Tag Archives | technology

3 Ways Tech is Changing Lives

Image by paulbr75, pixabay.com

We know technology has grown exponentially over the past 20 years in ways that make our lives fun and efficient, but it has also made life easier and safer for some. Here are three tech advances in 2017 that are really changing lives:

1. Smart watches for blind people
Think about the last time you had trouble finding where you were going. Now imagine being disoriented again, only this time you’re blind. Sometimes we take things like vision for granted, and Sunu is changing things. Fernando Albertorio is co-founder of this company, and legally blind. He recognized a need for a product that could help him navigate without bumping into objects, and created a wristband that emits ultrasound waves and uses varying levels of vibrations to let him know how close objects are. Not only is this product practical for the blind or visually impaired, but it increases their confidence and way of living. Albertorio even ran a 5K race wearing it.
Price: $299
Availability: Starting August 2017

2. Self-driving wheelchairs
You’ve heard of self-driving cars – so it’s only logical that self-driving wheelchairs would be just as possible. A Canadian research team has claimed to develop technology that would allow wheelchairs to drive themselves. The idea has presented itself before, however, the price for one of these was in the range of $30,000 – not exactly affordable. Toronto’s Cyberworks Robotics and the University of Toronto say they can create one for a cost of $300-$700. Self-driving wheelchairs would assist those who have low mobility in their upper body and may not be able – or find it difficult – to use joysticks and similar features on current motorized vehicles. While still a work in progress, it’s a good move towards improving the quality of life for those confined to wheelchairs.
Price: TBD
Availability: In development

3. A device to prevent sexual assault
Sexual assault cases are constantly in the news, and MIT researchers wanted to develop a way to help detect it and prevent it. Too many times on campus, students are intoxicated and end up in situations where their judgment isn’t clear. The Intrepid Smart Sticker was created with the idea that it can be fastened to the inside of your clothing and sync to your phone. The sticker recognizes when clothes are being removed, and sends a notification to the wearer’s phone asking for consent. If a response isn’t received, the phone will start buzzing loudly, and if a response is still not received, the identified contacts in the user’s “safety circle” will be notified and receive their location and a phone call. The app will also start recording the phone call and any other noises. Based on input from assault survivors, volunteers, and users, the Intrepid team believes this device could really help cut down the number of assault cases.
Price: TBD
Availability: In development

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The Return of the Intercom

Image from amazon.com

Have you been to a house built in the 1970’s and noticed that weird speaker system in various rooms? Intercoms were very popular in this era, allowing parents to tell their kids when dinner was ready without yelling across the house.

It seems that now, texting and instant messaging have taken over that role, but it’s possible that intercoms are coming back in a new, modern form.

Amazon just introduced an intercom feature on their Echo devices, allowing you to converse across rooms. It uses a teleconferencing software called Drop-In, and will work with your connected devices once set up on the Alexa app.

All you need to do is name the devices (ie. “Kitchen,” “Bedroom,” “Den”). Then you can activate the intercom simply by instructing Alexa to call that room. The intercom also works from the Alexa tablet and smartphone apps – so you can place calls to the Kitchen straight from your phone.

We can see it now – you’re on your way home from school and starving. You open the app and say, “Hey Alexa, call the Kitchen,” and it would probably immediately be followed by, “Hey mom, what’s for dinner?” Whether your mom will like this feature or not is to be determined.

An interesting feature with the intercom is that it doesn’t work on Wi-Fi – meaning you can connect devices that are in different locations. Now, this is something your mom probably would like – especially if you’re away at school and you bring an Echo device to your dorm.

If you’ve already got Echo devices, the intercom feature is available with the latest app update. If you don’t have Echo devices, here’s where to start for more information.

