This week’s mix includes announcements from Google’s I/O developer conference (the Google assistant, Allo and Duo, Home, and Daydream) that advance trends in artificial intelligence, encryption, and virtual reality. Pew Research Center’s always invaluable work offered some great insight into Americans’ relationship to the sharing economy. And some interesting pieces about job development in cities large and small.
A note regarding next week. I will be out of the office and will not be compiling a post for Monday, May 30th. But I’ll try to include two weeks’ worth of scanning in the post on Monday, June 6th.
You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our future work.
And let us know what you're reading this week to help think about later.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
The Google assistant allows users to ask multiple questions with Google picking the conversation out and returning the right answer – a virtual assistant that will help drive more conversational user interfaces and AI-powered concierge services (TechCrunch “Google unveils Google Assistant, a virtual assistant that’s a big upgrade to Google Now”). See also Gizmodo and Mashable and again.
The assistant will play a role in the Allo messaging app that integrates various artificial intelligence technologies, analyzing content (text and photos) to suggest quick replies and even integrating Google Search to retrieve information or accomplish tasks within the app (Wired “Google’s new Allo messaging app gets its edge from AI”). See also CNET, Mashable, The New Scientist, Re/Code, Slate, and The Verge.
Google Home, a proposed (you can sign up for email updates) competitor to Amazon’s Echo product, also integrates the Google assistant to create a voice-controlled, personal assistant device that can retrieve information, integrate streaming content, and communicate with apps and online services (Wired “Google Home has to catch up to Amazon Echo's big head start”). See also CNET and again, Consumerist and again, The Daily Dot, Fast Company, Geekwire, Gizmodo, Next Big Future, Slate, TechCrunch, and The Verge and again.
Sesame Workshop will partner with IBM to explore how Watson’s natural language processing, data mining, pattern recognition, and other advanced capabilities might help advance educational services for preschoolers (EdTech "IBM and Sesame Workshop aim to personalize learning for preschoolers").
Books, Media, and Publishing
Columbia University and The Knight Foundation will create the First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, dedicated to thinking through First Amendment case law in the digital age, helping to shape the interpretation of "privacy, information access, libel and press freedom" laws (Poynter “What does the First Amendment look like in the digital age? Knight and Columbia are spending $60 million to find out”). See also Engadget and Nieman Lab.
The television industry is experiencing rapid growth – between 2009 and 2015, the number of scripted shows nearly doubled from just over 200 to an estimated 409 – but with changes in formats, distribution channels, and series lengths, the opportunities for actors, showrunners, writers, and even production staff are changing (Vulture “The business of too much TV”).
Netflix and Univision have reached a first-of-its-kind agreement to bring Netflix programming to broadcast television, with the Spanish-language series Narcos to air on Univison and Club de Cuervos on UniMás, Univision's youth-skewing network (Mashable “Netflix's 'Narcos' headed to Univision in unique programming deal”). See also Engadget.
The BBC may compete with Netflix and Amazon Prime Video with plans for a new subscription streaming service, perhaps spurred by suggestion that the corporation develop "some form of additional subscription services" in the coming years as a means of generating increased revenue (The Verge “The BBC is reportedly planning a 'Britflix' competitor to Netflix”). See also TechCrunch.
An interesting look at how new technologies - self-driving cars, virtual reality/augmented reality, and chat bots – might affect what and how we read (Digital Book World “Are we there yet?").
Goodreads has introduced the opt-in Goodreads Deals service, which will send notifications when relevant ebooks go on deep discount, marketing titles based on the tastes and experiences users express on the platform (Wired “Goodreads is finally cashing in on its devoted community”).
Time Inc. will develop “Instant” as a new video-only publication covering the lives and creative projects of YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, YouNow, Vine and other internet celebrities through news, features and exclusives designed for mobile web browsers with content presented in a continuous video stream (Variety "Time Inc. chases digital celebs with ‘Instant’ video publication").
Using Art Camera, which uses lasers and sonar to systematically scan artwork, the Google Cultural Institute has published 1,000 gigapixel (over a billion pixels) images, including works by Cezanne, Van Gogh, Monet, and Rembrandt, that can be magnified to see individual brushstrokes and transparent layers of paint (Fast Company “See paintings like never before with Google's new Art Camera”). See also The Daily Dot and Engadget.
Google's Science Journal app allows users to measure and record data, including through the use of kits featuring external sensors and microcontrollers, and convert collected data into readable graphs and charts (The Verge “Google's new app lets users conduct scientific research on their phones”). See also Gizmodo.
Updating their 1966 cover story, “The Teen-Agers: A Newsweek Survey of What They’re Really Like,” Newsweek and Harris Poll conducted an online survey of 2,057 teens finding, among other things, that 68% believe that United States is on the wrong track; 59% believe pop culture keeps the country from talking about news that really matters; and that 82% think that racial discrimination will be a problem for their generation (Newsweek "What do American teens want? Less racism.”). See also Vox.
