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Be My Eyes app offers eyes to those that need ’em

(TECH NEWS) Even with the best coping techniques, some people need help from time to time — enter Be My Eyes for the seeing impaired community.

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It’s nice to see a free app that connects helpful volunteers with folks seeking assistance.

“See” being a relative term here, because the free Be My Eyes app is designed to assist people who are visually impaired or blind. The anonymous and free app allows visually impaired users to connect, via video, to sighted volunteers who can then provide “visual assistance” to help with tasks such as identifying objects or describing environments.

Visually impaired users seeking assistance simply call in and the app finds the first available volunteer, usually within 45 to 60 seconds. The app automatically connects to a sighted volunteer who speaks the user’s language. There are currently volunteers representing 90 languages in 150 countries.

Be My Eyes also tracks the time zones in users’ locations so that visually impaired users can access the service 24 hours a day without worrying that they’ll disturb volunteers at night.

After dark, the app will even find a volunteer in the opposite hemisphere. Users are encouraged to ask for assistance whenever they want and as often as needed.

Sighted volunteers receive a notification when a visually impaired user seeks assistance. The volunteer can then decide whether or not to receive the call. If they aren’t available, the call is simply forwarded to the next appropriate volunteer.

Visually impaired users say they’ve used Be My Eyes to get help with finding lost items, reading instructions, navigating new places and public transportation, shopping, and more.

The app itself was invented by a visually impaired innovator, Hans Jørgen Wiberg, a member of the Danish Association of the Blind who began losing his sight at age 25.

Says Wiberg, “It is flexible, takes only a few minutes to help and the app is therefore a good opportunity for the busy, modern individual with the energy to help others.”

Wilberg presented his idea for Be My Eyes at a startup event in Denmark in 2012. He was able to recruit a team of developers, who rolled out the app in 2015.

Some critics have pointed out that the app tends to reinforce the stereotype that visually impaired people, and people with disabilities in general, are helpless and dependent on others to get by. Presumably, blind people have developed inventive strategies for solving everyday challenges long before Be My Eyes was ever invented.

According to the reviews from sighted volunteers, many wait weeks at a time to get an inquiry. The Be My Eyes network currently has about ten times more volunteers than users, which begs the question: Do blind people actually want to use this app?

If you’d like to try it out, as either a visually impaired user or a sighted volunteer, you can download the app for Android at the Google Play Store or for iOS at the App Store.

Ellen Vessels, Staff Writer at The American Genius, is respected for her wide range of work, with a focus on generational marketing and business trends. Ellen is also a performance artist when she's not writing, and has a passion for sustainability, social justice, and the arts.

Tech News

AI’s reading abilities catch up with humans – scary or awesome?

(TECH NEWS) Measured by Stanford University’s reading comprehension test, AI achieves a major milestone and some people fear being replaced, others admire the innovation.

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Going into 2018, I decided not so much to set major resolutions off the bat, but rather set mini goals along the way. One of those mini goals started in November, when I challenged myself to watch 100 new (to me) movies in 365 days.

A few days ago, I hit number 35 which was the award-winning Joaquin Phoenix film, “Her.” Without giving too much away, the plot is set in the near future where a man develops a relationship with a life-like operating system (OS).

During one of their first conversations, the OS states that she read an entire book in under a second. While watching it, I couldn’t help but think that we’re not too far away from that.

Turns out my thought wasn’t far off, as artificial intelligence (AI) developed by Alibaba and Microsoft have out read humans on a Stanford University reading comprehension test.

“This is the first time that a machine has outperformed humans on such a test,” Alibaba said in a statement.

Experts in the field of artificial intelligence at Stanford developed this test to measure and assess the growing reading abilities of computers. The test creates comprehension questions based off of a selection of Wikipedia articles.

Alibaba scored an 82.44, beating humans by a hair as they scored 82.304. The next day, Microsoft’s AI software also beat humans with the score of 82.650.

While this is a monumental feat for technology, it will pose a problem for humans as more jobs will be at risk. This is a continued issue for humans as robots are designed and trained for their jobs (i.e. Amazon).

The technology has already been put to work for the Singles Days shopping extravaganza, as a large numbers of computers were used for customer service queries. It’s suggested that the technology can be used for other customer service outlets, as well as having the ability to give museum tours.

