Coffee Break News: When AI Goes Wrong, A New Addition to the London Skyline and More

Updated Jun 24, 2019
Coffee cup on wooden table - coffee break news

Welcome to our monthly round-up of interesting news from the cross section of design, engineering and technology. From the myriad of unusual happenings and breaking business news this November, we’re exploring a few stories we think everyone should know.

So, what have we deemed the cream of the crop? Well, an incident in China proves AI has a long way to go, designs for the latest addition to the London skyline have been revealed, tech giant Apple is almost knocked off its perch by an old rival, and there’s a must-see artefact of cinema history for any Star Wars fan. 

Ready? Let’s crack on!


Chinese businesswoman accused of jaywalking after AI camera identifies her face on advert

Security cameras mounted on concrete wall

As you may have read in our guide to object recognition software, artificial intelligence has proved to be an incredibly valuable tool in the security sector. Try telling that to the President of China’s biggest air condition company, Dong Mingzhu, though. She found herself being publicly shamed (in China, culprits of traffic crimes have their images projected onto public screens as a warning to others) for illegally jaywalking.

Surveillance cameras with AI features are widely employed in cities across China to spot and alert police to people flouting traffic laws. The thing is, what facial recognition technology had actually picked up in this instance was Mingzhu’s face on the side of a bus. The (not really) offending image was part of an advertisement.

As the businesswoman is fairly well known in China, it caused quite a stir. Authorities quickly responded by deleting the crime alert and technicians later assured that they had upgraded the system to prevent further mistakes. With the country projected to install over 626 million surveillance cameras by 2020, let’s hope that’s true!

Design for what could be London’s next iconic skyscraper ‘The Tulip’ revealed

The Tulip skyscraper shown as part of London's skyline

Image source: Dezeen

Fresh off their Stirling prize win detailed in last month’s news round-up, British architects Foster + Partners submitted planning applications for their latest project, ‘The Tulip‘, this month. It’s an ambitious endeavour, to say the least. The flower-shaped tower will include multiple viewing platforms and spinning gondola pods (similar to those on the London Eye) on 3 of its sides. Designed to stand at 1,000 ft tall, The Tulip would become London’s second tallest tower, with the 1,003 ft Shard building taking the top spot, so to speak.

Funded by billionaire Jacob J Safra, The Tulip is intended to serve as a cultural and educational facility. It will sit right next to the fruit of Safra’s previous investment, 30 St Mary Axe (better known as The Gherkin). Should they get the go-ahead, the tower is expected to be completed by 2025. Watch this space!

Microsoft momentarily surpasses Apple as world’s most valuable publicly traded company

Apple and Microsoft logos

Image source: VentureBeat

Monday proved to be a particularly exciting day for Satya Nadella. The Microsoft CEO got to watch his company overtake its biggest Silicon Valley rival, Apple—for a few hours at least. In what’s been a bit of a turbulent time for the US markets, the two tech giants sat neck-and-neck at the top spot.

Then, at just after 1pm ET on Monday, the US stock market valued Apple at $812.60 billion and Microsoft at $812.93 billion. This marks the first time in just over 8 years that Microsoft was worth more than Apple in terms of market cap. 

Tim Cook’s company has taken a significant hit of late, with a drop in demand for iPhones causing a significant fall in shares. It’s not all bad news, though. By the time the market closed for trading, Apple was back in the No 1 position. The gap is certainly shrinking between the two, though, and it will be interesting to see how each tech juggernaut finishes out the year…

Original sketchbooks belonging to Star Wars costume designer up for auction—take a peek inside…

John Mollo Star Wars designs

Mollo used his experience as a military illustrator to inform his costume designs for Star Wars. Image source: Jedi Insider

The sad passing of Star Wars costume designer John Mollo in late October has encouraged many to revisit and appreciate his work. Mollo began sketching designs for George Lucas’ characters in the early 1970s. He went on to win an Oscar for his work on the first film in 1978.

Next month, Bonhams will be auctioning off a collection of his sketchbooks—they’re sure to be a hit with art lovers and film enthusiasts alike. The New York Times managed to get their hands on a range of his sketches, including looks for Hans Solo, Chewbacca and, of course, Darth Vader. It’s a chance for those of us who can’t afford to fork out the estimated $160,000 for each book to take a look inside!

And, finally…

That’s it for this month’s news round-up! Be sure to join us next time to stay on top of all the important happenings for the world of design, engineering, architecture and beyond!

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