Facebook announces Libra, its entry into the cryptocurrency space. Niantic launches Wizards Unite, a Harry Potter game with augmented reality features similar to Pokemon Go. And Mobile World Congress kicks off this week, showcasing 5G technology.
Q: It’s been a busy week in tech. Let’s start with Facebook getting into blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Are they creating their own money?
A: Alongside established cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum, Facebook is proposing its own, called Libra. Some people are calling them Zuckerbucks. Right now, cryptocurrencies are pretty fringe, and some governments are openly hostile to monetary systems they can’t regulate or control. Libra has the advantage of the backing of the biggest human network on the planet, and they want to “reinvent money.” Partners include Visa and Mastercard. With a digital wallet that will be built into Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, Libra just might be able to make cryptocurrency mainstream.
Q: Let’s move from virtual currency to virtual worlds. There’s a new game out that puts people into the world of Harry Potter?
A: It’s called Wizards Unite, and it’s from Niantic, the same company that brought you Pokemon Go, and before that, Ingress. Like Pokemon Go, Wizards Unite turns the real world into the playground. But Wizards Unite is a more complicated game. You’re not just trying to catch different creatures, but gathering ingredients for potions and different kinds of locations, including inns and greenhouses and fortresses. There are little mini games, and battles that you can do with three other players. Over time, you level up, and get new abilities and features. Harry Potter is a huge brand, probably bigger than Pokemon Go, but the question is whether people are already tired of these augmented reality games, or if Wizards Unite is too complicated.
Q: Finally, this week all eyes are on Shanghai for the latest in mobile technology.
A: That’s right. Mobile World Congress is probably the biggest mobile phone convention in the world, and it kicks off Wednesday in China. More than 100,000 people from over 200 countries attend. This year, 5G technology is the biggest trend, as we’re finally starting to see both 5G networks and 5G devices in the real world. Samsung and Huawei are touting their new foldable phones. Artificial Intelligence is also a big theme this year, and the Chinese government has expressed its goal to be a world leader in both 5G and AI.