Instagram’s “Reels” Attempts to Catch Up to the Popularity of TikTok…

On August 5, 2020, Instagram introduced Reels. For those of you who don’t know, Reels is basically their copycat version of TikTok, as users are able to create a very familiar 15-second video with audio, effects, and other creative tools. Users complain that in comparison to TikTok, the tools for editing are limited, especially with the number of effects that are available to creators. It’s pretty apparent that they lost a significant amount of the younger generation to TikTok and are trying to regain traction through this new feature.

I think that upon the news that TikTok would be banned due to security threats, Instagram though that it would be their time to shine if that actually fell through. However, we now know that the platform was bought by Oracle and that it is supposedly going nowhere, and Instagrams chances of becoming the next big thing are pretty much down the toilet. Analysts say that it is too early to discount Reels. But I don’t know about you all, but it’s been almost two months since the feature first came out, and when I (rarely) go on Instagram Reels, all I see are reposts of TikToks, which I feel is defeating the purpose of Instagram having its own short video platform.

Reporters from the New York Times wrote an article titled “We Tested Instagram Reels, the TikTok Clone. What a Dud.” I’ve seen countless articles about how confusing Reels is and how it pales in comparison to the original 15-second video social media platform. I’m curious as to your guys’ thoughts on Intagram’s Reels. Do you think that Reels will ever catch up to TikTok? If there isn’t enough traction, do you think Instagram will get rid of the feature?


Drones Assisting Law Enforcement

Drones are aerial, technologically advanced vehicles that have high definition, live feed video cameras, thermal infrared video cameras, heat sensors, and radar. Drones can also record videos and snap pictures in daylight and at nighttime. Certain drones also have other advanced technologies; these can include face recognition, GPS, and much more. Drones are typically somewhat hard to spot because of there smaller size, but they can come in many different sizes. Law enforcement has begun to use drones regularly. The police force uses drones for surveillance, crime investigation, search/rescue operations, etc.

Drones dispatched from the field could be part of law enforcement’s future. Still, before this even becomes the next step, more and more law enforcement agencies need to deploy unnamed aerial vehicles regularly. For law enforcement to reach this goal, departments are going to have to get used to the idea of utilizing technologies like drones and be willing to try trial and error before actually implementing them. If efforts like this are made, fire stations, government agencies, etc. could use this amazing drone technology.

A benefit to keep in mind with drones helping law enforcement is the fact that drones for public safety cost a fraction of what a helicopter would require. Especially because the helicopter would be manned, unlike a drone. This could be swapped for any responsibility a helicopter takes on; an active chase, armed hostage situations, etc. As long as tools like this are used responsibly and tactfully, it could really help benefit enforcement. Using a drone to go to places that may be dangerous for humans to go is a huge benefit that this could serve; large fires is a great example of the perfect time to use a drone to find the source, make sure people are okay, make sure the premises is cleared, etc.

Drones, though, are involved in the policing versus privacy issue that many people argue over. The argument against police having drones is that there is a concern about how drones can pull information on private details of people’s daily lives.

Overall I find this to be a very interesting debate, whether we as citizens feel more or less comfortable with technology like this in law enforcement hands. What do you think about this topic?


Smart City Project

“NTT is a global technology and business solution provider who help clients accelerate growth and innovate new digital business models of the future.”

According to NTT, the city of Las Vegas will accelerate the Smart Cities Project. The Smart City Project is a way to help cities with many things. Some of these factors being: traffic congestion, real-time alerts of safety conditions, and alerts of maintenance issues to improve public safety. According to NTT, The city’s Smart Park Initiative is also designed to increase public safety while providing awareness of activity to generate “usage and operations benchmarks that allow leadership to make more informed decisions.” Now, high definition visual and audio sensors will now be deployed at multiple locations across the city, which will enable an automated system to notify law enforcement and maintenance personnel of safety hazards, such as large crowds, gunshots, vandalism, etc.

The Smart data platform is a very secure, distributed platform that captures data using sensors and micro data centers in the designated areas of the city through video and sound. Something I found interesting about this program is that they also integrate historical data sources such as crime, weather, and social media. By using analytics like machine learning technologies, the system can gain knowledge on patterns and can soon detect and alert authorities of patterns out of the normal.

NTT’s innovative Cognitive Foundation enables remote creation, management, and operation of information and communications from devices and networks to the cloud. Is this something you would feel comfortable with knowing it was in your city? Would you feel safer? Less safe?


