You’re alone in your house with Alexa, your trusted companion for answers to easy questions. You have been asking her if you’ll need a sweater today, telling her to shut up (mean!) when you need a quiet moment, and instructing her to set up a 20 minute timer for the tasty DiGiorno pizza you just threw in the oven.
She’s faithful. She’s powerful. But sometimes, you just wish she was a bit more like you.
I’m not talking about your friend Alexa, I’m talking about your Amazon Echo of course! Amazon’s newest system designed to listen in on your deepest darkest secrets. Okay, okay, I can’t prove that.
With 25 million Echos purchased in the United States and an anticipated 130 million users globally by the year 2020, this version of AI will be here for a long time, but it might as well suit your needs now.
If you find yourself looking for more options and a bit more of an organic response from Alexa, there’s a new place to create your own questions and responses to integrate with your Echo device without having to be a code wizard like the engineers over at Amazon.
Alright, so the response won’t exactly be organic, because, well, you have to type it out, but hey! it will at least be something more fun than a simple “Yes” or “No” (think, Awesome! or Sounds lit!).
A new, free (!!), web app called Storyline allows you to create, test, and publish a new Alexa skill in just minutes using their online visual interface. No code, no backend, no servers. Just sign up, type in your questions and your desired responses and boom–Alexa will respond just how you’d like.
While this would work for some easy party tricks, it could come in handy if you’re looking to either create a specific skill that you want to use frequently or just add some less robotic answers from Alexa.
The Amazon Echo already has an extensive list of skills built in, but most of them are Amazon-product related and it would definitely be beneficial to add some skills specific to your needs as you wait for Amazon to get around to adding full conversational ability to Alexa’s lexicon.
Storyline is great because you can test things and use them just for yourself, you can share them with friends, or you can even publish them for some profit! The founder of Storyline wrote a blog post with screenshots and simple instructions to get you going.
With this new approach, Storyline has taken a step towards allowing those millions of users to have the power of customization normally reserved for those privy to the one’s and two’s of coding. Whether you prefer your home’s AI to be more robust or not, this service shows how fast technology is moving and how fun it can be.
Microsoft’s latest HUGE investment: Self-driving car technologies
(TECH NEWS) Microsoft invests in self-driving car technology by joining other investors in a combined equity investment of $2 billion.
Microsoft has put its money into self-driving car technology. The tech giant has partnered with General Motors and Cruise, GM’s majority-owned driverless car startup, to “accelerate the
commercialization of self-driving vehicles.”
“Our mission to bring safer, better, and more affordable transportation to everyone isn’t just a tech race – it’s also a trust race,” said Cruise CEO Dan Ammann in a press release. “Microsoft, as the gold standard in the trustworthy democratization of technology, will be a force multiplier for us as we commercialize our fleet of self-driving, all-electric, shared vehicles.”
Along with Honda and other institutional investors, the companies are investing a combined $2 billion into the autonomous car company. This new funding round brings Cruise to a post-money valuation of $30 billion.
The long-term strategic partnership between the companies will be a collaborative one and beneficial for both. To roll out its fleet of self-driving vehicles, Cruise will leverage Microsoft’s cloud and edge computing platform, Azure.
In turn, as GM’s and Cruise’s preferred cloud provider, Microsoft will use the car company’s “industry expertise to enhance its customer-driven product innovation and serve transportation companies across the globe through continued investment in Azure.”
Besides helping bring the self-driving technology out to the market quicker, the companies will also work together on other digitization initiatives. For instance, they will collaborate on artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. And, explore opportunities to streamline operations and increase productivity.
“Advances in digital technology are redefining every aspect of our work and life, including how we move people and goods,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “As Cruise and GM’s preferred
cloud, we will apply the power of Azure to help them scale and make autonomous transportation mainstream.”
“Microsoft is a great addition to the team as we drive toward a future world of zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “Microsoft will help us accelerate the commercialization of Cruise’s all-electric, self-driving vehicles and help GM realize even more benefits from cloud computing as we launch 30 new electric vehicles globally by 2025 and create new businesses and services to drive growth.”
