Skype chats are coming to Alexa devices — from engadget.com by Richard Lawlor
Voice controlled internet calls to or from any device with Amazon’s system in it.

Excerpt:

Aside from all of the Alexa-connected hardware, there’s one more big development coming for Amazon’s technology: integration with Skype. Microsoft and Amazon said that voice and video calls via the service will come to Alexa devices (including Microsoft’s Xbox One) with calls that you can start and control just by voice.

 

 

Amazon Hardware Event 2018
From techcrunch.com

 

Echo HomePod? Amazon wants you to build your own — by Brian Heater
One of the bigger surprises at today’s big Amazon event was something the company didn’t announce. After a couple of years of speculation that the company was working on its own version of the Home…

 

 

The long list of new Alexa devices Amazon announced at its hardware event — by Everyone’s favorite trillion-dollar retailer hosted a private event today where they continued to…

 

Amazon introduces APL, a new design language for building Alexa skills for devices with screensAlong with the launch of the all-new Echo Show, the Alexa-powered device with a screen, Amazon also introduced a new design language for developers who want to build voice skills that include multimedia…

Excerpt:

Called Alexa Presentation Language, or APL, developers will be able to build voice-based apps that also include things like images, graphics, slideshows and video, and easily customize them for different device types – including not only the Echo Show, but other Alexa-enabled devices like Fire TV, Fire Tablet, and the small screen of the Alexa alarm clock, the Echo Spot.

 

From DSC:
This is a great move by Amazon — as NLP and our voices become increasingly important in how we “drive” and utilize our computing devices.

 

 

Amazon launches an Echo Wall Clock, because Alexa is gonna be everywhere — by Sarah Perez

 

 

Amazon’s new Echo lineup targets Google, Apple and Sonos — from engadget.com by Nicole Lee
Alexa, dominate the industry.

The business plan from here is clear: Companies pay a premium to be activated when users pose questions related to their products and services. “How do you cook an egg?” could pull up a Food Network tutorial; “How far is Morocco?” could enable the Expedia app.
Also see how Alexa might be a key piece of smart classrooms in the future:
 

Why emerging technology needs to retain a human element — from forbes.com by Samantha Radocchia
Technology opens up new, unforeseen issues. And humans are necessary for solving the problems automated services can’t.

Excerpt (emphasis DSC):

With technological advancements comes change. Rather than avoiding new technology for as long as possible, and then accepting the inevitable, people need to be actively thinking about how it will change us as individuals and as a society.

Take your phone for instance. The social media, gaming and news apps are built to keep you addicted so companies can collect data on you. They’re designed to be used constantly so you back for more the instant you feel the slightest twinge of boredom.

And yet, other apps—sometimes the same ones I just mentioned—allow you to instantly communicate with people around the world. Loved ones, colleagues, old friends—they’re all within reach now.

Make any technology decisions carefully, because their impact down the road may be tremendous.

This is part of the reason why there’s been a push lately for ethics to be a required part of any computer science or vocational training program. And it makes sense. If people want to create ethical systems, there’s a need to remember that actual humans are behind them. People make bad choices sometimes. They make mistakes. They aren’t perfect.

 

To ignore the human element in tech is to miss the larger point: Technology should be about empowering people to live their best lives, not making them fearful of the future.

 

 

 

 

The Mobile AR Leaders of 2018 — from next.reality.news

Excerpt:

This time last year, we were getting our first taste of what mobile app developers could do in augmented reality with Apple’s ARKit, and most people had never heard of Animojis. Google’s AR platform was still Tango. Snapchat had just introduced its World Lens AR experiences. Most mobile AR experiences existing in the wild were marker-based offerings from the likes of Blippar and Zappar, or generic Pokémon GO knock-offs.

In last year’s NR50, published before the introduction of ARKit, only two of the top 10 professionals worked directly with mobile AR, and Apple CEO Tim Cook was ranked number 26, based primarily on his forward-looking statements about AR.

