All Posts Tagged With: "technology"
Why even your career isn’t safe from automation
From our Future of Jobs report
Car buffs looking for information on the new BMW i3 electric car are being told to text the company’s U.K. sales department. What they may not realize is that they are kicking off a conversation with a computer. The artificial intelligence system, created by London Brand Management, is capable of making sense of natural language cues and learning as it goes along, allowing it to carry on a realistic back-and-forth conversation—at least to the extent that texting can be considered conversation.
It’s PR without people, and it’s the latest example of how machines are continuing to infiltrate the workplace. Three decades ago, robots took over the factory floor, displacing millions of blue-collar workers in the process. Now, they’re being tapped to do office work, sell insurance and feed hungry fast-food patrons. San Francisco’s Momentum Machines, for example, has built a burger-flipping robot that can dispense 360 sizzling burgers per hour, potentially saving restaurants up to $135,000 in annual labour costs. Other companies are turning to so-called Big Data to direct their marketing and advertising, relying on powerful computers to comb through huge databases of information about customers’ shopping and web-surfing habits.
Waterloo’s VeloCity and Ryerson’s DMZ nurture startups
From our Future of Jobs report
Last year, Hongwei Liu, 22, dropped out of school. At first, he didn’t tell his parents. Until he took the leap, Liu was studying engineering at the University of Waterloo, but he found that more and more of his time was wrapped up in a non-academic challenge. GPS technology in cars, and Google Maps on cellphones, among other services, point lost travellers in the right direction. But, Liu says, no one had created a service to help people navigate the great indoors. Three years after he and his co-founders launched MappedIn, which now builds interactive maps and apps that replace clunky, static boards in shopping malls, Liu’s team has grown to 13 employees (median age 23) and is worth millions.
Liu is part of a generation of young entrepreneurs who, inspired by success stories like Facebook’s, which famously emerged from a Harvard dorm room, aren’t waiting to earn degrees before launching businesses. Some drop out while they build their businesses, others take an extra year to wrap up their degrees, and still others simply do both at the same time. According to a CIBC report, a record half a million Canadians were starting their own businesses last year. The trend is not due to a lack of other employment opportunities, noted the report, but a growing culture of individualism and new opportunities driven by technology. Young entrepreneurs are also benefiting from the dozens of business incubators popping up on university campuses across the country that hope to transform keener students into the next generation of Canada’s entrepreneurial elite.
StatsCan expects feds to drop $10.5 billion
Statistics Canada says the federal government is expected to spend less on science and technology in the coming year.
The federal agency says spending for the 2013-14 fiscal year is expected to decrease 3.3 per cent from the previous period to $10.5 billion.
It adds research and development is expected to account for two-thirds of anticipated science and technology spending.
The finding is contained in Statistics Canada’s annual survey of all federal government departments and agencies believed to be performing or funding science and technology activities.
The survey, released Tuesday, covers the period from Sept. 10, 2012 to Jan. 11, 2013.
Statistics Canada says spending on science and technology has been steadily decreasing since 2009-10.
Prof. Pettigrew says he doesn’t want to know
One day, when I was a PhD student there was a gossipy buzz that went around the halls about a fellow grad student who had arrived to teach a class, found that none of the students had done the assigned reading, and then immediately and angrily sent them all home. We all admired the audacity of the move, and I was a bit disappointed to learn that he had been called to the Chair’s office and told never to do it again.
It was his responsibility, he was supposedly told, to conduct the class whether the students had done the reading or not.
Those events have always stuck with me, and I’ve thought of them often when I find myself in front of a room full of students who clearly have no idea what happens in the play I’m trying to help them analyze. And I thought about it again recently when my attention was drawn to yet another computer-based teaching innovation: e-textbooks that tell your prof whether you’ve read them or not.
According to this New York Times report, new technology from a company called CourseSmart allows instructors to keep track of a wide range of student reading habits. Has a student opened the book? Has she highlighted key passages? If not, according to at least one instructor in a pilot project, the professor can “reach out” to the student and discuss his study habits.
LeadSift is evidence of hot Atlantic tech sector
The student founders of LeadSift, a company whose software combs through Twitter and Facebook data to generate sales leads, set out last fall in search of $500,000 of investor cash.
It was an easier than expected hunt.
