Tag Archives: Lifestyle

The Most Important Education Technology in 200 Years

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If you were asked to name the most important innovation in transportation over the last 200 years, you might say the combustion engine, air travel, Henry Ford’s Model-T production line or even the bicycle. The list goes on.

Now answer this one: What’s been the single biggest innovation in education?

Don’t worry if you come up blank. You’re supposed to. The question is a gambit used by Anant Agarwal, the computer scientist named this year to head edX, a $60 million MIT-Harvard effort to stream a college education over the web, free, to anyone who wants one. His point: It’s rare to see major technological advances in how people learn.

Agarwal believes that education is about to change dramatically. The reason is the power of the web and its associated data-crunching technologies. Thanks to these changes, it’s now possible to stream video classes with sophisticated interactive elements, and researchers can scoop up student data that could help them make teaching more effective. The technology is powerful, fairly cheap and global in its reach. EdX has said it hopes to teach a billion students.

Online education isn’t new—in the United States more than 700,000 students now study in full-time “distance learning” programs. What’s different is the scale of technology being applied by leaders who mix high-minded goals with sharp-elbowed, low-priced Internet business models.

In the stories that will follow in this month’s business report, MIT Technology Review will chart the impact of free online education, particularly the “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, offered by new education ventures like edX, Coursera, and Udacity, to name the most prominent

These ideas affect markets so large that their value is difficult to quantify. Just consider that a quarter of the American population, 80 million people, is enrolled in K–12 education, college, or graduate school. Direct expenditures by government exceed $800 billion. Add to that figure private education and corporate training.

Because education is economically important yet appears inefficient and static with respect to technology, it’s often cited (along with health care) as the next industry ripe for a major “disruption.” This belief has been promoted by Clayton Christensen, the influential Harvard Business School professor who coined the term “disruptive technology.” In two books on education, he laid a blueprint for online learning: It will continue to spread and get better, and eventually it will topple many ideas about how we teach—and possibly some institutions as well.

In Christensen’s view, disruptive technologies find success initially in markets “where the alternative is nothing.” This accounts for why online learning is already important in the adult education market (think low-end MBAs and nursing degrees). It also explains the sudden rise of organizations such as Khan Academy, the nonprofit whose free online math videos have won funding from Bill Gates and adoring attention from the media. Khan gained its first foothold among parents who couldn’t afford $125 an hour for a private math tutor. For them, Salman Khan, the charming narrator of the videos, was a plausible substitute.

Khan’s simple videos aren’t without their critics, who wonder whether his tutorials really teach math so well. “We agree 100% we aren’t going to solve education’s problems,” Khan responds. But he says the point to keep in mind is that technology-wise, “We’re in the top of the first inning.” He’ll be pouring about $10 million a year into making his videos better—already there are embedded exercises and analytics that let teachers track 50 or 100 students at once. Pretty soon, Khan told me, his free stuff “will be as good or better than anything anyone is charging money for.”

Digital instruction faces limits. Online, you will never smell a burning resistor or get your hands wet in a biology lab. Yet the economics of distributing instruction over the web are so favorable that they seem to threaten anyone building a campus or hiring teachers. At edX, Agarwal says, the same three-person team of a professor plus assistants that used to teach analog circuit design to 400 students at MIT now handles 10,000 online and could take a hundred times more.

So where are we on the online education curve? According to a study from Babson College, the number of U.S. college students who took at least one online course increased from 1.6 million in 2002 to 6.1 million, or about a third of all college students, in 2010. The researchers, I. Elaine Allen and Jeff Seaman, found signs that the growth rate of online classes might be starting to slow. But their study didn’t anticipate the sudden entry of premier universities into online education this year. Coursera, an alliance between Stanford and two dozen other schools, claims that it had 1.5 million students sign up.

Even though only a small fraction of those will actually complete a class, the rise of the MOOCs means we can begin thinking about how free, top-quality education could change the world. Khan’s videos are popular in India, and the MOOC purveyors have found that 60% of their sign-ups are self-starters from knowledge-hungry nations like Brazil and China. Nobody knows what a liberal application of high-octane educational propellant might do. Will it supersize innovation globally by knocking away barriers to good instruction? Will frightened governments censor teachers as they have the web?

Technology will define where online education goes next. All those millions of students clicking online can have their progress tracked, logged, studied and probably influenced, too. Talk to Khan or anyone behind the MOOCs (which largely sprang from university departments interested in computer intelligence) and they’ll all say their eventual goal isn’t to stream videos but to perfect education through the scientific use of data. Just imagine, they say, software that maps an individual’s knowledge and offers a lesson plan unique to him or her.

