Technology for Good — Combating Inequality, Mental Health, Energy, and More
Emerging Tech Roundup — October 16th
The Quantious team’s top picks for timely trending news in the tech world.
This week in tech: Girls work with Instagram to address online harassment, Snapchat supports good mental health, VR helps with memory recall and retention, Amazon releases fun AR experiences, Microsoft makes a breakthrough in AI, and Facebook explores ways to efficiently store and use renewable energy.
Instagram & Plan International Team Up With Girl Activists To Address Online Harassment
(PR Newswire, October 11)
Instagram is working with Plan international, a group dedicated to helping women and girls overcome oppression and gender inequality, to address online harassment. Recently, the group released a report that surveyed 14K girls in 22 countries, and the findings showed that 58% of respondents had been harassed or abused across social media platforms. To address this, Plan international will have a panel that shares girls’ real social media experiences and discusses how platforms like Instagram can help protect girls from online bullying moving forward,
Social Media Platforms Team Up to Address Rising Stress Levels Among Snapchatters
(NewsGram, October 11)
Snapchat teamed up with Headspace, a leader in mindfulness and meditation, to offer two guided meditation experiences to users. One experience centers around practicing kindness, and the other focuses on dealing with uncertainty at school. These experiences were released as a way to support mental health in light of survey results showing that 73% of Snapchatters in the US feel more stressed than the prior week, and more than half are more stressed now compared to last year. After being available for just one month, more than 5 million Snapchatters have engaged with the experiences.
The Science Of Virtual Reality: How VR Helps With Memory Retention
(VR Focus, October 12)
Our brains constantly filter, process, and organize information into short or long-term memory. Remembering and recalling information requires moving information from short-term memory into long-term memory, which typically involves repetition or using our senses of sight and sound. Two recent studies explored how VR can play a role in improving this process. In one, researchers explored recall ability in VR versus desktops and tablets, and the other dove into whether VR impacts memory retention. The findings showed that participants scored 10% higher in recall ability when using VR, and retention was also better since VR presented a more gamified, enjoyable experience.
Amazon Launches an AR App that Works with new QR Codes on its Boxes
(Tech Crunch, October 12)
Amazon launched a new augmented reality app, “Amazon Augmented Reality,” which uses QR codes on Amazon shipping boxes to create interactive, shareable experiences. The app is currently available for free across iOS and Android, and the QR-enabled Amazon boxes have just started to roll out. This app could be the latest in a way to test whether AR products and experiences are in demand, though the App Store notes that data from the app will only be stored on the device used, rather than being “stored, processed or shared by Amazon.”
What’s That? Microsoft’s Latest Breakthrough, Now in Azure AI, Describes Images as well as People Do
(Microsoft AI Blog, October 14)
Microsoft has made a leap in image auto-captioning with its newest artificial intelligence system, which is 2x better than the previous model used since 2015. Now, Microsoft can automatically provide highly accurate captions that describe what’s shown in a given image, which is especially helpful for users who are blind or have low vision. This new model aims to make Microsoft products and services more accessible and inclusive, and it’s available now to Azure AI customers.
Facebook Deploys its AI to Find Green Energy Storage Solutions
(Engadget, October 14)
Renewable energy sources tend to be unpredictable, so at times, we’ve had an excess of energy come through these methods. But what happens to that extra energy? Today, we generally put excess wattage into local grids, or store it in utility-scale batteries. However, researchers believe that there may be better ways to store and use this energy. To explore what’s possible, Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University have teamed up with their Open Catalyst Project. This initiative leverages an extensive dataset to train machine learning algorithms with the hope of speeding up the process for evaluating which candidates would be effective for this renewable energy excess.