaomi says it has solved the problem, by making light pass through gaps between the sub pixels. Thus, maintaining equal resolution across the screen.

(TechCrunch) (Share to your Twitter followers)

🍎Apple Plans to add AR Content to Apple TV+

  • You can see elements of the show like characters and objects as if they were in your living room. 
  • It's expected to come in 2020 with the Apple headset.


🔍 Apple may launch its own Google-like search engine

  • Google pays around $12B to remain the default search engine for Apple devices and their current deal is coming to an end.
  • The amount of the deal is so huge that Google's competitors can't afford them.
  • So the UK Government might force Apple and Google to discontinue this monopolistic deal.
  • That suggests Apple might launch it's own search engine.
  • Previously, an analyst suggested Apple to buy DuckDuckGo, a privacy focused search engine. (Kunal wrote on why Apple might be interested in search engine business)


Apple blocked a Facebook update that called the 30% cut "Apple Tax"

[Read previous events of this story to understand context

  • Apple takes 30% of the money when someone buys something on Facebook from an iPhone. 
  • Facebook launched an update that tells users about this 30% cut. 
  • It has also tried to ask Apple to reduce the fee but was denied. - Apple blocked this update saying it violated a App Store rule that doesn't let developers show "irrelevant" information to users

(The Verge

🏃Amazon launches Halo: A fitness band and app that scans your body and voice

  • Halo is a subscription based app ($3.99/month) and a band ($99) with no digital screens
  • It uses your phone's camera to make a 3D model of your body and scan for body fats
  • Also it listens to your voice to detect your tone and happiness
  • Halo isn't a part of Amazon's Prime subscription and is currently in invite-only beta 

(The Verge) (Share to your Twitter followers)

🚁Amazon gets official approval to fly its delivery drones

  • Amazon's plans to make 30 minutes deliveries — aka Prime Air — a reality got regulatory approval in the US and plans to work with other countries. 
  • Before Amazon, Alphabet's Wing and UPS Flight Forward got allowance for commercial drone delivery 
  • The drone can deliver packages of under five pounds a distance of up to 15 miles in 30 minutes or less. 

(Mashable)  (Share to your followers on Twitter)

💰Jeff Bezos Becomes The First Man Ever Worth $200B

  • With Amazon's stock upping 2% on Wednesday afternoon, Bezos' net worth is $204.6B making him wealthier than ever before.
  • While second richest person, Bill Gates, is worth $116.1B

(Forbes) (Share to your Twitter followers)

🚹 Amazon Patents AR Tech to Show Product Reviews on Your Body Parts 

(PCMag) (Share to your Twitter followers)

📃Newly unsealed documents show that even Google employees found it's location privacy settings misleading.

  • In 2018, Associated Press reported Google Maps and other services spying on your location even when users had explicitly turned off those settings 
  • Documents from a lawsuit against the company finds its own employees talking: 
"The current UI feels like it is designed to make things possible, yet difficult enough that people won’t figure it out."
 "Some people (including even Googlers) don’t know that there is a global switch and a per-device switch."
 "Indeed we aren’t very good at explaining this to users. Add me to the list of Googlers who didn’t understand how this worked and was surprised when I read the article ... we shipped a UI that confuses users."
"I agree with the article. Location off should mean location off, not except for this case or that case."

(Ars Technica)

📉 YouTube took down more videos than ever — thanks to non-human moderators

  • YouTube's content moderation, normally done by depressed humans, is now being automated thanks to (you guessed it) coronavirus. 
  • YouTube's AI took down 11.6M videos between April and June while last year it took down only 9M. 

(The Verge) (Share to your Twitter followers)

💳 Google Pay's NFC-Based Card Payments Option Rolling Out in India 


👨‍🎤 Music artists can't hold live events anymore. Spotify's new feature helps them do it virtually.

  • Spotify's upcoming feature will show you upcoming virtual events by artists in the app. 
  • Jane Manchun Wong, a reverse engineer, first discovered this new feature when he saw 2020 iHeartRadio Music Festival under "upcoming virtual events" on BTS' profile. 

(Twitter: @wongmjane

📡 Reddit's Streaming Service Random Public Access Network is going to get bigger.

  • RPAN, which celebrated its second anniversary last week, is only available for some sub-reddits as of now but will probably expand soon.
  • Viewer base is definitely less than YouTube or Twitch but actual numbers are unknown.

(The Verge) (Share to your followers on Twitter)

📺 Netflix made first episode of some original shows free to watch to get people on it's platform.


🗞️Facebook plans to expand it's news tab to UK, Germany, India, France and Brazil — within a year or a half. 

(The Verge)

©️Music production company, T-Series sued short video app Roposo against copyright infringement. 

 (ET Tech) 

🛒 Walmart Plus takes on Amazon Prime with $98-a-year membership fee 


⌚OnePlus Watch in the work. And is rumoured to launch alongside OnePlus 8T. 


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We'll see you next week. Cheers

The Wire Mail team.