Will they succeed and create something truly different? If they do, we’ll have the answer to our question: Online learning will be the most important innovation in education in the last 200 years.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/08/education-technology/

Disney to Make Augmented Reality Birthday Cakes

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Disney has filed a patent that describes its plans for projector systems to produce augmented reality cakes and other food products. Along with sensors, these could be used to display images and videos on the surface, or create customized storybooks and interactive experiences.

According to Gizmag, the patent outlines two methods for projecting onto a cake. One uses a small projector built into a cake topper and the other connects a computer to an overhead projector, with the addition of sensors for tracking movement.

Using AR technology, video clips or slideshows of photos could be displayed. Someone could thumb through a virtual storybook, wave fairy dust on top of the cake with an accompanying wand or shine a light onto the food to reveal hidden objects. Digital worlds could be mapped out over the surface and people would be able to interact with them by removing pieces of the food or using special props.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Ken’s Oven

This article originally published at PSFK
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/10/disney-reality-birthday-cakes/

Loom Decor Puts Professional Design Materials in Your Hands

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The Fabric World Interiors store in London.
Image: Flickr, Herry Lawford

During her time at a top New York City interior-design firm, Ashley Gensler became frustrated by the exclusivity of the industry; most products are available only “to the trade,” and high fees limit access to great design. Armed with an MBA from the MIT Sloan School of Management and a background in design, Gensler set out to change this industry standard, launching Loom Decor in 2012. She and co-founder Nichole Ocepek have built Loom into a comprehensive online resource for high-end custom textile furnishings at prices accessible to customers and designers alike.

Gensler talked with us about why they started the business and what technology made it possible.

BND: What problem were you hoping to solve with your business?

A.G.: Fundamentally, I believe DIY decorators like me should have the same access to gorgeous, high-quality decor as professional designers do, and at an accessible price. Unfortunately, the traditional interior-design market is highly exclusive, offering most products only through professional designers. Antiquated supply chains and structures make most of those products, especially fabrics, too expensive for 99 percent of homeowners. So, I set out to make custom home decor accessible to the masses. Combining easy-to-use online configuration tools, complimentary design assistance, and access to more than 400 designer-quality fabrics and customizable products, Loom offers the same high-end custom textiles highlighted in the professionally designed homes of shelter publications, but at a fraction of the cost.

BND: Could your business have existed 20 years ago?

A.G.: Not in terms of the ease of service and experience we provide, nor to the market we serve. There have been workrooms doing custom decor for interior designers for a hundred years, but empowering consumers to design their own decor was not an option 20 years ago, for several reasons.

The technology for dynamic visualization and online configuration, which is key to customers’ ability to see what they are about to purchase, was not available (at least not at a cost that would have made sense).

Consumers’ interest in personalization and DIY was just evolving at the time. The expectation back then was that you would hire an interior designer (if you could afford it), and if you couldn’t, then you would just have to settle with what was available in stores. Thus, the mentality to want to purchase custom decor specific to your style and vision was not in the consumer psyche. Now, we have a plethora of blogs, DIY shows and online resources that not only educate and empower, but encourage the average homeowner to want to take on their own decorating projects.

While you could likely access some of these services in stores or by calling someone (in which case you would have to know a lot about what you wanted), an online experience 20 years ago would have been so clunky that nobody would have wanted to use it. After all, most people didn’t even like to shop for basic items online 20 years ago, let alone be involved in the design process.

BND: What modern technology (or technologies) has made your business possible?

A.G.: Dynamic visualization software is the No. 1 technology that has enabled our business. This technology is at the crux of the experience of creating or modifying your own furnishing. These are big purchases for homeowners, and they live with them for a long time.
Most people have a very hard time visualizing the choices they are making — like what a certain print will look like as a curtain — and dynamic visualization software allows us to show them exactly what their product will look like before they buy it — not just some unrealistic rendition, but with photorealistic quality. This also allows us to show a catalog of thousands of furnishings. Each product silhouette is available in hundreds of different fabrics. We don’t even need to take inventory or photograph all of those items individually, which would be cost-prohibitive, knowing that we would have to keep up with the latest trends and carry more unique, chic styles than a mass-market ready-made approach can allow.

BND: Is there a technology you can’t live without?

A.G.:My iPhone. As an entrepreneur, I’m so busy that I feel like I have to make use of every little moment. So, I have my smartphone out on my commute into work, emailing away and planning out my day before I ever step foot into the office. Plus, it’s great for jotting down ideas when I’m out and about, and for browsing design mags and Pinterest for creative inspiration. And, let’s be honest — who doesn’t love the games (when I have five minutes to play them)?