This year, Cook comes in at number one, with five others categorized under mobile AR in the overall top 10 of the NR30.

What a difference a year makes.

In just 12 months, we’ve seen mobile AR grow at a breakneck pace. Since Apple launched its AR toolkit, users have downloaded more than 13 million ARKit apps from the App Store, not including existing apps updated with ARKit capabilities. Apple has already updated its platform and will introduce even more new features to the public with the release of ARKit 2.0 this fall. Last year’s iPhone X also introduced a depth-sensing camera and AR Animojis that captured the imaginations of its users.

 

 

The Weather Channel forecasts more augmented reality for its live broadcasts with Unreal Engine — from next.reality.news by Tommy Palladino

Excerpt:

Augmented reality made its live broadcast debut for The Weather Channel in 2015. The technology helps on-air talent at the network to explain the science behind weather phenomena and tell more immersive stories. Powered by Unreal Engine, The Future Group’s Frontier platform will enable The Weather Channel to be able to show even more realistic AR content, such as accurately rendered storms and detailed cityscapes, all in real time.

 

 

 

From DSC:
Imagine this type of thing in online-based learning, MOOCs, and/or even in blended learning based learning environments (i.e., in situations where learning materials are designed/created by teams of specialists). If that were the case, who needs to be trained to create these pieces? Will students be creating these types of pieces in the future? Hmmm….

 

 

Winners announced of the 2018 Journalism 360 Challenge — from vrfocus.com
The question of “How might we experiment with immersive storytelling to advance the field of journalism?” looks to be answered by 11 projects.

Excerpt:

The eleven winners were announced on 9/11/18 of a contest being held by the Google News Initiative, Knight Foundation and Online News Association. The 2018 Journalism 360 Challenge asked people the question “How might we experiment with immersive storytelling to advance the field of journalism?” and it generated over 400 responses.

 

 

 

 

 



 

Addendum:

Educause Explores Future of Extended Reality on Campus — from campustechnology.com by Dian Schaffhauser

Among the findings:

  • VR makes people feel like they’re really there. The “intellectual and physiological reactions” to constructs and events in VR are the same — “and sometimes identical” — to a person’s reactions in the real world;
  • 3D technologies facilitate active and experiential learning. AR, for example, lets users interact with an object in ways that aren’t possible in the physical world — such as seeing through surfaces or viewing data about underlying objects. And with 3D printing, learners can create “physical objects that might otherwise exist only simulations”; and
  • Simulations allow for scaling up of “high-touch, high-cost learning experiences.” Students may be able to go through virtual lab activities, for instance, even when a physical lab isn’t available.

Common challenges included implementation learning curves, instructional design, data storage of 3D images and effective cross-departmental collaboration.

“One significant result from this research is that it shows that these extended reality technologies are applicable across a wide spectrum of academic disciplines,” said Malcolm Brown, director of learning initiatives at Educause, in a statement. “In addition to the scientific disciplines, students in the humanities, for example, can re-construct cities and structures that no longer exist. I think this study will go a long way in encouraging faculty, instructional designers and educational technologists across higher education to further experiment with these technologies to vivify learning experiences in nearly all courses of study.”

 



 

 

Courses in VR and AR will now be available thanks to Amazon Sumerian partnership — from vrfocus.com by Rebecca Hills-Duty
The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have announced a partnership with Amazon Web Services.

Excerpt:

Last year Amazon announced a new feature for its Amazon Web Services called Amazon Sumerian, a platform that would allow anyone to create full-featured virtual reality experiences. The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) have now announced that it will be offering short courses in artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR) and VR thanks to a partnership with Amazon Web Services.

The new partnership between RMIT and Amazon Web Services was announced at the AWS Public Sector Summit and Canberra, Australia on Wednesday. The new courses will be using the Amazon Sumerian platform.

