Week Ending: 12th June - A Roundup in I.T. & Tech News

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In this week’s roundup of I.T. and tech news, we look at how robots are helping humans during the Coronavirus pandemic, why Amazon has had to ban its controversial facial recognition software to police forces and how satellite technology is set to help commonwealth countries protect their endangered coral reefs. It’s been another busy one, so keep up to date with all the latest news here.

How robots are helping humans during Covid-19

From disinfecting hospitals to delivering groceries, robots around the world have been helping humans during the Coronavirus pandemic, and there are some extremely innovative designs.

In Singapore, robotics company Boston Dynamics has created a four-legged yellow “dog” to alert park-goers of their social distancing obligations. The robotic hound stands about a metre high and is equipped with cameras and sensors which are used to track down individuals who are breaking the rules and then announces pre-recorded warnings.

This is a great invention to ensure park-goers are kept safe and socially distant, reducing the risk of the infection spreading.

In Milton Keynes, Starship Technologies’ robots have been delivering food and small supermarket shopping consignments to hungry residents. The small vehicles are able to navigate pavements with no human driver required, reaching up to a speed of 4mph.

In Japan, during graduation ceremonies, robots have been used to replace quarantined students who are unable to attend their graduation ceremonies.

The robots have a computer tablet for a head and have been clothed in academic gowns. Students have then made a Zoom call to ‘receive’ their degree from a university official. What a great invention to ensure students don’t miss out on such an important day.

We are certainly starting to question, is there anything robots can’t do?

Discover more ways robots have been helping humans during the Coronavirus here.

Amazon bars police forces from using its facial recognition technology

Amazon has announced that its facial recognition software, Rekognition, is now off limits to police forces for one year until there are stronger regulations around it. Police are now banned from using its controversial facial recognition after civil rights advocates raised concerns about the potential racial bias in surveillance technology.

Amazon has recently expressed its support for the Black Lives Matter movement, but the company has been called hypocritical because it sells its facial recognition software to police forces.

Facial recognition technologies, such as Rekognition, have been called inaccurate and inconsistent tools when used to profile individuals – particularly when it comes to recognising people of colour, regularly falsely identifying people as criminals.

As a result of these claims, the suspension of law enforcement use of the Rekognition software is to give US lawmakers the opportunity to enact legislation to regulate how technology is employed.

Amazon announced in a statement: “We’ve advocated that governments should put in place stronger regulations to govern the ethical use of facial recognition technology.

We hope this one-year moratorium might give Congress enough time to implement appropriate rules, and we stand ready to help if requested.”

Find out more here.

Commonwealth countries set to use satellite technology to monitor coral reefs

Commonwealth countries, such as Australia and Barbados, are set to gain free access to satellite technologies which will enable them to monitor and protect their endangered coral reefs from climate breakdown, overfishing and pollution.

As a result of climate change, overfishing and pollution, nearly half of the world’s coral reefs have already been destroyed. Appropriate action must now be taken to protect the rest of the world’s reefs as they are at a high risk of extinction in the coming decades.

The satellite technology will use high-resolution images and data analysis to allow marine scientists, government officials and policymakers to monitor the health of coral reefs and take appropriate action when needed to protect them. Fishing, dredging, oil drilling, construction and other forms of exploitation will be banned in certain areas that are struggling.

Free software is also going to be provided to countries through the Commonwealth’s partnership with Vulcan Inc, a US-based group founded by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist, Paul Allen. Plus, a new interactive coral reef map will be available online at the Commonwealth Innovation Hub to help protect the world’s coral reefs.

Read more here.

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