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Category Archives: Technology

Technoference and Emojipedia – Part of our evolving vocabulary

While you were not paying attention, a new vocab has been tying up its shoes and sprinting through the techno-social-media crowd. (Sorry I just made up that super-hyphenated word.)

Emojipedia does exist. It’s a place where you could find such things as a ‘Man teacher: medium skin tone’. (Several variants, actually, as seen on Facebook, Samsung devices and Google.) If you’re looking for a person shrugging (not sure why, but…) there are 18 variants, and you’ll find some for world events and animals and such.

I could give you some even more obscure words, especially if you want to flummox someone. Try fudgel. It means one is pretending to work though basically fudging. Or ‘Grok.‘ If you haven’t run into this, I guess you don’t quite grok this post.

 

 

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Rockets, robots and human smarts – Why humans are (still) indispensable

We like to imagine that space travel will one day be managed and dominated by robots. Yet there is plenty of reasons why humans will not be obsolete.

I spotted some clues to this in the latest report of the SpaceX docking of the Dragon capsule with the Space Station.

The report reads:

At that point, astronauts will grapple Dragon using the station’s huge robotic arm, securing the freighter. When the hatches between the two vehicles open, ISS crewmembers will begin offloading the capsule’s cargo, which consists of more than 6,400 lbs. (2,900 kilograms) of food, supplies and scientific hardware.

Indeed, although it involves a robotic device, humans must snag (‘grapple’) the capsule in a way sounds a lot like human expertise involved in bringing a ship to harbor using rope and bollards. It is sometimes noted that self check-out lanes in stores have not made human cashiers obsolete.

The point being, careers in robotics will grow in tandem with some of these technologies. The field of robotics will need –indeed depend on — human expertise in dealing with complexity.

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2017 in Robotics, Technology

 

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Yes, you’re being tracked! Unless you change your phone’s default settings

Have you ever left a restaurant and received a message on your phone asking you to review the service? It’s very creepy. But it’s also what agree to when we use certain phone features or an app. (Sure, the app is ‘free’ but we pay for it by allowing some organization to grab our data, and /or track us.)

If you haven’t already done this, try Google Maps Timeline once you are logged in to Google. It pulls up a map of where you’ve been. It lets you click on each date in the past few weeks, and (if your location setting was on) you’ll see how Google has recorded exactly what time you stopped at any address, and left. So if you crossed a border, it will give you precise times when you passed through the border.

Of course this information is supposedly private. Or at least the Personal Identifiable Information (or PII) is. Of course you could –or rather should do these things:

  • Change your default settings on your phone.
  • Go into Google’s settings and delete your location history.
  • Avoid using clicking on the location icon if you could help it.

But we often forget. Or worse, think this information is harmless.

This is the kind of information that students ought to know. Not just to become paranoid about Google, but to become more aware of our data. Especially when it seems like logging into Instagram and Snapchat is a pre-teen default setting in itself.

 

 

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The Real Moonshot – getting back to the Moon, soon!

While we have been obsessed with Mars, a big project has been underway to revisit the Moon. This little guy below, a Rover being tested by TeamIndus (India), is small compared to some of the Mars Rovers. It weighs just sixteen and a half pounds.

Google created an XPrize challenge, known as Lunar XPRIZE, with a $20 million prize for the team that could do three things:

  • Successfully land on the Moon,
  • Travel 500 meter
  • Transmit images back to Earth.

Five teams are in the running: Israel, US, Japan, India and International team.

Google is known for it’s ‘Moonshots’ –from balloons that could beam down the Internet to remote parts of the world, to autonomous cars, to cancer research. And of course robots.

And it’s being sponsored if you will, by Google.

 
 

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Opening Ceremony of Robotics event in DC

Modeled on the Olympics, FIRST Global’s inaugural international robotics event began on July 16th.

This was the opening ceremony.

 
 

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Itchy fingers, clumsy tweets

Donald Trump’s (ab)use of his Twitter account will one day be looked at by historians in about the same way archeologists scrutinize cave paintings.

Back in April, when I was working on my June column for LMD, I had this sense that Trump’s clumsy (but some would say strategic) tweets would be worth focusing on.  Besides the political and international furor swiring about them, there are lessons in them tweets for anyone using social media.

And that was even before he bestowed upon us covfefe.

 

 

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Robotics update: Team Sri Lanka’s progress

Back in March, I wrote a post here about a call to schools in Sri Lanka that might be interested in participating in the first ever Robotics Olympics.

The Team has been busy working on the challenge, which involves designing and programing a robot that could solve a water problem. They comprise: Ali Anver, Akash Gnanam, Amjad Hamz, Vinidu Jayasingh, Ishini Gammanpilla

The event: An international gathering of 160 countries, hosted by FIRST Global
The Goal:  To ignite a passion for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) among the more than two billion youths across the world.
Dates: 14 – 18 July, 2017
The Challenge: The teams will work in ‘alliances’ as in the real world, using the robot to solve a global water crisis, specifically called ‘H2O Flow’. Which in and of itself is fascinating because unlike other tournaments, success is not based on individual skills alone. They must work as an international community. This is, after all, the Robotics Olympics!
 

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