“Need extra help?” and a link to Google. That's the response you get when you stump the DoNotPay chatbot lawyer, which has expanded its legal counsel across the United States to help address parking tickets and other minor infractions. Most of us would probably see how having a chatbot point you back to a blank Google search wouldn’t be the most helpful of referrals. The artificial intelligence strides that have made DoNotPay possible still hit their limits - and the extra help people might need will likely still come in human form.
You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures.
And as you scan through these articles, consider dropping me a line to let me know what you're reading this week to help prepare for the future.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
The Atlantic “The technology that will make it impossible for you to believe what you see”
Researchers at the University of Washington developed an algorithm to take audio of someone talking and turn that into a realistic video of someone speaking those words, creating realistic lip-synched videos that could be used to deceive. See also Engadget, GeekWire, Gizmodo, and The Verge.
CNET “Microsoft's newest app tells the blind what's around them”
Microsoft's Seeing AI app "narrates the world around you" by allowing users to point a camera phone and having the phone produce audio about the visuals it sees.
TechCrunch “Microsoft creates an AI research lab to challenge Google and DeepMind”
Microsoft’s new research lab will focus on developing general-purpose artificial intelligence technology, including a team of more than 100 scientists from areas including natural language processing, learning, and perception systems – the lab will formally partner with MIT’s Center for Brains, Minds and Machines.
The Verge “‘World’s first robot lawyer’ now available in all 50 states”
Following success in New York, Seattle, and the UK, Joshua Browder’s DoNotPay chatbot lawyer is now available across the United States – the AI-powered bot has helped defeat 375,000 parking tickets in a span of two years.
Cities and Government
Wired “Trump's Twitter blocking may violate First Amendment”
The Knight First Amendment Institute, which focuses on protecting First Amendment rights in the digital age, issued a letter arguing that when U.S. President Donald Trump blocks people on the @realdonaldtrump Twitter feed he is violating their right to free speech in a "designated public forum” – while the First Amendment bars the government from censoring individuals in such forums, the question of the @realdonaldtrump Twitter feed as a public forum could be complicated. See also BBC, The Daily Dot, The Drum, Engadget, Gizmodo, Nieman Lab, Poynter, and TechCrunch.
Next City “D.C. Metro debates selling station names”
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is considering upping the system’s advertising revenues in several ways, including the sale of station naming rights — a practice that is currently forbidden by board policy, but not unprecedented.
The San Francisco Chronicle “Trump administration has plan to scrap ‘startup visa’ rule”
The International Entrepreneur Rule, approved by the Department of Homeland Security in January at the end of President Barack Obama’s administration and scheduled to go into effect July 17th, has been pushed back to March as the department pursues steps to rescind the rule altogether – the rule would have given entrepreneurs who do not qualify for existing visa programs a chance to stay in the U.S. and grow their businesses. See also GeekWire, Mashable, and The New York Times.
Engadget “Researchers encode a movie onto living bacteria”
Researchers at Harvard Medical School have stored a short animated image of 'The Horse in Motion' (one of the earliest moving images ever created) into E. coli using the gene-editing system CRISPR – in 2003 a small message was encoded into DNA and more recently a full operating system was written into DNA strands, but this is the first time it's been attempted with living bacteria.
Pew Research Center “Sharp partisan divisions in views of national institutions”
New research shows a growing divide between Republicans’ and Democrats’ views of the news media, colleges and universities, churches and religious organizations, and other institutions – 58% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country (up from 45% last year) while 72% of Democrats and Democratic leaners say colleges and universities have a positive effect. See also The Daily Dot, Inside Higher Ed, and Poynter.
City Lab “Why Chicago's new graduation requirement exacerbates inequality”
Chicago’s School Board recently approved Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s requirement for public schools to prove that graduates have secured a job or an acceptance to a college, a trade apprenticeship, a gap year program, or the military – critics argue that the rule punishes low-income students who generally attend schools that lack the funds for guidance counselors and other resources.
Consumerist “Proposed spending bill would cut Pell Grant Program by $3.3 billion”
The Pell Grant program, which provides need-based grants to low-income students to help pay for college, stands to lose $3.3 billion under a fiscal year 2018 House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations bill.
New Scientist “A massive iceberg just broke off Antarctica’s Larsen C Ice Shelf”
One of the largest icebergs on record has broken away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica – the calving of the iceberg reduces the size of the Larsen C Ice Shelf by around 12% and will likely have no immediate impact on sea level, though Ice Shelf Larsen B disintegrated in 2002 after a similar event. See also The Daily Dot, Mashable, Mic, Motherboard, Scientific American, The Verge, and Wired.
The Verge “Microsoft wants to close the rural broadband gap with TV white spaces”
Microsoft announced plans to improve rural broadband access by using unused TV white spaces operating in the 600 MHz frequency range to help deliver internet to thousands of homes – the company has used white spaces projects in 17 different countries already and plans to invest in partnerships with telecommunications companies to create 12 projects in 12 states over the next year, aiming to connect 2 million people with its own investments, and eventually helping partners serve more than 20 million people with rural broadband connections. See also Advertising Age, CNET, Engadget, and GeekWire.
Fast Company “LinkedIn is testing a new feature that matches you with a mentor”
LinkedIn is testing a feature to match users with other professionals who can give them career advice – a new “career advice hub” will be available in users' dashboards from which they can sign up to be a mentor or a mentee and provide specifics on region, industry, school, and type of advice such as entrepreneurship, job search, career growth, all before a matching algorithm sends recommendations for matches.
Government Technology “50 cities and counties participate in Net Neutrality Day of Action”
Mayors and technology officials from 50 cities and counties across the United States advocated against removing net neutrality protections in a letter penned to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai.
TechCrunch “Is Amazon working on a new messaging app called Anytime?”