The Halifax startup pulled in $1.13 million, including $500,000 from OMERS Ventures (the venture capital arm of OMERS, one of Canada’s largest pension funds), as well as a contribution from Dan Martell—Canada’s 2012 angel investor of the year, according to KPMG and Techvibes.
The LeadSift foursome, international students from Dalhousie University and Acadia University, could have raised more money, but decided to cap their fundraising round and ultimately turned away some interested investors.
Darren Dahl earns a 3M National Teaching Fellowship
Darren Dahl, a professor and associate dean of the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10 in the coming weeks.
“I don’t use technology,” says University of British Columbia professor Darren Dahl of his creativity course. “Technology is great for some topics, but I can engage at a much higher level without it.”
To show he’s serious, any student who opens his or her computer or whose phone rings during class must donate $100 to charity. His own phone once went off. “Boom. $100 in the pot,” he says.
It keeps students focused on discussions that Dahl referees. It also leaves time for plenty of games. His focus on keeping students engaged is one of the reasons he was awarded one of 10 prestigious 3M National Teaching Fellowships for 2013.
Elections bring music videos, apps, streaming & more
Student elections are underway across the country. Increasingly, student politicians are turning to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to get their messages out. On top of that, in an attempt to attract more students to polling stations, those who administer campus elections have also taken advantage of these tools. Here are five innovative examples from 2013:
1. YouTube music video. At Western University, Ashley McGuire, Blake Barkley and Jordan Sojnocki teamed up to run for the University Students’ Council executive. Along with a sleek campaign website and a detailed platform, the trio created a music video and uploaded it to YouTube. What’s impressive is that, since posting it on Jan. 28, the video has received 10,500 views. However, members of Team McGuire were not successful in their election bids.
2. iPhone app. Team Whelan (Patrick Whelan, Amir Eftekharpour and Sam Krishnapillai) ran against Ashley McGuire’s team at Western University. This team’s electoral victories may have been aided by their iPhone app. I tested it on my iPod Touch 4G. To my surprise, it ran flawlessly. Under the Get Involved tab, users are able to join the team’s mailing list, suggest an idea and become a volunteer. The team’s platform is also easily accessible via the app.
3. The QR Code. When campus election season comes along, buildings are plastered with posters. So how are student politicians attracting students to their websites? Simple! They’re incorporating Quick Response (QR) codes to their posters that make it easy to access their sites without even having to type in a URL. Apps such as ScanLife, QR Code Scanner and Optiscan use one’s phone camera to scan a two-dimensional barcode. Once scanned, the app brings users to the site. Sarah Lavers, Kelsey Marr and Anastasia Smallwood all ran for president in the recent University of Prince Edward Island Student Union election and incorporated QR codes. Smallwood came first.*
4. Blogs. Platforms such as Blogger and WordPress allow users to create blogs free of charge. Student politicians have seized the opportunity to communicate directly with their electorates. Candidates like Caroline Wong, who ran for and won the position of president in the University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society elections, used WordPress to create her campaign website.
5. Video streaming and recording. When organizing all-candidate debates, election officials will never accommodate every student’s schedule. In an attempt to make these debates as accessible as possible, election officials have taken to live streaming and/or filming the debates and posting the videos to YouTube. Free video live streaming websites such as USTREAMand Livestream allow anybody with a video camera or an iPhone to stream free of charge. The Argosy, Mount Alison University’s student newspaper, posted videos of candidate speeches to its YouTube account.
Brandon Clim studies political science at the University of Ottawa. Follow him @climbrandon.
*Due to an error in editing, this post incorrectly stated that Lavers came first and Marr came second in the UPEISU election. In fact, Smallwood came first, followed by Lavers and Marr.
Prof. Pettigrew on how some students can’t use computers
There’s a lot of talk about how today’s student is a “digital native” and how educators have to adjust to their mad high tech skills. Born and raised with electronic technology, the high tech world is as natural to today’s students as a first language.
Of course, what exactly that implies, is anyone’s guess, and some commentators have begun to point out that maybe this whole digital native thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe being raised with technology doesn’t mean students have the skills we think they do. Mary Beth Hertz, for example, has noted that just because students know how to use computers doesn’t mean that they know how to use them well.