A report from the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council found that the number of men in core tech jobs expanded by 15% (to 94,500) from 2007 to 2014 while the gain for women was 12% (to just 34,000), leaving women with just 26.5% of the total jobs in the sector and slightly less than in 2007 (The Boston Globe "Few women are benefiting from surge in tech jobs”).
According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly 20% of Americans over age 65 are now working, the most since the 1960s before the U.S. enacted Medicare, and 27% plan to keep working as long as possible (Bloomberg “‘I’ll never retire’: Americans break record for working past 65”).
Tech-focused economies including San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boston led Glassdoor’s list of the top ranked U.S. cities for jobs in 2016 (Fast Company “These are the top 25 U.S. cities for jobs this year”).
Forbes and New Geography also take a look at the best cities for jobs and highlight small and midsize metro areas that are able to leverage proximity to colleges and universities with access to attractive natural amenities to build economies (New Geography “The Best Small And Medium-Size Cities For Jobs 2016” and Forbes “The Best Cities For Jobs 2016”).
The National Education Policy Center (NEPC)’s Virtual Schools Report 2016 raises concerns over full-time virtual schools (that offer instruction solely over the internet) and blended schools (that mix face-to-face and virtual instruction) which have witnessed growing enrollment, even as on-time graduation rates linger at 40.6% for virtual schools and 37.4% for blended schools versus an 81% rate nation-wide (EdTech "Virtual schools take off even as performance lags").
A Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report finds that states are collectively spending 17% less on public colleges and universities since 2007 and that, even as they return to pre-recession spending levels, published tuition prices at public colleges are 33% higher than they were in 2007 (The Hechinger Report "States have cut money for higher education 17 percent since the recession, report finds").
The Government Accountability Office released a report showing that from the 2000-2001 school year to the 2013-2014 school year, the percentage of K-12 public schools that had high percentages of poor and black or Hispanic students grew from 9% to 16%, that there was high racial and economic concentration (75% to 100% of the students were black or Hispanic and poor), and that, compared with other schools, those with high percentages of poor and black or Hispanic students offered disproportionately fewer math, science, and college preparation courses, and had disproportionately higher rates of students who were held back, suspended, or expelled in the ninth grade (U.S. News and World Report “More than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, school segregation still exists”).
Several publishers, including LittleThings, Mic, and PopSugar, which average as many as 150 million monthly views on Facebook, report that up to 85% of the videos accessed on the social media site are viewed in silence – leading many video producers to develop content whose information can be consumed and understood without sound (Digiday “85 percent of Facebook video is watched without sound”).
Google’s Allo messaging app and Duo video calling app will feature end-to-end encryption options that would provide only the participants with keys necessary to decrypt messages and therefore be more resistant to government or law enforcement surveillance (Wired “With Allo and Duo, Google Finally Encrypts Conversations End-to-End”). See also The Verge.
The Sharing Economy
Pew Research Center surveyed 4,787 American adults regarding the scope and impact of the shared, collaborative and on-demand economy, finding that 72% of American adults have used at least one of 11 different shared and on-demand services (20% have used four or more of the services and 7% have used six or more) while 28% say they have not used any major shared or on-demand platforms, and many are wholly unfamiliar with the tools and vocabulary of the new digital economy (Pew Research Center “Shared, Collaborative and On Demand: The New Digital Economy”, "Americans and the new digital economy: 8 key findings", and "How Americans define the sharing economy"). See also Consumerist, Fast Company, Motherboard, Vocativ,Vox, and The Wall Street Journal.
Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos confirmed that the company will likely build more physical outlets in addition to its current Seattle location and planned San Diego location, though whether the outposts will be bookstores like the Seattle location or sell other items in unknown (Engadget “Bezos confirms more brick-and-mortar Amazon stores”). See also ArsTechnica, CNET, Consumerist, Gizmodo, and The Verge.
Taco Bell will test four new dining concepts, integrating larger tables meant for people to gather together in larger groups and varying décor “built to reflect the vibrant communities in which they operate” – it sounds like they’re taking some cues from library spaces (Consumerist "Taco Bell will no longer bolt tables to the floor at new “upscale” test locations"). See also Money.
Among its announcements at the I/O developer conference, Google showed a design for a virtual reality headset that would be part of its Daydream initiative, a mobile VR platform that would be part of Android N (The Verge “Google reveals plans for new VR headset and motion controller”). See also Engadget, Fast Company, Mashable, Re/Code and again, and The Verge and again.
Google also announced some impressive numbers for its Google Cardboard platform – Cardboard-related downloads from the Google Play store grew to 50 million from just 25 million downloads in January (TechCrunch “Google Cardboard platform picks up steam with 50M app downloads to date”).