Tech Law


Cutting-Edge Specs Translate Languages on the Spot

Japanese NTT Docomo unveiled augmented reality glasses that are able to translate menus and signs in real time.

The company, which showed off the device at a Japanese gadget fair, says the glasses will be ready when foreigners descend on Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics.

The glasses work by overlaying someone’s native language onto unfamiliar text. This could be especially valuable in Japan, which doesn’t always have translated menus at the ready.

The glasses do more than just read, though: They also have a facial recognition function that can determine a person’s identity and job title from a smartphone directory.


Google Back in Spotlight Over UK Taxes

Recent records show that Google paid US$55 million in UK taxes in 2012 on sales of nearly $5 billion to British costumers.

Google is the poster child for corporate tax avoidance, at least in the UK, where these records are sure to raise eyebrows. British lawmakers have grilled execs for designating neighboring Ireland — which has a lower corporate tax rate than the UK — as its official European sales base. In May, Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee, told Matt Brittin, Google’s northern Europe boss, that Google’s behavior on taxes was “devious,” “unethical” and…wait for it… “evil.”

UK parliament has scolded other U.S. companies, as well, but Google seems to absorb the brunt of the antipathy (even if Eric Schmidt says it shouldn’t).

Tax avoidance was a major theme of last summer’s G8 summit. It was held in the UK.


Nokia Regains Access to Indian Accounts

Nokia said Monday that it had regained access to its Indian bank accounts after tax authorities there froze the company’s accounts last week.

Authorities reportedly froze all of Nokia’s Indian assets — including its factories — to ensure that the company could pay its future tax bill, which is expected to be nine figures long.

Microsoft purchased Nokia’s cellphone unit in September. The frozen assets won’t affect the Microsoft deal, expected to be completed early next year, a Nokia spokesperson said.

Nokia has been operating in India for nearly 20 years. Even so, in January Indian officialsraided a Nokia factory to recover what they claimed was $500 million in back taxes. Over the summer, before its cellphone unit was acquired by Microsoft, Nokia sent a letter to India’s commerce ministry threatening to leave the country because of its tax policies.

[Source:The New York Times]

GTA Online Launch Overwhelms Servers

Rockstar, the company that produces the Grand Theft Auto video game series, warned that there might be a glitch or two with the online version of Grand Theft Auto V.

Sure enough, despite having bought additional servers to handle the anticipated load, Tuesday’s launch of GTA Online overwhelmed the company’s capabilities and reportedly locked out more than a few users.

GTA V logged more than $1 billion in sales within three days of its Sept. 17 release.

The online version of the game, available for free with the console version, allows up to 16 players to interact simultaneously.

[Sources:Forbes; Rockstar via BBC]

David Vranicar is a freelance journalist and author ofThe Lost Graduation: Stepping off campus and into a crisis. You can check out hisECT News archive here, and you can email him at david[dot]vranicar[at]newsroom[dot]ectnews[dot]com.

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