BND: If you could hire one extra person right now, what would you have him or her do?

A.G.: Marketing, marketing, marketing. The hardest part of starting up a business is getting in front of your potential customers and breaking through all the noise. Not only are we up against large, established retailers, but as a new company, we don’t have a long history with Google or with the industry, so we have to build credibility to jump-start our SEO, increase our press coverage and build an email list, among many other things. It’s starting from ground zero, and you don’t have a business if you don’t have customers.

BND: What technology do you wish existed?

A.G.: We would really like to be able to show our products in our customers’ homes. I wish there were a much more sophisticated way for users to take photos of their rooms and, with just a few clicks, make a 3D model that they could then start “modifying” as part of their decorating process.

The basic technology exists — larger companies are already using apps and programs that allow them to create 3D modeling and use augmented reality. But it’s the user experience that is still clunky. The imagery is often unrealistic, which can sometimes be a turnoff (for the furnishing you are considering).

BND: What app are you relying on most right now?

A.G.: My Measures & Dimensions on the iPhone and iPad. My husband and I are house hunting, and it’s coming in very handy for recording dimensions during open houses. It lets you snap a picture using your camera and write dimensions directly on the image. Plus, our stylists swear by it for measuring windows for drapery.

BND: What technology do you think is most overrated?

A.G.: Google Glass. First, it kind of freaks me out. Someone once showed me how it works and said, “See? I just blinked and took your picture.” I mean, at least with a cellphone, you can see when someone is being creepy! Second, it’s already bad enough that we are glued to our phones half the time when we are out with friends (me included). Imagine if everyone were staring off into “Terminator” space. Talk about impersonal!

BND: What’s the most valuable non-tech skill an entrepreneur needs?

A.G.: The ability to communicate a vision. As an entrepreneur, you have to be able to not only envision what you want to build (or, better yet, what your customerswant to build), but also describe it in a compelling way not only to investors, but literally everybody you encounter in business. That includes your customers, to get them to purchase and advocate for you, as well as your partners and vendors, to get them to work with you and believe in your concept. And, most importantly in my mind, you need to communicate your vision to your team, not only to convince great people to come work for you, but also to get them all aligned to work toward a common vision.

This article originally published at BusinessNewsDaily
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/03/03/ashley-baker-gensler-loom-decor/

Playing Catch With Grover Is the Future of Video Gaming

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You would think after 42 seasons, the creative minds behind Sesame Street would run out of ways to educate and entertain kids.

Sesame Workshop has teamed up with Microsoft to create Kinect Sesame Street TV — one of the most innovative children’s video games we’ve seen in a while. With the help of the Microsoft Kinect sensor, it puts kids (and adults) into the game, letting them engage and interact with their favorite characters.

We were immediately impressed with the way the game offers simple instructions to help kids set up their position in front of the Kinect. Cooper, a new furry character on Sesame Street, created digitally just for this season, introduces himself and guides the user as they place themselves in front of a mirror. This is really helpful because kids have a natural tendency to creep closer to the TV as they play and talk to the characters.

And kids will play with them! There are eight interactive games that take kids through everything you would expect from a Sesame Street title. Elmo offers instructions on how to play with him and Paul Ball, another new character.

The characters introduce words; concepts like over and under, numbers, letters, and free play. But this play gets kids up and off the couch.

Our favorite game is playing catch with Grover. Typical Grover, he’s made a mess, dropped all his coconuts and needs help him picking them up. Kids make a throwing motion and toss them back, while he does silly things before catching them and putting them in his box. There’s no winning or losing here. If the child doesn’t respond, Cookie Monster simply comes along and picks up a coconut for Grover.

Elmo’s World is an augmented reality scene where kids are transported to Elmo’s play world, helping him water plants and touch the stars.

Kinect Sesame Street TV is available now on Xbox 360.

Check out the video to see it in action and let us know what you think about video games becoming this interactive. Does this make you more likely to let your kids play?

Photo courtesy of Microsoft.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/18/playing-catch-with-grover-is-the-future-of-video-gaming/

Genomics Solves Medical Mystery

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Between June and December of last year, 17 patients at the Clinical Center of the U.S. National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. came down with a bloodstream infection. Six of them died.

Doctors knew that a patient had arrived with Klebsiella pneumoniae in June, but it wasn’t clear how the bacterium, a common culprit in hospital-acquired infections, was passed around, or whether several different patients had simply brought it in with them.

