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The Download

The Download: Apple Vision Pro, and how AI judges gymnastics

Plus: OpenAI has shared its plans for forthcoming elections

This is today's edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what's going on in the world of technology.

Apple Vision Pro: 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2024

History is littered with doomed face computers. Google Glass, Microsoft HoloLens, and even Meta’s Quest line all flopped. Now, it’s Apple’s turn to try. 

At the start of next month, Apple plans to start shipping its new Vision Pro, the company’s first mixed-reality headset. Its commercial success is very much an open question, but the Vision Pro is no doubt a breakthrough device, with a display radically better than any that has come before. 

There are some big remaining questions though, above all: What will people use it for? Read the full story.

—Amy Nordrum

Apple’s Vision Pro is just one of MIT Technology Review’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies for 2024. Check out the rest of the list and vote for the final 11th breakthrough—we’ll reveal the winner in April.

+ The most exciting part of the Vision Pro headset? Its miniscule pixels.

Take an inside look at the 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2024

Every year for the past 20+ years, MIT Technology Review has selected a list of the breakthrough technologies that will have the greatest impact on how we live and work in the future.

Join MIT Technology Review’s editors for an exclusive subscribers-only Roundtables event this afternoon at 12:30pm ET. The event will include a walkthrough of the items on the list, a deep dive into what you need to know about several items, and an in-depth look at how the list was made. Register here, and if you haven’t already, subscribe today to save up to 25%.

How AI is changing gymnastics judging 

The 2023 World Championships last October marked the first time an AI judging system was used on every apparatus in a gymnastics competition. There are obvious upsides to using this kind of technology: AI could help take the guesswork out of the judging technicalities. It could even help to eliminate biases, making the sport both more fair and more transparent.

At the same time, others fear AI judging will take away something that makes gymnastics special. Gymnastics is a subjective sport, like diving or dressage, and technology could eliminate the judges’ role in crafting a narrative.

For better or worse, AI has officially infiltrated the world of gymnastics. The question now is whether it really makes it fairer. Read the full story.

—Jessica Taylor Price

Why everyone’s excited about household robots again

Building truly useful household robots that we can easily offload tasks to has been a science fiction fantasy for decades, and is the ultimate goal of many roboticists. 

But robots are clumsy, and struggle to do things we find easy. The sorts of robots that can do very complex things, like surgery, often cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, which makes them prohibitively expensive.

However, that’s starting to change. Thanks to AI, we’re slowly inching towards the goal of household robots that can do our chores. Read the full story.

—Melissa Heikkilä

This story is from The Algorithm, our weekly newsletter giving you the inside track on all things AI. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Monday.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 OpenAI is promising to combat election misinformation 
It’s trying to crack down on use of its tools for political campaigning, or impersonating candidates. (WSJ $)
+ It’s the latest in a long line of tech firms to update their election policies recently. (WP $)
+ Eric Schmidt has advice for how we fight misinformation this election year. (MIT Technology Review)

2 New Apple Watch models won’t be banned in the US after all
So long as the company drops its contentious blood oxygen feature. (Bloomberg $)

3 A new covid variant could be its mildest form yet

Unfortunately, it’s even more infectious. (New Scientist $)

4 Detecting brain diseases as early as possible is essential
A simple scratch-and-sniff test could lend a helping hand. (Wired $)

5 What AI means for the future of intellectual property
Everything has to come from something. (New Yorker $)
+ The high risk and reward of open-source AI. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ These six questions will dictate the future of generative AI. (MIT Technology Review)

6 If you want to predict a storm, count the lightning flashes
Or better still, get a supercomputer to do it for you. (IEEE Spectrum)
+ Google DeepMind’s weather AI can forecast extreme weather faster and more accurately. (MIT Technology Review)

7 Automakers are racing to develop solid-state EV batteries
But billions of dollars and decades of research later, it’s still proving elusive. (Reuters)
+ This startup wants to pack more energy into electric vehicle batteries. (MIT Technology Review)

8 The unavoidable allure of the group chat 💬
Hate to participate, hate to miss out. (NYT $)

9 How Spotify brought Afrobeats to the world 🎧
African talent is reaching entirely new global audiences. (Rest of World)
+ Times are still tough for the music industry, though. (Bloomberg $)

10 Everything on the internet is too long these days
Even TikToks, which used to be famed for their brevity. (The Atlantic $)

Quote of the day

“It's the digital equivalent of wearing an obviously fake Chanel bag.”

—Del Walker, a senior video games artist, reflects on how AI-generated marketing art has lost its prestige now it’s so readily available.

The big story

The great chip crisis threatens the promise of Moore’s Law 

June 2021

The world is facing an economically devastating shortage of microchips.

Production has also slowed for smartphones, laptops, video-game consoles, TVs, and even smart appliances, all because of the lack of cheap microchips. Their use is so essential and so widespread that some observers think the chip crisis could threaten the global economic recovery from the pandemic.

The spirit of Moore’s Law—the expectation that cheap, powerful chips will always be readily available—is now being threatened by something far more mundane: inflexible supply chains. Read the full story.

—Jeremy Hsu

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet 'em at me.)

+ Willem Dafoe is a true film buff.
+ Uhoh—Bobi, who was believed to be the world’s oldest dog—is under investigation!
+ We’re slowly but surely learning more about what giant squid get up to in the depths of the ocean. 🦑
+ Mega congratulations to Jennifer Coolidge for her Emmy award!
+ I knew it: ants really are tiny geniuses.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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