Real-time Translation Technology

Imagine completely eliminating the language barrier. If we can put our camera up to a street sign and it instantly shows you the translation in over 40 different languages. You can even hook up googles newest headphones to a google pixel smartphone and by using google assistant can translate any text you are reading. These technological advances are only the beginning to real time translation.

Alex Waibel, a professor and researcher at Carnegie Mellon University’s Language Technologies Institute said, “A world where we naturally maintain our individual languages but operate unimpeded by language boundaries through tech in a way as if the barriers didn’t exist,”. This is ultimately the goal, one day live in a world that we all speak our own language while being able to understand languages you have might never even heard of. They have started to develop this technology on augmented reality goggles. Where you can wear either the goggles or glasses and while the person speaks, it is translated into a language you have chosen on the glasses. You can even buy pixel headphones bluetooth and with the pixel phone, anything that is said is instantly translated to english for you.

Overall this is an amazing idea, by essentially eliminating the language barrier, we can communicate so much easier with anyone. This can also help reduce discrimination because now you are able to understand people who in the past you would just stare out and judge them for not being able to understand what they are saying. They are still a long time away from having real time translation be apart of society but they have have significant strides. Facebook has been the front runner in the real time translation industry, already putting it into their messenger app, making it easy to talk to anyone from anywhere around the country. This is one positive way where technology will bring us as a nation closer together with the rest of the world.


Aupperlee, Aaron. “Real-Time Translation Tech Moves Us Closer to ‘Language Transparent’ Society.”, 16 Feb. 2019,

Motorola – and other companies – reviving the flip phone

As the title says, there are several new phones expected to come out in the coming months from Huawei, Motorola and Samsung. The one thing these three phones have in common is the ability to fold in half. It is interesting to see how the trends in design for mobile phones has evolved over the last few decades. First, they were front facing brick shaped objects, a design everyone remembers as the indestructible Nokia. Next, flip phones became the “it” thing to have – all the companies made phones that either flipped or slid open. The Motorola Razr being the fashionable “flagship” mobile phone for that era. After the flip era, the iPhone was invented. Apple’s notorious minimalistic design philosophy brought a whole new meaning to mobile phone design. Mobile phones have evolved into giant, rectangular, ultra-thin metal and glass sheets with as few buttons as possible. Despite the insane functionality these modern smart-phones possess, they have simply gotten huge – too big for most pockets, well mine at least. Now, we need something that can deliver the benefits of a large touch screen while still being able to fit comfortable in a single hand or your pocket. This is where Motorola, Huawei and Samsung have stepped in with the design of their foldable mobile phones. I believe we could be entering a new era of mobile phone design with these three prototypes. Only time will tell.


How society becomes polarized

As we’ve begun to discuss in class, the “echo chamber” that we exist in within our social media circles is not a result of the tech giants and their malicious filtering algorithms, it is a result of us; the individual user.

Researchers at Stanford conducted a study in 2013 that resulted in the development of a mathematical model to demonstrate how the American society is becoming more polarized. Based on one of the dominant theories, it is thought that with the increase in digital media in recent years through websites and social media, users now have the option to pick and choose what kind of media they consume as well as the social networks we identify with. Given this reality, it is thought that people tend to form their opinions in ways that minimize the overall amount of disagreement in their news feeds and social circles. As a result of that phenomenon, the individuals opinions gradually converge with those they surround themselves with (Stanford School of Engineering, 2013).

Even though it may be possible to place the blame on the recommender algorithms search engines and social media use, we must keep in mind that they are still businesses designed to provide the most pleasing user experience. Even if that means reinforcing the “echo chamber” effect.



Virtual Reality and Education

There are many ways technology today is impacting our education system.  One of the most advanced and interesting pieces if technology used in education is virtual reality.  Using this technology in education allows for teachers to do more than just tell students about things like ancient ruins, it allows the students to actually experience them.  Virtual reality bring new experiences to the classroom that students won’t forget and they will definitely pay attention.  “Kids love to engage with [VR] lessons,” said Guido Kovalskys, chief executive and co-founder of US-based edtech company Nearpod. “One minute, they are learning about Roman history, and the next, they are transported to ancient Rome and are exploring the Colosseum.”  In the last 2 years, almost 6 million students have experienced lessons involving virtual reality.

Education technologist are not saying that virtual reality should replace all learning.  It is better to teach somethings in the traditional way.  But for some lessons, virtual reality can teach students much more than just a video could.  VR is becoming much more affordable  which allows more people to have access to it.  I think in a few years VR will become something available to students across the country and be used often by teachers.

Kennedy, Emma. “Can Virtual Reality Revolutionize Education?” CNN, Cable News Network, 1 Nov. 2018,

Can AI Help Control Wildfires?

Wildfires across the world are extremely deadly.  The destroy everything in their paths and spreads faster than authorities have the ability to stop them.  Last year California saw its deadliest wildfire.  1,893,913 acres were burned in the fire and 86 lives were lost. Fires like this occurred all over the world, including Greece and Australia.

“These fires are linked to symptoms of climate change: droughts, increasing temperatures, shifting wind patterns and low humidity.”  This means wildfires wont be ending soon.  A San Francisco company, SilviaTerra, is using artificial intelligence to map forests which can help reduce the risk of fires.  The company uses all types of information from remote sensing data to topographical data and using satellite data along with aerial photographs and laser scanning techniques to measure the spread of vegetation.  Currently, the team is mapping every forest in the US.  They will be able to identify the areas most at risk of fire once the maps are complete.  By mapping out the different kinds of tress, researchers will be able to see which trees are where and know which are flammable which will tell them whether or not they’re at risk for fire.  SilviaTerras technology will make forrest inventories much more accurate than they were before.  This technology will allow for officials to be notified and put physical barriers around places with a high risk of wildfires or they can cut down trees.  The AI used by SilviaTerra will be very helpful to places all over the world and will be able to save dozens of lives.

