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How fake news impacts the exoskeleton industry.

How fake news impact the exoskeleton industry

In the wake of 2016, it seems fake news are now part of everyday life and they are here to stay.  Fake news could be anything from articles written on purpose with incorrect or misleading information, or an erroneous article that is re-published by a credible source.  While one normally associates fake news with politics, they are also finding their way into technological websites and forums.

Examples of tech fake news:

Late December 2016, a video showing a Tesla Model S avoiding a crash by slowing down before the crash took place was retweeted repeatedly.  The tweet by Hans Noordsij (Twitter) read,

“Original video, authorisation from the owner. Essential, no one could predict the accident but the radar did and acted by emergency braking.”

The tweet was then retweeted by Tesla’s CEO and the video re-posted by many news networks.  Here is the problem, however, Tesla’s car can’t predict accidents.  The Tesla radar system detected that there was a vehicle somewhere in front of it that was slowing down and it started slowing down too, regardless of what the cars in between were doing.  But it did not “predict” the crash.

The above story was highlighted by Brad Templeton and published on his blog, and it was then linked by RoboHub.  According to his RoboHub bio, he is a writer and researcher at Robocars.com and also worked for two years on Google’s team building automated cars…  In his article, Brad does not mean to take away from the Tesla automobile achievement of stopping correctly, but it’s onboard computer was not able to predict a crash and therefore any headlines that claim this ability are false.

The exoskeleton industry is no stranger to fake news, at least when it comes to short attacks.  These malicious articles use real and fake information and twist it in such a way as to turn their target into the most heinous company to ever work with wearable robotics.  CYBERDYNE and Ekso Bionics have both come under short attacks at one point or another.

How to fight fake news?

It appears that as large news organizations continue to lose money from advertisements their editorial capabilities wane proportionally.  Just like VW cheating on its emissions tests, the task of keeping news honest is getting transferred to private citizens and small companies that specialize in one or two fields.   At this rate, the Exoskeleton Report mission statement will have to change from a “News & resource site for exoskeleton technology” to a “News, filter & resource site for exoskeleton technology.”

Unfortunately, filtering news articles and stories is easier than it sounds. At the Exoskeleton Report, we have already bumped into this problem once or twice before.  We have written rebuttals to short attacks and in our 2015 article: Overselling the Dream of Personal Use Exoskeletons we compared two news articles on the ReWalk personal use exoskeleton.  In one, the limitations of the device and requirement for constant supervision were clearly stated.  In the other, the article could lead the viewer with the impression that the exoskeleton granted full mobility independence.  At the time, the report decided to clearly state our preference for the former.

ReWalk Robotics has always been very courteous and has never retaliated against us for picking at their marketing strategy.  Even so, our first face to face meeting with company representatives was at times a little awkward.  But if we had a redo we would not change a thing.  A little bit of awkwardness has never killed anyone.  A resolve for accurate information is especially important after Brexit and the Trump presidential campaign demonstrated what happens when fake news is not challenged.

“A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” – Winston Churchill

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