Last Thursday, the BVX Girls Coding Club organized an afterschool activity for second to fifth graders with the hope of creating more interest in STEM subjects, particularly with girls. With seven types of workshops, the elementary schoolers were encouraged to combine both programming and engineering concepts in their workshops. For example, the LittleBits station, which simulated a circuit formed of electronic building blocks, or the Makey-Makey station, which encouraged creativity by connecting common objects to computer programs. Younger students worked with Cubetto and Dash & Dot, two robots that demonstrate how computers (in this case the robots) took commands that were written into a program (which the students accomplished through basic block based coding). Exposure to such activities left the students excited to learn more, both on their own and in their technology classes. Continue reading “BXV Elementary School Coding Workshops”
Category: Maddie Hanley
Hey Siri, who’s Cortana?
Whether you like it or not, the ghost of Steve Jobs is always listening. The latest iOS updates allows you to ask Siri a question just by saying “Hey Siri” instead of having to press the home button. This improvement, along with improving Siri’s overall intelligence, makes the iPhone superior to its competitors. While most iPhone users do know a little bit about the technology of an Android phone, one of the least talked about differences is the voice assistants.
The Future of Artificial Intelligence
Sophia looks, talks, and acts just like a normal person. The only difference is she has wires instead of veins. She is Hanson Robotics latest and best creation. Sophia presented at the Geneva Conference the first week in June, talking about the benefits of AI robots in society. She talks not only about robots benefits working with senior citizens and children, but she is also an advocate for other forms of AI and robots. She has presented at many different conferences and appeared on several tv talk shows to show off her skills and to talk about how AI is the future. Sophia is constantly assuring people that robots will not take over the world.
In October, Sophia made headlines by becoming the first robot to be granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia. In November, she told the world she was ready to have a baby. Both of these events have created some controversy. Women in Saudi Arabia and around the world were upset to see that she did not have to obey the oppressive laws that other women in Saudi Arabia have to face. She was not wearing a headscarf, nor was she accompanied by a man in her family because she was outside. However, Sophia was quickly able to turn this around and instead began advocating for women’s rights. In the eyes of her creator, David Hanson said Sophia is more like a child herself, than an adult. He says she has the vocabulary of a college educated adult, but because she hasn’t been perfected yet, and because she’s existed for such a short time, in reality she is more like a child.
Unlike less advanced robots with programmed responses, Sophia is made so she can understand what people are saying and then use that information to educate herself and to improve her responses. Back in March of 2016, Sophia made headlines when Hanson asked her “do you want to destroy humans?…Please say ‘no’”. To everyone’s surprise, she said “OK. I will destroy humans.” However, since then Sophia hasn’t made any comments like that, because of her ability to “learn.” Sophia is always learning and becoming smarter and is an incredible example of the future of technology.
Which to Buy: Amazon Echo or Google Home?
The Amazon Echo and Google Home are both hands-free voice activated speakers that you can use to find out the weather, set timers, play music, or ask questions, among other things. With the Google Home pulling it at $129 and the Amazon Echo at $99 (although both are currently on sale for $79), one might choose the Amazon Echo, or “Alexa” just for that reason. However, here are some things to consider:
- Newly released Echo 2nd generation has a new speaker and new design
- Comes in 6 colors
- Can play music from Amazon Music, Pandora, Spotify, or radio apps like Sirius XM and iHeartRadio
- Can make phone calls, set timers, manage shopping lists, request an Uber, or order a pizza
- Can check the weather, your schedule, traffic, or sports scores
- Can connect to and manage compatible televisions, lights, thermostats, sprinklers, garage doors, and other Echo’s
- Available in larger and smaller sizes, the Amazon Echo Plus and Echo Dot, respectfully
- Comes in one color
- Can play music from Google Play Music, Pandora, Spotify, or Youtube Music
- Can make phone calls, set timers, manage shopping lists, request an Uber, or order a pizza.
- Can check the weather, your schedule, traffic, or sports scores
- Can connect to and manage compatible televisions, lights, thermostats, sprinklers, garage doors, and other Google Homes
- Available in smaller and larger sizes, the Google Home Mini and Google Home Max, respectfully
Considering these factors, the two products are practically the same. In my opinion, the most important factor to consider when choosing a voice assistant is how connected you are to the brands. For instance, someone who does all their shopping through Amazon Prime may choose Echo over Google Home, whereas someone who has purchased Youtube Red and the new Google Pixel phone may choose Google Home.
Thinking outside the Blackbox
Blackbox :: infamous puzzles, more commonly known just as Blackbox, is “a refreshingly oppressive puzzle app” that challenges you to think outside the box; the box being your phone. The game has over 4 million downloads and more than 50 innovative levels, with even more available for purchase. What makes this game special is that each level is solved without touching your phone.
Each level is called a “light.” You solve the level by turning on the light, or making the box go from empty to filled in. Some involve turning your phone, using your location, or using your camera. Some technically involve touching your screen, where you have to adjust a setting like the brightness of your screen or your wifi.
When I first got this game I thought it would be pretty easy. I couldn’t really think of many challenges that don’t involve touching the screen. But I was very wrong. The first few levels used the phone’s interface, so I thought that would be the case for most of the levels and tried to do all kinds of things like using siri, taking photos, and charging my phone in hopes of beating the level, but once I figured out that the solution had nothing to do with those things I felt kind of dumb for not figuring it out at first.
The creator of Blackbox, Ryan McLeod, said he was tired of iOS puzzle games and wanted one that granted “ah-hah moments.” I certainly felt this while playing some levels that took hours of me fiddling around in settings or spinning my phone in all directions. Other levels, however, have granted me nothing but frustration, because even though I know how to solve them, either I can’t or I have to wait 30 days. But I know that once I finally beat those levels, I will feel very accomplished. Also, if anyone downloads the app and has a pink QR code, please let me know.