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Monday, April 8, 2024

The Ice Cream You Ordered Is Here. A Drone Just Delivered It

Up there in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a … sundry goods delivery?

This week, two companies announced they are moving forward with aerial drone delivery services. On Thursday, the Alphabet-owned drone company Wing launched its first commercial delivery flights in Dallas, Texas. Its drones will remain positioned at strategic Walgreens stores in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, ready to buzz off to nearby homes with health products in their grip. The drones will eventually also deliver pet medicines and Blue Bell Creameries’ ice cream.

FedEx also announced that it has partnered with the California company Elroy Air to develop its own delivery drone service. Elroy’s flagship flyer is the truly massive Chaparral drone, which is capable of hauling 500 pounds of cargo up to 300 miles. FedEx says it plans to move forward with testing next year.

Companies have been racing to make drone deliveries happen for years, but for most of them, the dream has sat just out of reach. Amazon propelled its first delivery drone concept back in 2013, but its aerial ambitions have since stalled. And while companies large and small try to make drone deliveries take off, customers seem ambivalent about the idea. Either way, delivery services will need to wait for the FAA to draft regulations before services like these can become more widespread, and such legal parameters aren’t expected until at least 2024. Until then, we’ll see if the hype for delivery drones manages to … generate enough thrust to create a sufficient lift vector perpendicular to the airflow direction. (Sorry, I’ve run out of aviation puns.)

Guess what? There was more consumer tech news this week.

OK, Multisearch

This week, Google announced it is adding a new capability to its web search options. Dubbed Google Multisearch, the feature allows mobile users to look up results using images and text at the same time. With Google Lens, you can take a picture of a dress, for example, and pair that with keywords to search for the same style in different colors. Google also suggests this new search tool can be used to find matching furniture for your apartment or to search for care instructions for plants or pets. (Presumably, this feature is not to be used to provide medical diagnoses.) The service is available as a beta release in the US; there is no word on when it might be available elsewhere.

Right to Re-Pixel

Another week, another major tech company hops aboard the right-to-repair train. Following in Samsung’s footsteps, Google now says it is partnering with iFixit to offer parts and instructions to help repair its Pixel phones. Parts for the Pixels 2 through 6 will be available through iFixit later this year, either as individual pieces or as part of a kit. Google says it will sell “the full range” of spare parts, including batteries, cameras, and displays.

A Thread of News

Twitter has had a long week. First, there was the news that Tesla CEO and semi-professional Twitter troll Elon Musk purchased a massive share of company stock (Twonks?) and will now sit on the board. Then Twitter announced that it is actually—for real this time—developing an edit button. The social media company also says it’s testing an “unmentioning” feature that will allow users to untag themselves if they no longer want to be included in a conversation (or, let’s be real, a barrage of harassment.) Twitter says it hopes the move will give users more opportunities to control their account, though there are already ways to limit who can contact you on the site.

Meanwhile, former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is building some crypto rocks. A photo emerged this week showing prototypes of a cryptocurrency storage wallet that look like hexagonal rocks with fingerprint sensors and USB-C ports—pretty close to what Block (Dorsey’s company, née Square) had previously promised to deliver. Hardware is indeed hard.

Prepare for the Lego Metaverse

On Thursday, Fortnite developer Epic games announced that it was entering a “long-term partnership” with the Lego Group in an effort to build a version of the metaverse that is “safe and fun for children and families.” There’s no timeline on when the project may manifest, but if there was ever a combo that could go up against the kid-favorite metaverse-esque Roblox, it seems like it would be Epic and Lego. In its announcement, Epic says it aims to prioritize children’s safety and best interests. We’ll see if the company can keep out the fascists.

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