This week’s headline features a quote from Mindy Thomas, co-host of NPR’s first-ever children’s podcast Wow in the World, explaining how the new show will take narrative lessons from adult shows like Invisibilia and S-Town to allow listeners of all ages feel more included in the process of discovery.
And as you scan through these articles, consider dropping me a line to let me know what you've read this week to help prepare for the future.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
ReCode "The U.S., Canada and Mexico are buying more job-killing robots than ever before"
North American manufacturing companies acquired 9,773 industrial robots in the first quarter of 2017, 32% more than at the same time in 2016 — manufacturers are using robots to increase productivity, which may help some operations stay in the U.S.
Quartz "AI will rob companies of the best training tool they have: grunt work"
As companies employ artificial intelligence to tackle work previously assigned to entry level employees, a system of grooming staff for higher level management may be disrupted, creating a vacuum in middle leadership without the entry-level training that once fed into this space.
Engadget “New York joins the growing list of self-driving car testbeds”
An announcement from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo opened the state for applications from companies that wish to test self-driving technology on public roads. See also The Verge.
Books and Publishing
PSFK "Physical books transformed into a digital reading experience"
A quick look at two innovators trying to blend the analog and digital through a physical book that a reader can highlight with their finger and have the information saved automatically to an app.
Cities and Government
Bloomberg “Alphabet's Sidewalk Labs eyes Toronto for its digital city”
Google’s Sidewalk Labs, which has talked openly about building a theoretical urban zone "from the internet up," has applied to develop a 12-acre strip in downtown Toronto in response to a city agency’s request for proposals. See also Next City.
The New York Times "Where anti-tax fervor means ‘all services will cease’"
A look at the movement against taxes, embodied most recently by the closure of the Douglas County Libraries in Oregon where residents voted down a ballot measure that would have added about $6 a month to the tax bill on a median-priced home and saved the libraries from a funding crisis – communities in that region have also cut the sheriff’s office to the point of ending round-the-clock staffing, reduced staffing in the elections division of the county clerk’s office, and defunded the jail leading to a policy of catch-and-release for nonviolent criminals.
Mashable "Facebook empowers Page owners to politicize their posts"
Facebook will now allow Page owners create individual posts that include a button for users to contact their local representatives, expanding the "Contact Your Representative" feature that was made available to personal profiles earlier this year to now reach even more users.
NPR “Texas Gov. Abbott Signs Measure Targeting 'Sanctuary Cities'”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that lets police ask during routine stops whether someone is in the country legally and threatens sheriffs and police chiefs with jail if they don't cooperate with federal immigration agents – a push to have local police enforce federal immigration law. See also CNN and The Daily Dot.
Next City "Amazon will make room for homeless in Seattle headquarters"
Amazon’s new Seattle headquarters will set aside nearly 50,000 square feet of space for a homeless shelter of 65 rooms expected to house 200 homeless women, children and families – the move layers a new element onto concerns that technology companies are contributing to real estate costs and making cities less diverse. See also CNET, The Daily Dot, Inc., and The Memo.
CityLab "Mapping the geography of hunger in America"
Feeding America’s latest Map the Meal Gap report collates data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Current Population Survey to illustrate food insecurity at the state and county levels – food insecurity cuts across nearly every demographic category and is particularly prevalent in rural America.
The New York Times "How Google took over the classroom"
A look at how Google has changed American education, enlisting teachers and administrators to promote Google’s products to other schools, introducing apps like Gmail and Docs and hardware like Chromebooks, and driving a philosophical change in public education where skills like teamwork and problem-solving take priority over traditional academic knowledge like math formulas.
Quartz "China’s seniors are lining up to go back to college"
As China’s aging population continues to grow, the government is investing in state-funded universities for senior citizens, a way to keep the aging population healthy, mentally active, socially engaged, and out of old-age homes.
Reuters "Austrian court rules Facebook must delete 'hate postings'"
An Austrian court has ruled that Facebook has to remove posts identified as hate speech not only in that country, but across the social network worldwide, a new development that arrives as legislators around Europe are considering ways of forcing Facebook, Google, Twitter, and others to rapidly remove hate speech or incitement to violence. See also CNET.
The Verge "Google adds local events to search results"
A new Google feature will include local events in search results on the Google app and mobile site – events will be pulled from sites like Eventbrite and Meetup, and Google has published a set of developer guidelines to help users integrate their events into results. See also TechCrunch.
