Know how Organic, Non-GMO, Sustainable Your Tech Is

Much like we look for labels to help guide our food choices, we will now be able to know how much data your connected device is sharing. How are you supposed to know which smart lightbulb you can trust?

Enter the Trustable Technology Mark. It’s like being certified organic, but for the Internet of Things. Supported by the Mozilla Foundation, NYU Law, the University of Dundee, and other institutions, the trustmark–a phrase for a logo that signifies a certification of some kind–aims to recognize companies building connected devices that have stellar data and privacy practices, are transparent and secure, and have some guarantee of longevity.

In a world awash with sketchy technology that doesn’t communicate how personal data is being used, the Trustable Tech Mark is a way to give kudos to companies that are actually operating responsibly. Right now, there’s no way for consumers to know which products won’t put their data at risk–nor for companies to prove that they’re trustworthy.

Why Its Hot: Visibility into tech could perhaps hasten adoption amongst the last tech holdouts.

Source: FastCo

Chalk and Soap

Soap company Savlon started with a problem: Kids in India eat with their hands but often don’t wash them with soap, and it’s one of the leading causes of illness and school dropouts.

Since most primary grade students in rural India still use black-slate and chalk sticks to write in schools. This led to the idea of Savlon’s Healthy Hands Chalk Sticks – made with a mixture of chalk powder and soap granules. Before lunch break when kids put their hands under the tap, the chalk powder on their hands turned into soap on its own. This simple innovation by Ogilvy, Mumbai automatically turned washing hands with soap into an everyday habit.
For the first phase, Savlon identified 100 rural schools across India based on health data analysis. Under ‘Healthy India Mission’ these special chalk sticks were provided to 150,000 students for free. Owing to a great response and demand from schools and NGOs across the country, distribution models were set in place for NGOs whose requirements exceeded over 50,000 boxes.

Once implemented in 100 schools, on Children’s Day, this innovation was released as an online video to start a conversation about the importance of hand hygiene in children.

Why its hot?
Didn’t create anything new or spent much to create a powerful innovation. A simple idea that turned a tool already being used (chalk) into the solution (antiseptic soap chalk)

China pumps AI-produced propaganda via humanoid virtual anchors

“Xinhua, China’s state-run press agency, has unveiled new “AI anchors” — digital composites created from footage of human hosts that read the news using synthesized voices.”

AI anchors have several advantages over human counterparts: they don’t need to sleep, eat, poop or take a salary.

Story on The Verge

Why It’s Hot

It’s a wholly frightening idea that the 24/7 news cycle will be reduced to this one day. As we struggle to define the line between real news and fake news, we will also have to grapple with fake news anchors.

The chicken is alive, even after you eat it

In 1931, Winston Churchill predicted that the human race would one day “escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium”.

Eighty-seven years later, that day has come as we discovered at Just, a food company in San Francisco where we tasted chicken nuggets grown from the cells of a chicken feather. The chicken – which tasted like chicken – was still alive, reportedly roaming on a farm not far from the laboratory.

This meat is not to be confused with the vegetarian plant-based burgers and other meat-substitute products which are gaining popularity in supermarkets. No, this is actual meat grown from animal cells and variously described as cultured, synthetic, in-vitro, lab-grown or even “clean” meat.

t took about two days to grow our chicken nugget in a small bioreactor, using a protein to encourage the cells to multiply, some type of scaffold to give structure to the product and a culture, or growth, medium to feed the meat as it develops. Those two days in the bioreactor came after years of work identifying the best cell lines, cell isolation and cell bank development, using cells from feathers or harmless biopsies on live animals.

Why its Hot?
Current method of meat production creates more greenhouse emissions than all forms of global transportation or industrial processes

 

Source: Just Meat and BBC

Deposit your candy corn and Necco wafers here

Mashable, Forbes and others have been keeping lists of the most loved and most hated Halloween candy for several years running. It seems that tons of free, artificially colored clumps of sugar are just not good enough for many Americans.

Reese’s saw an opportunity and created this machine that works kind of like a bottle recycling machine: put your crappy candy in and get some Reese’s candy in return.

Why it’s Hot

Trust me, it’s hot.

Vertical TV

Snapchat is producing interactive, original, scripted video shows called Snap Originals.

