Conversational computing and context

Quentin Hardy at the New York Times has written an interesting article introducing conversational computing, that is, the use of speaking software interfaces. 

It probably has not escaped your notice that people interact with software through conversational means more and more often.  Tech companies such as Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon have made speaking agents, such as Siri, Cortana, and Echo, central to interactions with their consumer goods.

Speak French without embarassment

Sean Captain at FastCompany reports that Duolingo—perhaps the world's best-known second-language learning app—is trying to remove the embarrassment of being a newbee in a second language.

The service has unveiled a set of chatbots that users can interact with in order to practice their French, German, or Spanish—with more languages to come.  "Practice real Spanish conversations without blushing," is the assurance given to curious users.

The history of "innovation"

In his article "Technological innovation", Benoît Godin provides a history of the term innovation and its adoption in discourse about technological change. 

The history of the expression begins as a translation of a Greek term that referred to subversive novelties and was invariably negative in tone.  Early Christian authors used the new word, innovo, to refer to regeneration, a return to a better state of affairs from the past, clearly a positive connotation.

The last of yesterday's telephones

Scott earlier talked about simplistic notions of firsts in technology.  When was the first computer invented?  Depends on what you mean by computer!  Anyway, who says the arrival of computers was marked by the invention of any given machine?

Triclosan no longer on hand

The Globe and Mail reports that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently banned the sale of antibacterial ingredients from soaps.  Manufacturers have one year to reformulate their products to exclude compounds such as triclosan and triclocarbon.

Drone manners

There have been many reports of drones being shot at by people who believe they are being spied on.  An article in Slate by Faine Greenwood explains why shooting at drones is both misguided and dangerous.

The first reason is that shooting at drones endangers everyone in the vicinity.  There is a chance that the drone, if damaged, may collide with someone on the ground.  There is also a chance that stray or falling ammunition may hit somebody.

Electronic voting

With election day approaching in the US, issues around the mechanics of the voting itself have returned to the limelight.  Voters in many states will use a variety of electronic machines—many connected to the Internet—to cast their ballots.  In this day when government and private information have been leaking (or leaked) like sieves, this fact gives rise to some trepidation.

Will Volvo's sensitive bus be safer?

A short item in New Atlas describes a new bus prototype from Swedish automotive giant Volvo.  The new bus is equipped with a system called the Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection System (PCDS). 

The PCDS combines cameras attached to the bus with a program that anticipates danger to cyclists, pedestrians, and other mobile "obstacles" to bus travel.  When a collision appears possible, the bus makes a noise to warn the pedestrian, etc.  The horn is used if the risk is deemed to be very high.

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