This week’s headline quotes Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO of the National 4-H Council, which was a partner on a recent Harris Poll survey that found that 7 out of 10 teenagers report struggling with their mental health in some way during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this time, many teens are turning to their devices and social media – teens reported spending at least nine hours a day on screens during the pandemic – which can create opportunities for engagement, but may still leave many of them in need of support. (Huffington Post "The first data on COVID-19 and teens' mental health is here — and it's not good")
A scheduling note – there will not be a post next week, June 29, as I will be out of the office on vacation.
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.
Reuters "Amazon to use AI tech in its warehouses to enforce social distancing"
Amazon is launching an artificial intelligence-based tracking system, Distance Assistant, to enforce social distancing at its offices and warehouses – display monitors set up in the company’s warehouses will highlight workers keeping a safe distance in green circles, while workers who are closer will be highlighted in red circles.
Poynter "AP will capitalize the B in Black"
The Associated Press announced that it is changing its style guidelines to capitalize Black when used in a racial, ethnic, or cultural context and to capitalize Indigenous in reference to original inhabitants of a place – AP determines the writing style for news organizations across the United States, though some newsrooms had already decided to capitalize Black in recent weeks.
Huffington Post "The first data on COVID-19 and teens' mental health is here — and it's not good"
A new Harris Poll survey of roughly 1,500 teenagers conducted on behalf of the National 4-H Council finds that 7 out of 10 teenagers report struggling with their mental health in some way during the COVID-19 pandemic, with more than half reporting experiences with anxiety, 45% stating they have felt excess stress, and 43% identifying that they have struggled with depression.
Fast Company "Brown is using a new app from Alphabet’s Verily to bring teachers back to campus"
Brown University will work with Verily, part of Google parent company Alphabet, to implement the Healthy at Work program, designed to help employees self-monitor coronavirus symptoms, make testing recommendations, and determine a person’s eligibility for going to work – the university will require faculty on campus to use the platform as part of a pilot, mandating that participants consent to let Verily collect their data, though the company says it only receives de-identified data, which it uses to improve its algorithms.
Bloomberg "Apple to close some U.S. stores again as Covid-19 spikes"
Apple is temporarily shutting some of its retail stores in Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, and South Carolina, after spikes in COVID-19 cases in those states – Apple didn’t provide a timeline for reopening.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
CNET "Boston Dynamics robot dog Spot finally goes on sale for $74,500"
Boston Dynamics will sell a Spot Explorer kit for those interested in spending $74,500 for the company’s dog-like robot – the kit includes Spot, two batteries, a charger, a tablet controller, and storage cases and is targeted at businesses and organizations for “use in industrial or commercial applications by trained professionals."
The New York Times "Riding out quarantine with a chatbot friend: ‘I feel very connected’"
Downloads for Replika, an AI chatbot companion, reached half a million in April, as people hungry for companionship sought a human-meets-machine conversational relationship – while chatbots may provide some comfort, there is still concern that these technologies accelerate dependence on screens while weakening the social and emotional skills needed to navigate the real world. See also Wired "The therapist is in—and it's a chatbot app"
Cities and Government
Governing "The cloud over the future of America’s downtowns"
After decades of growth and revival, COVID-19 has set back downtown development, limiting tourism and visitor-related spending, which, in turn, limits hotels, restaurants, clubs, and other attractions; straining local governments’ access to special downtown fees, such as hotel taxes and supplemental downtown food and beverage taxes; and encouraging a work from home culture that may lead to permanent changes in corporate investment in downtown real estate. See also The Atlantic "Revenge of the suburbs"
Economics and the Workplace
Engadget "Google's racial equity push includes $175 million for Black businesses"
Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai announced a new racial equity initiative that will contribute $175 million toward creating economic opportunities for Black businesses and workers – the company is also promising $3 million to address gaps in computer science and STEM education and working to increase Black representation within its senior levels by opening senior positions to outside candidates. See also Engadget "Facebook pledges $200 million to support Black-owned businesses"
Education Dive "Reopening guide encourages colleges to have a backup plan"
A new guide jointly published by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, and Tuscany Strategy Consulting suggests steps necessary for colleges to resume in-person instruction amid the pandemic – the guide’s approach considers the academic, financial, ethical, and operational questions for opening campuses.
The Environment and Sustainability
TechCrunch "Lyft to require 100% electric vehicles on its platform by 2030"
Lyft said that every car, truck, and SUV on its platform, including the company’s autonomous vehicles, the Express Drive rental car partner program for ride-share drivers, consumer rental cars for riders, and personal cars that drivers use on the Lyft app, would be all electric or powered by another zero-emission technology by 2030.
The Washington Post "WhatsApp, Instagram surge in popularity as people search for coronavirus news"
The new Reuters Digital News Report 2020 finds that nearly a quarter of people across six countries (U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, Argentina, and South Korea) used the messaging service WhatsApp to get news about the coronavirus pandemic, as younger people increasingly turn to WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat for news and information.
Engadget "Twitter test lets users post voice messages for 'a more human touch'" and "Twitter apologizes for lack of accessibility in voice notes"
Twitter announced testing for a new feature that allows users to include an audio clip with their tweet to “add a more human touch to the way we use Twitter.” The feature, however, was met with widespread criticism from civil rights advocates and people with disabilities for not including any accessibility features, such as closed captions for the audio elements. Twitter responded that the pilot was “an early version of this feature and we’re exploring ways to make these types of Tweets accessible to everyone,” but many critics noted that the response makes it seem as though accessibility is an afterthought.
Bloomberg CityLab "Nextdoor ends its program for forwarding suspicions to police"
Nextdoor, the neighborhood social networking app, announced that it would discontinue the Forward to Police feature that allowed users to forward their posts directly to local police departments – civil rights and privacy advocates had raised concerns about how the feature streamlined the reporting of suspicions about minor offenses and the discontinuation of the feature comes as Nextdoor faces scrutiny over its role as a platform for racial profiling, its partnerships with law enforcement, and after reports that some of its community moderators were removing posts that mentioned Black Lives Matter.
The Verge "Zoom says free users will get end-to-end encryption after all"
Zoom will begin allowing users of its videoconferencing software to enable end-to-end encryption of calls starting with a beta pilot in July – the feature will be available for free and paid users, a reversal from earlier statements that it might not be able to enable end-to-end encryption for free users out of concern that the app could be used for unlawful activity.
Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality
Bloomberg "Apple’s secretive AR and VR headset plans altered by internal differences"
A look at Apple’s progress in developing virtual and augmented reality hardware, including one headset designed to offer all-encompassing digital experiences for gaming and consuming content and a second device envisioned as a lightweight pair of glasses – the company has made more progress with the gaming and content headset, a product likely to compete with other virtual reality headsets. See also Engadget "Bose shuts down AR development"
CNET "VR vacations provide comfort from being stuck at home: 'The first time I tried it I saw a city in Spain'"
Virtual reality could be a tool to help address loneliness and social isolation, including among older adults, providing virtual travel, recreation, music, and arts experiences that stimulate individuals and lead to additional virtual social engagement or providing virtual spaces in which geographically isolated individuals might “meet” with family members and friends within an immersive environment.