It released 12 original shows, spanning the comedy, horror and reality genres, among others. Each show has been created with established TV producers. For example Snapchat’s mystery thriller, Class of Lies, was created by Riverdale’s producers; Endless Summer, a reality show about socialites from Laguna Beach, was created by Bunim/Murray, the company behind Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

The shows are shot in portrait, to fit the Snapchat platform, and feature overlaid graphics, split screens and quick cuts, to suit Snapchat users’ fast-paced mobile behaviour. Users can find the shows in Snapchat’s discover area, as well as on the Show Profile page that is made available through Snapchat search. Snapchat also gives users the option to sign up to push notifications telling them when a new episode or piece of content is released.

Users can also activate the new ‘portals’ function by swiping their screen. This function uses augmented reality technology to allow viewers step inside a scene of the show and explore it for themselves.

Each show will also have its own Lenses and filters, creating more ways for viewers to incorporate the shows in their own Snaps

Snap Originals will be, well, snappy. Each episode will be as short as four or five minutes in length. Unlike Netflix shows which are either made available one series at a time or uploaded weekly, Snap Originals will have daily episodes.

Why its hot?
True to the brand 
Snap Originals will be, well, snappy. Each episode will be as short as four or five minutes in length.
Anti-Binge
Unlike Netflix shows which are either made available one series at a time or uploaded weekly, Snap Originals will have daily episodes.
Don’t watch from outside. Get inside the story
Portal lenses allow a user to take out their phone, open their camera, open the portal, literally get off their couch, walk into the scene, look around, and be in a show

Future-Forward Shopping at Sam’s Club Now

Sam’s Club will soon be introducing a whole new way to shop in Dallas, Texas. Their new location, called Sam’s Club Now, will serve as the company’s “epicenter of innovation,” where they’re testing everything from augmented reality product overlays to self-checkout via mobile app. A video on their site demonstrates what the experience could look like. 

Shoppers will be able to make grocery lists on the app before entering the store. When they arrive, a map on their phone will direct them where to go to find the items on their list. The directions can also be activated by voice commands. Product pricing will use electronic labels — eliminating the need to manually print and replace signage. Scanning a product with their phone before adding it to a physical shopping cart allows for self-checkout when they’re finished.

AR product experiences will include showing ways to use the product, highlighting key features, and even speak to how items are sourced. There will also be kid-friendly experiences such as turning digital shopping carts into pirate ships or rockets.

Sam’s Club is using the new location to serve as a testing lab for these new technologies before rolling them out to other clubs. They’ll be using over 700 cameras to continually scan and optimize.

Why It’s Hot

Sam’s Club is testing innovative concepts that have the power to transform the everyday shopping experience.

Source: https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/327259/sams-club-goes-high-tech-adds-ar-voice-shopping.html

Weather Matters in Advertising

Subway is using an artificial intelligence tool from IBM, named WEATHERfx Footfall with Watson, to make ads based on the weather.

The AI uses machine learning to process weather, sales and footfall data collected at Subway outlets. Then, it customizes ads and promotions according to the data.

For example, the tool dropped ads for hot sandwiches during heat waves and instead focused on lighter options.

Results: Subway increased in-store footfall by 31% as a result of WEATHERfx Footfall with Watson. Subway also says it reduced advertising campaign waste by 53%, saving about 7.9 million impressions that ‘would have otherwise gone to waste.’

Link: https://watsonadvertising.ibm.com/news/weatherfx-footfall-with-watson-solution-helped-subway-increase-store-traffic-in-recent-advertising-campaign/

 

 

Can’t go it alone: GM and Honda and the future of self-driving

Honda is helping GM on its mission to lead the quest towards a self-driving future. From WIRED: “In a deal announced today, the Japanese automaker will help San Francisco-based Cruise and its Detroit owner develop and mass produce a new sort vehicle for a world in which human drivers are no longer needed. Honda is opening its checkbook too, pledging to spend $2 billion on the project over 12 years, and immediately putting a $750 million equity investment into Cruise.

…For Honda, the partnership offers entree into a self-driving space where it has thus far spent little time and effort. For Cruise and GM, the newcomer adds engineering know-how as it moves to develop the self-driving car that will replace its current model, a modified Chevy Bolt EV.” Much of Honda’s engineering know-how will be of value for the interior design of the vehicles; once the driverless tech is ready, the ridership experience will hinge on the interior design of the vehicle, much like airplanes today.

