The Year in News: What Happened Next (Stories From May-June 2016)

Let’s continue our look back at some of the news stories we’ve covered here at GaS in 2016 as well as following up on later developments. In May Blizzard announced it would have a permanent ban for anyone found cheating at online team shooter game Overwatch. It proved no empty threat, with the most embarrassing punishment coming in August when one of the top 200 ranked players on a Korean server was banned in the middle of livestreaming a game.

The Sims 4 received an update that meant more than 700 pieces of content were no longer restricted to a specific gender. This covered not just clothing and physical attributes such as hair, but also characteristics and behaviors such as walking gait or whether a character sits down to use a toilet. Changing attitudes to gender identity continued to influence games with Pokemon Go earning praise by asking players to select a “style” rather than gender for their in-game character.

Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and YouTube signed up to a code of conduct in Europe by which they agreed to remove illegal hate speech (rather than legal but offensive content) within 24 hours of getting a report. However, in December the European Commission said its research showed this was happening just 40 percent of the time. Meanwhile the companies later agreed to share a common database of images and videos reported as containing pro-terrorist content, with each site retaining control over whether or not it took such content down.

Google announced it was revising plans for a completely modular smartphone known as Project Ara. Under the new model, the processor, RAM, data storage and screen would all be fixed and non-replaceable, with the phone having six slots for expansion modules such as an e-ink display or a high-res camera. Only a few months later, Google suspended the project altogether, though is still open to licensing the relevant technology.

In July a 10-year-old girl won a summer fellowship to Paris despite the program being aimed at computer scientists. She had proposed working with mentors to code a Thymio robot to carry out tasks to raise the spirits of the city’s residents. The program’s organizers said they were particularly impressed by her willingness to admit she could not complete the task on her own and needed help. The girl did indeed go to Paris and a video posted on her blog shows her work:

The makers of a $4 smartphone attracted the attention of the Indian government, which questioned whether the offer was too good to be true. While independent estimates said the handset would cost at least $40 to make, manufacturers Ringing Bells said volume savings actually put it at $6, with the shortfall to be made up through “innovative e-commerce cross promotions.” The company did go on to ship some handsets (it claims 70,000) and those who received them were pleasantly surprised by its performance, but the shipment was nowhere close to satisfying the number of people who’d registered as would-be buyers. In late December the company denied reports it had either shut down or rebranded.

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