By taking bacterial samples from the patients and certain hospital equipment and analyzing the genomes of the different strains, researchers traced the organism’s meandering path as it cut a deadly swath through the facility. The study, published today in Science Translational Medicine, represents the first such use of whole-genome scanning in a hospital during an outbreak.

The sequencing was possible because it is now cheap and fast enough to do in near-real time, says Julie Segre, an author of the paper and a senior investigator at the National Human Genome Research Institute. Each of the genome sequences cost about $2,000 last year. The price has since dropped to about $500.

The scans revealed that the germs originated from one patient, that their path through the hospital was different than expected and that current methods for combating such hospital-acquired infections are inadequate. Instead of jumping from the first patient who showed signs of the blood infection to the second, as the epidemiologists had expected, the bacterium had taken a much more complex route.

Patient 1, a 43-year-old New Yorker, passed it independently to patients 3, 4 and 8, whose cases appeared more than a month later. Patient 8 didn’t pass it further, but the strain from patient 3 was found in patients 5 and 2, and the rest of the patients got it from patient 4, the analysis showed.

Researchers believe the germ was transmitted on hospital workers’ hands. Moreover, scans of bacteria from one patient’s ventilator showed that the typical cleaning process was inadequate to rid the machine of the bacteria. Although the germs were not transmitted via the ventilator in this case, they may very well be transmitted that way elsewhere, says Tara Palmore, an infectious disease physician and deputy hospital epidemiologist at the Clinical Center, who was an author of the study.

George Weinstock, associate director of the Genome Institute at Washington University in St. Louis and professor of genetics and microbiology, says that the extra level of detail provided by whole-genome sequencing allowed epidemiologists to truly understand the path of disease for the first time.

The lessons learned from such detailed tracking, he says, “are going to lead to more sophisticated epidemiological studies in public health, so that we’re more often going to get the true answer to what’s going on, rather than the simplest.” The next step, he says, will be to do this kind of analysis in real time, so that far fewer people will die before an outbreak is stemmed.

The outbreak highlights the strong need for improved infection control protocols. “We have very few antibiotics left,” Segre says. “The only way to stop this is with better infection control. The best way to keep the American people healthy is to keep them from getting sick.”

Image courtesy of iStock, zilli.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/22/genomics-medical-mystery/

Celestial Scorpion Reigns in Night Sky

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There’s a giant scorpion hovering overhead, but have no fear. This creepy crawler is actually the constellation Scorpius — all sparkle and no sting.

In his book The Stars in Our Heaven — Myths and Fables (Pantheon Books, 1948), author Peter Lum writes:

The scorpion is essentially a creature of darkness, a furtive little animal that lurks in the shadows, hides under stones or in any dark crevice and cannot bear to face the light … only at night does it come out in search of its prey. Although seldom fatal (its sting) is extremely painful; hence the scorpion is usually disliked, feared and avoided by anyone who has ever come in contact with him.

But so far as stargazing is concerned, it’s a whole different story, as Lum is quick to point out:

The scorpion may be an insignificant and ugly little beast, but the stars that bear its name form one of the most beautiful and conspicuous constellations in the sky. What is more remarkable is that it looks like a scorpion. At least it looks like some creature with a long and curving tail, or like a … great fish hook.

And if you face due south at around 11 p.m. local time this week, you may be able to get the best view of this magnificent star pattern — the constellation Scorpius — which ironically represents a lowly, creepy-crawly thing that has few friends.

Scorpius is a constellation that can be best appreciated by southerners. Those who live in the far-northern United States, southern Canada or the British Isles will have part or even all of its tail hidden below the southern horizon. As one progresses farther south, the Scorpion slowly climbs the southern sky.  For those who live in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, northern Argentina, Uruguay, most of Brazil, northern Chile and southern Peru Scorpius lies directly overhead. The Milky Way Galaxy passes through the lower extremities of the Scorpion.  Here, clouds of stars and dark interstellar dust combine in a bewildering array as seen in binoculars and amateur telescopes.

The Scorpion’s brightest star is the first-magnitude Antares, displaying a reddish hue. To the ancients, this distinctive red color suggested the planet Mars, and the name Antares means literally “The Rival of Ares” — Ares being the Greek name for the God of War. I’ve always felt that even on those occasions when Mars outshines Antares, it still rivals Mars in terms of its fiery color. The so-called Red Planet actually glows with an orange-yellow luster, whereas the star Antares always glows with ruddy hue. In the time of Confucius, Chinese astronomers called this star Ta Who, “The Great Fire.”

