TL;DR: This week, our newsletter explores Spotify's newly introduced personalized AI playlists and STORM - Stanford’s innovative system for automated Wikipedia writing. In cybersecurity news, Microsoft suffered a major security lapse, leaving an Azure-hosted server unprotected, while Apple warns iPhone users of mercenary spyware attacks. We also delve into the world of gadgets, featuring Logitech's Pro X 60 wireless gaming keyboard, Android's 'Find My' technology, and Humane's AI Pin offering a glimpse into the post-smartphone era.

Artificial Intelligence

Spotify Unveils Personalised AI Playlists (~4 min.) : Spotify takes a step further in AI application with the introduction of “AI playlists” - a feature that allows users to generate custom playlists based on written prompts, such as genres, activities or mood for example. Initially available for Android and iOS users in the UK and Australia, the new option uses large language models (LLMs) to understand prompts and personalization tech to curate a playlist, which can further be refined by issuing commands like “less upbeat” or “more pop”. Spotify notes the feature is guarded to avoid processing offensive or brand-specific prompts.

STORM: A Leap in Automated Wikipedia Writing (~6 min.) : Researchers at Stanford University have successfully developed an innovative large language model system, STORM, that can assist in constructing Wikipedia-style articles from scratch. Equipped with intelligent capacity for internet research and multi-perspective question asking, STORM splits the writing process into two stages - initial research and collection of references to create an outline, followed by the production of an article. While not yet capable of churning out publish-ready pieces, seasoned Wikipedia editors have found the system highly beneficial in their preliminary writing phase. The team’s strategic implementation of perspective-guided question asking and simulated conversation techniques also enhance the depth and breadth of generated content, marking an important advancement in automated knowledge curation.


Microsoft’s Unprotected Server: A Blunder in Cybersecurity (~3 min.) : In a potentially severe security lapse, Microsoft reportedly left an Azure-hosted server unprotected, exposing employees’ passwords and credentials to the public. This server, which stored sensitive data linked to Microsoft’s Bing search engine, was spotted by three security researchers at SOCRadar. They claimed this oversight could result in major data leaks and possibly compromise the company’s services. Microsoft secured the server about a month after being made aware of the issue.

Apple Warns iPhone Users of Mercenary Spyware Attacks (~3 min.) : Apple has issued threat notifications to iPhone users in 92 countries, alerting them of potential mercenary spyware attacks. The alerts, sent without disclosing the attackers’ identities, state the attacks are likely targeting its users specifically and are likely due to their role or status. This is not a first for Apple which has been sending these types of notifications a number of times per year, alerting users in over 150 countries since 2021. The tech giant has an in-house investigative system to detect such threats and encourages users to take these alerts seriously.


Revolutionising Database Design: Welcome DrawDB : A cutting-edge tool for database design and SQL generation, DrawDB, offers robust and intuitive entity relationship editing right from your browser. It allows diagrams to be built with a few clicks, generates SQL scripts, provides customisable editor, and requires no account creation to get started.


Realising Post-Smartphone Future, One AI Pin at a Time (~18 min.) : The new Humane AI Pin offers a glimpse into the post-smartphone era with a wearable technology that eliminates the need for a screen. Acting as a virtual assistant, the device simplifies tasks like making calls, sending texts, and much more, using T-Mobile’s cellular network. However, despite the ambitious vision, the device has been criticised for its raw finish and several functional drawbacks. At this point, it does not seem to justify its hefty price tag of $699, along with a $24 monthly subscription.

Kobo Introduces Its First Colour E-readers (~2 min.) : Rakuten Kobo has unveiled its first colour e-readers, the Kobo Libra Colour, and the Kobo Clara Colour. These new devices feature E Ink’s latest Kaledio colour screen technology, providing a pastel-like hue to the screen. The Kobo Libra Colour comes with physical page-turning buttons and is compatible with the Kobo Stylus 2, while the Kobo Clara Colour promises an improved processor and more storage. Pre-orders are now open, with shipments commencing on April 30th.

