This week’s headline quotes Laura Reynolds, Seattle Symphony vice president of education and community engagement, on the development of Octave 9, the Symphony’s new venue that can morph from traditional concert performances into a 360-degree chamber for shared immersive experiences (GeekWire “Seattle Symphony to create new performance space for 360-degree shared virtual experiences”)
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The New York Times “Is there a smarter path to artificial intelligence? Some experts hope so”
Deep learning, which gives computers a way to learn by processing vast amounts of data, has been a driving force in the development of artificial intelligence over the past several years, but now some scientists are questioning the approach, warning that the infatuation with deep learning may well breed myopia and overinvestment now and disillusionment later.
BuzzFeedNews “Teen survey shows fewer are having sex, but more are feeling despair”
The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention’s 2017 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) finds that sexual activity among teens in 2017 was at the lowest levels since the survey began nearly 20 years ago, but mental health issues are increasing – about 31.5% of teens said they had persistent feelings of being sad or hopeless (up from 28.5% a decade ago); 39.5% of teens said they'd had sex (compared with 47.8% in 2007); and 14% of teens said they had misused prescription opioids such as codeine, OxyContin, hydrocodone, Percocet, or Vicodin.
GeekWire “Seattle Symphony to create new performance space for 360-degree shared virtual experiences”
Seattle Symphony is detailing plans for a new venue, Octave 9, that can morph from traditional concert performances into a 360-degree chamber for shared immersive experiences – a modular surround video screen with 13 movable panels will be combined with 10 ultra-short-throw projectors, motion-capture cameras, and a Meyer Constellation Sound System with 42 speakers and 30 microphones.
TechCrunch “Amazon launches an Alexa system for hotels”
Amazon announced a new Alexa for Hospitality program designed to bring its voice assistant technology to everything from chain hotels to vacation rentals – Marriott will serve as Amazon’s launch partner, installing Echo devices at select properties to provide information about the hotel itself (fitness center location, pool hours) and access to in-room dining, the concierge, the front desk, housekeeping, and special services. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, Engadget, GeekWire, and Racked.
Wired “Even if MoviePass dies, it changed moviegoing for good”
AMC announced that it would offer a subscription plan similar to MoviePass, AMC Stubs A-List, a $20 per month extension of its existing membership rewards program – the service allows users to see up to three movies per week, including higher-priced options like 3-D and IMAX. See also Engadget, Mashable, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
The New York Times “IBM unveils system that ‘debates’ with humans”
IBM’s Project Debater demonstrates artificial intelligence’s development toward technology that can interact with people the way we interact with one another – the IBM system was designed to debate about 100 topics, but interactions are tightly constrained to a four-minute opening statement followed by a rebuttal to its opponent’s argument, and then a statement summing up its own viewpoint.
Cities and Government
The New York Times “How the Koch brothers are killing public transit projects around the country”
In cities and counties across the country, local chapters of Americans for Prosperity, which is financed by the oil billionaires Charles G. and David H. Koch to advance conservative causes, are fighting against public transit proposals as part of their longstanding national crusade for lower taxes and smaller government.
Communities and Demographics
The New York Times “Fewer births than deaths among whites in majority of U.S. states”
A new report from the Applied Population Lab at the University of Wisconsin-Madison finds that deaths now outnumber births among white people in 26 states (up from 17 just two years earlier), signaling what could be a faster-than-expected transition to a future in which whites are no longer a majority of the American population.
Economics and the Workplace
The Hill “Amazon employees protest sale of facial recognition tech to law enforcement”
In a letter posted on Amazon’s internal wiki addressed to CEO Jeff Bezos, a group of Amazon employees are pressuring company leadership to stop selling its facial recognition software to law enforcement and to stop providing services to companies who work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). See also CNET and again, Engadget and again, Fast Company, and GeekWire.
The New York Times “Microsoft employees protest work with ICE, as tech industry mobilizes over immigration”
In an open letter posted to Microsoft’s internal message board, more than 100 employees protested the company’s work with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and asked the company to stop working with the agency – the company responded with a memo from CEO Satya Nadella in which he said Microsoft was not working with the federal government on any projects to separate families. See also ArsTechnica, GeekWire and again, and Gizmodo.
Associated Press “Warner Bros. crackdown puts Dark Mark over Potter festivals”
Warner Bros. is taking a stronger position with local Harry Potter fan festivals, providing new guidelines that prohibit festivals' use of any names, places, or objects from the series in order to halt unauthorized commercial activity.
The Verge “Facebook Groups may soon charge monthly subscription fees for access”
Facebook will now let group administrators start charging $4.99 to $29.99 a month for exclusive membership in certain groups, with parenting, cooking, and home cleaning groups among the first ones to get the new feature as part of an early test – the feature is meant to help group admins, who put time and dedication to growing their communities, earn money or develop revenue to create higher-quality content for the group. See also Gizmodo.
Wired “YouTube will help creators make money with more than just ads”
YouTube offered its creators expanded options for monetizing their content, including $4.99 exclusive content monthly subscriptions for their fans and opportunities to sell merchandise directly through YouTube's platform. See also CNET.
TechCrunch “Facebook prototypes tool to show how many minutes you spend on it”
Facebook is developing a “Your Time on Facebook” feature that helps users view how much time they spend on the Facebook app on their phone on each of the last seven days. See also The Daily Dot and The Verge.
Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces
GeekWire “Amazon’s ‘Hub’ apartment delivery lockers now available to 500K residents across U.S.”
Amazon announced the continued roll out of its “Hub” apartment delivery lockers, now available to more than 500,000 residents across the U.S. – the service gives apartment residents another way to receive their packages from Amazon and other senders, shipped via any carrier. See also Engadget and TechCrunch.
The Verge “Instagram announces IGTV, a standalone app for longer videos”
Instagram announced IGTV, a standalone app for watching long-form vertical video that will also have a place inside the Instagram app – the system will automatically play vertical videos from people users follow, along with personalized recommendations from elsewhere in Instagram. See also The New York Times.
TechCrunch “Sesame Workshop will produce children’s shows for Apple”
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind beloved public television series Sesame Street, will partner with Apple to develop multiple shows, including live action and animated series, as well as a show with puppets – the partnerships does not include Sesame Street, which was part of a five-year deal where episodes are broadcast on HBO months before they make it to PBS.