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The Power Of Technology: How To Use Your Phone To Make School As Easy As Possible

Image by William Iven, unsplash.com

Image by William Iven, unsplash.com

Cellphones are no longer mere communication devices. With the advent of advanced systems on chip products such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon series, you can now carry an entire PC in your pocket. Additionally, there are services that allow for complex data manipulation via powerful remotely-accessible computers. This change in how data is interacted with in real-time has broad implications for many aspects of everyday life – including education. Here’s how powerful your mobile phone can be:

Mathematics
Equations of various difficulties from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus can be input into online knowledge engines such as Wolfram Alpha. This allows for math to be made very easy with minimal preexisting knowledge. The skillset needed to solve almost any everyday mathematical problem is now basic data entry – instead of having to memorize formulas, you can simply enter information into a text box to get instant answers.

Science
Whether you have to balance a chemical equation or find information on a specific organism, all you have to do is type. Between Google, Wikipedia, and Wolfram Alpha, you have unlimited information at your fingertips. The answer to virtually any question can be found quickly with simple searches.

History
Search engines are our new best friend. Do you need to know when a specific event took place? What about where a battle happened or why? Google has you covered. For more in-depth knowledge, provided links can be explored in detail, but the text underneath each result is often enough to solve your query.

Languages
Are you unsure about how to spell a word, or wondering if your grammar is correct? Just Google the way you think it should be written, and precise results will be provided instantly. Additionally, text can easily and accurately be translated into foreign languages: with Google Translate or Babelfish, many people now check their phrases to make sure they sound natural.

Smartphones have fundamentally altered education as we know it. With data security and touch ID our phones are more accessible and safer than ever! With growing computational power, the impact of phones will only increase in the future to the benefit of us all. Don’t be left behind as computers evolve dramatically – use technology to enhance your learning experience and make your schooling a breeze.

This article was contributed by guest author Kara Masterson.

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Droppler: Stop Wasting with the Shazam for Water


Nascent Modular Consumer Electronics from Nascent Objects.

Ever wonder how your water bill got so high? When are you using all this water? Is it your roommate or a family member?

Researchers have found that when people are aware of how much water is being used (ie. if they’re being timed while the water is on), they use up to 30% less. In places like drought-ridden California, 30% is a big number. In comes Droppler.

Droppler listens to your water usage – yes, listens. The company that invented it, Nascent, programmed Droppler to “hear” the sounds of water on different sinks (you can imagine how much time this took), and to block out other miscellaneous house sounds like footsteps, cooking, etc. Droppler starts off with a full bar of light in the morning, and as it hears water being used, the light depletes, and information is synced to an app. It’s supposed to make you aware of how much water is being used throughout the day.

When it’s not monitoring water usage, it can also be separated to act as a speaker or home-monitoring camera. Go figure!

Droppler has raised $62,499 USD on their Indiegogo campaign.

The Details:

  • Shell: Porcelain
  • Wifi & Bluetooth enabled
  • Microphone
  • Light: LED
  • Camera: 720px home-monitoring
  • Speaker: Wifi streaming
  • Price: Unknown
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iPhone 7 Removes Jack, Beefs Up Everything Else

Image via pixabay.com

Image via pixabay.com

September Apple announcements have become something students, businesspeople, and the general public look forward to every year. We all want to know what innovative concepts will be in our hands in the coming months, and this year, it was the iPhone 7.

The biggest rumour (well, not a rumour anymore) was that Apple would get rid of the headphone jack. But don’t worry – you still like the feel of your old-school headphones? They’re including a Lightning adapter with each phone, so they’re not obsolete (yet). They’ve announced AirPods, wireless headphones which will quickly connect to your phone (and perhaps get lost just as quickly). But that’s for another day.

The newest iPhone is now water-resistant (thank goodness), so no need to be afraid of splashes any longer. The battery life is longer (supposedly 12 hours), which is always a plus for those classrooms without outlets, and the camera has a larger aperture, plus optical image stabilization to help get clearer pictures. The front-facing camera has also been bumped up from 5MP to 7MP – hello, selfies!

You’ll find the home button on the new iPhone doesn’t feel quite the same, because it’s using Force Touch. It’s no longer a “button”, but it’ll be able to do more things using different pressures – so once you’re used to it, it’ll be great.

