We lost an hour this week (things were so much easier when I lived in Arizona), but that doesn’t mean we lost any bit of news. Artificial intelligence breakthroughs, virtual reality’s continuing expansion, a growing focus on the power of data, and concern for millennials and younger generations filled this week’s news cycle.
In spite of that stolen hour, I’m still trying to update the Center’s trend collection with some of this scanning to help us better understand how these pieces are coming together.
And let us know what you're reading this week to help you think about the future.
Daniel Russell (who joined us for a session at the 2015 ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco) recently shared some thoughts on how people can make the most of their research – keep current with changes to search engines and their capabilities; understand how the underlying content changes; realize that collections constantly change (some things go away and new things appear); new formats (data sets, Vines, podcasts) are becoming available; and, amidst all of this, scams and bogus content are constantly changing (SearchReSearch “Why Research Skills Matter More Than Ever”).
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
Another stride forward for artificial intelligence, as Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo defeats 18-time Go world champion Lee Sodol in three straight wins in their best of five game series (Motherboard “Google’s AI Is Now Reigning Go Champion of the World”). See also Geekwire, Gizmodo, Mashable, Re/Code, The Verge, and Wired.
If your interest in AI is piqued, you can check out this interview with DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis to learn more about his mission to “solve intelligence” (The Verge “DeepMind Founder Demis Hassabis on How AI Will Shape the Future”).
DeepMind is certainly staying busy. They have also recently launched DeepMind Health, working with the Royal Free Hospital in London to develop a mobile app called "Streams" designed to present "timely information that helps nurses and doctors detect cases of acute kidney injury" (Next Big Future “Deep Mind Health Partnering With NHS for a Mobile App that Helps Doctors and Nurses Detect Cases of Acute Kidney Injury”).
From hospitals to hotels, a Hilton in Virginia will introduce a robot to help answer guest’s questions about getting around town, finding tourist destinations, and recommending things to do – powered by IBM’s Watson, the more guests that interact with the robot, the more it learns, adapts, and improves recommendations (PSFK “Meet Hilton’s Latest Hire: Connie, the Concierge Robot”). See also ArsTechnica, Engadget, Gizmodo, Mashable, and Skift.
Rolling Stone's two-part article provides a very nice overview of some of the tech leaders advancing artificial intelligence (Rolling Stone “Inside the Artificial Intelligence Revolution: A Special Report, Pt. 1” and “Inside the Artificial Intelligence Revolution: A Special Report, Pt. 2”).
Results from a 2015 Pew national survey indicate that a majority of Americans believe that within fifty years robots and computers will “probably” or “definitely” be performing most of the work currently performed by humans, but that the respondents' own jobs will “probably” or “definitely” still exist (Motherboard “Most Americans Think Robots Will Take All the Jobs, Just Not Theirs”). See also Gizmodo.
Books, Publishing, and Media
Amazon launched its first live, free, online show, a mix of fashion and beauty that does not feature advertising but does offer the chance to purchase products directly through the Amazon video player (Re/Code “Amazon Is Launching a Live QVC-Type Show as Part of Push Into Fashion”). See also Engadget, Geekwire, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
The Washington Post is introducing new features to make it easier for readers to tackle longer pieces, including a bookmark tool that uses a unique URL for readers to come back to the same spot in a story even across devices (Nieman Lab “The Washington Post Is Trying to Make it Easier to Read Long Features”).
Appealing to the growing audience of readers interested in television recaps and taking advantage of a growing trend of streaming and premium television content, The New York Times announced the launch of Watching, a website "focused on helping readers sort through the mountains of video content released on streaming services and cable" (Poynter “The New York Times to Launch TV Website”). See also Nieman Lab.
A growing list of directors and movie producers are supporting the idea for a new service called Screening Room, which would let audiences watch new movies at home the same day they hit theaters – for a somewhat hefty price of $150 for a set-top box and $50 per screening (The Verge “Hollywood's Biggest Directors Want to Bring New Movies Straight to Your Living Room”). Yet another of our public spaces that can now be avoided if you have enough money.
It’s becoming ever easier to publish directly into Facebook’s Instant Article platform, with a new plugin for WordPress blogs (that use standard WordPress templates) to create Instant Articles (Nieman Lab “Facebook Announces a WordPress Plugin that Lets Publishers Easily Create Instant Articles”). See also The Verge.
Two things for writers. Writer’s block beware, The Most Dangerous Writing App is a free service that helps writers keep writing with timed increments ranging from five minutes to an hour and a constant threat that if you stop typing, your work will be erased (The Verge “The Most Dangerous Writing App Lets You Delete All of Your Work for Free”). Google is introducing a new Google Docs outline tool that lets writers better manage large or complex documents and navigate headings they have inserted into documents – the tool will also automatically create sections, intelligently detecting logical divisions in a document (The Verge “Google's New Docs Outline Tool Will Make it Easier to Navigate Your Novel”).
There is a growing divide between the most successful cities and other cities - the 50 richest cities in the U.S. now make 34% more per head than the U.S. as a whole (up from 21% in 2001) and are growing faster (9.2% versus 3.7% in other cities and 3.1% nationally) – as expected, most of this has to do with economic development and a growing pressure to bring the right types of firms into the city (The Economist “The Great Divergence”).
New York City announced the impending arrival of over 2,000 buses (40% of the current fleet) equipped with free Wi-Fi (part of New York’s Transit Wireless program), USB ports for charging devices, and LCD screens to display information (Mashable “New NYC Buses Are Getting Wi-Fi and USB Charging Ports”). See also Engadget.
The White House launched The Opportunity Project, a new open data project that will make local and federal datasets available for developers to create new civic tech tools (Wired “The White House Wants You To Build Tech Tools With Its Data”). See also Engadget.
