Tech News

Facebook Maps Where We Live, Hoverboards Officially Unsafe… [Tech News Digest]

Angela Randall 22-02-2016

Facebook makes detailed population density maps, FBI says all hoverboards are dangerous, Facebook creates a team for social in VR, Legend of Zelda turns 30, and watching 554 Simpsons episodes in 360º VR could actually blow your mind.


Facebook Maps Out Where We Live


As a side effect of Facebook’s attempt to connect everyone to the Internet, Facebook has created super-detailed population density maps. The intent is to then use well-positioned drones and satellites to deliver Internet access to many people in the most efficient way. Facebook’s Connectivity Lab has already spent two years building these drones, satellites and lasers to deliver this Internet access, and has now mapped out exactly where it needs to be delivered.

As this is expensive technology and most of the earth doesn’t have people living there, it was vitally important to know exactly where people lived. Yael Maguire, who oversees Facebook’s Connectivity Lab, describes it as a needle in the haystack problem, and used deep learning and satellite images to develop the maps that show exactly where we all live.

“We realized we couldn’t answer that question—and it’s a very basic question,” — Yael Maguire.

Deep learning neural networks for this project were developed using the most simplistic data fathomable. Instead of asking humans to label buildings, roads and other signs of human life, they were simply asked to say whether there were any human artifacts at all.

“We just asked: ‘Is there a human artifact in this image or not?’ Binary question. Yes or no.” — Yael Maguire.

Hoverboards Are Officially Unsafe

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) have officially stated that all hoverboards are unsafe and have said that they will recall and seize any hoverboards found in the US or during import. They say no hoverboard has yet passed the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification process, and they encourage all manufacturers to ensure their products meet the UL standards and are certified as safe for human use.


John Drengenberg from UL says a significant failure is when wires, motor, battery, or any other components overheat and lack the insulation to keep other components from softening or burning. That’d be why we see so many of them bursting into flames.

“One of the most common problems when a test is failed is what we call the ‘temperature test.’ That’s nothing more than operating the product under certain standards specifications and seeing how hot the various components inside gets. It’s one of the more common failure modes that a manufacturer might see.” — John Drengenberg.

Amazon still have several uncertified hoverboards available for sale, and have not said whether they’ll remove the items from their catalog. It’s probably not a good idea to buy one.

Facebook Attempts to Make Virtual Reality Social

In anticipation of Facebook’s Oculus Rift Headset launch this month, Mark Zuckerberg has created a virtual reality team, headed by two video game executives, Daniel James and Mike Booth. Both of the team leaders have extensive backgrounds in developing 3D multiplayer experiences.

Facebook users have uploaded over 20,000 VR-friendly videos in 360º format to the site, since late 2015 when the feature was first added. There has been speculation that Facebook will develop something akin to Second Life, and Facebook-Owned Oculus is already experimenting with social features in VR. Social games such as table tennis are also in development, and Facebook clearly sees this as the leading edge of social communication.


“VR is the next platform, where anyone can experience and share anything they want” — Mark Zuckerberg

The Legend of Zelda Turns 30

Nintendo’s classic adventure game The Legend of Zelda has just turned 30. The Japanese company officially released the game on February 21st, 1986 triggering the start of one of the biggest video game franchises of all time. The series has sold over 75 million copies since then, and shows no sign of slowing down.

Nintendo clearly plans to cash in on this, as it’s releasing a Twilight Princess remaster (for Wii U) and Hyrule Warriors Legends (for 3DS) in the next few months, with more due later this year. At least those of us now feeling old have something good to look forward to.

Watch a 360º Sphere of 554 Simpsons Episodes

And finally, Omni Verse’s amazing compilation of 554 episodes of The Simpsons playing at once has been upgraded to 360º viewing. John Hatfield modified the original video of simultaneous episodes of The Simpsons and turned it into something truly breathtaking.

The only question that remains is “Do you dare watch it on a VR headset?”. We think that might be asking too much, actually.


Your Views on Today’s Tech News

Let us know your thoughts on the Tech News of the day by posting to the comments section below. Because a healthy discussion is always welcome.

Tech News Digest is a daily column paring the technology news of the day down into bite-sized chunks that are easy to read and perfect for sharing.

Image Credit: via Facebook

Related topics: Facebook, Maps, Oculus Rift, Virtual Reality.

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    February 23, 2016 at 8:55 pm

    All this time I thought it was the lipos going off since most stories I heard about said "while on the charger" or "while charging". I fly RC and use a lot of lipos and either you have a charger with the safety circuit built into the charger or you have a minimal safety circuit in the top of the battery where the wires exit. It is supposed to keep the lipo from over-charging (cause it to swell and possibly rupture the vinyl/plastic bag the cell is enclosed in) and to keep it from over discharging which can have the same symptoms and effect as over-charging. If the minimal built-in circuit fails and the board is run down to where it won't go anymore then put into a charge state, bad things can happen on this charge cycle or the next very easily. these batteries are not supposed to be discharged more than 80% of their capacity. Over discharged or over charged the batteries are damaged. When these plastic/vinyl bags swell and rupture the chemicals inside ignite immediately when the come in contact with air. Period. If you have a 3-cell battery 1 split/damaged cell can set the other 2 cells a fire. When these chemicals go off they burn very fast and very hot, kind of like a Magnesium Flare burns.
    The RCcharger I use cost $160.00 and the safety circuitry is top notch. The minimal safety circuit in the top of a lipo cost less than $1.00, even less if you a Chinese Co and buying the absolute cheapest parts from the supplier down the street that sells seconds to you @ 50 for 1 cent. I've seen RCers burn their cars up their houses down and even seen a big battery go off and melt the inside of a concrete lined fireproof safe, which barely contained the fire.

    February 23, 2016 at 6:26 am

    So, you want my adblocker turned off or else you want to charge me $1 for the privilege of viewing your site? No thanks

    • timo
      February 23, 2016 at 7:55 pm

      I agree totally! Until you start dealing with advertisers who can act in a responsible manner, my adblockers stay on! And pay for the "privilege" of reading your content? It ain't worth it.

  3. Karl
    February 23, 2016 at 2:13 am

    Depends on the standard of the insulation. What is used in a hoverboard may not be as heat resistant as that used in automobiles.

    • Angela Randall
      February 24, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      Apparently that's the case so far. If they used better insulation we could all have our hoverboards.

  4. Anonymous
    February 23, 2016 at 1:27 am

    Are they saying that the hoverboard wires reach a temperature that is higher than what one may find under the hood of an automobile? Insulation certainly does not melt in that situation !

    • Angela Randall
      February 24, 2016 at 1:06 pm

      I think they possibly are just using really inadequate insulation.