Apple has also added stereo speakers to the iPhone – one speaker at the top and one at the bottom, to give you an almost “surround sound” feel. This will be great for adding music to your workouts.

This iPhone is truly next generation, and whether you’re using it on its own or syncing it up with your Apple Watch, it can enhance your regular, mundane activities both at school and at home.

The Details

  • Size: Same as the 6S (4.7 inch screen)
  • Home button: No longer a button, uses Force Touch
  • Water-resistant
  • Camera: rear camera has a larger aperture; front camera now 7MP. Introduced image stabilization
  • Speakers: one at the top, one at the bottom
  • Battery: lasts up to 12 hours
  • Processor: A10 chip is 40% faster than the A9
  • Colours: Jet black (only available in 128, 256GB models), matte black, rose gold, silver, gold
  • Price: Pre-order starting September 16 from $649US
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Understanding How Information Technology is Influencing your Education

Image by Helloquence, unsplash.com

Image by Helloquence, unsplash.com

Information technology has been changing the world of education for over a decade. It’s constantly evolving and providing more opportunities for individuals from every walk of life to receive schooling. Prior to the evolution of information technology, individuals were enrolled at brick and mortar institutions for 12-16 years depending on the level of education. Now, students all over the world can be involved in higher education through various online learning platforms offered at colleges and universities.

Far-reaching Capabilities
Perhaps the most significant development in information technology as it relates to education is the ability to reach anyone with an internet connection. Individuals no longer need to relocate in order to pursue their dreams of higher education. Students can pursue a degree in an internet cafe in Southeast Asia or in a cushy high-rise apartment in New York City. As an added bonus, the diversity of students has also increased. People in completely different countries can be in the same class and still be able to interact virtually in online discussion boards and group assignments. It provides a different perspective for discussion topics that students might miss out on if they were to attend a community college with the same people they live around.

Convenience
Due to the technology that schools have continued to build upon, students can even pursue graduate degrees online. It is so much easier to receive an online master’s in library and information science, because the materials you previously would have needed are now available through the Internet. In a study as specific as library science, which entails a lot of research, having entire databases to search through can be exhausting. With the online databases available today, there are keyword searches and specific filters you can apply to your search that will cut down your research time significantly. It also allows students to have more information at their fingertips instead of just what was available at the university’s library.

Information technology has had a significant impact on the society we live in. It has even started to eliminate the need for large, expensive textbooks and an obscene amount of composition notebooks. Research papers, notes and assignments can be stored and turned in on cloud storage services so it is always accessible no matter what device you are using. The convenience and other added benefits have proved to be indispensable in the education field and to students today.

This article was contributed by guest author Lizzie Weakley.

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The Newest Thing in Coffee, Funded by You

Image by GIR, Voltaire via Kickstarter

Image by GIR, Voltaire via Kickstarter

How many times have you screwed up your coffee in the morning because your brain is still half asleep? Let’s face it, this is a common occurrence. But what if you had a coffee machine that was smarter than you? Introducing the Voltaire Smart Grinder. It not only grinds your beans and brews your coffee – it can also tell you just how fresh your beans are with the connected app. This battery-operated grinder is portable and can last for up to three weeks and grind 3lbs of beans on one charge.

GIR, the company behind Voltaire, explains the science behind stale coffee beans and how the staling process is invisible, but what you need to know is that Voltaire has a sensing platform that figures it all out for you and tells you when to replenish your bean stock via the app. It’s one of the secrets to good coffee.

What we particularly like is the portable aspect – the idea of brewing fresh coffee outside, away from home, or even in your dorm room without using up an outlet is fantastic (why isn’t this a thing yet?).

Voltaire has a collection of companion products as well, that include Ever Cup travel cups (insulated with locking lids to keep drinks hot or cold and spill-free) and an AirVault Smart Container that keeps your beans fresh.

