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Going to SXSW? Here’s how to get around (and how to pay for it)

(TECH NEWS) Make sure you know your options to get around town during SXSW Interactive so you’re not abandoned across town. It happens.

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sxsw 2017

Crossing t’s and dotting i’s

SXSW Interactive is just around the corner, and there is going to be a lot going on. Your flight and/or hotel are booked, and you have at least a vague idea of the events you want to attend.

Maybe you’re even going to squeeze in some fun, touristy Austin things, whether it’s taking a stroll down 6th Street or a hike in the Greenbelt. But how are you going to get around?

Bop around town during SXSW

Even if you have a car in Austin during the conference, most of the time it’s going to be less of a help, and more of a hassle. Parking can be nightmarish downtown, and driving after a few drinks is never a good idea.

Luckily Austin offers a number of transportation options for natives and conference interlopers alike. Here’s a quick breakdown of the offerings, and how to take advantage of them.

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Ridesharing: If you’re thinking you have Uber and you’ll be fine, think again. Uber and Lyft were booted out of Austin last summer, but we’ve got plenty of alternatives: Fasten, Fare, RideAustin, InstaRyde, GetMe, and Wingz are all available for Apple and Android devices.

Overwhelmed? We recommend RideAustin. Not only is it user-friendly and simple, but it’s also a nonprofit! You can choose to automatically round up your fares and let local charities keep the change.

Download a rideshare app or two before you head to Austin, and you’ll have drivers at your disposal all week.

Taxis: Yep, taxis are still around, and a pretty common choice for airport-to-hotel transportation. There are always plenty of cabs hanging around the airport to take you where you need to go. Credit cards and cash still work, but no bartering, ya weirdos.

Pedicabs: You either find these charming or highly awkward, but we’ve got plenty of them in downtown Austin, so make your peace as needed. We recommend asking for your driver’s card so you can text them when you’re ready to head to your next destination. Pedicab drivers work on tips only, so be sure you have cash on hand if you go this route.

Bicycles: Austin is a super bike-friendly city, so feel free to bring your bike, longboard, or even throw it way back with some Heelys! There are also bike rental booths near the conference that accept credit cards for easy access.

MetroRail: This is Austin’s train system, and it consists of just one line. This is a great option if your hotel is further north, because it literally stops at the Austin Convention Center’s doorstep. You’ll find the schedule here, and a map here.Austin also has an extensive bus system, but it’s complicated and not super efficient. Conference-goers generally stay away from the bus. If your hotel is on the MetroRail line, you’ll buy tickets with your credit card at the stop. Pro tip: Don’t lose your ticket because you’ll want to go home at the end of the day and you won’t be allowed back on without it (or a new one).

SXSW Shuttles: These get you all over the place, and are especially convenient for the parties. Here’s a handy route map. They’re free.

If you want even more options, check out the SXSW suggestions here. Don’t waste precious conference time stressing about getting around. Bookmark this guide, or email it to yourself – you will need it. Enjoy the conference!

#SXSW2017

Staff Writer, Natalie Bradford earned her B.A. in English from Cornell University and spends a lot of time convincing herself not to bake MORE brownies. She enjoys cats, cocktails, and good films - preferably together. She is currently working on a collection of short stories.

Tech News

3 cool ways bug-sized robots are changing the world

(TECH NEWS) Robots are at the forefront of tech advancements. But why should we care? Here are some noticeable ways robots are changing the world.

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Bits of robots and microchips changing the world.

When we envision the robots that will (and already are) transforming our world, we’re most likely thinking of something human- or dog-sized. So why are scientists hyper-focusing on developing bug-sized (or even smaller!) robots?

Medical advances

Tiny robots could assist in better drug delivery, as well as conduct minor internal surgeries that wouldn’t otherwise require incisions.

Rescue operations

We’ve all heard about the robot dogs that can rescue people who’ve been buried beneath rubble or sheets of snow. However, in some circumstances these machines are too bulky to do the job safely. Bug-sized robots are a less invasive savior in high-intensity environments, such as mine fields, that larger robots would not be able to navigate without causing disruption.

Exploration

Much like the insects after which these robots were designed, they can be programmed to work together (think: ants building a bridge using their own bodies). This could be key in exploring surfaces like Mars, which are not safe for humans to explore freely. Additionally, tiny robots that can be set to construct and then deconstruct themselves could help astronauts in landings and other endeavors in space.

Why insects?

Well, perhaps the most important reason is that insects have “nature’s optimized design”. They can jump vast distances (fleas), hold items ten times the weight of their own bodies (ants) and perform tasks with the highest efficiency (bees) – all qualities that, if utilized correctly, would be extremely beneficial to humans. Furthermore, a bug-sized bot is economical. If one short-circuits or gets lost, it won’t totally break the bank.

What’s next?