My experiences this year have begun to make me think Beth Hertz is right. Maybe more right than even she imagined.
Strange as it sounds, I’m worried that this generation of students increasingly doesn’t know how to use computers. Before you scoff and say “Ridiculous: today’s students are all about technology. They grew up with it. The eat, breathe and sleep technology” consider the following, admittedly anecdotal, evidence.
Exhibit A: A student who is required to submit her paper in Word format comes to me and says she doesn’t have Word on her computer. I tell her that she can create Word files for free in Google Docs, or she can download Open Office for free and save her files in Word format that way. She can’t manage to do either. Later, she drops the class.
Two are in Ontario
Startup Genome has released a global ranking of Startup Ecosystems and three of the top 20 entrepreneurial cities are in Canada. The ranking is based on eight components: startup output, funding, company performance, talent, support infrastructure, entrepreneurial mindset, trendsetting tendencies and ecosystem differentiation. Toronto is eighth, Vancouver is ninth and Waterloo, Ont.—the only small city on the list—punches above its weight class at 17th. Here are the top 10:
Hint: it’s not just those annoying “friends”
During the few moments of free time I have during midterm season, I surf the web and catch up on my social media profiles. As I recently did this, I heard a ‘ping’ come from my Facebook tab. After I excitedly clicked the little blue ‘f’, eager to read what new gossip my friend wished to dish, I was disappointed to find that the contact starting up the conversation was a semi-casual acquaintance from high school.
We all have those online “friends,” the ones where continuing a conversation is as painful as a trip to the dentist. My usual plan is to just ignore the message—waiting until this well-meaning individual moves on to what I’m sure is a riveting conversation with someone else. This usual strategy, however, no longer worked. Why? Because now Facebook has let the object of my avoidance know that I have read the message.
Save time for what really matters
From grabbing notes for that class you missed to citing an essay to organizing your drinking schedule, being a new university student isn’t easy. Luckily, there are three amazing web sites—Google, Workflowy and CiteMe— that will help you keep up with your studies. Learning to use these sites will make your life as a student much easier.
This may seem like an obvious choice but it’s one of the most robust, useful applications on the web and most people use it just to search. Google is your best friend and it has grown into one of the most fully-featured web applications around. With resources such as Google Docs, Books, Maps, Calendar, Gmail and their newly launched Google Play store where you can buy ebooks, apps and more, Google is a student’s best friend. Clicking the top menu bar at Google and diving in to any of these useful applications will guide you in the right direction for an organized school year.
Hockey, marijuana v. IQ, sex drive, sea ice and Sarah Palin
1. University sports writers are being driven crazy by all this talk of another NHL lockout. Karen Aney of UFV’s The Cascade blames both the players and commissioner Gary “Buttman” Bettman. “Last time there was a lockout, we saw the emergence of poker. Seriously? That was the best that sports networks could do?,” she laments.
2. Teens who smoke marijuana regularly may suffer long-term brain damage according to a study that observed how IQ changed between the ages of 13 and 38 for more than 1,000 New Zealanders. Those who smoked heavily and early are most at risk. IQ dropped among those who were dependent on marijuana before the age of 18 by eight points on average. That’s a big drop.
3. Autumn is here and that means not just falling leaves but falling sex drives. A study that looked at five years of Google searches showed “strong and consistent” seasonal spikes in searches for pornography, online dating and prostitution in spring and early winter, with lulls this time of year.
Google’s new glasses will translate on screen
A developer in the U.K. says that new technology could make foreign language classes obsolete.
He’s talking about Project Glass, Google’s upcoming augmented reality glasses. While wearing the glasses, an interface hovers in your field of view and interacts with the world around you while also performing the kinds of tasks that smart phones handle.
In other words, the glasses will give you a viewpoint that’s much like what a T-800 from Terminator would see (but hopefully with better app. support).
Three Canadian universities made the cut
Business Insider has published an engineering schools ranking that answers the question potential students are most likely to ask. Which schools do my future employers think are best?
The ranking is based on a survey of 723 leaders including developers, engineers and others at popular tech companies. Each leader rated schools from “not valuable” to “most valuable.”
The Top 50 campuses were overwhelmingly American with a few contenders from Britain, India and Israel. Canada had three out of 50. The University of Waterloo, the darling of Canada’s tech sector, was #29. The University of Toronto was #35. The University of Ottawa ranked #44.
