Weekend Roundup: Uber’s Big Payouts; Intel Wants to End Online Cursing

You made it to the weekend! Before you sign out of your accounts and go outside, let’s take a moment to revisit some of the big stories from the week, including Uber’s attempt to bring drivers back to the platform, as well as Intel’s bold effort to use A.I. to end… online profanity. Let’s jump in!

Uber’s Big Payouts

Uber has weathered a number of storms over the past year, including massive layoffs and a steep reduction in its core rideshare business. And now, with COVID-19 vaccinations on the rise and people feeling more confident about traveling, the company faces yet another problem: Not enough drivers to meet increased passenger demand.

In order to encourage people to get behind the wheel for Uber again, the company plans on spending $250 million on financial incentives for drivers. For example, drivers who complete a certain number of trips may be eligible for bonuses in excess of $1,000. “We want drivers to take advantage of higher earnings now because this is likely a temporary situation. As the recovery continues, we expect more drivers will be hitting the road, which means that over time earnings will come back to pre-Covid levels,” the company wrote in a statement

Uber is now in something of a rebuilding phase. The pressures of the pandemic compelled it to cut away some of its bolder initiatives, including the long-running attempt to build autonomous automobiles. In a December 2020 email seen by The New York Times, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi framed the decision as necessary. “I know there are questions about whether Uber has any ‘big, bold’ bets left,” he wrote. “I understand that question, but I think it misses the big, bold bets right in front of us: to become the undisputed global leaders in both Mobility and Delivery.”

But if Uber is going to focus on mobility and delivery, it needs drivers—hence the enormous expenditure on bonuses. 

Intel Wants to End Online Cussing

Tired of all the cussing on the internet? Intel thinks it has a solution: Bleep, an A.I. tool that can detect and filter any audio that might offend the user. You’ll have granular control over what want to block, such as “Misogyny” or “Name-calling.” At this point, the software is pre-beta and only controls the user’s audio output (such as speakers and headphones). 

“This application is designed to be entirely opt-in, giving the user control over their experience and the choice to redact incoming audio from other players based on the user’s preferences,” Intel added in its methodology. “All of Bleep’s algorithms run locally on the user’s client. Bleep does not control the experience of other players.”

Right now, Bleep is focused exclusively on gamers, but you can see how it could port pretty easily to other applications and services. The question is whether the majority of gamers—and people online as a whole—want language bleeped out in real time. 

A Hole to the Far Side of the World

Curious about what’s on the other side of the world from you? A new browser-based augmented reality (AR) app from Google, named Floom, can give you a clue. Point your phone at the ground, tap the onscreen icon, and watch as a virtual hole opens up, showing you what’s in that exact spot on the far side of Earth:

Floom is part of a larger collection of Google apps powered by WebXR, which is meant to bring AR and virtual reality (VR) to the web. The other apps include Sodar, which “helps to visualize social distancing” (in Google’s words), and Measure Up, which allows you to calculate lengths, areas and volume without a tape measure. There’s just one downside: These experiments are limited to Android devices.

That’s it! Have a good weekend, everyone!