Brands such as Facebook, Tencent, and Samsung have submitted AI models for the Stanford test in the past. “These kinds of tests are certainly useful benchmarks for how far along the AI journey we may be,” said Andrew Pickup, a spokesman for Microsoft. “However, the real benefit of AI is when it is used in harmony with humans,” he added.

AI continues to grow and shows no sign of stopping, and some humans are concerned what this will mean for the future – some fear being replaced, others laud the ability to innovate our world. What do you think?

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Tech News

Practice for coding interviews, live with another human

(CAREER) Looking to practice coding interviews with a real human? Earn yourself a sweet win-win situation with this online solution to acing technical interviews.

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Practicing for interviews with a friend helps prepare you for the real thing. When the time comes, unless y’all seriously slacked off or you got the company totally wrong, you should at least feel comfortable interviewing since you practiced with a pal.

Just about anyone can help you prep for standard interview questions like listing your strengths, weaknesses, and talking about a five-year plan. But when it comes to coding interviews, your friends may not be able to offer as much help if they’re not in the field.

Technical interviews typically include demonstrating not only solid communication, but also CS knowledge, coding, and demonstrable problem solving.

Well, count your blessings and say hello to Pramp, an online platform that helps you practice technical interviews for software engineering roles. Named for the acronym version of “practice makes perfect,” Pramp pairs you with a peer for a live HD video interview practice session.

Personal matching considers experience, education, target companies, practice topics you’d like to cover, preferred programming language, and availability.

You and your peer take turns being the interviewer and interviewee for 30 minutes each. Pramp provides the questions to ask 24 hours prior to the interview, and gives answers as well. There’s even a collaborative real-time code editor to share your work.

Pramp supports twelve programming languages, including C++, Java, and Python. You select multiple programming languages for your interviews.

Once the interviews are over, you provide feedback and rate each other’s performance.

There’s no limit to how many interviews you can participate in, and you can choose your level of anonymity. Pramp will only share what you allow, but if you go the public route, they’ve got a pretty sweet perk…

After a few coding interviews, Pramp assesses your strengths to match you with relevant opportunities. From there, you can schedule a phone screen directly on Pramp with a hiring manager. You don’t even need a resume.

Passing the phone screen gets you an onsite interview with the hiring manager. All that practice sure paid off, huh? You don’t need to install anything to start using Pramp, and mega bonus: it’s is free to use. Check them out now if you’re a prospective employee or employer to get connected with talent.

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Tech News

Upload a pic, this site sizes it for 7 social media sites at once

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Creating the correctly-sized images for each social media platform can take a lot of time and patience. A new app helps to make this process simple.

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A goal that most all of us have is to always be increasing efficiency and productivity. The more that we complete repeated tasks, the more we are able to cut out unnecessary steps and get to the end result faster.

I have found this to be true in terms of social media management. Each platform has their own rules, their own means of posting, and it takes time and attentiveness to get your message across each individual site.

One of the most time consuming aspects of this is the visual component. It’s not only time consuming, but also crucial to have as part of your post as that is what draws an audience’s attention.

The issue with this is that there are different settings for each platform, forcing us to have specially-sized photos for each social media site. This was a problem I ran into a few months back when I was attempting to create a logo for my company to be used for each platform. What looked good on Facebook, wouldn’t translate to LinkedIn, and so on.

Now, I’ve learned of a one-stop-shop to create sizes for each social media site. This was found in the form of Landscape.

Landscape describes itself as “streamlined image resizing for social media.” The app lets you prepare images that meet the aspects for each social media site.

The free app was created by Sprout Social and it’s easy to use. First, you select an image and upload it to Landscape. Then, you choose the social networks that you want the image to be sized for. Finally, you crop the images to their respective sizes and upload them to your pages.

“Landscape is a powerful image resizing tool designed to help social media marketers, content creators and business owners develop a standout presence in an increasingly visual social world,” says Sprout Social.

“Our tool offers social media professionals an efficient way to produce multiple image sizes optimized for social media profiles, messages and campaigns – ultimately giving them more time to focus on what matters most: fostering engagement and authentic conversations through social.”

It’s as simple as that and helps save you time and aggravation.

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