Latest news features and opinion on technology, covering everything from AI innovation to smartphone makers and apps. 

US semiconductor giant scraps its only China factory
An American technology giant has closed its semiconductor factory in China, dealing a potential blow to China’s bid to own a bigger slice of the market of a technology crucial to its global ambitions. The US chip giant GlobalFoundries confirmed that it has halted operations of the facility and placed employees on an “employee optimization plan,” a commonly-used euphemism for lay-offs.  The facility was GlobalFoundries’s only factory in China. While its closure has little to do with the US-China rivalry –  it never managed to get off the ground – the announcement comes amid an escalating tech war with the United States. The symbolism is rich. China is struggling in its efforts to boost its d
‘This is 2020’: Japan lampooned for filing Covid-19 cases by fax
Japan’s stubborn reliance on the fax machine has been hit by a storm of ridicule after a frustrated doctor went on a Twitter tirade about the legal requirement that hospitals complete paperwork on coronavirus cases by hand then fax it to public health centers so they can compile statistics. The doctor, apparently a specialist in respiratory medicine at a public hospital, wrote: “Come on, let’s stop this.” “Reporting cases in handwriting? Even with the coronavirus, we are writing by hand and faxing.” He added that the practice was “Showa period stuff,” referring to the imperial era that ran from 1926 until the death of Emperor Hirohito in 1989. Yet fax still reigns supreme in Japan, with a re
Tracking apps could help stop coronavirus. But will people buy in?
As countries look to safely ease the coronavirus lockdowns that have crippled economic and social life, authorities around the world are seeking to strike a bargain with their citizens: a quicker return to normal life in return for embracing smartphone apps that streamline the business of contact tracing. But these digital tools remain largely untested and raise questions about privacy. Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called on the public to download such an app “as a matter of national service,” comparing it to the sale of wartime bonds to support the military efforts. Australia launched COVIDSafe on Sunday, attracting more than 2 million downloads within 24 hours. Singapore
Coronavirus fears have claimed the world’s biggest phone show
The world’s biggest mobile phone showcase will not happen this year. The organizer of MWC Barcelona, the largest showcase for mobile technology, has canceled the event less than two weeks before its scheduled opening after major exhibitors pulled out over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. The cancelation highlights the global ramifications of the spread of the virus as well as governments’ responses to it, including imposing restrictions on travelers from mainland China. John Hoffman, chief executive of GSM Association (GSMA), which organizes the annual event, said Wednesday it has canceled the tech conference “because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel conc
These tiny robot worms may be able to connect to the brain
In southern China, there is an ancient form of black magic known as Gu. According to folklore, a small poisonous creature similar to a worm could be grown in a pot and used to control a person’s mind. Now a team of researchers in Shenzhen have created a robot worm that could enter the human body, move along blood vessels and hook up to neurons. “In a way it is similar to Gu,” said Xu Tiantian, a lead scientist for the project at the Shenzhen Institutes of Advanced Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences. “But our purpose is not developing a biological weapon. It’s the opposite,” she added. In recent years, science labs around the world have produced many micro-bots. So far, they have mostly
2019 was the year Chinese artificial intelligence clashed with US
In 2017, China told the world it planned to become a world leader in artificial intelligence (AI). Two years later, that promise came to dominate the Chinese, if not the global, conversation about technology. At a conference this past May, John Kerry, the former US secretary of state, said Chinese President Xi Jinping’s announcement was not the “wisest” move. “It would have probably been smart to go try to do it and not announce [the plan], because the announcement was heard in Washington and elsewhere,” he said. His words foreboded a storm approaching Chinese AI firms. Reports days later indicated Washington was considering placing several Chinese surveillance companies on the US Entity Li
TikTok boss hopes DC visit can ease censorship and privacy concerns
The Chinese-owned social media app TikTok is wildly popular in the US, especially among teenagers who spend hours posting videos about the latest dance trends, their love-life complaints and personal unique talents.  As it grows into one of the world’s most used social media platforms, TikTok has found itself under increased scrutiny in the US, its third-largest market.  In an attempt to assuage concerns over censorship and user privacy, the head of the short video platform, Alex Zhu, is embarking on a goodwill tour to Capitol Hill.  The meetings with American lawmakers, scheduled for this week, come as the video app’s Beijing-based owner ByteDance is under increasing scrutiny to address cen
From farming to coding for Google, her story lights up China’s internet
To get where she is today, Sun Ling has beaten long odds. Born in a rural hamlet in central China’s Hunan province, Sun shot to Chinese social media stardom for her rags-to-relative-comfort career trajectory. Her story begins in a household of such modest means that her mother had to sell blood to make ends meet and a primary school education interrupted by the need for her hands in the family’s fields. She has no fancy college degree, having gone to work on the assembly line at a Shenzhen factory directly from high school. Yet today, the 29-year-old works as a contract software engineer at Google in New York, coding on workdays and playing frisbee on weekends, with an annual salary of about
China makes AI news anchors – but we’re still in the uncanny valley
There’s something strange about this news anchor.   He’s not human. Instead, this is the latest technological achievement touted by China: a digital news anchor, powered by artificial intelligence. Developed based on the faces, voices, lip movements and expressions of human anchors, its inventors say the AI anchors will be able to deliver news 24 hours a day, seven days a week – as long as they’re given a script. The AI anchors, developed by state news agency Xinhua and Beijing-based search engine operator Sogou, were launched during the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen on Wednesday.   Xinhua said that the move was not just a “breakthrough” in AI technology, but also the first example of
The world’s biggest telescope is ready. The problem: staffing it
When China built the world’s largest telescope, officials said it would make the country the global leader in radio astronomy. It could detect radio waves from across the universe – perhaps even signs of extraterrestrial life. There’s just one problem: they can’t find enough people to run it. Officials are struggling to find researchers to analyze the signals the $180 million FAST radio telescope is expected to detect when it officially launches in the first half of 2019. The plan had been to hire another two dozen researchers after the launch, according to job postings late last year on the website of the instrument’s owner, National Astronomical Observatories. But Zhang Shuxin, director of