WHY IT’S HOT:

In addition to being a somewhat a surprising global partnership, the joint venture between Honda and GM shows that to pioneer the future of driverless vehicles, you can’t go it alone. Strategic partnerships across financing, engineering, and manufacturing will become the norm in this race to the future, particularly due to the fact that no one knows how/when driverless will make money. This deal helps de-risk GM’s path to scale its operations into driverless with a partner that will help it execute long-term.

SOURCE: https://www.wired.com/story/honda-gm-cruise-self-driving-cars/

There’s a New Credit Card for People Without a Credit Score

Petal is a new company that provides credit cards to those who have not yet built up a traditional credit history. Instead, it uses data like how much money a person makes and spends in a month to determine what their credit limit should be. Petal Card_hires

One of the company’s co-founders, Jason Gross, explains that using a customer’s bank account history as a basis allows Petal to offer better credit limits that are often 10 times higher than competitors’ rates.

Annual Percentage Rates fall between the industry standard 14-25%, but the company has no fees of any kind, including late fees. Instead, the company generates money through interest payments and charging vendors when a customer uses their card.

Why It’s Hot: 

Younger people who don’t have a credit score yet finally have a credit card option that doesn’t penalize them with high rates and fees. As Gross has noted, this is especially important since this group is disproportionately made up of minorities and immigrants who often suffer without a credit score to help them qualify for financial products.

Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/10/02/petals-no-fee-credit-card-for-the-credit-score-less-is-now-open-to-the-public/ 

Coughing and tweeting bear

Toxic air is London’s silent killer and is linked with more than 9,400 premature deaths a year – that’s 40 times as many deaths caused by car accidents.

raise awareness of the city’s poor air quality and put pressure on the government to do something about it, air pollution monitoring company BreezoMeter set up roadside memorials in the most toxic locations.

The main feature of the memorials, which are designed to look like those typically laid out after a roadside death, is an animatronic soft toy called Toxic Toby. Every time pollution levels get dangerously high, the furry bear starts coughing and, simultaneously, posts a Tweet to the local MP, urging them to address the problem.

Why its hot
Made the invisible visible. Turns out London’s air quality is as bad as Beijing and Delhi

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

get paid when you get delayed…


It seems solving the pain points of delayed air travelers has become one of 2018’s hottest challenges. The latest brand to take it on is insurance brand AXA, via “fizzy”, it’s smart travel insurance.

Here’s how it works – “AXA’s blockchain-powered insurance plan, called Fizzy, covers travelers for delays of up to two hours or more. When customers purchase insurance using Fizzy, all details and contract agreements are recorded publicly, on the Ethereum blockchain. The contracts, which are connected to global air traffic monitoring databases, automatically trigger compensation payouts when a delay of more than two hours is recorded.”

In otherwords, you get paid (automatically) when you get delayed.

Why it’s hot:

First, it’s one of the most simple and practical, yet smart uses of blockchain and smart contracts we’ve seen yet. There’s plenty of chatter about the potential of blockchain, but considerably fewer actual things consumers can currently do that are blockchain enabled.

But more importantly, it’s a beautiful example of human-driven innovation – and not just because it helps in a situation most of us are likely all too familiar with (delayed flights, more than 150k in the last 30 days just in the US).

One of the biggest headaches with insurance can be having to make claims and waiting to be compensated. fizzy automatically knows when you should be compensated and does so “by the time your flight lands”. So, a matter of hours instead of days.

[Source]

a glimpse at your food future via Nestle…

A kit for Nestle Japan’s nutritional drink. Photographer: Kentaro Takahashi/Bloomberg

Nestle is taking an innovative approach to product development, starting with the Japan market.

According to Quartz News – “Some 100,000 people are taking part in a company program there that gives consumers a kit to collect their DNA at home. The program also encourages them to use an app to post pictures of what they’re eating. Nestlé then recommends dietary changes and supplies specialized supplements that can be sprinkled on or mixed into a variety of food products, including teas.”

Ultimately, the goal for Nestle actually goes beyond this, to creating completely individualized products based on individuals’ DNA that could even be designed to prevent serious diseases like cancer. Quartz’s crude example is “Pizzas that can ward off Alzheimer’s disease, for instance”.