It’s just recently been funded by a Kickstarter campaign, bringing in an amazing $150,241 to get the ball rolling. By just meeting their stretch goal of $150K in the last day of the campaign, GIR is now offering a choice for the metal finishes – copper or silver. If you’re an on-the-go coffee drinker, this is one product to check out.

The Details

  • Use the app to measure bean freshness
  • Stock up on beans through the app
  • It comes in silver or copper finishes (shown above)
  • Add companion products like the AirVault or Ever Cups
  • Battery charge can last up to 3 weeks and grind up to 3lbs of beans
  • Received $150,241 from the Kickstarter campaign in August 2016: now in production
  • Estimated delivery for backers: March 2017
  • Price: not available yet
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Can Modern Technology Help Students with Exam-Time Stress?

Image by Shane Global, Flickr

Image by Shane Global, Flickr

There is hardly a student who hasn’t experienced exam stress. Professors say that you don’t have to worry if you’ve studied enough, but the reality is strange: you get more worried the more you study. In some students, the stress grows into a state of anxiety, characterized with excessive worry, fear of failure, and psychosomatic illnesses, such as high blood pressure, stomach pain, and extreme fatigue.

During exam week, students are burdened with too many tests within a short period of time. As a result, they feel little or no control over the situation. Exam anxiety is often accompanied with tough self-criticism and pessimistic predictions.

Technology, with its power to make studying easier and help students surpass different issues, has the capacity to reduce exam-time stress to a certain level. When the anxiety is excessive, the student may need counseling. However, proper use of technology can release some of the tension.

Let’s see how exactly technology can help students reduce the volume of stress during exam week.

1. Social media serves as virtual group therapy

Students are not left on their own to deal with exam-time pressure. They can always use social media to support each other, ask questions, and help each other find the answers. Facebook groups are a very effective tool that helps students connect and show support. When you’re extremely stressed and you notice that everyone else is feeling the same pressure, you realize that you’re not alone on this journey. The sole realization that all students go through stress may make you feel more comfortable with exams.

When students connect via social media, they can share notes, thoughts, useful links, and explanations. As a result, you can find resources that help you handle the studying material more easily.

2. Brainstorming, note-taking, and mind-mapping tools help students study more efficiently

Technology makes the studying process more organized. There is no need for messy notebooks that the student himself doesn’t comprehend. With brainstorming, note-taking, and mind-mapping tools, students can easily generate ideas, highlight important facts, and memorize information. These are only few of the many effective tools that make the studying process more effective:

  • Stormboard – an online brainstorming and planning tool, which helps students think of an answer plan on potential essay questions. Brainstorming is a necessary aspect of the preparation process whenever there is a certain level of creativity involved in the answers.
  • Evernote – a note-taking tool that students can use on all their devices. With Evernote, they can take all types of notes and organize them in notebooks. They can also share those notebooks with their friends, so they can discuss and collaborate in real time.
  • MindMup – an online tool that enables students to create effective maps, which are very effective in classifying, organizing, and memorizing data.

3. Technology makes time management more effective

A plain daily planner can help a student organize time more effectively. However, a simple notebook can get messy, since it doesn’t allow you to edit the plan when something comes up. An online planner, on the other hand, is much cleaner and more effective.

  • Google Calendar is an excellent online calendar that makes planning less stressful. As a student, you can use it to keep track of important exam dates, and plan your time in a way that allows you to progressively cover the entire coursework material.
  • RescueTime is an app that monitors the time you spend online, and then provides an eye-opening report. It alerts the student when he/she is spending a lot of time on a certain online activity, such as browsing through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Reddit feeds. It also measures the time the user spends in effective online research. At the end of the day, the student can evaluate his/her online time and block distracting websites if necessary.
  • Remember the Milk is a simple, but very effective to-do app that reduces confusion during exam time. When the student has several subjects and assignments to cover, he/she can easily forget about important responsibilities. With this planning app, task-management becomes a breeze.