Beall, Abigail. “Future – How to Bring Wildfires under Control.” BBC News, BBC, 27 Feb. 2019,

Augmented Reality is Here

Over the first half of the semester, we have learned about augmented reality and virtual reality. Augmented reality is having something that combines elements of the real world and technology. In class, we have always said augmented reality and virtual reality are closer than we actually believe. There has always been cool headsets and glasses around, but they weren’t exactly affordable for the average person.

Microsoft has recently launched its ‘HoloLens 2’. It is available for preorder at $3,500, or Microsoft has opted to include it with its ‘Dynamics 365 business-application services’, for $125 a month, for 2 years, which equals out to $4,500. This allows it to be more affordable, even though it costs more over time, it is split into different and smaller payments, making it more affordable. The HoloLens 2 is built like more of a headset than glasses, but it still has a sleek, professional look. It is said Microsoft is ‘attempting with what it calls “mixed reality”, technology that overlays computer-generated objects onto the real world’ (Pegoraro 2019). The author of this article, Rob Pegoraro, looks back on his experience with the product. He speaks of a floating bird assistant he could see that helped him out. He also describes how the HoloLens 2 was able to sense his fingers touching, and was able to press virtual buttons, without necessarily pressing an actual button.

I find this article interesting because it introduced another augmented reality product to the market. It is also somewhat affordable, and makes me think if this could be at Penn State soon. Considering Penn State has a Microsoft pack, maybe they could also include some of these headsets into the deal soon. Maybe we could have these sooner than we expected, and maybe they could be all over campus, in some of the labs, and provide all students with an augmented reality experience. It will be interesting to see how this product will be incorporated into schools, businesses, and even hospitals.




Microsoft and Facebook set new undersea cable record

Microsoft and Facebook have unveiled a new undersea cable that is producing speeds that people didn’t think were possible.

In a recent experiment, there was transfer speeds of 26.2 Terabits per second according to The Verge. The cable is 4,000 miles long. The average speed currently is 9.5 Tbps.

According to The Verge, the cable is 20 percent faster than what the companies originally thought was possible.

The cable is owned by Telxius and runs between Virginia Beach, Virginia and Bilbao, Spain,

The company is predicting that the new approach that is used when laying this cable could allow for other undersea cables to be upgraded without spendings millions of dollars on laying new cables.

The world is continuously becoming more interconnected and these undersea cables are the next step in allowing high speed data transfers from across the world and non surprising Facebook and Microsoft are at the forefront of this technology.


Porter, Jon. “Microsoft and Facebook’s record-setting undersea cable sets another record.” The Verge. 28 Feb. 2019.

Big Data Used in Sea Crime Prediction

Researchers at Oregon State University are making use of artificial intelligence and big data to generate algorithms that will identify, locate, and predict sea crimes across the world’s oceans. Sea crimes include things like illegal fishing, drug smuggling, and even slave labor and human trafficking. The difficulty in preventing these crimes arises from the characteristics of the so-called “dark fleet”, the ships that take part in these activities. These ships circumvent the law by shutting off their on-board GPS and navigating through both legal and illegal vessels.

The research is at the early stages, where researchers work off of a three-year grant from NASA to develop the computing tools necessary to collect and analyze data. The first challenge to overcome is synthesizing data about the world’s ships and their locations. The goal is to use the locations and patterns of legally-operated ships to detect illegal shipping behavior. This same methodology is used by astronomers, who make use of observable data to make inferences about unobserved celestial bodies that pass by.

The algorithms created by the research team will be tested before being used to develop a real-time model that can predict sea crimes. Data from the research will be shared with a number of organizations (coast guards, navies, fishermen, conservation groups, etc.) with an interest in keeping the world’s oceans safe.


Ohio Professor Teaches Smart Social Media Practices

With the increasing prevalence of employers using social media to screen potential employees, the need for smarter use of social media has grown. Dr. Leslie Rasmussen, a professor at Ohio, teaches a course on Social Media Strategies and covers with students some of the dos and don’ts of online conduct. Dr. Rasmussen says that before posting comments, students should think about how their parents would react if they read them. Any pictures that show alcohol should be edited to remove that element, and bad or vulgar language should be purged from students’ pages.

Students are asked to picture their profiles as a commercial and to think about the best way they can market themselves. The professor asks students to describe their personal brand in six words. As for what content should be posted onto social media, she says if it is not engaging, informative, or entertaining, it probably does not need to be posted.

One senior student described his brand as “inspiring and empathetic”. His profile picture reflects this: it is a photo of his mother, his inspiration. Pages like this are an example of social media done right.

Courses like this teach awareness and self-monitoring skills that will become ever more valuable as the prevalence of social media and its impact on employment continue to grow.


Apple Could be Adding Sleep Tracking to the Watch

Apple has come out with 4 generations of watches in the past few years but they have yet to be able to track your sleep. It is a topic of discussion because competitors like Fitbit have had this feature since the beginning. With current devices similar to the Apple watches there are two different kinds of ways to track your sleep. According to the article, “One that simply measures how long you’re horizontal to approximate how well you slept, and another, sleep stage tracking, which uses the wide variety of sensors in modern wearables to make an educated guess not only on how long you slept but how much of that sleep was the coveted REM kind.”

This can be very beneficial for some consumers. Good sleep can be better for your health for a variety of reasons from concentrating better to reducing your risk of diabetes. An issue with Apple trying to add sleep tracking could be the current battery life of the watches which is only around 24 hours. Most owners of Apple watches charge them at night along with their phone. With word that Apple is now testing sleep tracking it is hard to know if it will really be a great feature or if they are just late to the game on this one.