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This company puts robot legs on buildings to ‘walk’ them to new locations

(TECH NEWS) China is balancing preserving its architectural heritage with rapid modern expansion, using unique technology inspired by 19th century.

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Looking up at a building in a city environment.

It’s a big enough pain to rearrange the furniture in my living room. Whether permanent, or looking for that cookie I swore I dropped behind the couch, even something that might take me 30 seconds of exertion is usually above my tolerance threshold.

Let’s magnify that problem by about a billion and start asking questions on how an entire building might be moved.

Not a shed in your neighbor’s backyard (which makes odd sounds some nights), not something designed to be portable on a trailer, and not a glorified tent or collapsible structure. We’re talking about a concrete structure weighing hundreds of tons and the need to have it move to a new permanent location.

Shanghai Evolution Shift has developed support that act as robotic legs, and a few hundred of them together can be placed under a building and literally have it walk to a new location. I’m simplifying it a bit here, so don’t let it sound too insane – there’s still a lot of physics and real world and astronomically heavy things involved, so it’s not exactly some miracle fix that can be deployed in one afternoon. But it is still remarkable – half the supports lift, the other half move into place, the load-bearing first group shifts the building forward a few feet, the second half rise to hold, and this process repeats.

Ultimately, a structure can be moved across the ground and be placed elsewhere; in this case, it was the Lagena Primary school – an 85 year old building weighing 7600 tons built in 1935 by the former French Commission – moved 62 meters (203 feet) along a curved path over the course of 18 days, turning 21 degrees in the transition. More impressive, the historical building is not a standard square/rectangle, but instead an odd T-shape. This was done to make room for new commercial and office space, which is set to be completed by 2023.

Some of you are thinking crutches don’t sound too awful right now.

This has set off a debate about conservation of architectural history, as there is a concern to keep storied buildings of the past in the ever-increasing march toward modernized expansion. Former Chinese Emperor Mao Zedong even waged a cultural war on “The Four Olds” in an attempt to erase previous examples of earlier Chinese civilization, prompting the destruction and razing of monuments and numerous buildings. Even with this type of mandate no longer in place, urbanization has become relentless and threatens to erase entire cultural cornerstones.

There have been attempts to draft plans to ensure conservation of such sites is achieved, and in doing so, this has brought about the need to see building relocation as a viable option. Shanghai has especially been a strong example of this preservation, setting itself as a leader in making sure the past is represented, saved, and respectfully maintained.

Interestingly, some of the ideas here are literally from over 150 years ago, and were deployed en masse in Chicago. At the time, there was a drainage problem – the city had no clearance above Lake Michigan, making all of its roads and buildings at water level. This meant that water and sewage would not run off, causing stagnant pools to appear across all roads, leading to outbreaks of diseases yearly.

Here, too, was an outlandish solution proposed and then executed – raising Chicago itself several feet. Trenches would be dug under a building, thousands of giant jackscrews would be placed in a giant grid pattern, and hundreds of workers would turn them in unison until the building was suddenly well above its original footprint. Interestingly, not only did this work, but there were no fatalities and only a small handful of incidents.

This process went on for twenty years, and despite some hiccups with sidewalks being hilariously uneven during that time, the results were a resounding success. The increase in height meant that a sewer system could be installed on the roads and buried, which fixed the original problem. Maybe the craziest thing about this is that so few people remember it, despite Chicago having always been a hub of American history.

There’s actually an entire history involved with moving houses using logs and animals and other means, in case anyone is interested. Apparently it is much more common than you’d think; we’ve got better technology today, but sometimes people just made do.

Last joke because I would be disappointed in anyone who didn’t reference this (including myself): Howl’s Moving Castle anyone?

Robert Snodgrass has an English degree from Texas A&M University, and wants you to know that yes, that is actually a thing. And now he's doing something with it! Let us all join in on the experiment together. When he's not web developing at Docusign, he runs distances that routinely harm people and is the kind of giant nerd that says "you know, there's a King of the Hill episode that addresses this exact topic".

Real Estate Technology

Should digital assistants have empathy? Big investors say yes

(REAL ESTATE TECHNOLOGY) Bonding with your digital assistant might be more likely than you expect with ElliQ. The rising numbers of AI assistants have created unique interactions.

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ElliQ assistant

It sounds crazy to think that you could form an actual bond with something like Siri or Alexa, but actually, humans are pretty dang good at forming emotional connections to machines. For instance, a Canadian company threw an entire retirement party for five mail delivery bots. People will use Roombas as a substitute for companionship, not unlike a cat or dog. Humans just seem to enjoy connection – even if it’s with a lifeless robot.

Intuition Robotics is taking this desire for emotional connection a step further by working to create digital assistants that can more easily bond with their human companions. At the moment, their biggest product is ElliQ, a robotic digital assistant designed to bond with eldery users. In fact, according to Intuition Robotics, their average demographic falls between ages 78 – 97.

And ElliQ seems to be doing its job. The company reports that customers interact with ElliQ regularly throughout the day, even holding conversations with the machine, and are more likely to listen to ElliQ’s suggestions, which often include proactive behavior like getting outdoors or eating more vegetables.

By working to create a more empathetic and emotional digital AI, Intuition Robotics has started to discover a whole world of new possibilities. And they’re just getting started, having recently raised another $36 million to continue research.

One of their plans? Combining these empathetic digital assistants with the automotive industry.

