The Download: recycling batteries, and augmented reality hits stores

This is today’s edition of The Download, our weekday newsletter that provides a daily dose of what’s going on in the world of technology.

Why your iPhone 17 might come with a recycled battery

Lithium-ion batteries power most of our personal electronics today. Mining the metals that make up those batteries can mean a lot of pollution, as well as harmful conditions for workers.

The good news is, a growing number of groups are working to make sure batteries get recycled—and some of those efforts are becoming mainstream, including Apple’s recent announcement its batteries would use 100% recycled cobalt beginning in 2025.

It says a lot about where the battery recycling industry is and where it’s going. Read the full story.

—Casey Crownhart

Casey’s story is from The Spark, her weekly climate and energy newsletter. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Wednesday.

Snap is launching augmented-reality mirrors in stores

What’s happening: Snap is planning to launch augmented-reality mirrors that allow shoppers in stores to instantly see how clothes look on them without physically trying them on. The mirrors are going to appear in some US Nike stores later this year, and in the Men’s Wearhouse in Paramus, New Jersey.

Why? The mirrors are part of Snap’s new effort to start offering AR products in the physical world. AR has powered Snapchat filters and Lenses (the company’s term for its in-app AR experiences) for years, but these additional uses of the technology create a potential revenue stream for Snap outside the social media platform’s app. Read the full story.

—Tanya Basu

Learning to code isn’t enough

A decade ago, tech powerhouses like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon helped boost the nonprofit, a learn-to-code program. It sparked a wave of nonprofits and for-profits alike dedicated to coding and learning computer science, and a number of US states that have made coding a high school graduation requirement.

But just learning to code is neither a pathway to a stable financial future for people from economically precarious backgrounds, nor a panacea for the inadequacies of the educational system. Read the full story.

—Joy Lisi Rankin

This story is from our forthcoming Education print issue, due to launch next Wednesday. If you’re not already a subscriber, you can sign up from just $69 a year—a special low price to mark Earth Week.

The must-reads

I’ve combed the internet to find you today’s most fun/important/scary/fascinating stories about technology.

1 It’s better to be safe than sorry with AI
And yet, the biggest labs aren’t investing in proper safeguarding. (Economist $)
+ Google’s using generative AI for its new ad campaigns. (FT $)
+ Discussions around AI risk are long overdue. (New Scientist $)
+ Do AI systems need to come with safety warnings? (MIT Technology Review)

2 People with long covid are still suffering  
And they’re feeling increasingly isolated due to the lack of restrictions. (The Atlantic $)
+ But new clinical trials are looking promising. (Wired $)
+ We’ve only just begun to examine the racial disparities of long covid. (MIT Technology Review)

3 Matt Walsh’s Twitter hacker did it to stir up drama
They say they compromised Walsh’s phone with the help of an “insider.” (Wired $)
+ Twitter’s getting rid of legacy blue checks—for real this time. (WP $)

4 All US Facebook users are owed money
But it’s not a lot, and isn’t coming anytime soon. (WSJ $)

5 North Korea says it’s built its first spy satellite
The satellite could play a key role in the country’s weapons programs. (FT $)
+ Soon, satellites will be able to watch you everywhere all the time. (MIT Technology Review)

6 The US Supreme Court has delayed its abortion pill decision
It’ll make a decision about the accessibility of mifepristone on Friday. (BBC)
+ Texas is trying out new tactics to restrict access to abortion pills online. (MIT Technology Review)

7 TikTok’s algorithm keeps pushing suicide content to minors
Depression, hopelessness and death are common themes. (Bloomberg $)

8  Erotic hypnosis is ruining women’s lives
Predatory men are using recordings to groom vulnerable people online. (BuzzFeed)

9 WeChat’s ultrashort soap operas are pushing China’s decency laws
The dramas are more provocative than traditional TV fare. (Rest of World)

10 How video games help people work through their grief

It gives them the chance to process their feelings in digital realms. (The Guardian)

Quote of the day

“Bard is worse than useless: please do not launch.”

—An internal Google note to workers spells out the problems with the company’s AI chatbot, which it launched last month, Bloomberg reports.

The big story

How robotic honeybees and hives could help the species fight back

October 2022

Something was wrong, but Thomas Schmickl couldn’t put his finger on it. It was 2007, and the Austrian biologist was spending part of the year at East Tennessee State University. During his daily walks, he realized that insects seemed conspicuously absent.

Schmickl, who now leads the Artificial Life Lab at the University of Graz in Austria, wasn’t wrong. Insect populations are indeed declining or changing around the world.

Robotic bees, he believes, could help both the real thing and their surrounding nature, a concept he calls ecosystem hacking. Read the full story.

—Elizabeth Preston

We can still have nice things

A place for comfort, fun and distraction in these weird times. (Got any ideas? Drop me a line or tweet ’em at me.)

+ There’s nothing quite like a teenage bedroom. 
+ If you’ve been looking to mix up your podcast library, this list offers some handy pointers.
+ Shh, don’t tell anyone about America’s hottest, and most secret, restaurants.
+ Stealing close to $200,000 in dimes seems like more trouble than it’s worth.
+ Kenny Loggins is still going—writing Winnie the Pooh songs. 

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