Something scientists have yet to replicate in robotics is the material elements that make insects so unique and powerful, such as tiny claws or sticky pads. What if a robot could produce excrement that could build something, the way bees do in their hives, or spiders do with their webs? While replicating these materials is often difficult and costly, it is undoubtedly the next frontier in bug-inspired robotics – and it will likely open doors for humans that we never imaged possible.

This is all to say that in the pursuit of creating strong, powerful robots, they need not always be big in stature – sometimes, the tiniest robots are just the best for the task.

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Tech News

4 ways startups prove their investment in upcoming technology trends

(TECH NEWS) Want to see into the future? Just take a look at what technology the tech field is exploring and investing in today — that’s the stuff that will make up the world of tomorrow.

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Woman testing VR technology

Big companies scout like for small ones that have proven ideas and prototypes, rather than take the initial risk on themselves. So startups have to stay ahead of technology by their very nature, in order to be stand-out candidates when selling their ideas to investors.

Innovation Leader, in partnership with KPMG LLP, recently conducted a study that sheds light onto the bleeding edge of tech: The technologies that the biggest companies are most interested in building right now.

The study asked its respondents to group 16 technologies into four categorical buckets, which Innovation Leader CEO Scott Kirsner refers to as “commitment level.”

The highest commitment level, “in-market or accelerating investment,” basically means that technology is already mainstream. For optimum tech-clairvoyance, keep your eyes on the technologies which land in the middle of the ranking.

“Investing or piloting” represents the second-highest commitment level – that means they have offerings that are approaching market-readiness.

The standout in this category is Advanced Analytics. That’s a pretty vague title, but it generally refers to the automated interpretation and prediction on data sets, and has overlap with Machine learning.

Wearables, on the other hand, are self explanatory. From smart watches to location trackers for children, these devices often pick up on input from the body, such heart rate.

The “Internet of Things” is finding new and improved ways to embed sensor and network capabilities into objects within the home, the workplace, and the world at large. (Hopefully that doesn’t mean anyone’s out there trying to reinvent Juicero, though.)

Collaboration tools and cloud computing also land on this list. That’s no shock, given the continuous pandemic.

The next tier is “learning and exploring”— that represents lower commitment, but a high level of curiosity. These technologies will take a longer time to become common, but only because they have an abundance of unexplored potential.

Blockchain was the highest ranked under this category. Not surprising, considering it’s the OG of making people go “wait, what?”

Augmented & virtual reality has been hyped up particularly hard recently and is in high demand (again, due to the pandemic forcing us to seek new ways to interact without human contact.)

And notably, AI & machine learning appears on rankings for both second and third commitment levels, indicating it’s possibly in transition between these categories.

The lowest level is “not exploring or investing,” which represents little to no interest.

Quantum computing is the standout selection for this category of technology. But there’s reason to believe that it, too, is just waiting for the right breakthroughs to happen.

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Tech News

Will AI take over copywriting roles? This tool hopes to make that a reality

(TECH NEWS) CopyAI hopes to give copywriters a run for their… well, WPM. But how much can AI fully replace copywriting skills?

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Hands typing on a laptop, working on copywriting piece.

Copywriting is an important trade. Writers are often able to breathe life into otherwise formulaic websites peddling products which, sans the copy from those writers, might very well suffer a fate of relative obscurity. However, copywriters are also expensive, and their duties—indispensable as they may be—can be replicated fairly easily by little more than basic machine learning.

The question is this: Can AI replace copywriters? That’s a question that CopyAI hopes to answer with a resounding “yes”.

CopyAI is an “AI powered [sic] assistant for writing and brainstorming marketing copy.” This makes it a powerful tool to complement human writing, at the very least; is it enough to put people like me out of a job?

From my experience with the tool, no—at least, not yet. CopyAI can’t create an engagement strategy, respond to customers, spin testimonials to evoke heart-felt reactions, or analyze its own trends.

But that doesn’t detract from how freaking cool it is in practice.

CopyAI asks for very little from its user. Upon selecting a style of copy—Facebook Market, website carousel, or even page header, for example–you are prompted to enter the title of your product and a couple of short sentences describing it in the context of your ad. CopyAI does the rest, and while the results can be hilariously out of touch, you’re able to pick the ones that sound the most like your desired copy and then generate more options that sound similar.

The service has a huge number of different options for advertisement types, and you can use multiple different copy projects in one specific campaign.

Naturally, CopyAI has a few flaws, most of which replicate the problems we’ve seen with machine learning-based writing in the past: It doesn’t sound quite human enough to be comfortable. However, that’s a problem for a skilled copywriter to solve—and quickly, thus making something like CopyAI a potentially preferable choice for mass copywriting.

So, again, we ask: Is there a way for CopyAI to replace copywriters entirely in the future? Probably not. The copy it produces is intriguing, and often close enough that underfunded campaigns might find some value in using it short-term, but it doesn’t have the punch that a real person can pack into an advertisement.

That said, combining CopyAI with a small team of copywriters to reduce burnout—and repetition—could make for some very efficient work on the back end.

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