4. The writing process is easier thanks to online tools

Studying for the exams is important, but so are all term papers, research papers, book reviews, and essays with strict submission dates. When students are burdened with all these assignments, the exam anxiety gets even worse. Some students decide to use writing services to delegate part of their work and get more time for studying, but that’s not an ethical academic practice and all colleges sanction it.

There are other ways students can get practical advice, such as YouTube videos that help students to grasp complex concepts that are not properly covered in their textbooks. Writing Forums and Writers Digest are only two of the many online communities of writers who are ready to offer opinions, critiques, and tips for students who want to learn how to write. In addition, the editing process becomes really easy for students who use Hemingway App, Grammarly, and similar automated editing tools.

Thanks to the online world, students can get answers to all their questions. Google Scholar is a great search engine, which gives instant access to relevant resources that students use for their essays. When they read some of these materials, they get better chances to answer the essay questions with great success.

With Proper Use of Technology, Exams Are Easier to Cope With.

You won’t free yourself from exam-time stress entirely when you start using technology. However, you will handle the busy schedule and huge volumes of studying material much more smoothly. Try implementing the right tools and practices into your routine, and tell us about the results you notice.

This article was contributed by guest author Mary Kleim.

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Windows 10 – to Upgrade or Wait?

window

By download.net.pl on Flickr

Microsoft’s release of Windows 10 gives customers a new look into how future operating systems might function in the future. For users coming from Windows 7 or 8, the changes will be very apparent at first. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be looking at the changes since version 8.1.

As expected, installing Windows 10 was a bit of a lengthy process – it took about an hour to install a 3GB size download. Downloading the operating system itself and switching over to it caused a few hiccups (involved re-installing drivers for my GPU). Other PC users encountered similar issues after installing the OS where GPU drivers were forced to be upgraded or had to be re-installed. Such a process isn’t too lengthy and for many users did not occur, so there’s no need to expect the worse when downloading.

Once Windows 10 is loaded and installed, the first thing you will notice is the darker theme that Microsoft has chosen to go with. While it is only the default theme and can be changed, previous defaults on Windows 7 and 8 were of a much lighter shade. Applications in the taskbar and desktop have not changed, but volume and and wifi icons have. In addition, the action centre icon has a new appearance and will open up a sidebar with a list of notifications when clicked on. The default changes that Microsoft has made should not confuse a user of older OS’s; in fact, it’s a nice visual change.

Microsoft has brought back the start menu that many people enjoyed in Windows 7, but in a new form. When clicked on, the start menu opens up a “drop up” menu with app icons, file explorer, setting and power options. Windows 8.1 users will surely enjoy this new take on the start menu rather than being taken to an entirely new page filled with default Microsoft apps. The hot corners/sidebars that Windows 8 had are also gone which will benefit many of the touchpad or laptop users who may have been annoyed by the feature.

Using many of the Windows 10 features such as the new browser “Edge” proved that Microsoft has dabbled in new areas while attempting to optimize the user experience. Both the browser and the Microsoft store are easy to navigate, with the Edge feeling a bit basic as a brower. The lack of customizability with Edge is a bit of a nuisance, but the integrations of Outlook and Google Calendar work so well that you might forget about it. Certainly for Google Calendar, a new addition, the app works very well and is incredibly easy to navigate. Other key apps that stand out include the new Word, Excel and Powerpoint mobile which can be used on tablets with ease, and also on a Windows 10 PC.

Though Windows 10 has a tendency to be buggy within the first couple of months, it should be not be overlooked as a new operating system. While you may encounter bugs post-installation or during use, the many new additions and features on Windows 10 are sure to impress users. As a user who has upgraded from Windows 8.1, I would definitely recommend upgrading to Windows 10 or upgrading once the first service pack has come out.

Highlights:

  • New start menu
  • No hot corners
  • Cortana (For American users)
  • Google Calendar App
  • Mobile Word, Excel and Powerpoint
  • New look
  • Microsoft Apps improved all around

Cons:

  • Buggy (Can be a big issue for some)

Click here to download Windows 10.

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