As a refugee growing up in Tel Aviv, Haim Saban remembers not having enough money to eat. As an adult, he hustled his way into the entertainment business, writing theme songs for classic cartoons like Inspector Gadget and Heathcliff. But producing the mega-hit Mighty Morphin Power Rangers put him on track to becoming a billionaire media titan.
No nation fell as far during the 2008 global financial crisis as Iceland. But unlike other countries Iceland decided to hold those responsible for the crash to account. Now, nine years on, the country has recovered. What can other nations learn from Iceland’s actions?
Eureka 43: Urbanito: Simon and Elaine MacKenzie are the husband-and-wife team behind new family-friendly city-guide brand Urbanito. While travelling with their children the Scottish duo discovered a lack of smart and stylish travel guides that catered to curious kids as well as their parents – so they decided to make one themselves. They share their story.
Five years ago, Marketplace explored how machines, robots and software algorithms were increasingly entering the workforce in our series "Robots Ate My Job." Now, we’re looking at what humans can do about it with a new journey to find robot-proof jobs.
The way the Trump administration sees it, the move to harden our borders is about national security and preserving jobs in the U.S. But moving forward, the real competition for work may come from machines, software and robots. Some jobs will be replaced, some jobs will be changed and some jobs will thrive.
Dave Rollinson is in that third category. Five years ago, Rollinson was a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University studying snake robots used for search and rescue. Now he’s a co-founder of HEBI Robotics, a startup that makes electronic building blocks that serve as the shoulder, elbow or knee of almost any robot someone might construct.
"We were kind of inspired by Lego," Rollinson said. "We want to get to the point where people can put these together as easily and intuitively as Lego." If HEBI can manage to do that, there could be a big payoff. But for now, his No. 1 worry is finding people with the right skills to hire.
"You’ve whittled your set down to probably, like, a handful of people in the world that can really do what it is that you’re trying to do," Rollinson said. "It’s probably our No. 1 concern as we grow is just finding the right people." Across town, at Rollinson’s alma mater, they see it this way, too.
RELATED: Say hello to your robot co-worker Trump keeps talking about trade but he should be talking robots "This is the real concern," said David Bourne, principal systems scientist at CMU’s Robotics Institute. "It’s not what jobs robots are going to steal, it’s that people aren’t going to be ready to do the jobs that they need to do."
Bourne said the bottleneck might be lack of faculty. Many potential teachers with robotics skills are being swallowed up by private companies, like Uber, which hired away four CMU professors and 36 researchers to work on its self-driving cars.
"Just to give you an example, in one of our programs, we had 600 applications and there were 40 spots," Bourne said. "That should give you pause. You know, there’s a lot of people that can’t do the field they want to do."
Anca Dragan is one of those select few who can. Originally from Romania, she earned a graduate degree from Carnegie Mellon’s robotics program and now researches the interaction between humans and robots at University of California, Berkeley.
"It was just what I was passionate about. I loved math and I did math competitions," Dragan said. "I was raised in a country where math is, like, our national sport." Her early inspiration was a book on artificial intelligence that she came across in high school, co-authored by Berkeley professor Stuart Russell.
"Now, I get to be a colleague of Stuart’s, and he’s just a few offices away," she said. "It’s really interesting to think of where I was in 12th grade and sort of the luck that I have now."
"Luck” in the sense that you make your own luck, but also the luck of being born in Romania, a country that honors math and science achievements. The question is can the U.S. change its culture and rewire its economy to make these skills available to the many, rather than the few?
Remember Google Glass?
They’re the headsets that look like regular glasses but have a small computer on the side to speak to and access the Internet. If that’s not ringing a bell, it could be because Google Glass fizzled out and was discontinued in the consumer market.
But now, it’s getting a second life in the manufacturing industry.
One of the pioneers of this technology is a company based in suburban Atlanta. AGCO has factories all over the world where it makes large tractors, chemical sprayers and other farm equipment.
At one of AGCO’s factories, Heather Erickson is putting together a tractor engine before it goes on to the assembly line.
She’s wearing a red-and-black uniform over her blue jeans at a facility in Jackson, Minn. And she’s wearing something else: Google Glass on her head.
