From DSC:
There are now more than 12,000+ skills on Amazon’s new platform — Alexa.  I continue to wonder…what will this new platform mean/deliver to societies throughout the globe?


 

From this Alexa Skills Kit page:

What Is an Alexa Skill?
Alexa is Amazon’s voice service and the brain behind millions of devices including Amazon Echo. Alexa provides capabilities, or skills, that enable customers to create a more personalized experience. There are now more than 12,000 skills from companies like Starbucks, Uber, and Capital One as well as innovative designers and developers.

What Is the Alexa Skills Kit?
With the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK), designers, developers, and brands can build engaging skills and reach millions of customers. ASK is a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation, and code samples that makes it fast and easy for you to add skills to Alexa. With ASK, you can leverage Amazon’s knowledge and pioneering work in the field of voice design.

You can build and host most skills for free using Amazon Web Services (AWS).

 

 

 


 

 

Ed Dept. Names Finalists for Virtual and Augmented Reality Competition — from campustechnology.com by Sri Ravipati

Excerpt:

The finalists are:

  • Case Western Reserve University, which developed “Holographic Anatomy to Transform Healthcare,” a simulation that provides an alternative to using cadavers to teach medical anatomy. Combining the Microsoft HoloLens and the VR experience, medical students can practice dissection techniques in a virtual environment.
  • Embodied Labs for a series of VR patient experiences called “The Alfred Lab,” designed to teach students how to take better care of elderly populations.
  • Octothorpe, the creator behind “The Irregular: Sherlock Holmes,” which challenges students to work together on chemistry and psychology problems.
  • Osso VR, for its realistic, hands-on orthopaedic surgical training platform; and
  • Smart Sparrow, an education company that created “LifeCraft,” which explores life on Earth through various archaeology, biology and astronomy expeditions.

 

 

EON CREATOR AVR

The EON Creator AVR Enterprise and Education content builder empowers non-technical users to create compelling AR and VR applications in minutes, not weeks.

ENTERPRISE
With no programming required, EON Creator AVR Enterprise empowers workers to accelerate learning and improve performance, safety, and efficiency in the workplace.

EDUCATION
Teachers and students can create, experience, and share AVR learning applications with EON Creator AVR and quickly add them to their current classroom, seamlessly.

 

 

 

 

Also see:

 

 

 

Also see:

 

 

 
 

Veeery interesting. Alexa now adds visuals / a screen! With the addition of 100 skills a day, where might this new platform lead?

Amazon introduces Echo Show

The description reads:

  • Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free—just ask.
  • Introducing a new way to be together. Make hands-free video calls to friends and family who have an Echo Show or the Alexa App, and make voice calls to anyone who has an Echo or Echo Dot.
  • See lyrics on-screen with Amazon Music. Just ask to play a song, artist or genre, and stream over Wi-Fi. Also, stream music on Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and more.
  • Powerful, room-filling speakers with Dolby processing for crisp vocals and extended bass response
  • Ask Alexa to show you the front door or monitor the baby’s room with compatible cameras from Ring and Arlo. Turn on lights, control thermostats and more with WeMo, Philips Hue, ecobee, and other compatible smart home devices.
  • With eight microphones, beam-forming technology, and noise cancellation, Echo Show hears you from any direction—even while music is playing
  • Always getting smarter and adding new features, plus thousands of skills like Uber, Jeopardy!, Allrecipes, CNN, and more

 

 

 

 

 

 



From DSC:

Now we’re seeing a major competition between the heavy-hitters to own one’s living room, kitchen, and more. Voice controlled artificial intelligence. But now, add the ability to show videos, text, graphics, and more. Play music. Control the lights and the thermostat. Communicate with others via hands-free video calls.

Hmmm….very interesting times indeed.

 

 

Developers and corporates released 4,000 new skills for the voice assistant in just the last quarter. (source)

 

…with the company adding about 100 skills per day. (source)

 

 

 

The Living [Class] Room -- by Daniel Christian -- July 2012 -- a second device used in conjunction with a Smart/Connected TV

 

 



 

Addendum on 5/10/17:

 



 

 

The 2017 Dean’s List: EdTech’s 50 Must-Read Higher Ed Blogs [Meghan Bogardus Cortez at edtechmagazine.com]

 

The 2017 Dean’s List: EdTech’s 50 Must-Read Higher Ed Blogs — from edtechmagazine.com by Meghan Bogardus Cortez
These administrative all-stars, IT gurus, teachers and community experts understand how the latest technology is changing the nature of education.

Excerpt:

With summer break almost here, we’ve got an idea for how you can use some of your spare time. Take a look at the Dean’s List, our compilation of the must-read blogs that seek to make sense of higher education in today’s digital world.

Follow these education trailblazers for not-to-be-missed analyses of the trends, challenges and opportunities that technology can provide.

If you’d like to check out the Must-Read IT blogs from previous years, view our lists from 2016, 2015, 2014 and 2013.

