Technological World for October 21: DOJ says Google is a monopoly, Health Records on iPhone, Canada's covid-19 alert app, Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, using your iPhone to track your medical records and using your smartphone to track your covid-19 exposure. Plus, Mario Kart Life: Home Circuit. But first, the U.S. DOJ says Google is a monopoly.

The U.S. DOJ files a lawsuit against Google for being a monopoly

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday on the U.S. Department of Justice decision to file an antitrust lawsuit against Google.

Google is a huge, international company at this point, but recall where it all started: search.

And search is where the lawsuit is focused, because reportedly 90 percent of searches online use Google, and Google sells advertising against those searches. But more importantly, internet users suffer a loss of privacy as a result.

A release about the complaint reads: “Google has entered into a series of exclusionary agreements that collectively lock up the primary avenues through which users access search engines, and thus the internet, by requiring that Google be set as the preset default general search engine on billions of mobile devices and computers worldwide and, in many cases, prohibiting preinstallation of a competitor.”

Further, that: “These and other anticompetitive practices harm competition and consumers, reducing the ability of innovative new companies to develop, compete, and discipline Google’s behavior.” 

This all has strong echoes of the antitrust case against Microsoft around the bunding of the web browser, Internet Explorer, with its Windows operating system. That all began in 1998 and was settled in 2001 without much impact to Microsoft.

Google’s response is that people use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives.

And the company provided an exhaustive list of examples of how easy it is to change search engines on all devices, including Google’s.

The suit is the culmination of months of hand wringing in the U.S. around the power of the tech companies, and I don’t imagine that the case is going anywhere anytime soon. But the conversation that sparked the action will continue.

Recode has a great explainer.

Canadian healthcare starting to use Apple’s Health Records on iPhone

In Canada, three healthcare institutions have started using Health Records, an app on Apple’s iPhones, to share medical records with patients.

The app is designed to keep privacy maintained at all times, and even though the medical records are sent to and stored on the smartphone, this is all done using encryption.

Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, and Mackenzie Health in Richmond Hill are using Health Records, and Apple says that more Canadian medical facilities will begin offering the service.

Healthcare agencies and providers can learn more about providing digital health records to patients

Download Canada’s covid-19 alert app right now

While we’re on the topic: Download Canada’s covid-19 alert app.

It’s available on Android and iOS.

While the provincial health authorities in Alberta and B.C. have not yet signed on, most other provinces have. (Apparently, Alberta is getting on board after all and B.C. will be online shortly after the provincial election, I expect).

This can be an essential tool to dealing with the second wave. It’s secure, it maintains your anonymity and privacy, and it’s easy.

If you haven’t already, download it now.

Mario Kart racing is ready to take over your home

The promise of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is that you’re racing a real car on a real track that you build in the real world. You can’t get more live than that.

The real car is made of plastic and is about the size of a loaf of bread. It’s tough enough to withstand drops and crashes and inadvertent interactions with pets. There’s a camera just above the driver that provides you with a third-person view of races.

The game itself is a free download to your Nintendo Switch, but to play it you need a car and the pieces to build a track. You can get a kit with either Mario or Luigi for CDN$130.

The view on your Switch comes from the camera on the car.

To play, you set up the numbered cardboard gates in whatever space you’re going to use for your racetrack – living room? kitchen? – and then you drive your car around the track once. The game then lays a digital world on top of the real world, providing you with an augmented reality (AR) racetrack.

You need to stay within about 15 feet of your car to maintain a stable connection between your Switch and the car.

You select Grand Prix races just like you do in the standard Mario Kart games, and then race against computer-controlled opponents, with the same power ups and hazards you use to thwart other racers in the other Mario Kart games.

As you move up from 50cc to 100cc to 150cc to 200cc racing, the real car will move faster, and obstacles that appear in the AR perspective will impact the real car, even if there’s nothing in the real world to stop it.

This is not your father’s remote control car experience.

And you can race up to four other players as long as each of you has a Switch and a Mario Kart Live car.

And therein lies the true cost of Home Circuit.

Mario Kart remains one of the most engaging multiplayer games ever. It’s an easy go-to when there are four people looking to play something together, and it’s simple enough that anyone can play it.

But it’s not going to be easy to get multiple people together to play Home Circuit, so as much fun as it is to crash around your house with a toy car driven by Mario or Luigi, it’s going to be a solitary experience.

That said, there’s lots to enjoy here. You can customize your racetracks by adding hazards that will appear in the AR world, and you can compete against others with one system with the Time Attack mode, with each of you trying to get the best track time.

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit is a great way to bring the enjoyable racing game into the real world. It’s just too bad it’s not easier to do with friends.

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