Nonprofit Helps Teachers Bring Computer Science Into the Classroom

Posted January 13th, 2017 at 11:30 am (UTC-4)
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FILE - Fairwood Elementary School students take part in an Hour of Code in Renton, Washington. The picture was taken by our taken by our staff photographer Bow Jones. (Code.org)

FILE – Fairwood Elementary School students take part in an Hour of Code in Renton, Washington. The picture was taken by our taken by our staff photographer Bow Jones. (Code.org)

You’d think in the age of robotics and artificial intelligence, computer science would be required material for high school students. More often, it is either optional or not offered at all. But nonprofit Code.org is determined to expand access to computer science in schools around the world.

In the U.S., some schools offer computer science, often as an elective. In some parts of the world, computer science isn’t even on the curriculum.

The sad part is that … most students go to a school where even if they want to learn it, their parents want them to learn it, often the teachers won’t be able to teach it – it’s just not offered at that school – Alicia Steinglass, Chief Product Officer at Code.org

Teachers who went to schools 20, 30 or even 10 years ago, “did not learn computer science themselves,” Steinglass told Techtonics. “Most … education schools that prepare teachers to teach computer science … don’t teach computer science.”

Code.org is trying to change all that. The group recently held its fourth annual Hour of Code campaign in December, aimed at introducing teachers and students to computer science. Now, the nonprofit wants to help these teachers bring the subject into the classroom.

“The biggest new time for teachers to teach computer science, to begin to teach it in their classroom, is in January,” said Steinglass. “It’s after they tried computer science and they realized that they can teach it, they can do it, and they begin offering it in their classrooms for their students.”

Hour of Code is a global movement that reaches tens of millions of students in over 180 countries and gives students and teachers the opportunity to try computer science for the first time.

A map that shows regions that participated in Code.org's December 2016 Hour of Code campaign. (Code.org)

A map that shows some of the regions that participated in Code.org’s December 2016 Hour of Code campaign. (Code.org)

This will be the [very] first time such an event will take place in my country and we plan on inviting our local ministry of education inspectors to be a part of this event – Tassah Academy (Yaounde, Cameroon)

An hour of code will not turn participants into computer science experts, cautioned Steinglass. It will give them a hands-on experience and a feel for the subject, often misjudged and approached with trepidation, particularly among women.

“What we’re trying to do,” she said, “is break stereotypes and help women, help underrepresented minorities, help students who wouldn’t see themselves as computer science students and …  teachers who wouldn’t see themselves as computer science teachers try it out so that they can see what it’s about.”

After the December campaign, more than 150,000 teachers registered to have their class learn computer science. “Students loved it,” said Steinglass. “Teachers loved it.”

“And yet,” she continued, “it’s still true that most schools don’t teach computer science despite the fact that nine out of 10 parents want their students to learn it. …  When you ask students what subjects [they like] the most, computer science is at the top, just behind art and dance.”

The classes are free, as is the curriculum and all other tools. And while Code.org doesn’t hold workshops in other countries, it provides professional development courses for teachers in the United States to help them teach computer science.

“Internationally, there are other organizations that provide some of that and there are also some online resources that they can use for the teachers to get started,” she said.

Course material, available online, has been translated into several languages, thanks to volunteers and interested groups in various countries.

“We have 20-some languages at this point where the K-5 curriculum has been translated into that language,” said Steinglass. “The Hour of Code has been translated into 50 languages. … And the languages it’s translated into – every single one of these was done by a volunteer partner around the world where somebody cares and wants to bring this to their country and has worked to get it into that.”

Still, computer science is only offered in less than half of the schools in the United States and not at all in some parts of the world. But Steinglass is hopeful.

“This isn’t going to change unless we all work on trying to bring it to schools and [help] make it happen,” she said.

Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Grocery Shopping, According to Amazon; Beware This New Email Scam

Posted January 12th, 2017 at 11:58 am (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE - Kitchen staff are seen inside Amazon Go's brick-and-mortar grocery store without lines or checkout counters, in Seattle Washington, Dec. 5, 2016. (Reuters)

FILE – Kitchen staff are seen inside Amazon Go’s brick-and-mortar grocery store without lines or checkout counters, in Seattle, Washington, Dec. 5, 2016. (Reuters)

Why Amazon Go Presages New Era of Smart Supermarkets

Technology is changing everything we do, and that could soon include the way you shop at the grocery store next door, if Amazon has its way. The company is testing Amazon Go, cashier-free stores that use apps and cameras to keep track of what people buy in Seattle, Washington. Customers pick up what they need and Amazon charges their accounts and sends them a receipt as they leave the store. Still in its beta version, the store serves as an early indication of where grocery shopping is going in the days ahead.