10G Smart Home Revealed By Mediacom

Recently, in Ames, Iowa, a new, 10G smart home by Mediacom was revealed. Due to the pandemic, as many people began working or learning from home, the need for a faster internet increased greatly. With a platform running 10 gigabits per second and having over 70 smart devices, this smart home provides a glimpse into life in the future. According to Kylee Mullen from the Ames Tribune, “such speeds allow devices in the house — smart kitchen appliances like a voice-activated faucet, smart coffee maker mug and water bottles; smart security systems like flood, smoke and motion detectors; and virtual and augmented reality for communication and gaming — to work together” (Mullen). To me, all these smart devices seem incredibly interesting and convenient to have. Tom Larsen, the Senior Vice President of Government Public Relations for Mediacom stated, “‘you could do everything you ever want to do from home without ever having to leave’” (Mullen).

During these days, in the middle of a pandemic, this smart home sounds like a pretty good idea to be living in since it will slow the spread if less people leave their house. However, when the need to quarantine ends in the future, this technology might discourage social interaction with the outside world. In my opinion, while I would love to live in a smart home that has numerous features and does whatever I want it to, in the long run, (post-COVID) I feel as though it might be harmful as people will be even more drawn towards staying indoors, instead of being out, physically interacting with the world. But, at the same time, this smart home provides a look into the many advantages technology can offer.


Amazon’s New Home Security Drone

Amazon’s security business, called Ring, recently announced that they have developed a small, lightweight drone that travels and records video footage of chosen areas in your home. You can then watch the live recording on your phone. It’s called the Ring Always Home Cam. Ring is releasing the drone next year at a price of $250. According to Rachel Metz from CNN, “users can set up paths for the drone via a smartphone app, or if the drone detects motion in a part of your home it can fly on its own to that spot and take video of what’s going on” (Metz). And once the drone returns back to its dock, the camera gets blocked and stops recording.

Image Source: Amazon

This new device definitely brings up questions and concerns about privacy. CNN’s article stated that Ring has “partnerships with hundreds of police departments around the US” and some believe it acts as a “widespread surveillance network” (Metz). Personally, I’m not comfortable with the idea of a moving camera that has the ability to travel throughout my home. This technology could be beneficial to have against home invaders as well as to be able to check on your house while you’re gone at work or on vacation, for example. However, it doesn’t change the fact that this device takes on a whole new level of invading one’s privacy.


Wikipedia due to get its first substantial website redesign in a decade

According to Wikipedia is finally getting a new website layout. This is the first time in 10 years they have changed the layout of their website. Wikipedia is known for its large data-base and articles that contain so much information. The websites main focus wasn’t on the way their website looked like they worried more about, “main purpose is to create, learn, and curate content,” and with that in mind pledges to simplify navigation, aiming “to create a more welcoming experience for all who come to our projects” (Jason Kurtz). The website plans to have its new layout appear in 2021. I think this is a great idea for the website content because 10 years definitely makes it overdue. For as long as I remember Wikipedia’s website always seemed boring looking to me. There wasn’t ever anything that popped out to my attention, I am very excited to see these changes.

Kurtz, Jason. “Wikipedia Due to Get Its First Substantial Website Redesign in a Decade.” CNN, Cable News Network, 24 Sept. 2020,

Deepfakes and the Microsoft Video Authenticator

With the 2020 presidential election coming up, deepfakes are becoming more and more common, mostly appearing in smear or disinformation campaigns. For those of you who don’t know, a deepfake is media that has been manipulated using artificial intelligence. Recently, Microsoft has introduced a new software, called Microsoft Video Authenticator, to help spot these deepfakes. This new software analyzes each piece of media and can spot some of the tiniest discrepancies, such as grayscale elements and subtle fading that go mostly unnoticed by the human eye. Then, based on these discrepancies, the software assigns a confidence score, or a percentage chance, that the media has been manipulated in some way. And while this confidence score may not always be correct, in an age where misinformation is shared everywhere, it is good to see that someone is finally taking a stand against it.

Facebook to add new Feature to Protect Creators Images

According to Carrie Mihalcik of, Facebook is in the early stages of creating a tool to “help creators and publishers protect their intellectual property” (Mihalcik). Facebook plans to use its Rights Manager for Images to accomplish this. The tool uses “‘image matching technology to help creators and publishers protect and manage their image content'” (Mihalcik). Facebook is launching the tool to “select partners” as of today; however, the firm is hopeful that eventually, all users will receive access. Likewise, the tool will also enable users to “issue image takedown requests and use territorial blocks to restrict images in locations where they hold a copyright” (Mihalcik). Eventually, Facebook plans to roll out the Rights Manager for Images tool for Instagram as well.