One nutritional scientist says, “This is going to be the manifestation of the future. The one-size-fits-all platform is a thing of the past.”

Why it’s hot:

First, as the largest food company in the world, Nestle could be leading the way into a new era of food production – one that’s almost completely the opposite of its heritage over the last few decades. But most importantly, it’s another example of the shift we’re finally seeing from mass production to ultra-personalized products. While using DNA as the mechanism is not without concerns, what better experience than having food and supplements created for you based on what your body needs to keep you at peak health.

[Source]

Have your drink and packaging too



British sports drink brand Lucozade is moving away from plastic. Instead of distributing its Lucozade drinks and gels in plastic, the brand is trialling an edible packaging alternative to reduce waste.

At two upcoming sports events, the Richmond Marathon and West Sussex Tough Mudder, which Lucozade sponsors, participants will be given Lucozade Sport-filled Oohos. The Oohos are seaweed-based and have been developed by startup Skipping Rocks Lab.

Why its hot?
Oohos can be eaten or discarded like their plastic counterparts. Unlike plastic, however, these sachets are compostable and will take six weeks to decompose (plastic takes 700 years).

Video of biodegradable packaging created bySkipping Rocks Lab for other companies

Dating meets baby sitting

Meetic, a French dating company that also owns Match.com in Europe, is offering childcare vouchers as an incentive to attract more single parents to its platform.

Any single parent in France who subscribes to Meetic’s dating service before 31 October will receive a voucher for three hours of childcare through Yoopies, an online hub that connects parents and babysitters, and includes reviews and recommendations.

The free childcare is provided in the form a €30 ($35.11) voucher for Yoopies, and is based on the €10 ($11.70) per-hour average cost of a babysitter on the platform. The three hours figure was arrived at after research by the dating company showed that a typical date lasted 163 minutes.

In addition to the babysitting vouchers, any single parent that subscribes to Meetic during the promotional period will get free access to Yoopies’ premium service for two months.

Why its hot?
Matching two of the most important human needs of single parents
(25% of children in Paris lived with a single parent and 70% of single parents said they didn’t have time to find love.)

Coffee Delivery Drones Could Be Coming to Offices Soon

IBM has dreamed up the ultimate boost to employee productivity: drones that deliver coffee to people’s desks. They’ve filed a patent for technology that can identify the “cognitive state” of office workers to detect when a cup of coffee is needed.

IBM patent coffee delivery drone

The patent describes how the drones may be able to detect blood pressure, pupil dilation, and facial expressions that indicate a person is drowsy. The technology will also store individual preferences like what type of coffee they enjoy or whether or not they take sugar.

There are multiple ways in which coffee delivery can work: one option is to have coffee poured directly into a person’s mug, while another delivers coffee in a sealed bag. People can also summon coffee with a hand gesture.

Why It’s Hot

While it’s unclear whether IBM will actually build this coffee delivery system and how soon it could come to life, the technology has the potential to completely overhaul the office coffee break.

Source: Popular Mechanics

 

LEGO builds a drivable Bugatti

“Made from more than a million pieces, it’s the first fully functional, self-propelled life-size LEGO Technic car ever built.”

The real Bugatti Chiron “has 1,500hp (1119kW) and a top speed in excess of 261mph (420km/h); the LEGO Technic Bugatti makes just 5.3hp (3.9kW) and tops out at 12.4mph (20km/h).”

Can’t wait to see someone in Connecticut driving one of these in the fast lane on the I-95.

Story on Ars Technica

Why it’s Hot

While the car is totally undriveable, the stunt is a good way to promote both brands simultaneously.

Prime Design & How Fitting Rooms Could Become Obsolete

Amazon’s private label fashion business has faced several hurdles, but continued investment – Prime Wardrobe, Echo Look, and numerous pure play e-comm acquisitions – proves that they won’t stand for anything less than front row.

Recently, Amazon has acquired Body Labs – a firm which promises to bring 3D models to life. For fashion, accurately predicting size and fit across a diverse consumer base has always been a reach goal. Designers and other stakeholders in the supply chain have long relied on antiquated data, often based on models of an average person, and no one brand has found a scalable solution for custom-designed clothing.

