Samsung Invests $2B in Biopharmaceuticals
Today in international tech news: Samsung -- the smartphone-TV-camera Samsung -- is investing at least $2 billion in biopharmaceuticals. Also: Nintendo apologizes for its exclusion of gay options in an upcoming videogame; unprecedented technology will take center field at the World Cup; Comcast courts partnerships with Asian cellphone operators; and an Australian state will fine anyone using Uber.
Samsung Group, the world's leading smartphone maker, is investing at least US$2 billion in... biopharmaceuticals?
With this foray into the drug industry, Samsung hopes to become a major player in biotechnology, which is expected to be a booming industry in coming years.
A key component of this play is so-called biosimilars -- cheap versions of brand-name biotechnology drugs that no longer are protected by patents. Samsung plan to sell its first biosimilar product, a version of the arthritis therapy drug Enbrel, in Europe in 2016.
Nintendo Apologizes Following Row Over Gay Character Options
Nintendo has formally apologized for not including same-sex relationship options in an upcoming videogame.
The company announced last week that Tomodachi Life, a life-simulation game that will be released in North America and Europe in June, would not include options to create gay characters. The company was facing pressure, including a social media campaign, to include same-sex relationship options but declined to do so.
Nintendo subsequently insisted that it didn't mean for the game to be a "social commentary," and that relationships were meant to represent "a playful alternate world." That spin, however, doesn't seem to have allayed everyone's frustrations.
The backlash apparently prompted this note from the company, which opens with the words "We apologize" and goes on to claim that it is not technically possible to change the specs of the game at this time.
The next installment of the Tomodachi series, if there is one, will "strive to design a game-play experience from the ground up that is more inclusive, and better represents all players."
Unprecedented Technology in Play at World Cup
The 2014 World Cup, which kicks off next month in Brazil, will feature an unprecedented amount of technology, including aerodynamic balls, goal line censors, player-tracking systems and even a mind-controlled exoskeleton.
About that last one: A yet-to-be-chosen volunteer who has suffered paralysis will don the exoskeleton prior to the opening game and -- using only thoughts -- guide the machine to the midfield circle to usher in the official opening of the world's biggest sporting event.
"The [opening] kick will inaugurate a new era in neuroscience," said Miguel Nicolelis, a Brazilian neuroscientist based at Duke University and leader of the Walk Again project.
That breakthrough fits with the Cup's broader tech explosion, which will affect many aspects of the game, ball included. The ball design used at the 2010 World Cup was widely criticized -- Brazil's goalkeeper dubbed it a "supermarket" ball -- for its unpredictable flight paths. This prompted Adidas, which designed the new ball, to design it in such a way that air won't affect its in-flight behavior.
[Source: The Guardian]
Comcast Courting Asian Cell Operators
Comcast is offering at least two Asian cellular operators -- Japan's KDDI and Taiwan Mobile -- access to Comcast WiFi hot spots in the U.S. when those companies' subscribers touch down in the U.S.
This would reduce roaming charges for KDDI and Taiwan Mobile customers who find themselves stateside.
The would-be partnership could be a sign of Comcast's ambition to compete with U.S. wireless carriers.
Comcast has been building out its WiFi networks and will have 8 million hotspots by year's end, covering 19 of the U.S.' 30 largest cities.
Aussie State to Levy Fines Again Uber Users
The government of Victoria, a state in southeast Australia, is issuing fines of about US$1,600 to Uber drivers.
Reps from Victoria's Taxi Service Commission have taken to using Uber -- a platform that matches people who need rides with people who have rides to give -- to identify drivers who can be fined. Uber is up to 50 percent cheaper than taxis in Australia.
More than $46,000 worth of fines already have been doled out.
[Source: The Age]