The chief data scientist is becoming a more popular title among city, state, and federal governments, reflecting a growing interest in data-driven decision making within government and open data availability for citizens (Government Technology “Introducing the Chief Data Scientist”).
A recently-secured patent for Facebook could leverage the social network’s user data to build a glossary that would detect slang, acronyms, and other neologisms, possibly even noting social groups, geographies, or ages using the particular term (Engadget “Facebook Wants to Detect Slang Before It's Popular"). See also The Verge.
Reversing a trend among young adults earning more than national averages, millennials now earn as much as 20% less than the average of all income earners – including in the U.S. where millennials are now poorer than retired people (The Guardian “Revealed: The 30-year Economic Betrayal Dragging Down Generation Y’s Income”).
Globally, the challenge with young people may be their sheer numbers – older people are concentrated in rich countries and younger people are in not-so-rich countries, putting greater pressure on the global economy, raising concerns for political unrest, spurring mass migration, and driving the growth of cities (The New York Times “The World Has a Problem: Too Many Young People”).
The push for computer science in education continues as several leading tech companies (Amazon, Facebook, Google) and NGOs partner to launch the Computer Science Education Coalition, a coalition that will encourage Congress to provide $250 million in funding for K-12 computer science education (Geekwire “Facebook, Amazon, Code.org, Google, Microsoft and Others Create Coalition to Lobby for K-12 Computer Science Funding”).
Amazon Education announced plans for a new, free platform, Amazon Inspire, that will allow schools and educators to discover, upload, manage and share open education resources as well as add ratings and reviews and even receive recommendations based on their previous selections (Education Week “Amazon Education to Launch New Website for Open Education Resources”). See also Engadget and Geekwire.
McGraw-Hill Education, one of the largest publishers of school textbooks, has announced that, for the first time, sales of digital content and online programs surpassed print sales (Chicago Sun Times “McGraw-Hill Says Digital Sales Beat Print for First Time”).
A look at the growing culture of fandoms (exercise, dessert lovers, quilting, conspiracy theorists, cats, books, makeup) and their movement from online to IRL, into convention centers for face-to-face experiences, swag, bragging rights, and the opportunity to help marketers mine data to predict what audiences will want next (The Wall Street Journal “The Rise of Cons”).
The FCC will soon vote on a plan to change the existing Lifeline program, which provides phone subsidies, to allow low-income Americans $9.25 per month to purchase home internet or cellular service (ArsTechnica “Poor Americans Will Get $9 a Month to Buy Broadband or Mobile Data"). The plan has been advanced by the President’s ConnectALL initiative. See also CNET, The Daily Dot, Engadget, The Verge, and The Verge again.
While children and their parents can agree on many tech-related best practices (don’t text and drive; don’t be online when someone wants to talk to you), there is a growing divide among children born into the social media age and their parents around posting information without the child’s permission (The New York Times “Don’t Post About Me on Social Media, Children Say”).
A fascinating look at Facebook’s “Compassion Team,” a changing team of product managers, designers, engineers, researchers, social scientists and psychologists responsible for developing tools that help users deal with the social media aspects of breakups, bullying, online aggression, and future projects that might assist in identifying suicide ideation in friends’ posts, managing profiles of the deceased, and communication tools for disasters (The New York Times “The Facebook Breakup”).
The maker movement and cities can thrive together, drawing production back into cities, adding jobs to local economies, spurring innovation across sectors, finding purpose for once abandoned buildings and infrastructure, helping libraries introduce new skills to the public, and introducing new strategies for K-12 education (TechCrunch “Cities Drive the Maker Movement”).
As part of his remarks at SXSW, President Obama called on the tech community to assist law enforcement investigations, appealing for a balance between privacy and security concerns and warning against absolutist views on either side (The Verge “Obama Tells Tech Community to Solve Encryption Problem Now or Pay Later”). See also Gizmodo, Government Technology, Mashable, Motherboard, The New York Times, Re/Code, TechCrunch and again, and The Washington Post.
In addition to concerns with Apple’s iPhone encryption, the U.S. Justice Department may also be growing concerned with WhatsApp, the world’s largest mobile messaging app, over issues of encryption, security, and privacy (The New York Times “WhatsApp Encryption Said to Stymie Wiretap Order”).
Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants
With expectations for 15% of U.S. malls failing or being converted to non-retail space, mall property managers and owners are looking toward expanded experience options, including communal areas, space services, premium food, temporary stores, fitness classes, and, for those malls that may be decommissioned, living communities and tiny apartments (PSFK “Op-Ed: What Will the Mall Look Like 10 Years From Now”).
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
USA Today and its USA Today Network will expand their virtual reality offerings with the debut of a virtual reality news show calling "VRtually There” (Engadget “USA Today Announces VR News Show 'VRtually There’”).
For about $14, Amsterdam’s VR Cinema seats audience members in swivel chairs and provides Samsung Gear VR viewers and Sennheiser HD 201 headphones to view a series of VR films that last around 35 minutes (Mashable “World's First Permanent VR Cinema Opens in Amsterdam, and It's Very Weird”).
And speaking of making money off VR, Google is talking with Android developers about enabling in-app purchases for its Cardboard headsets, something more complicated than it may sound since viewers can’t just tap a screen for purchases, but will likely have to make purchases through gaze tracking or other head/visual control (Re/Code “Google Is Plotting Ways for Developers to Cash In on Virtual Reality Cardboard”).
The Coachella music festival will include a Google Cardboard viewer in its welcome box for attendees, allowing them to access a new app featuring 360-degree photos from festivals past, interviews and performances from this year's artists, and a virtual tour of the festival grounds (The Verge “This Year's Coachella Attendees Are Being Given Custom Cardboard VR Headsets”). See also Engadget and Gizmodo.