Fake Security Email Tries to Make Your PC Part of a Botnet

Researchers at cybersecurity firm Malwarebytes warn that criminals pretending to belong to Microsoft’s ‘Security Office’ are sending out fake emails loaded with the Neutrino bot malware. The scam tells recipients that a virus infected their bank accounts, leading to suspicious activity. Users who fall for this end up with the malware stealing their data and using their computer as a command center to launch Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, among other nasty business.

Google Classroom Hopes New Year Will Be Best One Yet for Teachers, Students

Google Classroom is adding updates and new features to maximize classroom experience for both teachers and students. Beginning this week, teachers will be able to assign work to their students based on their individual needs. The ‘differentiated learning’ approach helps teachers pay more attention to individuals who need it and discretely assign them more practice time for challenging material.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

AI-enabled Smartphones Coming This Year; Using AI to Fight Hackers

Posted January 11th, 2017 at 1:14 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

Steve Rabuchin, Amazon president of Amazon Alexa (R) shakes hands with Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group during the Huawei keynote address at CES in Las Vegas, Jan. 5, 2017.

Steve Rabuchin, Amazon president of Amazon Alexa (R) shakes hands with Richard Yu, CEO of Huawei Consumer Business Group during the Huawei keynote address at CES in Las Vegas, Jan. 5, 2017.

Deloitte: 300 Million Smartphones Will Have Machine Learning Ability

A new report from Deloitte, a UK-based professional services firm, expects up to 300 million smartphones or a fifth of sold units to be equipped with on-board neural networks and machine learning features this year. China’s Huawei recently announced an Android smartphone with built-in machine learning and Amazon’s artificial intelligence assistant, Alexa on board.

World Economic Forum: Weaponized AI, IoT Hacking Among Tech Threats

Global Risks Report 2017, the latest report from the World Economic Forum, warns that the rise of new technologies is driving new types of cyber attacks that businesses are not prepared to face. While some of the new technologies are beneficial, the report says increased connectivity and Internet of Things devices open up new gateways for hackers to exploit.

4 Ways Man and Machine Are Teaming Up to Fight Cyberthreats

Cyber security and ransomware attacks are projected to continue to rise, particularly as new connected technology opens up new avenues for hackers to compromise. But the same new technology – big data and machine learning – can also help fight cyber criminals. Already, companies are teaming up to use artificial intelligence engines like IBM’s Watson and MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab to help analyze data and fight evolving threats.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Gaza Startups Catch Silicon Valley’s Eye; China Snubs Pokemon GO

Posted January 10th, 2017 at 1:28 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE - Palestinian entrepreneur Samar Hijjo, who developed the mobile application ''Baby Sitter' that is aimed at raising awareness of women during pregnancy and after giving birth, works at UCAS Technology Incubator office in Gaza City, Oct. 31, 2016.

FILE – Palestinian entrepreneur Samar Hijjo, who developed the mobile application ”Baby Sitter’ that is aimed at raising health awareness among pregnant women, works at UCAS Technology Incubator office in Gaza City, Oct. 31, 2016.

Gaza Is Attracting Attention of Silicon Valley

The Gaza Strip, more often closed to the world than not, has one of the highest unemployment rates and myriads of everyday problems, not the least of which is an unreliable power supply. But the strip is undergoing a bit of a tech evolution as young entrepreneurs – half of them women – fight for a better future. And with the help of NGOs and some Silicon Valley know-how, Gaza’s startups are building just about everything tech, from business to humor, but with a local flavor.

St. Jude Medical Releases Security Patches for Vulnerable Cardiac Devices

St. Jude Medical has patched several security vulnerabilities affecting the Merlin remote monitoring system, used with implantable pacemakers and defibrillators. The manufacturer – MedSec – previously denied its products had any security flaws, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sided with the hospital, saying devices that are radio-frequency enabled are vulnerable to hacking.

