Demystifying Media Reflection – Week 3

This week, TechCrunch has a few more stories that caught my eye than in previous weeks. There are the standard cryptocurrency and blockchain stories that catch my eye (and we’ll see one big one this week), but TechCrunch had some non-blockchain and cryptocurrency stories that were interesting as well. One is interesting in a good way, and the other isn’t.

Soraa

This first story that I found interesting is about the lighting company Soraa. According to the article, Soraa is designing LED lightbulbs that focus more on illumination and how the light looks (color balance) than other trends current in the housing goods market like smart-home connectivity. The company has named their new product Radiant bulbs. The article says that Radiant bulbs “have fewer color gaps than standard LEDs, offering a more accurate representation of color ‘as it is meant to be seen.'” Soraa’s co-founder Dr. Shuji Nakamura is a co-winner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in physics for work on blue-light emitting diodes. Those diodes allowed for a more energy efficient LED light bulb to be created. The bulbs also use blue light to emit a more natural looking light.

The article is about a technology topic that you don’t normally see in mainstream and off-mainstream technology press areas like TechCrunch. Light bulbs are almost never seen in those spaces. The technology is fascinating, because it is something that people will (and do) use in their everyday lives. I was also glad to see that a company was trying to focus less on Internet connectivity, and more on how their product functioned in its real-world application. I was impressed that TechCrunch wrote about it.

Alexa and the Super Bowl

My positive reaction to light bulbs is destroyed by an article TechCrunch wrote about Amazon’s upcoming Super Bowl commercial for their Alexa personal assistants. I was expecting an article about the price that Amazon paid for the spot (about $5 million), or about some sort of feature that Amazon might have missed in their ad. Instead, the article chose to focus on rumor and speculation about a microphone headset that was featured among the commercial’s actors. Similar to the type of speculation videos you can find on YouTube about companies or movies, the article speculated that the headsets might be a new product that Amazon is rolling out that interfaces with the Alexa assistants.

The article double backs on itself by quoting Amazon in saying that the headsets were not real. The article also jokingly says, “Or maybe it’s just a goofy commercial and we’ve been thinking entirely too much about the whole thing.”

I agree.

Maybe as an homage to Seinfeld, or in trying to be funny, TechCrunch managed to waste the reader’s time in what is essentially an article about nothing. It’s truly unfortunate, because they could have used the “space” to include something informative about Amazon or Alexa.

Samsung and Cryptocurrency Mining

Samsung announced this week that it is releasing ASIC chips that are designed to mine cryptocurrency. ASIC stands for Application Specific Integrated Chip. In essence, an ASIC chip is something that is designed for a specific purpose, program or function. This is big news in the cryptocurrency world, because there are only two makers of ASIC chips that are designed specifically for mining cryptocurrency — Bitmain and Canaan Creative. Both are Chinese companies that export their products around the world. South Korea is one of the largest consumers and purveyors of cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, so it makes sense that a South Korean company would decide to make ASIC chips to compete with the Chinese firms.

Samsung’s entry into the ASIC chip market also signals the first time that a mainstream corporation is designing and building equipment specifically designed for cryptocurrency. That is both an exciting and terrifying premise, because blockchain was envisioned as a democratic technology that would give people the tools to break free from large corporations and giant banks. Having corporate backing gives cryptocurrency and blockchain technology more clout in the marketplace, but it also goes against the technology’s original intent. I guess that isn’t too surprising given that the same thing happened to a lot of other technological advances (early radio and the Internet to name a few).

While the TechCrunch article was basic(as most of their articles are), and delivered very few details about the announcement, it was exciting to see them focusing on something that is a major development in the blockchain and cryptocurrency space.

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