Clever Hacks Give Google Glass Many Unintended Powers ALL TECH CONSIDERED Clever Hacks Give Google Glass Many Unintended Powers "It took a little getting used to. But once I got used to it, it’s just been awesome," Erickson says.
Google Glass tells her what to do should she forget, for example, which part goes where. "I don’t have to leave my area to go look at the computer every time I need to look up something," she says.
With Google Glass, she scans the serial number on the part she’s working on. This brings up manuals, photos or videos she may need. She can tap the side of headset or say "OK Glass" and use voice commands to leave notes for the next shift worker.
The headsets are being used in other industries as well. Companies working in the health care, entertainment and energy industries are listed as some of the Google Glass certified partners. And autistic children are using the technology to recognize emotions.
It was always my assumption that Google Glass was going to go into business for enterprises instead of mass consumer consumption. Tiffany Tsai, a technology writer Peggy Gullick, business process improvement director with AGCO, says the addition of Google Glass has been "a total game changer." Quality checks are now 20 percent faster, she says, and it’s also helpful for on-the-job training of new employees. Before this, workers used tablets.
"We had a lot of tablets on our floor, and the tablets were being broken just by being dropped. And tractors are very tall machines when you’re climbing on and off," Gullick says. "So we were looking for a solution that offered them more information in a more timely manner."
AGCO has about 100 employees using the custom Google Glass, which is attached to them and harder to lose. Each costs about $2,000.
Tiffany Tsai, who writes about technology, says it’s one of a growing number of companies — including General Electric and Boeing — testing it out.
"It was always my assumption that Google Glass was going to go into business for enterprises instead of mass consumer consumption," she says.
She was one of the early users of Google Glass when it came out in 2013.
Two years later, it was discontinued for some consumers because people were concerned about privacy and security. And there were concerns that the headset could be distracting to drivers or that it wasn’t made with all people in mind.
Applying A Silicon Valley Approach To Jump-Start Medical Research SHOTS - HEALTH NEWS Applying A Silicon Valley Approach To Jump-Start Medical Research Tsai says another reason for it being discontinued was its challenging of social norms: With Google Glass, it may look like you’re listening to the person in front of you, but you could actually be watching a movie or looking up sports stats. You could be in a different world.
"On Google Glass, [another person] has no idea what’s happening, does not see anything that the user is looking at or analyzing," Tsai says. "And that creates this disconnect between people, and I think that that’s highly frowned upon right now, especially with older generations."
Millennials may be more open to it in the future, but Google Glass still has a long way to go until it’s considered more socially acceptable, she says.
But at AGCO’s factories, it’s not only accepted; it’s desired. Gullick says the company plans to double the number in use by the end of the year.
WABE host Jim Burress contributed to this report.
The O’Reilly Bots Podcast: Conversational interfaces for the Internet of Things.
In this episode of the O’Reilly Bots Podcast, I speak with Tom Coates, co-founder of Thington, a service layer for the Internet of Things. Thington provides a conversational, messaging-like interface for controlling devices like lights and thermostats, but it’s also conversational at a deeper level: its very architecture treats the interactions between different devices like a conversation, allowing devices to make announcements to any other device that cares to listen.Coates explains how Thington operates in a way analogous to social media; in fact, he calls it “a Twitter for devices.” Just as people engage with each other in a commons, devices chat with each other in Thington’s messaging commons. He also discusses the value of human-readable output and the challenges involved in writing human-understandable scripts.
Coates’ blog post “The Shape of Things,” an overview of how connected devices will communicate with humans
Google Translate’s interlingua
The O’Reilly Artificial Intelligence conference, June 27-29, 2017, in New York
About a year ago, in a synthetic biology class at London’s Royal College of Art, 24-year-old Marguerite Humeau learned about the work of Japanese researcher Hideyuki Sawada.
You might have seen his work in a recent viral video: a creepy, dismembered mouth "singing" a Japanese lullaby. That mouth has been called the most mechanically accurate talking robot, with real moving lips, a windpipe that flexes and expands, and even lungs — a pressurized air tank.
Humeau was inspired to do the same thing. But with animals.
"I realized there was no area of science that specialized in extinct sound," she says.