Logitech Introduces Pro X 60: The First Compact Wireless Gaming Keyboard (~2 min.) : Logitech has launched the Pro X 60 Lightspeed, its initial compact wireless gaming keyboard with a 60 percent format. This keyboard, retailing at $179, is offered in black, white, or pink with two GX optical switch types. Unlike the Pro X TKL, the Pro X 60 is an optical keyboard, not a mechanical one. It features wired and wireless connectivity, an actuation force of 50g and 60g for the switch options, and the Logitech’s Lightsync RGB lighting. Customisation can be executed via the Keycontrol tool in Logitech’s G Hub software, and battery life, when wireless with lighting on, is expected to be around 65 hours. Other user-friendly features include a conveniently placed volume roller, a ‘Game Mode’ switch that disables distracting keys, and an easy-to-carry case for gamers on the go.

Android’s “Find My Device” Network Debuts, Echoing Apple’s “Find My” Technology (~5 min.) : Google has recently unveiled its Find My Device network for Android products, replicating Apple’s Find My network. The new feature uses Bluetooth to help track down lost or stolen Android devices, using nearby Android machines to signal its location even without a cellular or Wi-Fi connection. This also extends to items with third-party Bluetooth trackers attached. An additional security measure has been developed in conjunction with Apple to give both Android and iPhone users alerts about nearby unknown item trackers, regardless of the brand.


Dark Matter: Apple TV Plus’s Trippy New Sci-Fi Series (~2 min.) : Apple TV Plus unveils its latest trippy sci-fi series, Dark Matter, set for streaming from 8th May. The series, based on Blake Crouch’s novel, follows a physicist, played by Joel Edgerton, who is “abducted into an alternate version of his life.” The intriguing concept adds to the growing list of science fiction on Apple TV Plus, bolstering its reputation for cutting-edge, science-fiction content.

Exploring Journalism Amidst Chaos: Civil War (~6 min.) : A24’s new dystopian thriller, Civil War, presents a reality where an unnamed president refuses to vacate the office post his second term, pushing the United States into bedlam. The plot centres around a group of journalists documenting the ensuing battle between rebelling states and the federal government, raising questions around the roles and responsibilities of journalists in times of crisis. However, the film falls short of substantial commentary on important social and political contexts, focusing more on the thrill of conflict than the deeper implications of its narrative.

Everything Else

Farewell to Higgs: The Man Behind the Boson (~4 min.) : The scientific world mourns the passing of Peter Higgs, the Nobel laureate physicist who proposed the existence of the Higgs boson particle. Higgs, who was 94, dedicated his life to science, establishing a theory in 1964 that gave particles their mass, an essential element to binding the universe together. His theory was later validated in experiments at the Large Hadron Collider at Cern in Switzerland in 2012. This highly regard scientist leaves behind a significant legacy and has inspired countless within the scientific community.

Groundbreaking Cancer Drug Trial: Total Remission for All Involved (~4 min.) : In a remarkable cancer research breakthrough, an experimental drug trial involving an immunotherapy treatment known as dostarlimab eradicated cancer in all patients involved. The trial, led by researchers at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center, revealed astonishing results as cancer disappeared in every patient with a specific rectal mutation. This completely halts the need for conventional treatments like surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. The patients, free from cancer for up to two years now, show no signs of recurrence, raising hopes for this treatment to potentially revolutionise cancer treatment as we know it.

Spotify’s Big Shake-Up: No Pay for under 1,000 Streams (~3 min.) : Spotify’s new policy, effective from 1st April 2024, de-monetises all tracks with fewer than 1,000 streams over the preceding year. It also increases the playtime required for ‘functional’ genres to generate income from 30 seconds to two minutes. However, the move has stirred up anger in the music industry, particularly from United Musicians and Allied Workers who argue that 86% of all content on the platform will now fail to meet the royalty criteria. Meanwhile, Spotify plans to increase its pricing to address its revenue shortfall.

Thank you for joining me in this week’s exploration of the tech universe. Amidst the endless stream of information, I strive to bring you news that is not only relevant but also thought-provoking. Your thoughts and feedback are always welcome. Don’t forget to spread the word about the Friday Tech Focus Newsletter and stay tuned for more curated insights next week!