A Web app tailors language learning to your ability, and turns the experience into a game.
A world memory champion and a neuroscientist have joined forces to create a language-learning website called Memrise, which combines mnemonic tricks with a game to help users learn quickly and efficiently. Its carefully paced learning structure and competitive points system, the app’s developers believe, make their site more effective than other language-learning tools.
Memrise makes learning a game with virtual gardens that users must tend. As they do, they also earn points and thereby fight their way up a community-wide leaderboard.
Mandarin Chinese and English are the only languages that have been rolled out yet, but others including French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Arabic can be used in beta form. The app was recently featured at this year’s Boston Techstars event, which presented startups that were chosen to receive investment.
The premise is that each word or phrase is a seed for users to plant in their gardens. A new word is planted when a user is exposed to it. Once planted, the seed sprouts in a few hours and must be harvested—that is, the user is tested, typically by having to type out words or choose characters, depending on the language. With each success, a plant is moved to a greenhouse, where it will thrive or wilt depending on how well the user tends it by practicing with the word.
Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt is bullish on the growth of mobile payments in the coming year.
Speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity today, Schmidt said he believes one-third of all restaurants and retail outlets will allow for mobile payments within the next year, the Financial Times reports him as saying. He reportedly told those in attendance that that number should be enough for widespread adoption of mobile payments.
"I judge that based on how long I think it takes, because the terminals are available now, the software is available now or this summer," the Financial Times reported Schmidt as saying. "How long does it take an infrastructure player to upgrade a significant percentage of their infrastructure—it’s on the order of a year, it’s not a week, it’s not a month but it’s also not five years. It’s an educated guess."
But some consumers, concerned about rising prices and privacy, would rather their electricity meters stayed dumb.
This week Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced new initiatives to support the development of the smart grid. But he also warned that the United States isn’t doing enough to get the grid ready for cheap renewable energy. And he acknowledged privacy concerns are making some utility customers wary of new smart meters, which are a key component of the smart grid.
The initiatives include a nonprofit organization called Grid 21 that will promote new smart-grid technologies to consumers, a student competition aimed at improving energy efficiency at home, a series of meetings about Recovery Act smart-grid projects, and a “rapid response team” to speed up the review of potential energy-transmission projects. The U.S. Department of Agriculture also announced $250 million in loans for rural grid development. Full details can be found here.
Chu predicted that in 10 to 20 years, solar power will cost six to seven cents per kilowatt hour, making it competitive with fossil fuels. Once that happens, he said, there will be a boom in solar panel installations that will strain the grid.
IBM today announced that as part of its Celebration of Service, designed to allow employees, retirees, clients and business partners to donate their time and expertise during the company’s Centennial year, 300,000 IBMers around the world — close to three quarters of its global workforce — are volunteering in more than 5,000 projects in 120 countries, meeting civic and societal challenges and serving millions in need.
Since January 2011, IBMers, retirees and their families have donated more than 2.5 million hours of service to communities worldwide.
"To commemorate our 100 years as a corporation, IBM is setting a record for community service by sharing the best skills of our employees, making a real impact in the communities where we work and live,” said Stanley S. Litow, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, IBM. ”While this represents a historic and record setting amount of service, what is most important is not the large number of employees volunteering nor the millions of hours of service they are providing, it is the high quality of the work that is being done. The impact will go far beyond the one day. We are building on our strong heritage of skills based service – a commitment that is in IBM’s DNA.”
"We’re struggling to get our arms around it," says Tim Mathias, senior director of IT security at Thomson Reuters, whose 55,000 employees worldwide provide news, business information and technology related to financial, media and healthcare. He adds: "It’s a struggle with a technology created for individuals that’s ended up being an important tool for the workplace."
The RIM Blackberry, designed for the corporate world, has traditionally been the smartphone that Thomson Reuters gave its employees. But early last year, many were asking if they could use their other devices, primarily the iPhone and Android devices, for work.
A few months ago, two of the top-winning players on Jeopardy squared off against a computer system named Watson — and lost. Watson was able to navigate the puns and word games that are typical in a Jeopardy question, pore through 200 million pages of natural-language content stored in its memory, and find answers in less than three seconds. This feat may sound like an entertaining bit of trivia, but Watson actually has serious and potentially transformational implications for many Houstonians who work in the oil industry.
The oil industry has been receptive to innovation, especially when it is able to address significant industry challenges. In fact, eight out of 10 global oil and gas executives in a recent IBM study named technology progress as the oil and gas industry’s most important external force in 2030. In fact, one of the biggest challenges technology can help resolve is the sheer volume and velocity of information.
At a recent Society of Petroleum Engineers Digital Energy conference held in The Woodlands, an exploration and production company executive cited the challenge of processing ever-growing volumes of real-time drilling data and then interfacing with multiple interdisciplinary parties on the drilling rig to interpret what is happening or about to happen. The executive went on to say that information technology must address this data challenge, and therefore IT will have the biggest impact on the field of drilling in the future.
That is why a question-and-answer system like Watson that can collect, process and understand data based on natural language within a matter of seconds could have far-reaching implications for the oil and gas industry.
During drilling and completion operations, for example, Watson can take data being collected while a well is being drilled and use sophisticated modeling and scoring techniques, faster than any human, to provide answers such as what is the most efficient way to continue drilling the well, without mishap, and where should the well be completed in the reservoir to optimize production at a reasonable cost. To enhance exploration, Watson could integrate and analyze data from multiple sources and across multiple disciplines, including geophysical/seismic, geological/petrophysical and engineering/operations. This allows engineers and geoscientists more time to adjust and interpret their predictive models rather than collecting data. They can then make decisions more accurately and faster to discover the most efficient way to drill multiple wells, develop the entire field and achieve faster time-to-oil safely and cost-effectively.
