Every day we wake up, drink some coffee, get ready for work and check up on the latest tech news. So here’s a handful of stories from around the tech world condensed to fit into that first cup. These are things you need to know before you step foot out of your door (or in front of a webcam) and into the real world this morning.
Amazon Pauses Construction on HQ2 After Layoffs
After a nationwide competition that saw states ruthlessly compete to host Amazon’s second headquarters, the online retail behemoth has announced its pausing construction. Dubbed HQ2, the project being built in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC.
The first phase of the project, called Metropolitan Park, is nearing completion with capacity for 8000 workers. It’s expected to open mid-summer. But the second and larger phase, to be called PenPlace, has been indefinitely put on hold. It was expected to house an additional 17,000 employees.
The move comes as Amazon has seen a downturn in online sales and at its groceries. Since January, Amazon has announced layoffs of 18,000 workers nationally.
At its main headquarters in Seattle, entire floors remain vacant as Amazon struggles with getting its dwindling number of employees to return to the office post-pandemic. Amazon has also halted construction on a new office tower in Nashville.
Meta Debuts Facebook Reels Feature, Expanding Videos to 90 Seconds
Meta announced that it is extending the length of its Facebook Reels feature from 60 to 90 seconds. Meta had previously done the same for Instagram. Meta is also adding several new creative tools to Reels, including trending templates.
The enhancements are seen as a response to TikTok, which recently extended its video length to 10 minutes, instead of three. The templating tool is also similar to a TikTok feature.
Reels is also getting a new feature called Grooves that automatically syncs the video’s motion to the beat of the background music. This too is very similar to a feature TikTok is known for.
Now that Reels is available on Facebook and Instagram, it allows users to cross-post videos on both platforms. With the Metaverse failing to gain market traction, it appears that Meta is seeking to shore up Facebook and Instagram, as TikTok continues to overtake those services.
Norway Set to Launch World’s Largest Hydrogen Powered Ferries.
SEAM, a Norwegian company specializing in zero-emission propulsion for maritime applications, has entered into an agreement with Sweden’s PowerCell. The deal will power two ferries on Norway’s longest routes and is valued at $20.4 million (€19.2 million), the largest-ever maritime hydropower project to date.
Norway has mandated that all new ferries for the four-hour Vestfjorden fjord crossing must be emission-free. Hydrogen power is currently the only option for such a long ferry transit. The ferries will carry up to 600 passengers, 120 automobiles and twelve commercial trucks.
The ferries are expected to be delivered in late 2024. But the Vestfjorden ferries will lose their title as world’s largest hydrogen powered by hydrogen in 2027. That’s when two hydrogen-powered vessels, known as Eruopa and Seaways, are set to begin service between Copenhagen and Oslo.
The plan is to fuel the ferries with hydrogen produced by offshore wind power in Denmark.
Hydrogen-powered Airliner Makes Maiden Flight
California-based, Universal Hydrogen, successfully flew its 40-passenger regional airliner from its Grant County International Airport homebase in Washington. The flight lasted 15 minutes and reached an altitude of 3,500 feet.
The flight was conducted under a special FAA airworthiness certificate and was the first test flight of the aircraft conversion powered completely by hydrogen. A prior test flight had been conducted with one hydrogen engine and one conventional engine for safety.
If the two year trial is successful, the ATR72 regional airliner will begin passenger service in 2025.
“The airplanes are converted to hydrogen using an aftermarket retrofit conversion kit, tackling the existing fleet rather than developing a brand new airplane,” said Paul Eremenko, CEO of Universal Hydrogen. “And hydrogen fueling uses modular capsules compatible with existing freight networks and airport cargo handling equipment, making every airport in the world hydrogen-ready.”