China Rejects Pokemon GO, Similar Games

Millions of Chinese gamers will miss out on Nintendo’s hit smartphone app, Pokemon GO and other augmented reality games. China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television cited national security and the “safety of people’s lives and property” among the risk factors relating to the game. There have been reports of injuries and even deaths in the case of Pokemon gamers not paying attention to their surroundings in various parts of the world.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Do Some Good, Explore, or Stay Safe With These Apps

Posted January 6th, 2017 at 11:10 am (UTC-4)
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A screenshot from Share The Meal app. (Share The Meal)

A screenshot from ShareTheMeal app. (ShareTheMeal)

2017 is here and this is as good a time as any to find ways to turn those New Year Resolutions into reality. There are a few apps that help with that and more. Some are free, though they will track you and your information. You’ll have to pay for some of the others if you want them. Techtonics sifted through some of the latest and came up with this bundle.

ShareTheMeal

This World Food Program’s nonprofit app lets users feed a hungry child with a single tap on your smartphone. Users can donate US $ 0.50 to feed a child for a day and track the activities of the program with their friends. The app has already shared more than 10 million meals.

There are other apps that offer a different approach to giving, if that was high on your New Year’s resolutions list. Exercise-minded individuals can use Charity Miles Walk&Run Tracker while running, biking and walking to donate to charity.  Brand name sponsors will donate to a charity of your choice for every mile you cover or earn you money that can be donated to your charity.

Donate a Photo for Charity is a free donation app from Johnson & Johnson. The company donates $1 to a charity of your choice for every photo that you donate. The picture can be about any subject, but it’s probably best not to donate personal pictures. And be sure to remove the geocoding metadata from the pictures if you prefer not to share your location.

MotherToBaby

The nonprofit Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) launched MotherToBaby as it marks Birth Defects Prevention Month this January. The app provides evidence-based information about pregnancy and breastfeeding exposures.

A screenshot from the MotherToBaby app, which provides pregnant women with all sorts of information to keep them informed about potential risks to their babies. (OTIS)

A screenshot from the MotherToBaby app, which provides pregnant women with all sorts of information to keep them informed about potential risks to their babies. (OTIS)

In an emergency, the app can link users to information experts who can offer more customized support in real-time. Users of MotherToBaby also have the option to volunteer their pregnancy information to benefit research.

OTIS said in an email it believes the app will benefit English and Spanish-speaking countries in the developing world. But the group hopes to expand the app’s reach in the future.

Trusted Contacts

Google’s Trusted Contacts is a personal safety app that lets family and friends added as trusted contacts ask for the user’s location. While the request can be denied, the feature is helpful in emergencies or when the user is in an unsafe environment. The app lets trusted contacts check on the users’ phone activity to make sure they are safe.

Decrypto

As ransomware attacks continue to escalate, there are now a few apps that help victims decrypt their files. If you find yourself looking at an encrypted message, Decrypto, the latest in a bunch of encryption and decryption apps that rolled out over the past year, can identify the cipher and decrypt the message. It also lets you encrypt your messages. Other app include Cypher Solver, and Cryptography, which includes in-app purchases.

Forest

Forest offers a unique solution to help people who can’t seem to part with their smartphones, whatever the circumstances.

The app asks users to plant a seed whenever they need to focus on their work . Eventually, the seed will grow into a tree. But it will wither and die if you cannot resist checking Facebook or Pokémon GO every so often. The app is designed to prevent users from using other apps during the planting session.

A screenshot from Forest explains how the app works, (Forest)

(Forest)

Forest also partners with Trees for the Future to plant real trees. They have projects in Cameroon, Kenya, Senegal, Uganda and Tanzania.

7 Minute Workout Challenge

If fitness was high on your 2017 to-do list, the 7 Minute Workout Challenge offers 12 exercises that can be done, well, in 7 minutes. The app tracks your progress and encourages you to persist, though it’s always good to check with your doctor first if you are concerned about any of the exercises.

Another option is Full Fitness Exercise Without Trainer, which was just updated. The app offers exercise routines and calorie-counting while helping users resolved to lose weight keep track of their goals. But if exercise isn’t for you, Calorie Counter & Diet Tracker can help you keep those calories in check.

Sidekix

Sidekix is an urban navigator, trip planner and map all in one. The iOS and Apple Watch app uses your smartphone’s location and GPS features for interest-based routing. That means it can find shopping, cultural or dining spots based on your personal interests. It suggests events, best routes, and directions to help you reach your destination. Sidekix is available in about 100 cities in the United States, Europe and Israel, and more will be added.

