Posted in Future

Educational Materials: Should They Be Free For All Everyone?

Last week, a letter signed by over 100 educators, scientists, lawyers, and students was sent to the White House. They were asking for educational materials and professional development to be free for the public to use and funded by the government. Writing for The Hechinger Report, Nichole Dobo reveals the letter’s contents.

“We, the undersigned organizations from the education, library, technology, public interest and legal communities are writing in response to the Office of Science and Technology Policy’s call for ideas to strengthen the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan. To ensure that the value of educational materials created with federal funds is maximized, we call upon the President to issue a strong Administration policy to ensure that they are made available to the public as Open Educational Resources to freely use, share, and build upon.”

Making educational tools readily available to the public will not only help improve the infrastructure of our school systems, but will give companies the opportunity to implement recent technology so their businesses can grow.

OER are Open Educational Resources free for everyone to use. Dobo tells us to think of these as the Wikipedia of educational resources, stating, “It is a free, online encyclopedia that can be repurposed and rewritten by anyone, anywhere, without fear of violating copyright laws.”

Today, more and more companies are adopting tools that will help educate employees and improve their business strategies. For example, a nonprofit organization called CK-12 has recently devoted multiple resources to help develop free digital materials for science, technology, engineering, and math – collectively known as STEM. CK-12 hopes to bring these resources to not only younger students, but for those willing to learn and educate themselves throughout the workplace.

Dobo’s report says that the CEO of the Learning Accelerator, Scot Ellis, believes that competition for resources that can be made available for the public to use will have an overall positive impact and value.

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Posted in Donna Murdoch, Future

4 Emerging Technologies That Will Change The World

Technology continues to expand at an exponential rate. The growth of technology has helped to improve our productivity and efficiency, which in turn helps to fuel even more advancements. New technologies are redefining almost every industry, including computing, medicine, manufacturing, transportation. There are seemingly new, amazing breakthroughs everyday, many of which have the opportunity to completely change the way we live our lives. You have probably have heard about some of these technologies before, however, these products have yet to even scratch the surface of what they will be capable of in the years to come.

Here are 4 emerging technologies that I believe will change the world over the course of the next decade.

1) Neural Interfaces

Brain-machine interface is a technology that allows communication between a human and an external technology. This technology can refer to an interface that takes a signal from the brain to an external piece of hardware such as a robotic arm, leg, or even eye! Neural Interfaces have the capacity to improve the lives of millions of people.

2) Augmented Reality / Google Glass

Augmented Reality is a live, direct, or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data. Technology such as Google Glass, will completely change the way in which we interact with the world around us.

3) 3D Printing

3D Printing is the process of converting a digital file into a three dimensional solid object. The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes (laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is created).

4) Driverless Cars

Driverless, or autonomous, cars refer to vehicles capable of fulfilling the main transportation capabilities of a traditional car. Simply put, they drive themselves! In places such as Nevada, autonomous trucks have already been licensed to operate and will likely be on the road within the next few years. Driverless cars and trucks will make the roads a safer place and will help to improve energy efficiency of the vehicles as well.

Posted in Future, Tech Hardware, Tech Software

New Technology Advancements

Technology is progressing at an amazing rate. Each week there are amazing breakthroughs that many times people do not even hear about. This past week has proved to be just the case. Here are 8 awesome technology discoveries from the past week that should get you excited about what the future holds.

  1. Google Smartwatch

Google’s smartwatches have made it very easy to translate a conversation in two languages in real time. This will make it very convenient for people to talk with locals while traveling in different countries and much more.

  1. Hyperloop Transportation

Hyperloop Transportation, led by Elon Musk, is partnering with a Fortune 500 engineering design firm to make the idea a reality. This technology will make it possible for people to travel vast distances in unparalleled time.

  1. Battery Advancement

MIT and Samsung have teamed up to tackle the ever present problem of battery life. They have replaced electrolytes with a solid state structure that may improve battery capacity by 20%. It sure would be nice to not constantly be tied down to the wall outlet to keep your phone charged.

  1. Spaceplane

DARPA is developing a spaceplane that travels at Mach 10 and can launch satellites into space daily. This plane is reusable and unmanned making it an incredible efficient and effective tool for space travel.

  1. D-Wave Computing

D-Wave released the second version of its quantum computer, with this version having over 1000 qubits. This is a major breakthrough will allows for even more complex computational problems to be solved than was previously ever possible.

  1. The Artificial Leaf

The artificial leaf, a device that creates hydrogen from solar, has now become 22% more efficient at energy conversion. This technology could some day change the way that humans power the world.

  1. IBM Computing

IBM has built the digital equivalent of a rodent brain that spans 48 million artificial nerve cells. These chips will have the ability to run “deep learning” algorithms, that will likely drive the future of the internet’s AI services.

  1. Google Maps – Energy

Using Maps data and aerial photographs, Google can now estimate how much sunlight your roof gets. This could help be a huge driving force behind solar technology and allow us to know exactly where we should place solar panels to make us as energy efficient as possible.

Posted in Tech Hardware

Nintendo’s Newest Project? Not Games, but Sleep Devices

Back in the 80s and 90s, Nintendo was the undisputed master in the world of video games, thanks to such iconic franchises as Mario, Zelda and Pokémon.  In recent years, however, Nintendo’s relevance in the video game industry has gone down as companies such as Microsoft and Sony have dominated the market with their respective game consoles.  Many might think that Nintendo’s glory days are behind them, and trying to outdo Sony and Microsoft is nothing more than a pipe dream.  But Nintendo is a survivor, having existed in one form or another since 1889.  Last year, they first announced their intention to develop a sleep monitor as part of its “quality of life” initiative.  And now, thanks to a recently-published patent unearthed by NeoGAF forum members, we now know what it could look like.

