You want me to unplug what?

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the advances made in certain technologies over the last several years.  It makes my life so much easier (Cut and Paste!!!) and the work lives of library staff much much easier and more efficient.  However, with ease and efficiency also comes the demand for more productivity, right?  

The last time I went camping in Canada I took advantage of the situation and did NOT get international cell phone coverage.  I took along my Kindle for reading (of course) and was able to use the WiFi at the ranger station to check emails (for emergencies) but I was mostly unplugged.

Image result for mary louise lake sleeping giant images

It was hard the first few days ... but then I realized how much I needed a break from the beck and call of technology.  Run to grab the phone, answer the emails asap, read this info bit, schedule this appointment.  By the time my vacation was over I almost dreaded crossing the border and having to reconnect.

Research indicates that we need to unplug/disconnect in order to maintain a healthy balance in our lives.  And as more and more technology becomes readily available, we tend to spend more time than ever on screens: phone, tablet, laptop, PC, television, etc.

There are many articles and websites out there that can provide you with a wealth of information on the benefits of unplugging (and isn't that ironic?) so I'll let you do your own research <grin>.  But this article written for the 2018 Screen-Free Week was one of my favorites.  Here are Five Reasons to take a Break from Screens:

  1. Present-moment awareness
  2. Improved sleep
  3. Deepened connections
  4. Productivity and learning
  5. Breaking habit

And my own, personal reason is to get in more paddling time!

 

ColouriseSG

Want to give your old black and white scanned photos a little bit of a "pop"? Try ColouriseSG!

I saw it mentioned in the "Time Traveling With Timelines: Web Apps for Storytelling in Libraries" article in the July/August 2019 issue of Computers in Libraries and had to take it for a spin. Here are some of the results --- can you tell what the theme of the photos is?

Toddler eating ice cream

Soda Shop

2 women eating ice cream in the park

The ColouriseSG project is brought to you by the Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Division, GovTech Singapore. From the information about the site:

"While it is impossible to replicate the exact conditions in which the original photo was taken, it is possible to add colour to the photo to help us imagine what the photographer could have seen in that instant. It is incredible — almost magical — how a little bit of colour can bring us that much closer to that specific moment in time."

Although the site is designed for Singaporean historical photos, it is available to anyone and is super-easy to use!

Photos taken from this Library of Congress collection: https://www.loc.gov/free-to-use/ice-cream

What's this button called? Part 2

A few years ago I reported on a website and app interface doodad called the hamburger. Recently, I heard an equally droll name for another, similar thing that we now click or tap in our hunt for links to navigate around websites and apps: those 3 dots stacked up, have a name.

They are "The Kebab."

Cheese-olive-and-vegetable-kebab-1318103-640x960

Source: Luke Wroblewski, and thanks to WiLSWorld's keynote speaker, Rebecca Stavick, for mentioning this in her address: "Don’t Ask Permission." If you want to be more serious, you could also call it a vertical ellipsis or overflow menu.

Hungry for more, shall we say, substantive tech knowledge? I do recommend looking at the WiLSWorld 2019 Slides, as they are updated, for inspiring ideas from a great conference.

Colón's manuscript

Usually we write about current and new technologies here but I'm changing it up this time and writing about old library technology.  About 500 years old. 

Hernando Colón, illegitimate son of Christopher Columbus, made creating the largest library in the world at the time his life's work.  Only about a quarter of the around 15-20,000 books he collected in the early sixteenth century still survive.  However, thanks to the discovery of the Libro de los Eptiomes manuscript, we now know have summaries of items that no longer exist. 

Once thought lost after Colón's death, the manuscript is made of nearly 2,000 pages of summaries of the items that had been in the collection. Colón had employed a team of writers to read and create a summary of every item and those summaries became Libro de los Epitomes.  His collection encompassed far more than just the classics, it also included items not usually found in collections of the day like news pamphlets, almanacs and ballads giving an insight into what people commonly read. 

There are currently plans to digitize and transcribe the manuscript. 

New Games for VR Kits

Still haven't checked out the Virtual Reality Kits??  What are you waiting for?!

SCLS has 2 VR Kits available for staff at our member libraries to reserve for programs in their library.  The VR kits contain a PlayStation 4 and all the VR equipment you need to play; however you will need your own TV or projector with an HMDI connection.  Now is a great time to check it out if you haven't yet because we have added a couple new games for everyone to enjoy.

Here is a quick overview of the newest games:

HomeStar VR: View the night sky from anywhere in the world.

Beat Saber:  Imagine if Dance Dance Revolution and Fruit Ninja combined with light sabers: That’s what this game is like.

Titanic VR:  Explore the legendary ship in a submarine.  

Eagle Flight:  Become an eagle and soar through the city of Paris.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes:  A great team game to work on communication and help each other diffuse the bomb.

 

As a reminder these kits are only to be checked out by SCLS librarians and for in-library use only.  Check out our program equipment web page to check availability and reserve a kit today!  