 

 



From DSC:
I would like to thank Tara Buck, Meghan Bogardus Cortez, D. Frank Smith, Meg Conlan, and Jimmy Daly and the rest of the staff at EdTech Magazine for their support of this Learning Ecosystems blog through the years — I really appreciate it. 

Thanks all for your encouragement through the years!



 

 

 

 

Microsoft Cortana-Powered Speaker Challenges Amazon’s Echo With Skype Calls — from foxbusiness.com by y Jay Greene

Excerpt:

Microsoft Corp. is hoping to challenge Amazon.com Inc.’s Echo smart speaker for a spot on the kitchen counter with a device from Samsung Electronics Co. that can make phone calls. The Invoke, which will debut this fall, comes more two years after the release of the Echo, which has sold more 11 million units through late last year, according to estimates by Morgan Stanley. It also will compete with Alphabet Inc.’s Google Home, which was released last fall. The voice-controlled Invoke, made by Samsung’s Harman Kardon unit, will use Microsoft’s Cortana digital assistant to take commands.

 

 

Microsoft Screams ‘Me Too’ With Cortana-Powered Rival to Amazon Echo and Google Home — from gizmodo.com by Alex Cranz

Excerpt:

With Microsoft’s Build developer conference just two days away, the company has revealed one of the most anticipated announcements from the event: A new Cortana-powered speaker made by German audio giant Harman Kardon.

Now, it’s fair to see this speaker for what it is: An answer to the Google Home and Amazon Echo. Both assistant-powered speakers are already in homes across our great nation, listening to your noises, noting your habits, and in general invading your lives under the guise of smart home helpfulness. The new Microsoft speaker, dubbed “Invoke,” one will presumably do the good stuff, let giving you updates on the weather and letting you turn on some soothing jazz for your dog with just a spoken command. Microsoft is also hoping that partnering with Harmon Kardon means its speaker can avoid one of the bigger problems with these devices—their tendency to sound cheap and tinny.

 

 

 

 

Harman Kardon’s Invoke speaker is a Cortana-powered take on an Amazon Echo — from theverge.com by Chaim Gartenberg

Excerpt:

As teased earlier, the Invoke speaker will offer 360-degree speakers, Skype calling, and smart home control all through voice commands. Design-wise, the Invoke strongly resembles Amazon’s Echo that its meant to compete with: both offer a similar cylindrical aluminum shape, light ring, and a seven-microphone array. That said, Harmon Kardon seems to be taking the “speaker” portion of its functionality more seriously than Amazon does, with the Invoke offering three woofers and three tweeters (compared to the Echo, which offers just a single of each driver). Microsoft is also highlighting the Invoke’s ability to make and receive Skype calls to other Skype devices as well as cellphones and landlines, which is an interesting addition to a home assistant.

 

 

From DSC:
Here we see yet another example of the increasing use of voice as a means of communicating with our computing-related devices. AI-based applications continue to develop.

 

 

 

 

From DSC:
This type of technology could be good, or it could be bad…or, like many technologies, it could be both — depends upon how it’s used. The resources below mention some positive applications, but also some troubling applications.


 

Lyrebird claims it can recreate any voice using just one minute of sample audio — from theverge.com by James Vincent
The results aren’t 100 percent convincing, but it’s a sign of things to come

Excerpt:

Artificial intelligence is making human speech as malleable and replicable as pixels. Today, a Canadian AI startup named Lyrebird unveiled its first product: a set of algorithms the company claims can clone anyone’s voice by listening to just a single minute of sample audio.

 

 

 

 

 

Also see:

 

Imitating people’s speech patterns precisely could bring trouble — from economist.com by
You took the words right out of my mouth

Excerpt:

UTTER 160 or so French or English phrases into a phone app developed by CandyVoice, a new Parisian company, and the app’s software will reassemble tiny slices of those sounds to enunciate, in a plausible simulacrum of your own dulcet tones, whatever typed words it is subsequently fed. In effect, the app has cloned your voice. The result still sounds a little synthetic but CandyVoice’s boss, Jean-Luc Crébouw, reckons advances in the firm’s algorithms will render it increasingly natural. Similar software for English and four widely spoken Indian languages, developed under the name of Festvox, by Carnegie Mellon University’s Language Technologies Institute, is also available. And Baidu, a Chinese internet giant, says it has software that needs only 50 sentences to simulate a person’s voice.

Until recently, voice cloning—or voice banking, as it was then known—was a bespoke industry which served those at risk of losing the power of speech to cancer or surgery.

More troubling, any voice—including that of a stranger—can be cloned if decent recordings are available on YouTube or elsewhere. Researchers at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, led by Nitesh Saxena, were able to use Festvox to clone voices based on only five minutes of speech retrieved online. When tested against voice-biometrics software like that used by many banks to block unauthorised access to accounts, more than 80% of the fake voices tricked the computer.