If you are privacy-oriented, you should read the developers’ policies before downloading any of the tracking apps.

Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

The IoT Home Invasion; Apple Pulls New York Times Apps in China

Posted January 5th, 2017 at 12:32 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

David VanderWaal, VP of marketing for LG Electronics USA (L), listens to Mike George, VP Alexa, Echo and Appstore for Amazon, talking about their companies' partnership to bring Amazon's digital assistant Alexa to LG appliances, during the LG press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Jan. 4, 2017. (Reuters)

David VanderWaal, VP of marketing for LG Electronics USA (L), listens to Mike George, VP Alexa, Echo and Appstore for Amazon, talking about their companies’ partnership to bring Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa to LG appliances, during the LG press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Jan. 4, 2017. (Reuters)

Like It or Not, ‘Internet of Things’ Is Going to Invade Your Home

Let’s face it, there will come a time when you will not be able to avoid buying that smart fridge that orders your groceries or the digital assistant that listens to your every word at home or in your car. And as tech companies and manufacturers race to beat the competition to market with smarter gadgets, the lack of security and privacy where Internet of Things devices are concerned remains a huge problem. Writer Rob Price looks at some of the risks to privacy and the concept of ownership that come with digitizing just about everything.

Watson Replaces 34 Insurance Workers in Japan

IBM’s artificial intelligence system, Watson, will replace 34 claims white-collar workers at Japan’s Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance Company. Watson will read medical documents and determine the amount of payouts to customers, based on injuries, medical records and procedures. The company expects to save money and increase efficiency as a result of replacing the human workers.

Apple Pulls New York Times Apps in China After Government Request

Apple has acquiesced to Chinese authorities’ demands to remove the New York Times apps from its App store. New York Times‘ website has been blocked in China since 2012, but the newspaper’s English and Chinese apps still gave access to readers in the country. In addition to other leading newspapers blocked in China, Apple’s iBooks and iTunes Movies have also been blocked since April. A New York Times spokesman said the Chinese move “is part of their wider attempt to prevent readers in China from accessing independent news coverage.”

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

Android Malware Goes After Wi-Fi Routers; More Ransomware in 2017

Posted January 4th, 2017 at 1:26 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE - An illustration shows a 3D printed Android logo in front of code. (Reuters)

FILE – An illustration shows a 3D printed Android logo in front of code. (Reuters)

Android-infecting Trojan Malware Uses Your Phone to Attack Your Router

Kaspersky Lab researchers have uncovered a new Android Trojan malware. Dubbed “Switcher Trojan,” the malware can attack its victims’ wireless routers and render connected devices vulnerable to fraud. The virus tricks users to redirect Wi-Fi traffic from the networks users are on to the hackers and attempts to penetrate the router’s admin interface.

Ransomware Set to Increase in 2017

Ransomware has become a very profitable business and will probably continue to escalate this year. Intelligence Analyst Alan Liska expects ransomware attacks to target public systems like grocery stores, banks, digital billboards, or organizations running old or insecure Windows operating systems. Ransomware has also been evolving quickly, allowing criminals to find new ways to hold their victims’ computers hostage until they pay the ransom.

Top 10 Tech Predictions for 2017

The traditional tech landscape is changing to make room for re-imagined touch-based devices and cloud-based services. Writer Bob O’Donnell expects the old definitions that separated computer peripherals and controllers to give way as users increasingly gain the ability to use one device to control a variety of gadgets. He also sees technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence making headway in non-tech fields.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

The Trouble With IoT; What to Expect From CES 2017

Posted January 3rd, 2017 at 12:19 pm (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE - Intel's latest sensor-laden chip package, Curie, used to make Web- connected gizmos, is shown embedded on a circuit board attached to a football helmet that senses if a player suffers a concussion-inducing hit, March 1, 2016. (AP)

FILE – Intel’s sensor-laden chip package, Curie, used to make Web-connected gizmos, is shown embedded on a circuit board attached to a football helmet that senses if a player suffers a concussion-inducing hit. (AP)

Almost Three in Four Organizations Collect IoT Data

By all accounts, Internet of Things (IoT) devices are expected to continue to grow and thrive in 2017. And a new report from 451 Research projects a 33 percent increase in IoT spending this year. But along with that comes the finding that more companies are collecting data from IoT users, including healthcare and industrial information, even though privacy and lack of security remain a huge concern for this technology.