While Body Labs can’t solve for customized design, it can provide brands with a range of different models and bodies that would validate the fit of different patterns, which makes for better fitting clothing.

If Amazon’s private label clothing knows your fit better than any brand can, why would you shop anywhere else?

Why it’s hot:

As personalization is becoming table stakes, Amazon’s foray into one of the most significant aspects of individual expression once again shows that any market can instantaneously become amazon-takes-all.

 

 

 

From discarded flowers to paint

 

Paint company JAT Holdings has created a new line of colourful paints made out of the waste from Buddhist flower offerings.

One way Buddhists express their devotion is by placing flowers at temples or shrines. This act symbolises the impermanent nature of life, or samsara.

Ordinarily, the flowers are thrown away. JAT Holdings collected kilos of the discarded flowers and used their pigmentation to create new paints.

The Petal Paint comes in five shades, each one designed to reflect a different ring in the Buddha’s halo. The colours include Lotus Red, Pigeonwing Blue, Trumpet Yellow, Marigold Orange and Temple Flower White.

JAT is selling Petal Paint in its own stores and is also donating the product to temples for local artists to restore the colourful art on the ceilings and walls.

The packaging imitates temple artwork, so that when the cans are stacked in store it creates the impression of a temple wall.

‘We created Petal Paint to give something back to Sri Lanka’s heritage and culture,’ Richard Gunawardene, head of marketing at JAT Holdings, told Sri Lankan newspaper Lankadeepa. ‘Petal Paint combines the best of our traditional culture – the use of pigments from nature – with the most advanced technology in paint manufacturing, to create a paint that matches the traditional temple mural colours and also provides a more long-lasting solution to temple artists.’

Sony tries to render real pets obsolete

As announced earlier this year Sony has brought back it’s robotic dog, Aibo. First released in 1999 but discontinued in 2006, it took Sony 12 years to update the Aibo and make it extra super cute.

One of these very good boys will set you back $2799.

 

 

For comparison’s sake, below is the original model (ERS-110) from 1999…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

…and the final model (ERS-7) before being discontinued

Why It’s Hot

Not sure anybody will buy these but with the toy robot space getting crowded, it’s interesting to see Sony trying to win the war by ratcheting up the cuteness factor, not by designing new features.

Andreeson Horowitz launches new diversity-focused fund

Andreessen Horowitz has unveiled its Cultural Leadership Fund, a vehicle that will be used to back multicultural founders. Reports of the fund emerged earlier this month, with The Wall Street Journal noting it will total about $15 million. LPs in the fund include Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kevin Durant, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Richelieu Dennis and Shonda Rimes, among others.

The stated goals of the fund are twofold:

  1. Connect the greatest cultural leaders in the world to the best new technology companies
  2. Enable more young African Americans to enter the technology industry

WHY IT’S HOT: 

As part of Andreessen Horowitz’s main investing fund, the Culture fund will “focus purposefully and intently on creating opportunities for people of color in tech.” Despite repeated vows the past few years to reverse a woeful track history of diversity in tech, progress has been glacial. Only 3% of the U.S. tech workforce is black, while 57% of the workforce is white, according to data compiled by market research firm IHS Markit. With the help of a set of diverse leaders, the CLF will aim to reverse this trend.

SOURCE: https://a16z.com/2018/08/22/introducing-the-cultural-leadership-fund/

AI Gets Creative

 

*Peep artist signature*

Christie’s will become the first auction house to offer a work of art created by an algorithm. Between October 23 and 25, Christie’s plans to hold a special sale for the AI-generated artwork: Portrait of Edmond Belamy, created by Obvious – an art collective based in Paris.

The way it works

The AI model is called GAN (generative adversarial network) and it consists of two parts: one that creates (the Generator) and one that critiques (the Discriminator).

“We fed the system with a data set of 15,000 portraits painted between the 14th century to the 20th. The Generator makes a new image based on the set, then the Discriminator tries to spot the difference between a human-made image and one created by the Generator, said Hugo Caselles-Dupré, co-founder of the art collective.

Why it’s hot

This isn’t the first example of creative AI, but the auction of an AI-generated portrait at Christie’s could make AI-created art seem, you know, legit.

Do you even lift?

“Across the board, across all industries, you see about $96 billion in worker compensation costs,” says Benjamin Kanner, CEO and founder of Worklete. “About 64% of those are related to musculoskeletal injuries–your back injuries, your shoulder injuries, your knee injuries.