Two new Thiel Fellows are Canadian
The Thiel Foundation announced its second class of 20 Under 20 on Tuesday. The 20 new Thiel Fellows, all 19 or younger on Dec. 31, will each get $100,000 to pursue innovative scientific and technical projects, along with guidance from tech entrepreneurs, investors and scientists.
Billionaire Peter Thiel, the founder of PayPal and an early investor in Facebook, created the fellowships because he believes university and governments aren’t the only routes to innovation.
“Pundits and hand-wringers love to claim that universities are the only path to a successful life. In truth, an inquisitive mind, rigorously applied to a deep-rooted problem can change the world as readily as the plushest academic lab,” Thiel said.
“In 1665 when Cambridge University closed due to the plague, Isaac Newton used his time away to pursue self-directed learning and ended up inventing calculus,” he added.
Pebble smartwatch creator plans to hire co-op students
That won’t be necessary for Eric Migicovsky, a 2008 University of Waterloo systems design engineering graduate and entrepreneur, who has raised more than $4.4 million for his “smartwatch.”
The idea behind the Pebble is simple: it alerts users when a new call, email or message is coming through on their iPhone or Android phones and displays it on the electronic paper screen. It’s especially useful if you don’t have easy access to your phone, which means the Pebble is the perfect solution for cyclists, joggers, or lazy people who want to stay connected while only having to move their wrist.
iPads: coming soon to a school (or zoo) near you
All incoming first-years enrolled in full-time post-secondary programs at Collège Boréal in Sudbury, Ont will receive iPads for the start of the 2012 school year. The Northern Ontario School of Medicine, also in Sudbury, handed out iPads to each student starting in September 2010.
It’s easy to see the appeal. Writing notes by hand is a pain. You have to print lecture slides out ahead of time, transport them, and then (if your penmanship is anything like mine) scribble all over them. That’s why many of us bring laptops.
But laptops have drawbacks too. Unlike a good-old-fashioned spiral bound notebook, you have to worry about the battery life. Tablets like the iPad are—in the words of Hannah Montana—the best of both worlds. They’re small, easy to transport, and have longer-lasting batteries.
Strange apology inside
Some of the computer hardware stolen from the University of Victoria earlier this month was found by a postal worker in a letter box in Langford, B.C. Saanich Police say that all of the laptops and flash drives had been rendered inoperable, although a copy of the information was included, along with a note that police are calling “a strange twist.” CBC News reports that the note says the following: “The information in these bags was not copied, distributed or exploited” and “we want no part of everyday people living in fear that their personal information is being used against them to take [their] hard-earned money. Criminals are human before they were criminals.” The police are scratching their heads. “Whether it is simply altruism or regret on the part of the suspects or whether it is something more sinister, is unclear to investigators,” they wrote. The computer hardware contained the unencrypted banking information and the social insurance numbers of up to 13,000 current and former employees.
And it’s a haven for racist, sexist trolls
Facebook. Twitter. MSN. Google Plus. There’s no shortage of places for students to chat, opine, or procrastinate during finals. Yet there’s a new digital obsession spreading across Canadian campuses. It’s called OMG and it’s simple. Students submit short “Oh My Gods” about anything. Then, they’re posted to the site.
As a Waterloo student who found myself distracted by OMGUW far too often in December, I got thinking about what makes it so hard to look away. I wanted to know what makes it so enticing that it has spread from Waterloo to Guelph, Saskatchewan and Toronto, with tens of thousands of views.
Certificates for a “modest fee”
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) plans a spring launch of its ambitious new program, MITx, which includes a freely accessible suite of online courses that’s expected to attract millions of learners from around the world. MITx will allow students to learn at their own pace, participate in online labs and interact with fellow students online.
But most exciting is that MITx courses will come with a certificate of completion for students who have proven they’ve mastered the subject materials and paid “a modest fee.”
Open learning courses that come with credentials have proven enormously popular. When Stanford University professors offered an online course in Artificial Intelligence this fall with a “statement of accomplishment” and the possibility of interaction with professors through crowd-sourcing, 58,000 signed up by August. A similar Stanford course in machine learning drew nearly 100,000.