Enlarge this image Marguerite Humeau’s ‘Lucy’ reconstructs the voicebox of an ancient hominid. Marguerite Humeau That was a year ago.
Since then, Humeau has completed two works of extinct sound, the first of which is Australopithecus Afarensis. You might know her as Lucy — one of the earliest known hominids.
Lucy Finds Her Voice
To recreate Lucy’s voice, Humeau studied available skeletal data from Lucy’s remains. As best she could, she constructed synthetic versions of the resonance cavities in Lucy’s skull. She even spoke to the Martin Birchall, a British doctor who performed only the second successful human larynx transplant on a California woman earlier this year.
"He told me this very funny story," Humeau says. "I was thinking the woman would get the voice of the donor. And actually she recovered her own voice, meaning that the specificity of the voice doesn’t come from the larynx itself — but from the way you shape air in your lungs and the way it resonates in your resonance cavities. So it meant I was on the right track."
After more meetings with paleontologists and even an ear, nose and throat doctor, Humeau set to work reconstructing Lucy’s voice box out of resin, silicone and rubber. The result is a haunting yowl that sounds a lot like a human groan.
"It was an interesting being to me," she says. "What makes the difference between a human voice and an animal sound? The difference is the brain, so we think before we talk. I mean, for most people."
A Shaggy Sequel
Enlarge this image Marguerite Humeau worked with the the Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin to study the resonance cavities of elephants, a distant mammoth relative. Marguerite Humeau About the same time she was working on Lucy, Humeau decided she wanted to go bigger.
How much bigger? Woolly mammoth bigger.
She met with more experts, elephant vocalization specialists, even the guy who advised Stephen Speilberg on the dinosaur sounds in Jurassic Park.
French explorer Bernard Buigues was one of her most helpful sources.
"He has actually been able to touch these animals. They are completely preserved. And so he told me about the smell of them, and being able to touch the fur of a mammoth that lived 10,000 years ago."
Both works — Lucy and the mammoth — went on display earlier this year at the Royal College of Art. And Humeau was told that children would run in fear from the mammoth’s chest-thumping growl.
"I would have loved to have seen that," she says. "That was the whole purpose!"
Charlie Shrem had a prison epiphany. Instead of using packets of mackerel to buy and sell things, inmates should use something more like the digital currency Bitcoin. He even came up with a way it could work in prison, never mind that it was Bitcoin that got him arrested in the first place.
Before getting locked up, Shrem had run the company BitInstant. BitInstant made buying Bitcoin as easy as purchasing a money order. By the time he was 22, Shrem had hired dozens of employees, found a brand new office in Manhattan, and was processing a million dollars a day.
Shrem though ended up helping some of the wrong people trade dollars for Bitcoin: buyers and sellers of illegal drugs on the website Silk Road. As he was getting off a plane from Europe to New York, Shrem was arrested. He was convicted of aiding and abetting an unlicensed money transmitter, and sentenced to two years in federal prison .
While Shrem was behind bars he began to see Bitcoin in a new light. So did the rest of the world. Now he’s got a new idea, and he’s trying to convince investors to give him a second chance. It’s not about Bitcoin for him anymore. It’s about the technology behind Bitcoin: Blockchain.
Charlie Shrem’s journey to prison and back out again is a parable for the transformation of Bitcoin over the last five years. Shrem and Bitcoin have gone from being idealists to outlaws to trying to make it as respectable citizens.
On today’s show, a thought experiment involving packets of mackerel as a prison currency and a story about how a libertarian’s dream technology was taken over by big banks and stock traders.
Dropkick Murphys formed in Massachusetts in 1996. For over twenty years, they’ve made music that’s reflected the culture and community they’ve come from, including their platinum single “I’m Shipping Up to Boston.” In January 2017, they released their ninth album 11 Short Stories of Pain & Glory, which includes the song “Blood.” In this episode, guitarist Tim Brennan breaks down how the music for “Blood” was made, and the band founder Ken Casey explains the inspiration behind the lyrics.
Recorded live at Waterstones Piccadilly on 1 December 2016, here’s the last Little Atoms of 2016. Neil Denny chats with comedy legend Michael Palin about his book A Sackful of Limericks, followed by an audience Q&A.
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