Amazon is reportedly working on a new service called Anytime, a full-featured, standalone messaging app for smartphones, tablets, PCs, and smart watches designed to let users chat with text and video, send photos with filters, play games, engage with Amazon services, and interact with businesses. See also The Drum and Engadget.
Journalism and News
ArsTechnica “News industry decries Facebook’s ‘digital duopoly,’ wants government help”
The News Media Alliance, a trade group representing almost 2,000 news organizations, has requested legislation for an exemption to antitrust law so that it can "negotiate collectively" with Google and Facebook, complaining that the two dominant Internet companies form a "de facto duopoly that is vacuuming up all but an ever-decreasing segment of advertising revenue." See also Advertising Age, Fast Company, Inc., The New York Times, and Poynter.
NPR "To test your fake news judgment, play this game"
Veteran journalist Maggie Farley and game designer Bob Hone developed Factitious to test users' ability to detect fake news from real - the game's interface mimics the dating app Tinder as players swipe left when they think the article in front of them is fake and right when they believe it's real, with feedback provided about whether the swipe was correct or incorrect, whether the article cites sources that can be checked, and whether the story includes direct quotes from credible sources. Special thanks to Toni Anaya, Instruction Coordinator at the University of Nebraska - Lincoln Libraries, for sharing this article and for being one of my best friends from library school.
MIT Technology Review “If you get your face scanned the next time you fly, here’s what you should know”
In response to an Executive Order, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has partnered with airlines to introduce facial recognition systems at several airports to fulfill a years-old mandate for a biometric system for recording the entry and exit of non–U.S. citizens at all air, sea, and land ports of entry – the practice is raising concerns among some legal experts who say that the program may violate individual privacy protections and that Congress has not fully authorized it.
The Washington Post “White House releases sensitive personal information of voters worried about their sensitive personal information”
The White House released emails it received from voters offering comment on its Election Integrity Commission without redacting any of the personal information from the emails before releasing them to the public – in some cases the emails contain not only names, but email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers, and places of employment.
Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants
ReCode “Amazon is quietly rolling out its own Geek Squad to set up gadgets in your home”
Amazon has begun building a new service to offer free Alexa consultations as well as product installations for a fee inside customer homes, helping customers set up a “smart home,” answer connected device questions, demo Alexa-compatible gadgets, and even creating a personalized shopping list for the customer. See also CNET, Consumerist, Engadget, GeekWire, Gizmodo, Mashable, and TechCrunch.
Minneapolis Star Tribune “Target is testing new curbside pickup service in Twin Cities”
Target will test a new curbside pickup service at a handful of stores around the Twin Cities, beginning with a pilot with employees – the program will have customers place an order through Target's app or website, drive up and park in dedicated parking spaces next to the store, and employees bring the items out to their cars.
PSFK “All-day nap bar opens in Spain”
Madrid’s Siesta & Go allows customers to take a break from their day to take a quick nap or relax in a rented space – private and shared paces are available to rent from 30 minutes up to 20 hours per visit.
TechCrunch “Disney is opening an immersive Star Wars Hotel where each guest gets a storyline”
While details are still limited, Disney announced plans for a new immersive Star Wars themed hotel where all employees will be in costume and in character, each guest will get an immersive storyline, and decor will reflect a space ship with ‘windows’ only showing scenes from space.
The Verge “Netflix is rapidly taking over the Emmys”
Streaming service Netflix played prominently in the 2017 Emmy Award nominations, earning 93 nominations for its original streaming content, nearly double what it earned last year and just behind HBO’s 110 nominations. See also TechCrunch and The Verge.
Wired “'The Handmaids Tale' just made Hulu a prestige TV player”
Also among the Emmy nominations, Hulu received 13 nods for The Handmaid’s Tale, joining other prestige streaming competitors like Amazon and Netflix in top-level categories.
Advertising Age “Essence begins a live streaming show on Twitter”
Essence Magazine’s streaming talk show on Twitter, "Essence Now," explores black issues, culture, current events, and comedy.
Engadget “Hulu is now the only place to watch ‘Bob’s Burgers’”
Streaming services continue to jockey for exclusive access rights as Hulu signs 20th Century Fox's animated properties, including Bob's Burgers, The Cleveland Show, American Dad!, and Futurama. See also The Verge.
Nieman Lab “Musical (about marriage) as podcast? Why not, say the guys who brought you the sci-fi Limetown”
The musical podcast 36 Questions will be released in three parts featuring 12 original songs that will be simultaneously released as free singles – the musical podcast cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to produce and demonstrates podcasting’s expansion into new genres. See also Wired.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Variety “Slate launches weekly Facebook Live talk show produced in virtual reality”
Slate’s new weekly Facebook Live show, “Conundrums,” is produced entirely in virtual reality, with actors and other celebrities joining Slate Culture Editor Dan Kois in Facebook’s social VR app Spaces.
Bloomberg “Facebook plans to unveil a $200 wireless Oculus VR headset for 2018”
Facebook reportedly plans to expand the reach of its Oculus Rift virtual reality headset with a new cheaper, wireless device available next year – the new headset is designed to bridge the gap between cheap headsets that turn smartphones into virtual reality players and high-end systems that hook up to desktop computers. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, Consumerist, Gizmodo, Inc., and Mashable.
CNET “Facebook drops the price of its Oculus VR hardware yet again”
Oculus’ "Summer of Rift" sales promotion prices the VR headset and a pair of Touch controllers at a combined $399, a $200 drop that undercuts the HTC Vive and matches the entry-level price of the controller-less PlayStation VR headset – the promotion has proven successful enough for the company to keep the bundle permanently at $499 once the summer promotion ends. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, Fast Company, Mashable, MIT Technology Review, TechCrunch, and The Verge.