Almost all of China’s coastal waters and its inland waterways with grades higher than four have been covered by an Automatic Identification System for ships, according to a recent announcement from the Maritime Safety Administration of China.
The Automatic Identification System for ships involves modern communication, network and information technology. Via ship-based Automatic Identification System devices and a shore-based network, the exchange of data, including identification code, position, course and speed can be realized.
Based on the Automatic Identification System platform, a maritime Internet of Things, which signifies the transformation from traditional navigation to “smart navigation,” can be built. By July 1, 2012, 134,000 ships will carry Automatic Identification System devices.
Papa Gino’s selected the IBM software for on-time, anywhere pizza deliveries in 30 minutes or less, as food ordering capabilities are now available through a new iPhone application. Financial details of the selection were not available.
These business analytics have reportedly given Papa Gino’s increased visibility into the performance of its online customer loyalty campaign, which has recently shown a 50% increase in the total of an average order.
The company now has the ability to compare this and other performance data from all of its marketing and promotions activities with pizza sales and frequency of transactions and then measure them against the company’s performance goals.
Now, as a result, Papa Gino’s can tailor its mobile commerce campaign more effectively to help increase both the average ticket price as well as ordering frequency, IBM said.
Customers prefer to get offers and promotions by text or e-mail. Mid-sized companies like this New England pizza chain are getting ahead with analytics-driven offers and logistics. The new technology is even taking the guesswork out of telling customers exactly when their orders will be delivered.
Chi Onwurah is the Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne Central and shadow innovation and science minister
My debate on machine to machine communications (M2M) will be transmitted by BBC Parliament at 9.52 on Sunday morning (read the full transcript here). Clearly they are expecting a peak audience for what is, I think, the first time the subject of M2M communications has been raised in the House.
Interestingly the first mention of the internet in the House was in February 1990, by then conservative MP Emma Nicholson in a debate on the Computer Misuse Bill. At that time only 3 million people worldwide had access to the internet, mainly academics and the military, 73 per cent of them living in the US.
Twenty one years later there are estimated to be 2 billion regular internet users, only 13 per cent in the US, 44 per cent in Asia.
And that figure is set to grow. The internet has revolutionised our lives. M2M communications are the next stage in this revolution, when, having connected people we move on to connecting machines.
M2M will enable what is called the internet of things. Ericsson estimates that by 2020 there will be 50 billion “things” connected to the internet.
Other analysts put the ultimate figure for connected devices in the trillions.
Mostly these will be monitors and sensors - for example in lamp-posts so they know when to switch off; in salmon so that we can track their response to global warming; in rivers and wetlands to monitor the state of our environment; in bridges checking for cracks; in transported goods, to reduce theft; in electricity meters so we can save energy; in credit cards to that we can have contactless payment; in fridges so that they can automatically order more vegetables for us and even in our bodies if we are unwell and may need medical assistance.
A material called graphene has been making lots of headlines in science journals, and is sometimes even discussed as a potential successor to silicon in computer chips. IBM doesn’t buy that prediction, but is still betting big on the substance.
The computer maker Thursday said it built an integrated circuit from graphene that operates at up to 10 gigahertz, suggesting even higher frequencies were possible–-up in the ranges favored for applications like military communications.
Perhaps more significantly, IBM said the research showed proved that graphene can be fabricated on a wafer–-the technique used in making ordinary chips–-and that a graphene transistor can be bonded with components made with conventional materials. Those have been big challenges in working with the material so far.
“Media companies need to be able to extract data from all aspects of their business processes – so they have a real-time and more holistic view of what’s actually happening within their business. Information – about operations efficiency, content production and distribution, consumer preference and behavior – needs to be translated into intelligence to help executives make better decisions sooner and get the most out of their resources. I see three core analytics opportunities emerging for media and entertainment companies….”—
Google, Apple, and Amazon are pushing more and more of your entertainment, your data — heck, your life — into the cloud. But what’s it mean for the wireless network operators who are already struggling to keep up with heavy data demand?
Each of these companies recently announced new digital storage services for music. The idea is that people can put their music in the “cloud,” which is really a remote data center. The “cloud” becomes the central repository for all of your music, pictures, and other data. And you simply connect to it via any broadband connection available to access it.
There are plenty of benefits to this, of course. For one, it’s incredibly convenient, especially when you’re connecting wirelessly. As Apple CEO Steve Jobs pointed out during his keynote earlier this week where the iiCloud service was announced, he said that it will eliminate the headache of syncing each device.
But using these services will no doubt eat up a lot more bandwidth than just downloading a song one time to your computer or smartphone. Once music moves to the cloud, you could be downloading that same song every time you sync your device or even every time you listen to it. And once Apple or Google start offering video in the cloud, the problem may get even worse.
Can wireless networks, which are already buckling under the load of simple mobile browsing, handle it?
International Business Machines Corp, the world’s largest computer-services provider, is using its technology knowledge to help preserve medieval art in a bid to gain clients seeking to make their buildings more efficient.
IBM is installing sensors at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York that will monitor room temperature, humidity and chemicals and automatically make adjustments to preserve art, the company said in a statement. The project is starting in the museum’s Cloisters branch, which houses medieval art, and will later expand to the rest of the museum.
The project is part of the Armonk, New York-based company’s bid to digitally monitor buildings — and everything from traffic and utilities to hospitals — to make them more efficient. The initiative, coined Smarter Planet, is expected to generate $10 billion in sales for IBM by 2015. The global market for managing buildings specifically should more than triple to $10.2 billion in that time frame, according to Framingham, Massachusetts-based research firm IDC.