What to Expect at the Massive CES 2017 Tech Show

The International Consumer Electronics Show opens its doors in Las Vegas on January 5 and promises to host a dizzying array of new gadgets and technologies. In addition to televisions and mobile devices, expect more digital assistants, autonomous cars, virtual reality, drones and wearable devices.

2016: The Tech Year in Cartoons

Editorial cartoonist John Klossner looks at the lighter side of the 2016 technology scene – from 3-D printing to mobile money and autonomous cars, and a few things in-between.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

2016 Was Year of Ransomware, Exploding Devices, AI, Social Media Lies

Posted December 30th, 2016 at 11:20 am (UTC-4)
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(M. Sandeen for VOA)

(M. Sandeen for VOA)

Looking back at this past year’s tech scene, 2016 distinguished itself as the year of ransomware and fake news. It witnessed the ongoing battle over privacy and Samsung’s exploding phones, and saw the continued rise of artificial intelligence and the proliferation of drones. Here are some of the year’s leading stories:

The ransom year

While Yahoo revealed in 2016 that it had suffered the largest cybersecurity breach ever, compromising up to one billion users, 2016 was unquestionably the year of ransomware.

Starting off on the wrong foot, 2016 first saw Los Angeles Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center come under attack in February. Hackers hijacked the hospital’s data files and locked them down with an encryption virus, demanding $3.6 million in ransom to unencrypt them. Crippled by the attack, the hospital paid the ransom in Bitcoin, as demanded. But that was just the beginning. More hospitals and banks fell prey to ransomware attacks, some of which were blamed on China-based hackers.

By March, about 93 percent of phishing emails were loaded with encryption malware. The trend has also been rising on mobile smartphones and becoming the main threat on Android devices in several countries. In some cases, hackers who got paid still deleted the victims’ files. And the cost of cleaning up ransomware damage, estimated around one billion dollars in 2016, are also rising.

Faking the news

FILE - Flowers and notes left by well-wishers are displayed outside Comet Ping Pong, the pizza restaurant in Washington where an armed man arrived to investigate a fake news story, Dec. 9, 2016.

FILE – Flowers and notes left by well-wishers are displayed outside Comet Ping Pong, the pizza restaurant in Washington where an armed man arrived to investigate a fake news story, Dec. 9, 2016.

2016 was unquestionably the year that data-driven news, fabricated posts, and false opinion polls took to social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter, and wreaked havoc leading up to the U.S. presidential election in November. A fake news story later prompted a man to fire a rifle in a Washington, D.C. restaurant as he “self-investigated” a conspiracy theory claiming the restaurant harbored sex slaves.

Facebook and Twitter later joined forces to tackle fake news content.

For Facebook, where the problem was most evident, trouble started when the social media service replaced the human curators of its Trending Topics section with an automated module or algorithm. The change led to a series of questionable decisions that included banning a famous historic Vietnam picture while allowing a naked picture of an Irish teenager posted for revenge to stay online. That last episode led to a lawsuit in Ireland.

Facebook has been testing tools to help users flag fake news stories.

Casualty: Privacy

A man holds up his iPhone during a rally in support of data privacy outside the Apple store, Feb. 23, 2016, in San Francisco.

FILE – A man holds up his iPhone during a rally in support of data privacy outside the Apple store, Feb. 23, 2016, in San Francisco.

This past year, privacy was put to the test when the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) demanded Apple unlock an iPhone belonging to a mass shooter in the San Bernandino, California terror attack that killed 14 people.

Apple refused to unlock the iPhone or add backdoors to future devices to help the FBI gain access to encrypted data, saying that would set a dangerous precedent. The FBI argued at the time it only wanted access to that particular iPhone, although it turned out that was not the case. Ultimately, the FBI hired a third party to unlock the phone and refused to share with Apple how it was done. But the controversy will change online privacy forever and has already spurred a move to create more secure mobile devices and applications.

While defending his position, Apple CEO Tim Cook speculated that governments could very well force technology companies to develop software to spy on users in the future.

In India, which maintains the world’s largest biometric database, the parliament moved to make the database accessible to all government agencies in the interest of national security. The database was built originally to streamline payments and benefits and crack down on corruption, but the parliament’s move raised concerns over the privacy of up to a billion people.