Antares is a cool, red supergiant star, about 604 light-years away. It is 9,000 times more luminous and about 700 times the diameter of our sun. If our solar system were centered on Antares, the orbit of the Earth would easily fit inside the star. Put another way, if we could reduce our sun down to the size of a baseball, Antares would be a globe measuring more than 134 feet (nearly 41 meters) in diameter.

Yet, despite these impressive statistics, it should be noted that the overall density of Antares is less than one-millionth that of the sun. Antares is also relatively cool as stars go, only about 6,500 degrees Fahrenheit (3,593 degrees Celsius) compared to 11,000 degrees Fahrenheit (6,093 degrees Celsius) for the sun. The star’s low temperature accounts for its ruddy color.

Antares also has a small, very hot companion, bluish-white in color, but yet has been described appearing as “… a little spark of glittering emerald” because of its proximity and contrast to ruddy Antares. The two stars orbit each other over a span of nearly 900 years, separated by a distance of about 500 times Earth’s distance from the sun.

Of all the constellations, only Orion can boast more bright stars than Scorpius. And indeed, there were mythological reasons for the scorpion’s placement in our summer sky. The most famous legend has Scorpius representing the creature that stung Orion, the Mighty Hunter to death. To honor Orion, the Scorpion was placed opposite him in the sky, so that these celestial antagonists will never meet again. And supposedly that’s why when Orion is disappearing below the western horizon during spring evenings, the Scorpion is beginning to poke his head up in the southeast.

Image courtesy of Luis Argerich/Flickr

Editor’s note: If you snap an amazing photo of the night sky and you’d like to share it for a possible story or image gallery on SPACE.com, please send images and comments, including equipment used, to managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmer’s Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for News 12 Westchester, N.Y. Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/28/weekend-stargazing-celestial-scorpion-reigns-in-night-sky/

14 Phone Charms Good Enough to Eat

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Top 10 Pinterest Pins This Week

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Can You 3D Print Your Dream Home?

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If you love LEGOs, you might have imagined building a real house from them. And with the surging popularity of 3D printers, such a dream seems well within reach. Nick Johnson, a spokesman for real estate blog Movoto, decided to find out what it would take to build a 3D-printed house.

“Given that we’re due to get our own 3D printer here in the Movoto office soon, I pretty much couldn’t be more excited by the possibilities the technology introduces,” Johnson wrote in a company blog post. “So, with that, I thought I’d look into exactly how realistic it would be to print the components needed to build a house using one of these devices.”

As it turns out, if you were to use today’s 3D printing technology, you would be long dead by the time your pieces were printed. In fact, it would take 220 years, four months and 11 days for a single machine to print the 27,735 bricks required to construct a 2,500-square-foot (232 square meters), two-story house. And if you think the endeavor sounds time-costly, you should read the price tag: $332,820 in plastic alone.

Johnson based his calculations on a MakerBot Replicator 2 printer and jumbo-size bricks measuring 8 in by 3.5 in by 2.75 in (20.3 cm by 8.9 cm by 7 cm). It would take nearly three days to print a single brick, and each brick would cost about $12 in ABS material. (ABS plastic filament is a must for this project, as the alternative — PLA — would begin to melt under the heat of the sun.) You can try Johnson’s calculator for yourself:

By Movoto

But industrial 3D printing experts tell a different story.

Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor at the University of Southern California who heads the Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Program, stunned a TED Talk audience earlier this year by showing it’s possible to 3D print a 2,500-square-foot house in about 20 hours. Khoshnevis called the process “Contour Crafting,” which would use a gigantic 3D printer erected over the footprint of where a building will stand. The 3D printer extrudes a concrete mixture, building a house layer by layer, the same way a desktop 3D printer makes a plastic figurine.

Khoshnevis said it’s the cheapest form of construction — less expensive than prefabricated housing and infinitely customizable. “Every building can be very different just by changing the design,” he said. “You could execute really exotic architectural features without incurring additional costs.”

Once the basic structure was completed, finish work, tiling and even painting could also be done automatically with the kind of printers used for rendering billboards, he said.

Khoshnevis is currently working with NASA to design structures suitable for living on the moon. But long before Moon colonization becomes a reality, you may be able to print your own custom home here on Earth — imagine leasing a Contour Crafting machine at your local Home Depot.

Image courtesy of Simon Farnworth

This article originally published at TechNewsDaily
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/20/3d-print-dream-home/

10 Halloween Masks You Can Print at Home

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