Imagine an assistant that could suggest you pull over when it senses you’re getting drowsy, or provide something to talk to during longer drives. Plus, unlike ElliQ, which stays put while you move around, you and the assistant will be together in a car, making it easier for the AI to learn your preferences and habits.

Of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg for Intuition Robotics, which has recently majorly expanded its workforce. A digital assistant that can provide a better emotional connection to humans has a world of possible applications, from nursing homes to elementary schools.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons to be worried about a more empathetic AI – the marketing capabilities alone are something I’m side-eyeing. That said, humans have been befriending vacuum cleaners and we’ve turned out alright, so for now, let’s focus on the positive possibilities that could come with tech from companies like Intuition Robotics.

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Real Estate Technology

Private browsing will be pushed into the mainstream this fall – ready?

(TECHNOLOGY) Private browsing is making strides, and your entire company should be pushing for all teams to use the new features.

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private browsing

Browser privacy is at the forefront of many consumers’ concerns in a digitally advanced world, so it’s no surprise that companies like Apple and Firefox are expanding their browsing features to encompass more aggressive privacy options. According to Digiday, that push will happen early this fall.

A private browsing company called Neeva will also feature in this fall endeavor, encouraging a shift to their product (an ad-free, subscription-based browser) alongside Apple and Firefox. Neeva would theoretically charge a “minimum” of four dollars per month, allowing users to experience a much more private web browsing experience for far less than the abstract cost of more traditional options.

Neeva’s fundraising fervor can be, in part, attributed to the success of Brave, a similarly privacy-focused browser that makes use of Tor to protect unwitting users from unfriendly data inquiries.

Apple’s foray into more extreme privacy options comes in the form of “Apple Private Relay,” which is a feature that can prevent websites from viewing the identity of a visitor.

Firefox’s approach is a bit more platform-centered, with its initiatives including more active showcasing of its built-in VPN and safety features.

Digiday acknowledges that privacy-forward browsing has been available for years, but it tends to reside “mostly on the fringes of society,” with browsers like Tor succumbing to slow load times and stereotypes regarding things like criminal activity and a disproportionately high conspiracy theorist population.

But data privacy is extremely important, now more than ever – and dispelling those stereotypes in favor of education is crucial if the public is going to shift away from browsers and browsing habits that, respectively, look pretty and feel convenient while continuing to endanger and victimize consumers.

For a company like Apple to be moving toward an increase in privacy feels like a paradigm shift – if for no other reason than when Apple makes moves, everyone else tends to sit up and pay attention. Firefox’s push may be a little less surprising given the features built into the browser, but the timing isn’t a coincidence.

Private browsing, at least to those who know it best, has mainstream value, and it’s on its way.

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Real Estate Technology

Secret list of reasons why your Facebook ad was rejected

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Save your marketing team time with this secret list of Facebook ad rejection reasons.

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facebook ad rejection

You read the rules, spent time optimizing target audience, double checked all the visual elements, and your Facebook ad is finally ready to go to market. You’re expecting the latest email from Facebook to be about billing details, and instead receive the dreaded (albeit common) rejection letter.

You’re left wondering how your your content have possibly violated the Community Standards. Turns out text like “Meet other seniors” or “Depression getting you down?” violates a “personal attributes” rule.

Directly addressing the user with terms like “you” or implications about identity like age, race, and gender aren’t permitted. So you remove that, only to find your ad rejected from the ad auction once again. There are hundreds of reasons the site can reject your ad.

You can quite literally spend hours pouring over Facebook’s Advertising policies, but we have a shortcut – Jane Manchun Wong put has together the most extensive list we’ve ever seen (click to enlarge).

facebook ad rejection reasons

Understandably, illegal content is rejected. You won’t find ads for drugs or counterfeiting services. Likewise, anything even kind of sexual or potentially offensive (like someone flipping the middle finger) violates the standards. No ads for mail order brides or anything the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would regulate either.

Okay, so obviously you can’t advertise illegal things on the mainstream internet. Especially not when Facebook is asking users to respond to surveys about if the company is good for the world.

However, there’s some grey area once you move past obviously unacceptable content. QR codes, a popular ad novelty, are a reason for rejection. Likewise, if your ad features a picture of Mark Zuckerberg, it’ll get slapped down.

Feel like mentioning the spy cameras? Nope. Have an ad about lasers? Nah. Animals? DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT. Oddly enough, Instagram references aren’t allowed either even though Facebook owns the company.

Although Facebook is trying to uphold their values about safety, voice, and equity, enforcement of these principles is often flawed.

Bra and underwear retailers struggle to get their ads approved even if the content is not sexual in nature. An ad by Harper Wilde, an online bra startup, featuring a plain bra on a colored background was rejected on the grounds that the link leads to a site featuring adult content.

Since Facebook rejects anything focused on a single body part or that is too zoomed in, exposed bodies on an underwear site certainly violate the terms. While Facebook is attempting to hold up a moral code of not offending users, implementation isn’t consistent.

Although Facebook technically has a link to appeal disapproved ads, users report the link is either broken, or returns an auto-generated response with no way to follow up with a person.

We can certainly appreciate that Facebook now bans the obnoxious “before-after” gifs of someone’s belly fat disappearing to the backdrop of a tape measure, and rejects blatantly offensive material.

facebook ad acceptable

Attempting to provide higher quality content that doesn’t shame or offend users is a noble goal.

But when everyday products can’t be advertised, and robots are enforcing grey area, it’s time for a better appeals process. At least now you know what not to include in your next Facebook ad, even if it is legit.

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