Talk To Books - AI learning and human conversation

If you talked to books, how would they answer?

Google's new project, Talk to Books, is all about learning more about how a computer understands you when you talk to it using everyday language. 

In Talk to Books, when you type in a question or a statement, the model looks at every sentence in over 100,000 books to find the responses that would most likely come next in a conversation. The response sentence is shown in bold, along with some of the text that appeared next to the sentence for context.

You can read more about the project here and you can can try it out here: https://books.google.com/talktobooks/

Craig and I took it for a few spins. Our favorite query was "Why is Craig awesome?" Here are couple of the results that made us giggle (paying attention to the response in bold):

AwesomeCraig
Click on image to view full-size


Interested in more AI-related projects from Google?  Try Semantris.

From Google: "Semantris is a set of word association games powered by machine learning. By training on billions of conversations from the internet, the AI has learned how to predict which words, phrases and even sentences might come next in a conversation." Semantris

There are 2 versions -- Arcade (which is timed) and Blocks (which has a Tetris-y look).

Looks like computers are on well on their way to communicating effectively with us when they take over the world!

Technology straight out of Science Fiction

Today I received an invitation to a readers advisory webinar titled "Why Read Science Fiction and How to Help Those Who Do".  I deleted it because a) I don't work with the public and b) I know why to read science fiction and people would like to find a way to prevent me from telling them what science fiction stories to read and which science fiction authors to read and and ...

Ahem.  While working away at my desk and thinking about what to write for this inaugural 2019 Tech Bits post, I thought "Where's my flying car?"  As an elementary school child in the mid-to-late 1960's I was thrilled by the promise that when I became an adult, I would be zipping around in my own private, flying car.  Just like on the Jetsons.

So ... where's my flying car?

Sadly (or perhaps happily for the local geese population) single-passenger electric aircraft are only just this year getting off the ground for consumers.  Pun intended.  And it is unlikely that I will win a lottery and have enough money to purchase one of these babies ($$$$$!!!!!)  But, to get back to the beginning of this ramble, flying cars are not the only technology that has manifested out of science fiction books, television programs and movies too, for that matter. 

What, don't you think your old flip-top phone bore a marked resemblance to the communicators on Start Trek?  Just sayin' ...

Courtesy of Electric Lit, here are the "8 pieces of Modern Technology That Science Fiction Predicted -- Or Invented.

1888: Credit Cards - Edward Bellamy’s Looking Backward

1911: Video calling - Hugo Gernsback’s Ralph 124C 41+

1931: Mood-Enhancing Pills - Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

1939: Surveillance - George Orwell’s 1984

1968: Tablets - Arthur C. Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

1969: Electric Cars - John Brunner’s Stand On Zanzibar

1972: Bionic Limbs - Martin Caidin’s Cyborg (aka TV’s The Six Million Dollar Man)

1984: The World Wide Web - William Gibson’s Neuromancer

The next time you are offering readers advisory, offer your patrons some titles that will allow them to glimpse the future.  Or help create it.

Other online articles 

13 Everyday Technologies That Were First Imagined In Science Fiction

10 Great Technologies We Got From Science Fiction

The 5 Coolest Technologies from Hard Science Fiction

 

 

 

It's a bird, it's a plane...

When you hear comments about robots taking someone’s job, most people think about a robot that sits on one place doing boring, repetitive tasks. Sure, there are some places that are working on more mobile robots, but they still tend to evoke images of something hauling a load of equipment or being a mobile camera. Enter the robotic stunt person.

No, it’s not a movie or book. Disney Imagineering is working on a robot stunt double, Stuntronics, that can be flung into the air, flip, pose, correct its rotation and center mass as needed and then nail the landing. Only these robots are going to be stunt doubles for other robots. The current idea is to use them to provide a stunt double for other animatronic figures, probably during one of the animatronic shows at the theme parks, to bring a sense of action to what is normally a figure that cannot move from where they sit or stand.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENa98h7M7qY

Looking at that last shot, I can't decide if it needs a cape or some hot rod red.

Fun Friday Quiz: Fact or Opinion?


Facts?

In preparation for my post next week on fake news, here's a fun little 10-question quiz from the Pew Research Center - how well can you tell factual from opinion news statements?

Virtual Reality Kits Now Available

In my last TechBits post, I wrote about the new technology coming to SCLS libraries this year.  I am happy to report that the Virtual Reality kit is now available for libraries to check out!  Not only that, but we also purchased a 2nd kit!  This means more libraries and their patrons will be able to experience and play with VR.VR head set and controllers

These kits include the PS4 gaming console, VR headset, VR camera, controllers, and lots of cables.  All you will need is a projector or TV.  These kits are only to be checked out by SCLS librarians and for in-library use only.  

Check out the SCLS equipment page to check availability and reserve the kit.  Reservations will be handled on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be confirmed with an email from myself or Craig.  The kits can be checked out for up to 10 days, but only one kit at a time.

If you have any questions, you can leave them in the reservation form or send me an email at ewaring@scls.info.