Overall, I believe this feature is a step in the right direction for creator rights on social media platforms. Creator image rights are currently a large problem on Instagram. Often large Instagram accounts take entertaining photos or video clips from other smaller accounts and repost them without crediting the original account. The Rights Manager for Images tool could help these smaller accounts, as creators could file a takedown request because they are the original owner of the content. Likewise, sometimes people like to keep a more private profile on social media. This tool would allow users to enhance their privacy by being able to report other accounts who have reposted previously uploaded content. Another circumstance where I see this being useful deals with advertising spaces. Often when on Instagram I come across many ads that repost another user’s post without permission. This tool would prevent other organizations from profiting off of someone’s content without seeking permission first, as the user could report the account to Instagram or Facebook.

Overall, I think the Rights Manager for Images tool will be very helpful in terms of further establishing creator and privacy rights for Facebook and Instagram users. I am interested to see how this affects some of the accounts I follow, as a majority of the content is reposted.


Apple’s iOS 14 Update Brings Unique Changes

Apple recently released iOS 14 on September 16th. However, this was not the typical yearly software update that the majority of iPhone users have grown accustomed to over the years. Instead of implementing smaller changes and keeping things simple, Apple went against its own reputation. One of the new features is the ability for users to become more organized by using the App Library. This feature “autoarranges all the apps on your phone in folders based on app category” (Cipriani). Likewise, widgets were another feature that the new software brought to the iPhone. Essentially, widgets allow the user to customize their home screen to their liking and style. This was a big step for Apple, as originally all iPhone home screens tended to look identical. Also, Picture in Picture was included in the update as well. Picture in Picture enables the user to leave an application that is running a video and continue watching the video while on their home screen or other applications. Once exiting an application, if you are watching a video, the video will continue to play in a smaller window. This allows the user to multitask and is especially useful on applications such as FaceTime.

Overall, I think this was one of the greatest iOS updates to date as many long-awaited changes were finally implemented into the iPhone’s software. However, I think it is interesting how powerful software can be, especially in iPhones. Apple over the past four to five years has integrated some incredible physical features into their devices. A facial recognition system, a gesture-based experience with no home buttons, and top of the line cameras are just a few of Apple’s new improvements on their devices. However, what I think is most interesting about Apple devices deals with the software. I think it is incredible how an iPhone user can have essentially the same user experience on a phone that is 5 years old, such as the iPhone 6s, as they can on a newer device like the iPhone 11. For example, my father has two iPhones, one for work and one as a personal phone. One phone is an iPhone 6s and the other is an iPhone 11. Other than the camera and Apple’s facial recognition system on the iPhone 11, my father believes it is relatively the same experience. Although some may call this a lack of innovation on Apple’s part, I believe this displays the power of iOS and how great the software actually is. Apple has managed to use software to make up for a lack of newer hardware in their older devices.

Overall, although often criticized, I believe Apple’s iOS software is one of the best available on mobile devices. Although other companies may have more innovative hardware, the software is ultimately what drives the user’s experience.


How Would Insurance Work with Self-Driving Cars?

While we were in our breakout rooms during class last Thursday we were weighing the pros and cons having having self driven cars connected to the internet. While I personally think there are so many more cons then pros when it comes to this I think it absolutely needs to be talked about that what would happen if one of these cars got into an accident? I just think it is very troubling if a car that is driving itself hits someone else then who pays the insurance bill?

It can be argued that whoever owned the self-driving car should then be responsible for paying it, but, you also can say that it wasn’t their fault so why should they pay? These are both very great points and things that we need to talk about before we move into this part of the future. So, I looked into it a little bit and unfortunately found there is no clear answer.

People say it can be partially the company that created the companies fault partially. But, in the article I linked below they said that you can not put the sole responsibility of the accident on the manufacture of that car because all self-driving car manufactures are sharing software(Kreindler).

The article also goes on to say how there are currently no “laws” in insurance about these types of accidents. But, if they were to guess they would say that it would have to be the “backup” drivers fault(Kreindler). This is because all self-driving cars now a days require that someone be in the passengers seat just in case something were to go wrong or get in an accident. I just personally can’t imagine the amount of distracted I would get if my car was driving itself.

I’m curious if anybody has any better solutions because I think outside of the cars being hacked this is the only really problem left with self driving cars. And it must be solved if we are going to transition into this.