Special podcast episode features President Vivek Goel
In addition to leading the University of Waterloo as president and vice-chancellor, Vivek Goel is a public-health physician and researcher who has worked hard to help improve Canada’s response to COVID-19.
As we face Omicron, the latest variant of concern, he discusses the ways it has changed the pandemic, its impact on society, and what to do about it in a special episode of the Beyond the Bulletin podcast.
New year brings changes to COVID-19 testing options on campus
Due to the rapidly spreading and highly transmissible omicron variant, Ontario has seen a surge in reported COVID-19 cases. As a result, the province, and the University, is changing its approach to testing.
On-campus testing centre
As of December 31, 2021, publicly funded PCR testing is only available for vulnerable individuals with significant medical issues, and residents and staff in the highest-risk settings. Because of these changes in eligibility, testing appointments at the on-campus testing centre are by appointment only. Individuals may be asked to show proof of eligibility before a COVID-19 test is administered.
Members of the general public who are experiencing mild symptoms are now encouraged not to seek testing. Before seeking out a COVID-19 test, please read the full list of individuals eligible for a PCR test per Ontario Government guidance.
Symptomatic individuals can do a self-assessment if they are exposed to COVID-19, have symptoms, and to seek guidance on their next steps.
Please note: the testing centre is not able to provide testing for outbound travel. Testing for outbound travel can be completed at private labs and test sites.
Rapid antigen testing
Throughout the fall term, take home rapid antigen tests were available for eligible Waterloo employees and students. Due to a demand in rapid testing kits across the province, rapid antigen testing is now only available at the rapid antigen testing centre in the Student Life Centre and is prioritized for those on an approved medical or religious accommodation from the University. Take-home kits are no longer available for those at satellite campuses.
Individuals who would not otherwise access their campus are strongly discouraged from attending main campus to access the rapid antigen testing centre only.
Given the recent changes to case and contact management by the Government of Ontario, we are not receiving official notifications of COVID-19 from our local public health unit. Region of Waterloo have prioritized testing for only the highest-risk settings. As a result, we will no longer be tracking or reporting on our case tracking dashboard.
The residence wastewater surveillance program will continue, and positive wastewater detection will be reported.
Chance favours the prepared mind
By Joe Petrik. This article was originally published on Waterloo News.
Richard Xie, an enterprising undergraduate student at the Cheriton School of Computer Science, is changing the way we interact with today’s housing market. A fourth-year student, Xie has brought artificial intelligence to real estate through his company Manorlead and is actively working on a metaverse for preconstruction real estate.
While Manorlead was developed during his university years, Xie’s concept began in elementary school.
“My dad got into real estate around the time I was ten years old,” he recalls. “As a kid I would help him set up the open house signs when he had properties to show and I collected them afterwards. Later, when I was 13, I was helping him with real estate contracts. A contract has a lot of legal terms and I didn’t understand them at the time, but the more involved I became the more I learned and the more I understood how real estate works. But I also saw how real estate sometimes doesn’t work‚ the rigidness and inefficiencies in the industry.”
Even though Xie obtained his real estate licence at age 18, the inspiration to launch Manorlead, a novel way to buy a property, didn’t fall into place until he had a few co-op placements — work opportunities that gave him not only real-world experiences but perhaps even more importantly the confidence to launch a business.
“During my second co-op placement I worked as an AI software developer at the National Bank of Canada,” he said. “I worked with other interns and an AI lead at National Bank to build an app that provided financial advice using AI. It was then that it hit me — building an AI tool being used at a bank didn’t require a large team of senior software engineers. It was created by a small, but enthusiastic team.”
Xie also saw how Airbnb was changing hospitality, and how Uber was disrupting the taxi industry. He wondered if similar technology could be brought to real estate. “Buying and selling properties is something we can change for the better,” he said. “All these things came together and gave me the inspiration to launch Manorlead.”
