Read for Later - “It’s great for public health, it’s great for voting rights, it’s gonna be great for participation”

This week’s headline quotes California Secretary of State Alex Padilla on the executive order issued by Governor Gavin Newsom providing mail-in ballots for California’s 20 million registered voters for the upcoming November election. (The Los Angeles Times "California voters asked to vote by mail in November due to coronavirus fears")

We continue to update the Center’s Coronavirus page with additional information about the near- and long-term changes that may result from the current pandemic – and we welcome your contributions for how libraries and library professionals can plan for the possible futures that may unfold.

You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures.

What new information has sparked your interest? Drop me a line to let me know what you're reading or discovering that helps you consider the future of libraries.

Stay safe and healthy.

Five Highlights

TechCrunch "Google launches ‘Read Along,’ a free app that helps young children practice reading"
Google’s new Read Along app leverages speech recognition and text-to-speech to help kids learn to read across nine different languages – the Android app is based on Google’s existing application, Bolo, which launched in India last year with a catalog of read-along stories in both English and Hindi.

The Los Angeles Times "California voters asked to vote by mail in November due to coronavirus fears"
California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order to have ballots mailed to the state’s 20.6 million voters for the November election – in-person voting will remain available, albeit with new restrictions due to public health concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governing "Without summer jobs, cities seek alternatives for youth"
Faced with sudden drops in revenues, cities around the country are cutting or canceling summer job programs that typically employee thousands of young people – for those cities that can keep their programs, there are questions about what kinds of work will be available during times of social distancing.

Associated Press "Unimpressed by online classes, college students seek refunds"
Students at more than 25 U.S. universities are filing lawsuits against their schools demanding partial refunds on tuition and campus fees, saying they’re not getting the caliber of education they were promised – the suits reflect students’ growing frustration with online classes that schools scrambled to create as the coronavirus forced campuses across the nation to close last month.

The Globe and Mail "Google affiliate Sidewalk Labs abandons Toronto smart-city project"
Google affiliate Sidewalk Labs announced that it would end plans to build a smart-city development in Toronto after two and a half years of controversy over its origins, overreach, and privacy and financial implications.

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

The Straits Times "Robot reminds visitors of safe distancing measures in Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park"
Singapore’s National Parks Board (NParks) and Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG) will conduct a two-week trial with Boston Dynamic’s Spot four-legged robot, patrolling Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park to remind people of safe distancing measures.

Mashable "Airport to use autonomous robots to blast floors with UVC light"
Pittsburgh International Airport will add UVC fixtures to its floor-cleaning robots, making it the first airport in the U.S. to test the use of the ultraviolet rays to scrub the coronavirus from surfaces – the airport’s partnership with Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Robotics highlights how the burgeoning robotics sector in Pittsburgh works alongside the community to solve big-picture problems.

Communities and Demographics

The Daily Beast "Don’t forget the other pandemic killing thousands of Americans"
Amid social distancing, authorities nationwide are reporting a surge in fatal opioid overdoses, even as agencies step up efforts to deliver naloxone kits, write personal notes for those who might be struggling, and promote telehealth treatment options for addiction.

Economics and the Workplace

The Guardian "Finnish basic income pilot improved wellbeing, study finds"
A new study by researchers at Helsinki University found that Finland’s national, government-backed basic income pilot did not do much to encourage recipients into work, but did improve participants’ mental wellbeing, confidence, and life satisfaction – researchers interviewed 81 of the nearly 2,000 participants in the 2017-2018 project that provided a regular monthly income with no obligation to seek a job and no reduction in their payment if they accepted one.

Facial Recognition

BuzzFeedNews "Clearview AI has promised to cancel all relationships with private companies"
Clearview AI, the controversial face-tracking company known for scraping more than 3 billion photos from social media sites including Facebook and Twitter, said it is ending its relationships with non-law enforcement entities and private companies amid regulatory scrutiny and several potential class action lawsuits.

The Internet

TechCrunch "Alphabet’s Loon partners with AT&T to extend coverage globally in case of disasters"
Alphabet-owned Loon, the company focused on providing internet connectivity via high-altitude balloons, has signed a new agreement with AT&T that will allow Loon to access AT&T’s network in times of disaster response.

TechCrunch "Twitter runs a test prompting users to revise ‘harmful’ replies"
Twitter will test a feature where users who use “harmful” language will see a prompt suggesting that they self-edit before posting a reply – the feature is meant to address harassment on the platform, but will be limited to replies for the current test.

CNET "Facebook's content oversight board includes former prime minister, Nobel winner"
Facebook unveiled the first 20 members of a new oversight board that will review some of the social network's toughest content moderation decisions – the board includes a mix of professors, lawyers, former judges, journalists, and digital rights advocates. See also The Verge "Facebook’s independent oversight board could be overwhelmed by the challenge"

Engadget "Facebook's Discover app is a new take on its Free Basics internet service"
Facebook’s new Discover product, currently available in Peru, is a mobile web and Android app that can be used to browse any website using a daily balance of free data from participating mobile operators – the product builds on Facebook’s Free Basics initiative, which was pulled from several markets and criticized for violating net neutrality, among other things, because it originally allowed access to some sites but not others.

Mobility and Transportation

TechCrunch "Spin restarts scooter business in four markets"
Spin, the electric scooter startup acquired by Ford in 2019, has restarted operations in four U.S. markets (Orlando, Nashville, Columbus, and St. Louis) as COVID-19 related closures begin to ease – Spin said it has “enhanced” its safety protocols, which includes disinfecting scooters more often and requiring employees to wear gloves and face shields during their shifts. See also TechCrunch "As Europe slowly unlocks, E-scooter startups, like Helbiz, are wooing with offers"

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

CNBC "Apple to reopen stores in US starting next week"
Apple will reopen stores in Idaho, South Carolina, Alabama, and Alaska in the next week, the first stores to open in the U.S. since the company closed stores in March over public health concerns – stores will reopen with temperature checks and limited numbers of customers in the locations at one time.

Wired "As cities reopen, outdoor dining may provide a lifeline"
In line with city plans to open streets to pedestrians and bicyclists, upcoming plans to reopen communities might reallocate street and outdoor space to restaurants and businesses, freeing some economic recovery from permitting processes that would slow down businesses’ social distancing adaptations.

Streaming Media

The Verge "Spotify is testing video podcasts with two YouTube stars"
Spotify is testing video podcasts in its app, starting with YouTube stars Zane Hijazi and Heath Hussar of Zane and Heath: Unfiltered – the test will let users see the video footage at the bottom of their screens for selected podcasts, with the option to expand to full screen.