Tech Giants Using Funds to Help Hurricane Victims

As many people are aware of at this point, Puerto Rico has not been having things go well for them recently. After two major hurricanes ravaged the area, there was a time where the entire island was without power. Now months after the storms have passed, progress is being made. The latest estimate is that approximately 25% of the island has power. Some of the most important places happen to be hospitals.

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, recently donated enough solar panels and electrical grids in order to restore power to a Puerto Rico Children’s Hospital. This hospital, in particular, has many permanent residents and serves around 3000 children alone.

Now while this is only one small feat for an island that was essentially destroyed there are much bigger implications within this. Tesla is a major tech company and is one that currently was willing to donate enough panels in order to get this hospital back to functioning order. If you look at pictures, they are located on the ground rather than the ceiling. This can be good in the event of future storms because they are much less likely to be blown away. It could cause problems for flooding, but many panels are designed to withstand rain. Tesla is also hinting that this isn’t the end of their partnership to help restore power in this energy crisis.

That gives me hope. Major companies are taking their time, efforts and money in order to help a United States territory. They are using their resources are tech agents in order to bring restoration and get everyone connected again. In this time, technology is almost the pinnacle of everything; without it, there is a significant loss in communication. We lose communication in terms of the weather, reaching out to family and seeing what is ongoing in the world. The restoration of electricity allows for the startup of technology as a whole to be restored and allows people to continue the limitless connections that technology brings.



Virtual Reality in Times of Disaster

At this point, we should all know the basics of virtual reality. It certainly is an incredible technology that holds a future of possibilities. Virtual Reality can take the average person and put them in places that not many have the opportunity to go, such as the moon. That is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO and founder of Facebook, did the other day. But it wasn’t just the moon that he went to.

A cartoon Zuckerberg, with Facebook’s head of social virtual reality, Rachel Franklin, on a flooded street. ‘One of the things that’s really magical about VR is you can get the feeling you’re really in a place.’

Zuckerberg in the VR Simulation in Puerto Rico. Source: The Guardian

The basic rundown is that Mark Zuckerberg went live with someone else from the company to talk about their new VR project that is making incredible progress. They started up on the roof of Facebook, went to the moon, went to his own living room, and went to Puerto Rico. The place that has been ravaged recently by the hurricanes that have ripped through the area. The place that is dealing with entire devastation and has not had total electricity for weeks now. The CEO of Facebook decided to put their virtual reality system to the test by going to Puerto Rico of all places.

Before I get into the core of my argument here, I will acknowledge that during his broadcast, he did announce Facebook’s partnership with the American Red Cross in their effort to help Puerto Rico including a massive donation going to help those affected. This is great news and something that the island desperately needs. However, I personally feel that there could have been a much better way to go about this. Zuckerberg placed himself right into a place that is possibly still trying to process what has happened. It almost seemed like he was trying to advertise off this great new advancement by putting himself in a place that many people would recognize because of the amount it has been in the news recently. He exploited a place that is torn apart for the sake of advancing and showing off the cool new tech that Facebook has. It was insensible and poorly thought through.

This brings up my point and what I’m curious to see what others think about. Virtual Reality holds limitless potential. It can be used to help put people into the feet of others. It can help to show the empathy that we have talked about in class. In this case however, I do feel that the empathy was missing. I think that it was a misuse of virtual reality, especially with the way Zuckerberg handled it. He just seemed too casual to me and I believe that even while in the Puerto Rico simulation, he high fived the other person. I seemed out of line to me and a lot of people agreed. So much so that Zuckerberg did issue a formal apology about this.


So what do you think? Was this type of situation out of line or pushing limits?



Think the Echo Spot is Nice? Think again.

On September 28, 2017, Amazon announced their second generation of Echo products. Some are an upgrade of their previous products, such as the Echo 2, but Amazon also introduced new products. One of those is the Amazon Echo Spot. The basic premise of the Spot is that it serves as a ‘smart alarm clock’ that can sit in your bedroom. It comes with features such as Alexa, access to Spotify or Pandora, and many of the other features that come in a basic Amazon Echo, just in compact form. Some of those additional features? Voice recognition and a built-in camera.

The New Amazon Echo Spot Source:

Now don’t get me wrong, these are great features to have on an in-home smart device, especially the voice recognition. At any given instant, you can ask Alexa the simplest of questions, like what the weather will be for the day, in order to better equip you for life as you move throughout your morning. It can serve as a great device for your office desk space with the multitude of built-in features. The front facing camera can provide a great means of communication with people, no matter where you are in the house.

Here’s my problem though: this is what we have talked about as the redefinition of security in our lives. Many times I think of an alarm clock and I am putting in on my bedside table. This is where my concern grows for the Spot. It having voice recognition capability means that the device is constantly listening for its cues to perk up. This means that it is listening 24/7 and can if say it’s in the bedroom also can hear some potentially more intimate or private conversations. You know, things that are only for a select few people. The camera is the same way. While most likely it doesn’t and isn’t something that we should be concerned for, that camera could easily turn on when it wants. If (and this is entirely an if) it were to ever be hacked, all that data could be taken and the every minute of our lives at home could be recorded.

That right there for me is the redefinition of my privacy and security. A small tableside device is constantly listening to our conversations and always has a camera focused where ever it is placed, and for many a device like this may end up in a bedroom. I’m one that turned off the ‘okay, google’ feature on my phone when I realized it was constantly listening for me, so this makes me more uncomfortable. The internet of things may seem like a great idea, but if you’re anyway thinking the same way I do, some things need to stay out of the light and the new Amazon products are limiting the ability to do so.



“Introducing Echo Spot – Black.” Introducing Echo Spot – Amazon Official Site – Stylish, Compact Echo with a Screen. Amazon, 28 Sept. 2017. Web.
Warren, Tom. “Amazon’s Echo Spot Is a Sneaky Way to Get a Camera into Your Bedroom.” The Verge. The Verge, 28 Sept. 2017. Web.