Google releases Action Blocks for people with disabilities

Google released a new tool called Action Blocks for people with cognitive and motion disabilities. The system allows users and their caregivers to add Assistant commands to the home screen of Android phones and tablets. Each command is represented by a custom image and it can be controlled with just one tap. For instance, when a user taps an Action Block icon of a cab, the system might order a rideshare.

 

Also worth mentioning that Google has also improved its Maps apps to show if businesses or public venues have accessible entrance. When enabling this feature, you can see a wheelchair icon next to the location.

Why it’s hot: Embracing the diversity trend goes beyond race and gender. With something like 630 million people having some form of cognitive disability, this is not a niche group and it’s great that Google is providing services that ‘level the playing field’ for them.

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/

Who programs the AI? (Not women or people of color)

You might assume that technology and AI are neutral forces in this world. The truth is, our technology is biased and created in the image of its creators – as Melinda Gates and Fei-Fei Li argue in this interview, these are “guys with hoodies.”

Have you ever?

  • Tried on an Oculus Rift to find that the hardware does not fit your facial profile?
  • Had face tracking software totally fail because it wasn’t programmed to register your traits (standard human features such as eyes, a nose, a mouth)?
  • Had voice assistants / voice recognition not understand you due to your accent or dialect? Perhaps the voice assistant straight up doesn’t speak your native language.

Consider: Her and Ex Machina, two recent and popular representations of AI in cinema, both of which represent AI, and its characters’ interactions with AI, from the point of view of male psychology and desire.

As Gates points out:
“If we don’t get women and people of color at the table — real technologists doing the real work — we will bias systems. Trying to reverse that a decade or two from now will be so much more difficult, if not close to impossible.”

The entire interview is worth a read

Together, Gates and Li are launching a national non-profit called AI4ALL, aimed at increasing the diversity of voices behind AI, and getting people of color and women educated in a field where they are highly underrepresented.

Why it’s hot:
AI has the potential to redefine our future. Where is the diversity of minds necessary to make it a future for ALL?

Diversity in Advertising – Does it count if it’s not sincere?

Diversity and Inclusion, specifically with regard to race, is increasingly becoming a top of mind consideration for brands as our melting pot of a country continues to diversify. Additionally, sensitivities around race and ethnicity are extremely high and brands must be cautious whenever launching any D&I initiative.

Gucci recently launched its pre-fall fashion week campaign on Instagram. It’s a series of audition videos that features ONLY black talent.  This is a pretty clear and stark change for the brand as it typically only ever features one token(or two) black model among a larger white troupe.

While the campaign itself is a noble effort, publishers are questioning the motives behind the initiative. Is Gucci making this move because this is a part of a creative vision? Or are they just another brand trying too hard to be diverse?

Why this is hot:

  • Diversity is important for all brands trying to be relevant in the social space.
  • Brands have to be genuine when making strides to becoming more diverse.
  • People just want to see representation among the larger group so D&I campaigns aren’t always the answer. There’s a happy medium and it’s our responsibility as marketers to find it for our brands.

Apple introducing ethnically diverse emojis

Apple is reportedly developing a series of ethnically diverse emojis for iOS operating systems.  The emojis hands and faces will come in 6 different skin tones.  Supposedly, if you press on any individual emoji, a choice of the 6 skin tones will pop up and you can choose one.  There are a reported 300 different emojis being developed.

No release date has been announced, and Apple won’t confirm if the new emojis will be released as part of the next official software releases for iPad, iPhone and Mac.

Emojis have long been used for self expresson.  According to CBS News, science guru Bill Nye used emojis to teach evolution, emojis replaced Beyoncé in a version of her hit single “Drunk in Love” and an emoji translation of Hermann Melville’s masterpiece was created — aptly titled “Emoji Dick.”

Apple Just Showed Off Its New, Diverse Emoji for the First Time

Why It’s Hot

Diverse emojis are a reflection of the populations that use them andd there has been a brewing controversy over the lack of diversity.  Apple is now taking initiative to acknowledge the people and markets it serves.  You might ask, What took so long?