The newly launched courses includes Developing AI Strategy, Developing AR and VR Strategy and Developing AR and VR Applications. All of these have been adapted from the AWS Educate program, which was created to react to the changing nature of the workplace, and how immersive technology is increasingly relevant.

 

My team’s mission is to build a community of lifelong learners, successfully navigating the world of work … yes, sometimes your degree is the right solution education wise for a person, but throughout our lives, certainly I know in my digital career, constantly we need to be updating our skills and understand the new, emerging technology and talk with experts.”

 

 

 

 



 

Everything you need to know about those new iPhones — from wired.com by Arielle Pardes

Excerpt:

Actually, make that three new iPhones. Apple followed last year’s iPhone X with the iPhone Xs, iPhone Xs Max, and iPhone Xr. It also spent some time showing off the Apple Watch Series 4, its most powerful wearable yet. Missed the event? Catch our commentary on WIRED’s liveblog, or read on for everything you need to know about today’s big Apple event.

 

 

Apple’s latest iPhones are packed with AI smarts — from wired.com by Tom Simonite

Excerpt:

At a glance the three new iPhones unveiled next to Apple’s glassy circular headquarters Wednesday look much like last year’s iPhone X. Inside, the devices’ computational guts got an invisible but more significant upgrade.

Apple’s phones come with new chip technology with a focus on helping the devices understand the world around them using artificial intelligence algorithms. The company says the improvements allow the new devices to offer slicker camera effects and augmented reality experiences.

For the first time, non-Apple developers will be allowed to run their own algorithms on Apple’s AI-specific hardware.

 

 

Apple Watch 4 adds ECG, EKG, and more heart-monitoring capabilities — from wired.com by Lauren Goode

Excerpt:

The new Apple Watch Series 4, revealed by Apple earlier today, underscores that some of the watch’s most important features are its health and fitness-tracking functions. The new watch is one of the first over-the-counter devices in the US to offer electrocardiogram, or ECG, readings. On top of that, the Apple Watch has received FDA clearance—both for the ECG feature and another new feature that detects atrial fibrillation.

 

 

 

 

 

Why one London university is now offering degrees in VR — from techrepublic.com by Conner Forrest
London College of Communication, UAL is launching a master’s degree in virtual reality for the 2018-19 academic year.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • London College of Communication, UAL is launching a Master of Arts in VR degree for the 2018-19 academic year.
  • The demand for VR professionals is growing in the film and media industries, where these technologies are being used most frequently.

 

From DSC:
Collaboration/videoconferencing tools like Webex, Blackboard Collaborate, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc. are being used in a variety of scenarios. That platform has been well established. It will be interesting to see how VR might play into web-based collaboration, training, and learning.

 

 

Activists urge killer robot ban ‘before it is too late’ — from techxplore.com by Nina Larson

Excerpt:

Countries should quickly agree a treaty banning the use of so-called killer robots “before it is too late”, activists said Monday as talks on the issue resumed at the UN.

They say time is running out before weapons are deployed that use lethal force without a human making the final kill-order and have criticised the UN body hosting the talks—the Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW)—for moving too slowly.

“Killer robots are no longer the stuff of science fiction,” Rasha Abdul Rahim, Amnesty International’s advisor on artificial intelligence and human rights, said in a statement.

“From artificially intelligent drones to automated guns that can choose their own targets, technological advances in weaponry are far outpacing international law,” she said.

 

Activists urge killer robot ban before it is too late

 

From DSC:
I’ve often considered how much out front many technologies are in our world today. It takes the rest of society some time to catch up with emerging technologies and ask whether we should be implementing technology A, B, or C.  Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. A worn-out statement perhaps, but given the exponential pace of technological change, one that is highly relevant to our world today.

 

 



Addendum on 9/8/18:



 

 

Skype launches call recording across desktop, iOS, and Android — from windowscentral.com by Dan Thorp-Lancaster
Recording your Skype calls will now be much, much easier.