“If we can teach these folks basic rules for human movement, and say, ‘Yes, there is a better and a worse way to move,’ that’s really how we win. That’s how we help blue-collar, underserved populations stay injury-free so they can work hard all day long and then go home and enjoy their lives outside of work, too.”

Worklete trains workforces to move in better, smarter, and safer ways, whether that’s teaching the proper driving posture when operating a forklift or the best technique for lifting a five-gallon water jug. Today, 20,000 frontline workers use the smartphone app, which runs each employee through 10 two-week training modules. The first week of each module is centered around movement “basics,” with photo- and video-based lessons followed by short quizzes. The total time commitment is about five minutes per week.

The second part of each module involves in-person practice sessions with partners or teams. These trainings are led by “champions,” unofficial leaders on the ground. Champions, typically shift managers, are selected during new client onboarding. For Worklete subscribers, an admin dashboard allows managers to monitor employee progress on training modules on an individual basis, evaluate performance at the city or regional level, and review team rosters, including new hires (marked with red), who might benefit from extra attention.

Why its hot

This is great on multiple levels. Not only does it solve a problem (workforce injuries from heavy lifting/general stress), but it also creates brand evangelists within the companies themselves, keeping employees engaged and using the service. Throw in the cost savings from keeping your employees healthy and it’s a no brainer for any company with a lot of physical labor. I would love to see companies with even less physical stress, where people mainly sit all day, use something like Worklete as well.

Beyond Entertainment

Ubisoft Entertainment SA, a French video game maker, has created an educational add-on to the latest installment of the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise.

It is called Assassin’s Creed: Origins Discovery Tour and it allows users to freely explore the reproduction of ancient Egypt without actually taking part in standard gameplay. Purely educational, this add-on acts as a virtual museum and features 75 guided tours of historical sites voiced by real historians and Egyptologists on subjects such as mummification, the writing of hieroglyphs, the daily life of Egyptians and the ancient city of Alexandria.

This add-on is aimed for the educational market and was even used as a learning tool for high school students.

Why it’s hot

Apparently, there was 44% improvement of the high school student’s knowledge of the historical topic. Reading, talking and watching video presentations is incredibly enriching when a student can tour and interact with the world they’re learning about.

Samsung claims unbreakable phone screen. Challenge accepted.

Samsung has developed a U.S. military-grade unbreakable phone screen….(about 10 years too late).

The days of having to strain your eyes looking through your jacked-up Galaxy screen seem to be over.

 

Here’s the proof:

Why it’s Hot

While other phone makers have been spending R&D dollars to make stronger and harder screen glass, Samsung zags and develops something flexible. Well played, Samsung.

JPMorgan built an online bank for millennials, and it should have apps like Acorns and Stash worried

Legacy organizations have been looking for ways to compete with nimble startups disrupting their respective categories. However, the secret sauce for these legacy giants might be in modernizing their product offering by blending traditional services with disruptive feature enhancements. JPMorgan is looking to disrupt the banking industry by building a mobile-first bank aimed at millennials dubbed Finn.

 Finn which is an end-to-end mobile bank, recently rolled out nationwide. In addition to offering bread-and-butter checking and savings account functionality, it also offers services many firms in the personal finance startup space have built their businesses around.

With Finn, users can create specific rules that determine when money will be transferred from checking to savings. One rule, “Work Hard, Save Smarter,” puts aside a set amount of money on pay day. There’s also “the Limit Does Not Exist” which saves a predetermined amount of cash whenever a user spends over a certain amount on a purchase.

That raises the question: what do fintechs do when big banks decide to step on their turf?

Why it’s hot?

It’s not all about the new kid on the block. Industry giants can compete with startups and even pose greater threats to them by transforming their product offering to meet and exceed their targets’ needs.

image_from_ios 1

Leap Motion’s New Creepy but Fascinating Tech Demo!

Leap Motion is a company best known for its work in VR and AR controllers. They recently posted a tech video of the fourth generation of their hand tracking tech and it features one of my favorite things to do.. Pet a kitty!

Leap Motion posted a statement on it’s YouTube page about the benefits of their tech:

“VR interactions have the potential to be easier and more intuitive than with any other technology. Cat Explorer is a fun demo that points to the transformative potential of VR and natural interaction in fields as diverse as education, training, healthcare, and entertainment.”

