Skiing robots, the ‘techlash’ and the landmarks going green for St Patrick’s Day

Planet Business: All you need is love and other catalysts for strategic transformation

A robot goes skiing in Hoenseong, South Korea, because why not? Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

A robot goes skiing in Hoenseong, South Korea, because why not? Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters


In numbers: Valentine’s splurge

€200 million

Sum that Irish adults were estimated to be spending on Valentine’s Day this year, according to social payment app Circle Pay.


Value, in monetary terms, of the average Valentine’s gift, the Circle survey of 7,000 adults across Europe found. (At least 2,300 of those surveyed were single.)


Percentage of people who said they had regretted spending money on a date.

Image of the week: The robots are skiing

While the humans were distracted by their Winter Olympics over in nearby Pyeongchang, robots took their rightful place on the ski slopes at a resort one hour away in Hoenseong, South Korea, mastering important techniques such as looking cool on a cable car and not falling off the side of a mountain. The thrill-chasing robots were delivered to the slopes by their human staff, aka eight robotics teams from universities, institutes and companies that were competing for a $10,000 prize in the Ski Robot Challenge. Unlike the human competition, the robot one did not have to be postponed due to wind. “I think, in the future, robots will have their own Winter Games on the sidelines of the Olympics held by humans,” said organiser Kim Dong-uk. Anyone for robot curling?

The lexicon: Techlash

“Techlash” is a rapidly spreading term coined by the Economist to describe a strengthening global political backlash against the tech giants. In a “memo” addressed to the bosses of Amazon, Google and Facebook (and CCd to the chief executives of Apple, Netflix and Microsoft), the magazine outlined the ways in which the heat against them was rising: “It is looking more likely that one of you could end up like the giant structure at Burning Man which the crowd torches, watching with rapt attention as it burns down to ash.” Tech companies are seen as BAADD (Big, Anti-competitive, Addictive and, er, charged with Damaging Democracy), according to the Economist, with the one ray of light being that “almost all of your services remain wildly popular with consumers”. There is another: as night follows day, a backlash is inevitably followed by a backlash to the backlash – or in this case, the backlash to the techlash.

Getting to know: Kevin Plank

Kevin Plank, founder and chief executive of sports brand Under Armour (the one that isn’t Adidas or Nike), was inspired to lightweight athletic clothing greatness by his personal talent for being the “sweatiest guy on the football field”. Part of the seed money came from his profits selling roses on the University of Maryland campus around St Valentine’s Day, which just goes to show, um, something. But 2017 was not a great one for either Under Armour or Plank, who annoyed some people by declaring himself a fan of Donald Trump (a “real asset” to the US) and another bunch of people later in the year by being one of the many CEOs to distance himself from the US president. The threatened consumer boycott by Trump supporters hasn’t troubled Under Armour, however, with a decline in its US sales slowing down and offset by super-fast growth in international markets. Plank is now on a mission to make the brand more stylish – or, as he put it in business-speak: “The dynamic landscape of 2017 was a catalyst for us to begin strategically transforming.”

The list: Debut greenings

Tourism Ireland’s annual “Global Greening” project, in which landmarks around the world are lit up in the brightest shade of lime green possible, is back this St Patrick’s Day for its ninth year and, as usual, there are some newcomers joining this fluorescent party.

1. Space Needle, Seattle: The observation tower will be going Irish-green this year, which is rather appropriate given Seattle is nicknamed the Emerald City.

2. Chimo the Polar Bear, Ontario: This statue-bear in the town of Cochrane might not be well known outside Canada, but he looks friendly enough.

3.Palais de l’Europe, Strasbourg: The modernist, fortress-like seat of the Council of Europe will also gleaming green on March 17th.

4. San Mamés stadium, Bilbao: The home of Athletic Bilbao football club in northern Spain is normally a sea or red-and-white stripes.

5. National Football Museum, Manchester: The glass-fronted slope of a building, dedicated to (ahem) “the world’s greatest sport”, will be going pitch-green as it submits to the madness for the first time this year. It’s what St Patrick would have wanted, had football existed when he was alive.