AI rising

FILE - Swiss social psychologist Bertolt Mayer views 'Rex', a two-meter-tall artificial human, at the Science Museum in central London Feb. 5, 2013. (Reuters)

FILE – Swiss social psychologist Bertolt Mayer views ‘Rex’, a two-meter-tall artificial human, at the Science Museum in central London Feb. 5, 2013. (Reuters)

Making significant strides in 2016, Artificial intelligence (AI) systems gained deeper understanding of the nuances of human behavior.

But AI remains a work in progress with several companies trying to teach their programs to be more human. Some have been more successful than others, as Microsoft’s chatbot Tay illustrated when it was taught all kinds of racist speech on Twitter. And some experts argue that ultimately, machines cannot reason as humans do.and can never match the complexity of the human mind.

There are still areas where computers fare better than humans and others where they cannot. Some argue AI actually makes humans better people, perhaps by tackling online problems like racism and harassment that humans have not been able to curb, or address other challenges like lip reading,

Nevertheless, AI continued to spread to areas like internet search, social media, healthcare, disease-tracking, the fight against cancer, education, cybercrime and cybersecurity. But these rapid developments have raised concerns about the social and economic implications of artificial intelligence and its “existential risks.” To that end, several tech giants teamed up to pacify fears and draft an AI code of ethics as the technology penetrates every aspect of daily life.

Samsung exploding

A Samsung Note 7 handset is pictured next to its charred battery after catching fire during a test at the Applied Energy Hub battery laboratory in Singapore Oct. 5, 2016. (Reuters)

A Samsung Note 7 handset is pictured next to its charred battery after catching fire during a test at the Applied Energy Hub battery laboratory in Singapore Oct. 5, 2016. (Reuters)

To say that 2016 was not good for Samsung is the understatement of the year. The lithium-ion batteries in Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 smartphone – one of the year’s most sought-after devices – started exploding during charging. The South Korean company attempted to stabilize the battery, but the explosions persisted. Samsung stopped shipping the devices and replaced nearly 2.5 million devices that had been recalled worldwide.

But things just kept going downhill from there. Reports were coming in that some of the replaced devices were also defective. Samsung finally scrapped all production of the Galaxy Note 7. Shortly thereafter, the first lawsuit against the company was filed in the United States.

The fiasco left the company with a host of challenges to figure out why this happened and how to limit the environmental impact of dumping millions of discarded smartphones.

Samsung is still struggling to recover.

Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.

CES, 2017 Tech Trends; Minecraft Extension Aims to Teach Chemistry

Posted December 29th, 2016 at 11:47 am (UTC-4)
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Today’s Tech Sightings:

FILE - A worker drives by a sign at the Las Vegas Convention Center before the start of the International CES gadget show, Jan. 3, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP)

FILE – A worker drives by a sign at the Las Vegas Convention Center before the start of the International Consumer Electronics Show, Jan. 3, 2016, in Las Vegas. (AP)

The 5 Tech Trends That Will Dominate CES and 2017

The Consumer Electronics Show is coming to Las Vegas on January 5, 2017. It promises to unveil thousands of new gadgets and products, some of which made headway in 2016 but will achieve a level of maturity in 2017. The world’s largest electronics trade show is expected to focus on cars, drones, artificial intelligence, mixed reality, and Internet of Things technologies. Writer Jennifer Booton expects a couple of new arenas such as high-tech sleep and baby products.

Inside Chile’s Magical Startup Scene

Santiago, Chile gets its wealth from copper and mineral mines, rather than technology. And while it is unlikely to spawn the next Silicon Valley any time soon, some of its engineers are hoping to change that through a technology incubator called “Idea Factory.” The project gives inventors space to work and connects students and young entrepreneurs with industry leaders.

Minecraft Expansion Successfully Tricks Students Into Learning

Popular block building game Minecraft has been used for education and urban planning for some time now. But a group of professors just found a new way to trick their students into learning chemistry and engineering concepts from the game. The professors created the “Polycraft World” expansion to Minecraft that requires students to create an educational, fun game based on accurate science. They found students learning additional science concepts as they created the items needed to play their games.

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Aida Akl
Aida Akl is a journalist working on VOA's English Webdesk. She has written on a wide range of topics, although her more recent contributions have focused on technology. She has covered both domestic and international events since the mid-1980s as a VOA reporter and international broadcaster.