Wow! This synthetic cornea gave a legally blind man his vision back!
(TECH NEWS) Another instance of “technology is amazing:” this minimally invasive eye implant has opened new doors for sight restoration surgeries for the legally blind.
After being the first patient to receive a cutting-edge cornea implant, a legally blind 78-year-old man can see again. Directly after his surgery, the patient was able to recognize his family members and read an eye chart. The KPro implant comes from the company CorNeat.
KPro is the first implant that can be directly integrated into the eye wall, replacing damaged or deformed corneas with no donor tissue. The clear layer that protects the front portion of the eye is called the corona. The corona is susceptible to degeneration or scarring, as well as a number of diseases such as keratopathy, keratoconus and pseudophakia bullous.
While artificial cornea implants already exist, the surgeries are complex and typically only used as a last resort when transplants or cornea ring implants don’t work. That is perhaps what makes the CorNeat transplants so remarkable – it’s a simple procedure that’s minimally invasive.
Additionally, KPro uses a biomimetic material that “stimulates cellular proliferation, leading to progressive tissue integration”. Not only can these implants give you your sight back instantly, but they also can help the natural tissue in your eyes to grow back and integrate. Now, THIS is cool stuff.
CorNeat said that ten more patients in Israel are approved for trials, as well as two in Canada. Six others are in the approval process in France, U.S., and the Netherlands. Professor Irit Bahar of CorNeat stated that he believes this project will ultimately impact millions of people’s lives. Only time will tell.
This advancement in biotech comes at a time where many Americans are uninsured and at a higher risk for health ailments due to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent effects. At its best, CorNeat’s KPro offers some hope – while COVID has brought many industries to their knees, advancements in medical technology seem to persist.
If the results of the implants continue to stay as promising as they are now, who knows – maybe we’ll all be receiving cornea implants as a normal part of health upkeep in the not-so-distant future. I know I’ll be first in line.
The top 10 languages you can know as a programmer
(TECH NEWS) Considering a career as a developer or programmer? You’re not alone. Here’s top 10 programming languages to enhance or start your career.
The COVID economy has thousands of Americans reconsidering their career paths – with so many jobs dissolving due to various reasons (i.e., automation, a decrease in full-time creative positions), it’s no wonder why scores of professionals are seeking to reskill ASAP.
If this sounds like you, look no further; have you ever considered the lucrative career of computer programming?
Programmers on average make a salary of $89,590 a year. And better yet, coding jobs might never become obsolete. The trick is to know exactly what you want to do – different coding languages best serve specific purposes. So, which one should you learn first?
Top ten languages for new developers:
- Python – Learn Python if you’re interested in data analysis, machine learning, scripting, web development and Internet of Things (it’s the future!). Python is also the easiest language to learn, so give it a go!
- The Go Programming Language – You can learn to build simple, reliable, and efficient software.
- Java – Want to work on computer programs, games, apps and web applications? What about Internet of Things and robots? Learn Java to tap into these fields. Keep in mind, Java is considered difficult for novice programmers.
- C# – C# is great for websites, web applications, games, and apps – especially Windows apps. It’s also perfect for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence.
- PHP – Want to get your hands dirty doing back-end website programming? PHP is the language for you.
- C++ – For programming apps, games and web browsers, C++ is the language you’ll need to learn. Though it’s notoriously tough to grasp, knowing this language could be the competitive edge you need to set you apart from the pool of programmers.
- C – C will prepare you for operating systems, compilers and databases.
- R – The world is always in need of those who conduct data and statistical analyses – check out R to dive in.
- Swift – For apps and software for Apple devices, check out Swift.
My advice? Figure out exactly it is you want to do in your new career as a programmer. Set your goal. Then, after you’re sure what direction you want to go in, see which programming language best suits your needs.
Get proficient at one language to start and become top-notch at it. Then, you can expand your rolodex to include multiple languages and grow your abilities as a programmer.
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