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Author Archives: Angelo Fernando

About Angelo Fernando

Author, business journalist, elementary school teacher, podcaster. I have been blogging since 2004, and a business and technology columnist for magazines, since 1994. Passionate about education, and media literacy.

Baxter, Sawyer, Tina, SIRI. Is this our future?

Baxter and Sawyer are brothers in arms, so to speak. They are collaborative, follow instructions, and adaptable to their surroundings.

They also happen to be robots. I find it interesting that they have human names, although they are industrial bots. No mistake they are meant for the factory floor, and not cute or friendly robots that are also coming of age elsewhere. Rethink Robotics, which manufactured them says they are “trained not programmed.” It quotes a professor who says his “long range aim is to try to achieve human level artificial intelligence. So the Baxter would be like a person, maybe not a full-fledged adult.”

  • Baxter is a 2-armed bot, and is described as “the safe, flexible, affordable alternative to outsourced labor and fixed automation.”  It weighs 165 pounds.
  • Sawyer is a one-armed fellow, and is called a “collaborative robot designed to execute machine tending, circuit board testing and other precise tasks.” It weighs just 42 pounds

Why I find this interesting is that we have begun to look at robots in humanistic terms, and this paves the way for them to be ‘invited’ into our homes some day soon. If you don’t believe me ask those who love their Roomba, the robotic vacuum cleaner.

How long will it be before we have a Homework robot, and an automated, (two-armed, hopefully) Personal Assistant? Low maintenance, too –no need for company benefits. Some people who use SIRI may say they already have one of those! Chat bots are also in the news now – like the Iranian bot, endearingly known as Tina.

Humanoid devices are also the stuff I have begun writing about elsewhere.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2016 in Book, Ed-Tech, Robotics, STEM, Technology

 

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Technology lessons – No books required!

Sometimes you don’t need text books to learn a skill.I don’t usually advise young people to skip university, but I know of many folks who have learned incredible skills, never having stepped into a classroom for the past 20 years. One friend fixes BMWs as a hobby (sometimes has about 10 in his driveway). Another runs a mid-sized marketing communications agency, but has built and operates an eco-resort. The former never went to engineering school. The latter never took a class in architectural design or management.

And my point is, we often hone our skills in our garages, and our basements.These are our ‘labs.’ No one gives us a certificate for these long hours of professional development.

Here’s a related example: Children learning about science and tech on a farm. Think of it as a STEM lab in Nebraska.

Cows. BMWs. Conservation. Plenty of knowledge out there, not found in books and lectures.

 

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Virtual Reality meets Happy Meals meets Education

Is Virtual Reality going to become the next toy? It was going to happen, when marketers rediscover the immersive experience that they never got to realize when the wonders of Second Life never materialized.

Now that McDonald’s has got into the game, letting children re-fold the Happy Meal box into a VR headset (just like the Google cardboard model, but a different template), you could expect many to follow. WIRED reports that these ‘Happy Goggles’ (ugh! I just don’t dig this name), will be available at 14 McDonald’s restaurants across northern Sweden.

Coke has also experimented with similar headsets.

Now, to be sure the Golden Arches says they want to be in the education space. How that will go is left to be seen. Edutainment might be more appropriate.

Nevertheless, VR is well suited for educational experiences like we have never known. Unlike a computer screen, the wearable experience could be used differently. We don’t need ‘toys’ in class, though. Just tools.

 

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Drones meet Parachutes in Google’s new ‘Delivery’

Amazon must have quaked at this news today. Google, the folks who have given us Project Loon which will seen create a local Wi-Fi service in countries such as Sri Lanka, is now launching Parachute.

And yes the parachute can deliver anything to you.

Yes, it’s April 1st, folks.

There’s a line in the video that goes “Parachutes are like minds. They work best if they’re open.” Hey, minds are like parachutes – they easily catch a passing drift…!

While you’re enjoying it, check out the Google self-driving…. bicycle. (25 years ago a self-driving car would have seemed like an April Fool’s joke.)

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2016 in Media, Technology

 

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Little known fact: Shel Silverstein penned Dr. Hook’s “Sylvia’s Mother”

I know of many parents who have a copy of Shel Silverstein stashed away somewhere. He was a prolific writer of books such as The Giving Tree, and tomes of books of wacky, insightful poetry such as “Where the sidewalk ends.”

I was looking up the man, and discovered that one of the anthems of the early seventies, “Sylvia’s Mother” was actually a vignette from his life. he knew the original Sylvia, and if you the words of the song resonate in your brain, you’ll know he was trying to get the ‘operator’ reminding him it would cost him “40 cents more” to stay on the line.

When was the last time you had an “operator” intervene between you and the person you were calling?

FootnoteThe Giving Tree has been ranked one of the top 100 books for children, beating several by Dr, Seuss, and even Lois Lowr (The Giver) and Roald Dahl’s books.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2016 in Book, Communications

 

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Was Apple v Justice iPhone battle feigned?

So, did Tim Cook win? Or did law enforcement fight a fake battle over a back-door to an iPhone? A few weeks ago I wondered why they even bothered asking Apple.

Given that there are dozens of websites that provide back-door services, and there being ‘ethical hackers’ who could unlock phones, I’m surprised no one has offered to do it for Apple, thereby freeing them of the PR nightmare.

A lawyer for the ACLU seems to think the battle is far from over. As a friend mentioned in response to this post, this legal tussle could have been a set-up, just to cover the fact that the surveillance program can snoop into phones – locked or otherwise.

But no worries, 60 governments already do it, as reported in Wired magazine two years ago.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2016 in Disruptive, Technology

 

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Visual Thinking Strategies

I didn’t realize there’s a whole territory called Visual Thinking Strategies or VTS!

Indeed, an image (often something we saw online) becomes a discussion trigger. You’ve probably indulged in VTS by asking people to comment on a photo. It’s something we use now and then in a classroom, to set up a topic, or draw students into a subject that might otherwise lack context.

I ran into VTS because of series in the New York Times called “What’s going on in this picture?” on Mondays. Readers comment and try to guess what was happening, and on Friday the paper reveals what it was about.

So here’s a bit of VTS for you:

What do you think is going on in this picture?

An unnamed company secretly testing drone delivery? Engineering students working on the next generation of medical drones. Or something else entirely?

You would be surprised at the real context!

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2016 in Ed-Tech, Education, Technology

 

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