 

Microsoft's Skype now allows you to record your sessions

 

Excerpt:

Skype has been testing integrated call recording with preview users for some time, but it looks like the feature is now ready for primetime.  The Skype team announced today that call recording is now rolling out across its Android, iOS, and desktop apps, allowing you to capture your calls with a tap. “Call recording is completely cloud-based and is now available on the latest version of Skype and on most platforms, except Windows 10,” Microsoft says. “Call recording is coming to Windows 10 with the latest version of Skype releasing in the coming weeks.”

 

Also see:

 

 

 

San Diego’s Nanome Inc. releases collaborative VR-STEM software for free — from vrscout.com by Becca Loux

Excerpt:

The first collaborative VR molecular modeling application was released August 29 to encourage hands-on chemistry experimentation.

The open-source tool is free for download now on Oculus and Steam.

Nanome Inc., the San Diego-based start-up that built the intuitive application, comprises UCSD professors and researchers, web developers and top-level pharmaceutical executives.

 

“With our tool, anyone can reach out and experience science at the nanoscale as if it is right in front of them. At Nanome, we are bringing the craftsmanship and natural intuition from interacting with these nanoscale structures at room scale to everyone,” McCloskey said.

 

San Diego’s Nanome Inc. Releases Collaborative VR-STEM Software For Free

 

 

10 ways VR will change life in the near future — from forbes.com

Excerpts:

  1. Virtual shops
  2. Real estate
  3. Dangerous jobs
  4. Health care industry
  5. Training to create VR content
  6. Education
  7. Emergency response
  8. Distraction simulation
  9. New hire training
  10. Exercise

 

From DSC:
While VR will have its place — especially for timeswhen you need to completely immerse yourself into another environment — I think AR and MR will be much larger and have a greater variety of applications. For example, I could see where instructions on how to put something together in the future could use AR and/or MR to assist with that process. The system could highlight the next part that I’m looking for and then highlight the corresponding parts where it goes — and, if requested, can show me a clip on how it fits into what I’m trying to put together.

 

How MR turns firstline workers into change agents — from virtualrealitypop.com by Charlie Finkand
Mixed Reality, a new dimension of work — from Microsoft and Harvard Business Review

Excerpts:

Workers with mixed-reality solutions that enable remote assistance, spatial planning, environmentally contextual data, and much more,” Bardeen told me. With the HoloLens Firstline Workers workers conduct their usual, day-to-day activities with the added benefit of a heads-up, hands-free, display that gives them immediate access to valuable, contextual information. Microsoft says speech services like Cortana will be critical to control along with gesture, according to the unique needs of each situation.

 

Expect new worker roles. What constitutes an “information worker” could change because mixed reality will allow everyone to be involved in the collection and use of information. Many more types of information will become available to any worker in a compelling, easy-to-understand way. 

 

 

Let’s Speak: VR language meetups — from account.altvr.com

 

 

 

 

Google’s VR Labs provide STEM students with hands-on experience — from vrscout.com by Kyle Melnick

Excerpt:

STEM students engaged in scientific disciplines, such as biochemistry and neuroscience, are often required by their respective degrees to spend a certain amount of time engaged in an official laboratory environment. Unfortunately, crowded universities and the rise of online education have made it difficult for these innovators-in-training to access properly equipped labs and log their necessary hours.

Cue Google VR Labs, a series of comprehensive virtual lab experiences available on the Google Daydream platform. Developed as part of partnership between Google and simulation education company Labster, the in-depth program boasts 30 interactive lab experiences in which biology students can engage in a series of hands-on scientific activities in a realistic environment.

These actions can include everything from the use of practical tools, such as DNA sequencers and microscopes, to reality-bending experiences only capable in a virtual environment, like traveling to the surface of the newly discovered Astakos IV exoplanet or examining and altering DNA on a molecular level.

 

Google’s VR Labs Provide STEM Students With Hands-On Experience

 

Also see:

 

 

 

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