Manorlead — a team of software engineers, real estate agents, and mortgage specialists — has been in operation for more than a year now, and its AI technology has helped people buy and sell more than $100 million of real estate.
“We’ve built the Manor AI platform and a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices,” Xie explains. “Once you’ve downloaded the app you can begin to search for new developments and residential listings, though we’ve focused mostly on new developments — preconstruction or unbuilt properties such as condos that are typically sold to buyers before or during their construction.”
The Manorlead app includes various features that serve as an asset management platform for real estate. It has an integrated mortgage and payment calculator that helps buyers determine how much money they need to save for a down payment and what their monthly mortgage payment will be. “The app also has a school area boundary feature that lets people see if a property they’re considering falls within a school’s catchment area,” Xie said. “No other platform does this.”
In the coming weeks, Manorlead will have a new feature that lets buyers track the value of their preconstruction property. “If you’re buying a unit in a preconstruction development, you’re buying at a projected price, what the unit will cost in, say, 2025,” Xie said. “The way many people decide if a condo is worth buying is seeing if the unit’s value will exceed the 2025 price, which the website’s value-tracking function will allow them to do. Ultimately, it will be built up like Wealthsimple or Robinhood, apps that let you buy stocks and to track your portfolio from your smartphone. We want to provide that same experience for real estate — to easily buy property using your phone and to check how much your real estate portfolio is worth.”
The app also has an upcoming recommender system, which will use AI to predict preferences. “Based on a user’s search behaviour, the recommender system will suggest new developments and floor plans based on preferences and financial needs.”
But Xie’s grand goal for his company, admittedly a few years away, is to create what he calls the Manor Metaverse, a full AI-driven experience coupled with 3D virtual reality to imagine, interact, and buy real estate.
“Let’s say you’re interested in buying a unit in a condo in downtown Toronto that hasn’t been built yet. You put on VR goggles and say, ‘I’d like to check some new units in the downtown area.’ You then see a virtual Manorlead advisor appear who takes you along with your family through property options. And you have a slider that lets you picture what the development will look like in five years. And not just the one you’re considering. Others that will be built, too.”
“That’s the customer-focused experience we would like to move towards. This is Manorlead’s vision and it’s attainable. We’re at the stage where we’re seeking funding, so we think we can fully realize this experience soon.”
IST announces Professional Development courses for winter
|Using M365 Collaboration Platforms: OneDrive/Teams/SharePoint||January 12, January 26, February 9, February 23||Online via Microsoft Teams||11:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon|
|Intro to OneDrive||January 20, February 22||Online via Microsoft Teams||10:30 a.m. - 12:00 noon|
|Intro to Project Management (two day course)||January 31 to February 1||Online via Microsoft Teams||1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.|
|Writing for the Web||February 10||Online via Microsoft Teams||10:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon|
|Web Analytics for Marketing & Communications||February 15||Online via Microsoft Teams||2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.|
All courses will be held online using Microsoft Teams Meetings. Registering for and dropping a course will continue to be done through Workday. Registrants will receive an email from your instructor a few days before their course date with complete details for accessing courses online.
The Writing and Communiation Centre (WCC) has announced that PJ-Friendly Writing Groups for Undergrads start today at 2:00 p.m. on Teams. Visit the Writing and Communication Centre’s website to sign up.
The Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies, in collaboration with the Kitchener Public Library and the Spanish Film club are co-presenting the third annual Latin American Film Festival that will run from January 19 to March 23, 2022. The lineup of films includes:
- Alice Júnior;
- Historias del Canal/Panama Canal Stories;
- El techo/On the Roof; and
- A este lado del mundo/On This Side of the World.
The first film will be screened live online and will include a brief introduction by Professor Mario Boido, who will facilitate a post-screening discussion of the film. As Covid restrictions allow, subsequent screening will take place at the Kitchener Public Library theatre.
Additionally, all films will be available to stream on demand from the Festival website for a period of one week. To learn more, and to register for the online screening, please visit the Latin American Film Festival website.