Nintendo is apparently planning to build a sensor-laden gadget, reminiscent of an alarm clock, that’s equipped with a projector.  According to the patent application, the device will assess individuals’ emotions through an array of microphones and cameras that keep track of the noises and movements they make while sleeping.  It will work in a standby mode, where its display will shut down, to minimize the power draw as it watches over users for hours on end. Earlier this year, Nintendo confirmed the existence of an upcoming console, codenamed “NX”, that will apparently represent a major departure from the company’s current and previous strategies.  The NX and its software platform will unify the company’s hardware experiences, and even invite PCs and mobile devices.  It’s possible that the sleep machine will serve as an “appendage” to this new platform.  
Nintendo’s interest in the health sector could prove unsuccessful, since it’s such a major step into a field where the company doesn’t have much experience.  Rivals Sony could be in a better position to pull of such a move, although it seems that Nintendo doesn’t have the reserves or breadth of brand to branch beyond gaming.  In addition to the question of whether or not Nintendo can expand beyond gaming, nobody knows how consumers will respond to a private device that could have cameras and microphones that monitor people.  This idea could make a lot of people uncomfortable, although both Amazon and Xbox have similar devices that have started to ingratiate themselves to the public after some initial suspicion.

Posted in Tech Hardware

Best Tech of 2015… So Far!

Even though New Year’s might seem like it was only yesterday, we’re already more than halfway through 2015, and plenty of great products have come out  From completely useless to surprisingly useful, there’s plenty of variety.  I recently came across an article that features some of the best tech products released so far this year, listed below:

Amazon Echo

While it looks like nothing more than a basic black cylinder that you put on your shelf, the Amazon Echo has all of the features of Siri or Android Now;  it understands your spoken commands from across the room, no matter what you’re doing.  By starting every command with its name, Alexa, it automatically knows when you’re addressing it.  “Alexa” can answer any questions you might have about sports, weather, unit conversions, news, geography, facts or just about anything on Wikipedia.  She can even tell jokes or reorder something you’ve previously ordered on Amazon.  Since Echo works with various music apps through a rich Bluetooth speaker, you can also ask her to play music.  While its vocabulary is somewhat limited, this device is off to a great start.  

Apple Watch

While the Apple Watch isn’t the first smartwatch to be released, it’s still been able to make a huge splash in the media world.  It’s a nicely-designed accessory that allows wearers to check the news, weather forecasts and social media without having to pull out their phones.

ResearchKit

This software toolkit allows researchers to write iPhone apps for medical studies.  While this might sound strange, it allows researchers to track countless bytes of useful data by monitoring activity, sleep, heartbeat and much more.  It has a great potential to unlock that data and safely make it available to researchers without violating your privacy.  As the phone owner, you have total control over how much of your data you want to share, how long you want to share it and which studies you want to join.  

Galaxy S6

Not only is this arguably the most attractive smartphone that Samsung has ever produced, but it also has one of the best cameras of any phone out there.  It’s fast, has a gorgeous display and metal body and boasts both a mobile payment system and built-in fingerprint reader.

LG G4

Much like the Galaxy S6, the LG G4 has got an exceptional camera, that can capture the most accurate and colorful image out of any major smartphone on the market.  In a series of tests that compared this phone to the S6, Note 4, iPhone 6, 6 Plus and the M9, it offered the sharpest and most vivid photos of them all.

Lenovo LaVie Z

Even though it isn’t as attractive as Apple’s signature sleek, minimalist computers, it’s lighter than any other 13-inch laptop on the market, with the processing power to edit photos and videos without slowing down.

MacBook

Ever since the iMac debuted without a floppy drive, it seems like Apple designers have been trying to take away anything that’s not absolutely essential.  Unfortunately, their definition of “inessential” is often-times ahead of the public’s; their new product is super thin and light, causing Apple to eliminate a lot of connectors, such as the standard USB, video output, Thunderbolt, Ethernet and MagSafe power port.  There’s only one USB-C port, which handles both power and data connections.  While some might think Apple’s gone too far, plenty of others find that this works just fine.

Nintendo 3DS XL

Even though they’ve dominated the handheld video game business since the 1990s, this doesn’t mean they haven’t stopped constantly tweaking its systems, as can be seen with their new 3DS XL.  From intelligently repositioned switched to an analog stick nestled above the face buttons, there are improvements everywhere.  Of course, it isn’t perfect, but when compared to other platforms, it remains the best handheld video game system on the market.  

Roku 3

There are plenty of boxes that stream Internet content to your big-screen TV, but none of them are as reliable or easy-to-use as the Roku 3.  With over 2,000 channels to choose from, the Roku 3 allows you to search for something to watch by just speaking the name of a show or channel into the remote.  It will even alert you when shows you’ve been waiting to watch are finally available.  

Sling TV

The arrival of this product is great news for anybody that likes watching sports and other live TV but hates paying their cable provider for it.  For just $20 a month, this app delivers a dozen popular “cable stations” to any connected device.  And for another $5 a month each, you can add packages offering more channels.  While there are occasional connection problems, the Sling TV is an exceptional device whenever it’s working.