 

Why it’s hot:

  • Innovative VR tech
  • Intuitive controls
  • Explore a cat!

Tech workers take action

Workers in technology and innovation are standing up for what’s right and putting companies like Microsoft and Google in a position to make choices between profit and progress.

Just last week, Microsoft employees brought into sharp focus the overlap between Silicon Valley’s leading lights and the Trump administration’s cruelest abuses, when they released an open letter calling on their company to cease work as a contractor for Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to the workers, Microsoft had a $19.4 million contract to help ICE develop its surveillance operations with data-processing and artificial-intelligence technology.

[…] the rebelling workers objected to any link to the agency that is ripping apart immigrant families and imprisoning refugees: “As the people who build the technologies that Microsoft profits from, we refuse to be complicit. We are part of a growing movement, comprised of many across the industry who recognize the grave responsibility that those creating powerful technology have to ensure what they build is used for good, and not for harm.”

Other companies including “Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Thomson Reuters, Motorola Solutions and Palantir all have active contracts with ICE, according to a public records search conducted by NBC News.”

 executives got a similar disruption earlier this year when employees learned of its partnership with the Pentagon on “Project Maven,” an effort to weaponize artificial intelligence. Google’s contract for the project, which involved “using machine learning to identify vehicles and other objects in drone footage,” according to Gizmodo, was folded into a broader set of corporate-federal “partnerships” aimed at enhancing agencies’ cloud-computing systems.

Why it’s hot

Lots of people are feeling powerless as we watch horrible acts of violence and bigotry tear families and communities apart. These workers taking action and calling out their own companies speaks to a sense of communal responsibility to stand up for what is right over what is profitable.

 

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/19/technology/tech-companies-immigration-border.html, https://www.thenation.com/article/tech-workers-fighting-back-collusion-ice-department-defense/

Amazon Alexa, At Your (Room) Service

Hotel service is getting a major upgrade. With Alexa for Hospitality, Amazon will help hotels manage and customize how their Echo speakers can work harder for their guests.

With an Echo speaker in each room, guests will feel right at home with the commands they use every day like turning the lights on and off, setting alarms, playing music and making phone calls. But even more importantly, Alexa will supplement hotel staff by taking on the functions of ordering room service, requesting room cleanings, providing information like pool hours, and helping guests check out. Amazon is also providing a digital platform to help hotels manage hundreds of Echo devices in one centralized view.

Along with the announcement, Amazon notes they are already working on enhancements. In the near future, guests will be able to temporarily connect their own Amazon account to the device in their hotel room, meaning preferences like favorite music and personalized details like contacts will be accessible. Upon checkout, the speaker will reset for the next guest.

Why It’s Hot: 

Alexa for Hospitality can help hotels truly deliver the level of comfort and convenience their guests expect. As it continues to evolve, hotels should see significant operational efficiencies while guests enjoy all the benefits of a virtual concierge.

Source: https://venturebeat.com/2018/06/19/amazon-launches-alexa-for-hospitality-to-bring-voice-enabled-services-to-hotel-guests/ 

Free Power From Freeways? China Is Testing Roads Paved With Solar Panels

The experiment is the latest sign of China’s desire to innovate in, and dominate, the increasingly lucrative and strategically important market for renewable energy. The country already produces three-quarters of the solar panels sold globally, and its wind-turbine manufacturing industry is also among the world’s largest.

The potential appeal of solar roads — modified solar panels that are installed in place of asphalt — is clear. Generating electricity from highways and streets, rather than in fields and deserts packed with solar panels, could conserve a lot of land. Those advantages are particularly important in a place like China, a heavily populated country where demand for energy has risen rapidly.

Because roads run through and around cities, the electricity could be used practically next door to where it is generated. That means virtually no power would be lost in transmission, as can happen with projects in outlying locations. And the land is essentially free, because roads are needed anyway. Roads must be resurfaced every few years at great cost, so the installation of durable solar panels could reduce the price of maintenance.

Solar roads could also change the driving experience. Electric heating strips can melt snow that falls on them. Light-emitting diodes embedded in the surface can provide illuminated signage to direct drivers to exits and alert them to construction and other traffic hazards.