Poynter “Facebook is cutting down on junky sites with trashy ads”
Facebook will adjust the algorithm that fuels its News Feed to penalize websites that contain little substantive content and junky advertising – publishers that do not traffic in shabby content or shocking ads will likely see their audiences increase, while violators "should see a decline in traffic." See also Advertising Age, Consumerist, Engadget, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
Journalism and News
Nieman Lab "The New York Times continues to experiment with the Sunday paper, this time with a special kids’ section"
The May 14th edition of The New York Times included a special print-only section devoted to young readers, including how-to articles for making slime, designing a superhero, and writing a newspaper article.
PSFK "Sports Illustrated’s first AR issue brings the struggle of climbing Mount Everest to life"
Sports Illustrated’s first interactive issue allows users to unlock digital content by scanning over selected images and pages to unlock enhanced content including a four-episode VR experience for cover story “Capturing Everest.”
Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants
The New York Times "How Sephora is thriving amid a retail crisis"
Beauty brands like Sephora are among the few bright spots in retail right now, taking advantage of digital influencers like bloggers and YouTube and Instagram stars and integrating new technologies like mobile apps, augmented reality, and digital workstations to provide customers with a cohesive digital and in-person experience.
Bloomberg "In cashless Sweden, even God now takes collection via an app"
As Sweden moves to a cashless system of digital payments, a growing number of Swedish parishes have started taking donations via mobile apps, keeping up with shops, museums, and even individual vendors that only accept credit cards or digital payments.
Vocativ “Amazon Prime’s new perk: Live concerts, only for subscribers”
Amazon Prime subscribers will now have access to live music concerts – filmed and streamed exclusively for Amazon Prime, but also available in-person exclusively to Prime subscribers – and, through a new Amazon Tickets service, will have access to special pre-sales for ordering tickets to other events not hosted by Amazon. See also The Drum, Engadget, GeekWire, Inc., and The Verge.
Nieman Lab "NPR’s first kid-focused podcast is taking some narrative lessons from its adult counterparts"
NPR introduced its first-ever children’s podcast, Wow in the World, focusing on topics in science and technology, with the goal of sparking conversations among kids and between kids and their parents.
TechCrunch "Cannes Film Festival announces new rule that could block Netflix films from participating"
The Cannes Film Festival will introduce a new rule next year requiring competition films to commit to being distributed in French movie theaters, which in turn requires that films can’t be shown on streaming services for 36 months after their theatrical release – a difficult new rule for streaming services like Netflix which have pushed for simultaneous release to streaming and a limited number of theatrical screenings.
TechCrunch "PBS KIDS launches its own streaming stick with access to on-demand video, games and live TV"
The PBS KIDS Plug & Play delivers on-demand video, sing-alongs, and games, as well as access to the PBS KIDS’ live stream when connected to Wi-Fi – the content is updated regularly, without an ongoing subscription after the initial purchase price of $49.99.
The Verge "A surprise Harry Styles documentary is coming exclusively to Apple Music"
Apple Music will release a documentary about the making of Harry Styles’ first solo album, marking Apple Music’s fourth documentary exclusive. See also Engadget.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Pitchfork "Childish Gambino’s ‘Awaken, My Love’ virtual reality vinyl detailed"
Childish Gambino’s album, Awaken, My Love, will debut on vinyl in May with a virtual reality component including a free VR headset, accompanying app, and access to exclusive virtual reality live performances. See also Engadget.
CNET "Amazon is bringing voice calls to the Echo"
Alexa’s newest feature allows voice calling and messaging between Alexa-enabled devices – helping the devices move from home control service to communication service. See also Engadget, Mashable, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
GeekWire "Amazon says caller blocking for Alexa/Echo is coming, amid customer complaints"
For those who enabled the Alexa voice-calling feature, some early concerns that they can’t keep specific contacts from calling them when the feature is enabled, if those contacts have their phone number and have enabled Alexa voice-calling themselves, and that the calling feature once enabled can only be disabled by calling Amazon customer service – a call blocking feature will be introduced in the coming weeks. See also CNET and The Verge.
Consumerist "Amazon launches ‘Echo Show,’ a $230 Alexa speaker with a 7″ screen"
Amazon’s Echo Show adds a display screen to the always on and always connected speaker, allowing additional features including viewing video, integrating security cameras, displaying to-do and shopping lists, and making free video calls to friends or family members who have an Echo or the Alexa App. See also CNET, The Daily Dot and again, Engadget, Inc., Mashable, ReCode, TechCrunch and again, The Verge, Vocativ, and Wired.
Vocativ "Amazon’s Alexa may soon throw ads into its responses"
Analytics firm Voice Labs announced the new “Sponsored Messages” program becoming “the first native solution to help Amazon Alexa developers monetize and continue to invest in the voice-first evolution” – a new way for the Alexa virtual voice assistant to integrate advertisements or sponsored messages into the responses provided through Alexa’s “Skills” third-party apps. See also ArsTechnica and Engadget.