Top Tech 2019: Quantum Computing, Facebook’s Libra, Internet Inventor’s Warning

    25 December, 2019

    During 2019, we covered some big developments involving computer and device technology. We also reported on growing opposition to facial recognition systems and warnings by the inventor of the World Wide Web about the internet's future.

    This handout photo from October 2019 shows a component of Google's quantum computer in a Santa Barbara lab, California, U.S. (Google/Handout via REUTERS)
    This handout photo from October 2019 shows a component of Google's quantum computer in a Santa Barbara lab, California, U.S. (Google/Handout via REUTERS)

    Quantum computing

    Google announced it had completed successful experiments that led to a major development in quantum computing technology.

    In one test, the team said its quantum computer processor was able to complete a complex mathematical problem in just 200 seconds. The scientists said the same problem would have taken the world's fastest supercomputer 10,000 years to finish.

    The researchers described the new progress as "quantum supremacy." This term describes a point at which a quantum computer can perform a calculation that a traditional computer could never complete within its lifetime.

    3D printed heart

    Israeli researchers reported they had built the world's first 3D-printed heart using a patient's own cells. The scientists said the small "printed" heart was the first-ever 3D printed heart created to include both tissue and blood vessels.

    The team expressed excitement at the progress made, but said much more research is needed to come up with a fully working 3D-printed human heart that can effectively pump blood.

    Solar roof car

    South Korea's Hyundai Motor Group announced the launch of its first vehicle with a solar top, or roof, charging system. The new system became available for Hyundai's new Sonata Hybrid model. The vehicle has a structure of solar equipment on top of the car to capture energy from the sun to help charge the battery.

    Facebook Libra

    Facebook announced the launch of its own cryptocurrency in a major new push into the worldwide financial services industry. The U.S.-based social media company said its digital currency, called Libra, could become available publicly in the first half of 2020.

    Facebook said Libra will be available to anyone with a smartphone and internet connection. The company said the service is designed to make moving money around the world just as easy as sending a text message.

    Drone deliveries

    Several American companies announced new delivery services involving drone aircraft. CVS Health Corporation is partnering with international shipping company UPS to bring drugs and other products directly to people's home by drone. Other companies also said they also plan to carry out major drone delivery tests or launch new services in 2020.

    Facial recognition opposition

    San Francisco became the first major U.S. city to ban facial recognition technology by local law enforcement and all other city agencies. The ban was part of a bill that restricts surveillance technologies. The measure also ordered San Francisco agencies to describe any current or future facial recognition activities.

    Internet inventor warns

    The man credited with inventing the World Wide Web called for major changes to make the internet better for humanity. Tim Berners-Lee first proposed the internet system 30 years ago.

    Berners-Lee spoke several times during 2019 about the current state of the internet, now used by about half the world's population.

    In an open letter, Berners-Lee said the web had clearly created great opportunities for humanity to progress and made life easier for millions of people. It also gave groups traditionally not heard a new voice in society. However, he added that the web had also provided new ways for "scammers" to carry out crimes and "given a voice to those who spread hatred."

    I'm Bryan Lynn.

    Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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    Words in This Story

    vessel n. a small tube that carries blood through the body

    cryptocurrency n. a money that only exists electronically

    digital adj. related to computer technology, especially the internet

    delivery n. the act of taking goods to a person or place

    drone n. an unmanned aircraft guided by computers or human operators from a distance

    surveillance n. the activity of watching people carefully, often secretly, especially by an army or police force

    opportunity n. a good possibility or chance for progress

    scammer n. someone who makes money by using illegal methods or tricking people