 

 

Per Candyvoice.com:

Expert in digital voice processing, CandyVoice offers software to facilitate and improve vocal communication between people and communicating objects. With applications in:

Health
Customize your devices of augmentative and alternative vocal communication by integrating in them your users’ personal vocal model

Robots & Communicating objects
Improve communication with robots through voice conversion, customized TTS, and noise filtering

Video games
Enhance the gaming experience by integrating vocal conversion of character’s voice in real time, and the TTS customizing

 

 

Also related:

 

 

From DSC:
Given this type of technology, what’s to keep someone from cloning a voice, putting together whatever you wanted that person to say, and then making it appear that Alexa recorded that other person’s voice?

 

 

 

 
 

The Future of Jobs and Jobs Training — from by Lee Rainie and Janna Anderson
As robots, automation and artificial intelligence perform more tasks and there is massive disruption of jobs, experts say a wider array of education and skills-building programs will be created to meet new demands. There are two uncertainties: Will well-prepared workers be able to keep up in the race with AI tools? And will market capitalism survive?

Excerpt:

Machines are eating humans’ jobs talents. And it’s not just about jobs that are repetitive and low-skill. Automation, robotics, algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) in recent times have shown they can do equal or sometimes even better work than humans who are dermatologists, insurance claims adjusters, lawyers, seismic testers in oil fields, sports journalists and financial reporters, crew members on guided-missile destroyers, hiring managers, psychological testers, retail salespeople, and border patrol agents. Moreover, there is growing anxiety that technology developments on the near horizon will crush the jobs of the millions who drive cars and trucks, analyze medical tests and data, perform middle management chores, dispense medicine, trade stocks and evaluate markets, fight on battlefields, perform government functions, and even replace those who program software – that is, the creators of algorithms.

Several policy and market-based solutions have been promoted to address the loss of employment and wages forecast by technologists and economists. A key idea emerging from many conversations, including one of the lynchpin discussions at the World Economic Forum in 2016, is that changes in educational and learning environments are necessary to help people stay employable in the labor force of the future. Among the six overall findings in a new 184-page report from the National Academies of Sciences, the experts recommended: “The education system will need to adapt to prepare individuals for the changing labor market. At the same time, recent IT advances offer new and potentially more widely accessible ways to access education.”

 

 

In the next 10 years, do you think we will see the emergence of new educational and training programs that can successfully train large numbers of workers in the skills they will need to perform the jobs of the future?

 

 

 

 



From DSC:
The following questions (from the article) might be fodder for initial conversations regarding what changes need to immediately occur within higher education. Those changes might be to establish teams/task forces/etc. charged with answering these kinds of questions.

  • What are the most important skills needed to succeed in the workforce of the future?
  • Which of these skills can be taught effectively via online systems – especially those that are self-directed – and other nontraditional settings?
  • Which skills will be most difficult to teach at scale?
  • Will employers be accepting of applicants who rely on new types of credentialing systems, or will they be viewed as less qualified than those who have attended traditional four-year and graduate programs?

The following section further supports a vision that I’ve been tracking entitled, “Learning from the Living [Class] Room” — where I see the “New Amazon.com of Higher Education” unfolding. Blockchain-based technologies will likely be involved here.

A diversifying education and credentialing ecosystem: Most of these experts expect the education marketplace – especially online learning platforms – to continue to change in an effort to accommodate the widespread needs.  Some predict employers will step up their own efforts to train and retrain workers. Many foresee a significant number of self-teaching  efforts by jobholders themselves as they take advantage of proliferating online opportunities.

Respondents see a new education and training ecosystem emerging in which some job preparation functions are performed by formal educational institutions in fairly traditional classroom settings, some elements are offered online, some are created by for-profit firms, some are free, some exploit augmented and virtual reality elements and gaming sensibilities, and a lot of real-time learning takes place in formats that job seekers pursue on their own.

A considerable number of respondents to this canvassing focused on the likelihood that the best education programs will teach people how to be lifelong learners. Accordingly, some say alternative credentialing mechanisms will arise to assess and vouch for the skills people acquire along the way.

 

 

DC: Many societies around the globe are looking at massive change coming at them. What changes should those of us working in higher education begin to make — immediately? In the longer term?

 



 

 

These respondents suggest that workers of the future will learn to deeply cultivate and exploit creativity, collaborative activity, abstract and systems thinking, complex communication, and the ability to thrive in diverse environments.

 

 



 

Addendum on 5/6/17:

  • How to Prepare for an Automated Future — from nytimes.com by Claire Cain Miller
    Excerpt:
    We don’t know how quickly machines will displace people’s jobs, or how many they’ll take, but we know it’s happening — not just to factory workers but also to money managers, dermatologists and retail workers. The logical response seems to be to educate people differently, so they’re prepared to work alongside the robots or do the jobs that machines can’t. But how to do that, and whether training can outpace automation, are open questions.

 

 

 
© 2016 Learning Ecosystems