In today’s Bulldog wrapup of science and technology news:
- Two firms race to deploy skill-based slot machines
- Fans’ ardor for Pokemon Go has cooled
- The federal government sues a Silicon Valley firm over hiring bias
- NASA reports possible water plumes on Jupiter moon
- Firm hopes to be 1st with skill-based slots
A New York firm hopes to be the first in the world to install skill-based slot machines on casino floors in which the main determining factor in how much a player can win is his or her ability to play the game.
GameCo told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it is ready to put machines in the three Atlantic City casinos owned by Caesars Entertainment as soon as the first week in October, pending approval by New Jersey gambling regulators.
But it is in a race with rival firm Gamblit, which earlier this month announced plans to put similar machines in California and Nevada in October, also at Caesars-owned casinos.
The machines have an element of randomness common to regular slot machines in terms of the environment players are presented with. How well or poorly they maneuver their way through the game will determine how much they might win.
They are aimed squarely at millennials and those who like playing games on social media networks or on their phones, and who may be less inclined to play traditional pushbutton slot machines.
“There’s a great focus on being first,” GameCo CEO and co-founder Blaine Graboyes told the AP. “Certainly we’d like to be first for ourselves, our investors and our customers. But we’re interested in this being a long-term proposition.”
Both companies are awaiting approval from gambling regulators in the respective states in which they hope to launch. Other manufacturers working on similar products include IGT and Nanotech Gaming.
- ‘Pokemon Go’ fervor has cooled, but the game isn’t dead yet
Does “Pokemon Go” have a second act?
The mobile phone app was an instant hit when it debuted in July. Crowds stampeded after a Vaporeon in Central Park and people fell off cliffs playing it in California.
At an Apple event on Sept. 7, Niantic CEO John Hanke said 500 million people had downloaded the game in just two months. It was the first mobile game to go mainstream in a big way since “Candy Crush” in 2014 or “Angry Birds” in 2012. It was also the first to incorporate augmented reality, a blending of the real and virtual worlds.
But the buzz has decidedly cooled. Last Tuesday, the game ended its reign as the top-grossing U.S. iPhone app after 74 days on top, replaced by “Clash Royale,” a popular battling game, according to research firm Sensor Tower. Twitter mentions of the game peaked at 1.7 million on July 11, five days after its launch, according to Adobe Digital Insights. That number had fallen by 98 percent, to 131,000, by Sept. 7, when Apple featured it.
Was it all a summer fever dream? While experts say the game is likely to remain popular for a while, it needs to evolve to have real staying power — just like its namesake digital creatures.
“Almost anything of this sort is a fad,” says Steve Jones, a communications professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “I think we’ve seen the tapering off.”
- Feds accuse Silicon Valley firm of hiring bias
The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a lawsuit accusing a fast-growing Silicon Valley software company of systematically discriminating against Asian job applicants.
Palantir Technologies was co-founded by prominent tech financier Peter Thiel, with backing from an investment arm of the CIA, and was recently valued at $20 billion. The privately held company makes powerful data-analytics software used by U.S. military, intelligence and law-enforcement agencies, along with banks, insurance companies and other non-government clients.
The unusual lawsuit — which comes as Silicon Valley is grappling with broader criticism for a lack of diversity — claims Palantir “routinely eliminated” Asian job candidates during the resume-screening and telephone-interview stages of the company’s hiring process. The claims are based on a statistical analysis conducted by federal officials responsible for making sure government contractors comply with anti-discrimination rules.
Palantir denied the allegations Monday and said it will contest the suit. It argued in a statement that the government’s case “relies on a narrow and flawed statistical analysis relating to three job descriptions from 2010 to 2011.”
A spokeswoman didn’t respond to questions about the ethnic makeup of Palantir’s workforce. But the statement added: “The results of our hiring practices speak for themselves.” Palantir is based in Palo Alto, California, and employs more than 1,800 people.
The federal lawsuit comes as leading Silicon Valley tech companies are struggling to answer criticism about a lack of diversity in staffing. One legal expert said the federal lawsuit may reflect a broader aim by the government “to shed more light and get more accountability” from the tech industry.
- Jupiter moon may have water plumes that shoot up 125 miles
The Hubble Space Telescope has spied what appear to be water plumes on one of Jupiter’s icy moons shooting up as high as 125 miles.
The geysers are apparently from an underground ocean that is thought to exist on Europa, considered one of the top places to search for signs of life in our solar system.
The plumes at the south pole were detected by the workhorse telescope as the moon passed in front of Jupiter. Scientists believe the eruptions on Europa are sporadic since they were only able to spot them on three out of the 10 times that they looked over more than a year.
- VIDEO: Watch a video about the water plumes at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGYEc3nTMnY
Even so, the possible presence of plumes, which shoot up and rain back down on the surface, would “allow us to search for signs of life in the ocean of Europa without needing to drill through miles of ice,” astronomer William Sparks of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore said Monday.
The latest finding builds on earlier work by Hubble, which in 2012 found hints of water vapor venting from Europa’s south pole. The telescope didn’t see anything in follow-up studies until this latest campaign, which was carried out by a different group of researchers.
If confirmed, Europa would be the second moon in the solar system where water plumes have been detected.
The Cassini spacecraft previously spied jets shooting out from the surface of the Saturn moon Enceladus (ehn-SEHL’-uh-duhs), which harbors an ocean beneath its icy shell. Unlike Europa, the geysers erupting from Enceladus are continuous.
The Juno spacecraft, currently in orbit around Jupiter, isn’t designed to study Europa and won’t be able to confirm the plumes, NASA said.