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            A new artificial intelligence (AI) assistant called Tiki was recently invented by a team at UC Berkeley. The invention was based on the goal of creating a virtual assistant that is capable of video streaming things from text or voice questions in order to answers those questions. Some of the questions might be about objects in an image or about the weather.

In the future, this new technology might be used for household surveillance. Tiki is very easy and fast to implement. Visual questions and answers (VQA) is a new field of research which uses both computer vision and natural language processing in order to answer questions. This type of service is expected to be increasingly common across digital devices very soon.

The MTV video awards are coming soon and it seems that Ariana Grande might not be attending. Grande and Taylor Swift received the most nominations for this year’s MTV video awards, they both received 10.  Swift will not attend the show itself but will be performing at the event. In contrast, Grande’s tour schedule will make it hard for her to attend; she happens to have two shows lined up in Europe the days before and after the VMAs event in Newark, New Jersey. The video of the year award will be an interesting battle to watch; Ariana Grande’s video “thank u, next” will compete against Taylor Swift’s video “You Need to Calm Down” for this coveted prize. Furthermore, this competition will be made more interesting by the fact that newly discovered fame will be competing against well-established talent; Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X, two recent breakthrough stars, were also nominated for the video of the year award. The award itself might be determined by what MTV prefers; will it be well established talent or brand-new musical stars?
            Hearing is one of the five senses which technology has successfully aided. Hearing aids are common and successful technologies. Eyeglasses designed to help people to see well have existed since the Middle Ages. Recently, an artificial tongue has been developed by the University of Glasgow. So far, our sense of smell has been harder to enhance. However, a tech start-up called Cyrano Sciences is commercializing an electronic nose designed not just to assist human noses but also to assist sniffer dogs who are used for security purposes. A New Zealand wine dealer has partnered with an artificial intelligence company called Spacetime in order to match wine drinkers with wines they would probably love. American companies IBM and McCormick & Company are trying to use artificial intelligence to learn about people’s taste preferences. There are many philosophical questions about how these new technologies might best be used. One concern is that enhanced tasting experiences might addict people to the foods they already like and prevent them from trying new foods that they don’t currently like; oftentimes people learn to like foods that they used to not like through exposure.
            An article published in the Economist in 2017 said that data is the new oil. Recent history has seen massive amounts of data becoming available on the internet, especially through social media. The data created in the social media universe can be accessed by data miners and artificial intelligence (AI) creators. A 2019 global report on internet use by Tech Jury claims that two hours and twenty-two minutes a day is the average amount of time spent socializing online. AI requires vast amounts of data in order to be successful. This is because it uses massive amounts of data to make predictions. The more data available, the better AI programs will function. As an internet user, you are creating AI just through your data alone. Facebook recently released 87 million profiles to the data analytics firm that was hired by the leave campaign advocating for the UK to remove itself from the EU. Allowing personal ownership of one’s data might be a way to overcome some of the privacy issues which emerged with the digital age. Recent companies such as Wibson have allowed users to own and sell their data on their apps. Time will tell if the public gets tired of the lack of privacy on sites like Facebook and turns to alternatives.

Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft are developing new policies to require games to disclose loot box odds on Xbox One, PS4 and Switch. Loot boxes are common in games such as Overwatch, Call of Duty, Middle-earth: Shadow of War and NBA 2k18. Originally developed for monetizing free-to-play mobile games, they are virtual tools that can be bought in the digital world. Full implementation of this feature is expected in 2020. Some loot box items are cosmetic with no influence on gaming success; however, others are designed to induce players who spend money to succeed. Example: The 2017 game Star-Wars Battlefront II has been criticized for loot boxes requiring full retail prices while not providing the items as expected. Previous industry efforts to limit loot box problems included ratings and password-protected spending controls. The new loot box odds will be presented in a clear and understandable way according to the Entertainment Software Association.

Here’s a quick summary of what’s happening with these new and exciting games.

  • Total Party Kill is a survival battle game based on the classic The Lost Vikings game. It involves leading three heroes safely through dangerous environments. Sacrificing one of the heroes is necessary for at least one hero to survive.
  • Learn to Walk is a hilarious stilt walking game featuring a goat on stilts.
  • Mighty Quest for Epic Loot has a user guide a knight to plunder by sliding a single finger or thumb.
  • Meridian 157 is a mystery problem-solving game in which the user must search for a solution to a power outage.
  • Tharsis is a iOS game about a disaster-prone research ship.
  • Minit is a throwback game filled with puzzles and combat.
  • Serial Cleaner is a 1970s-based crime investigation game.
  • Dr. Mario World is a health game involving killing viruses by releasing capsules.

Amazon Music doesn’t have nearly as many music streamers as Spotify or Apple Music; however, in an effort to recruit more student users Amazon has announced a benefit for Prime Student Members that gives them access to Amazon Music Unlimited for just $0.99 a month. Students without Prime Membership can get a six-month free trial. Amazon Music may be in third position, but its 32-million subscriber base, compared to Spotify’s 217 million and Apple Music’s 60 million, is growing faster, driven by low cost Amazon Echo speakers.  Now the price break is expected to keep the growth moving against their competitors whose services price out at $4.99 a month.

America’s epidemic of gun violence has been linked to video games by President Trump and some commentators.  The data suggests otherwise.  Naturally, the first to object was Stanley Pierre Louis, President and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association who claimed that video games have a positive influence on society. He cited examples of video games being used to support health and education efforts. He also claimed that scientific studies showed that there’s no link between videogames and violence.  What studies?

Benjamin Burroughs, a professor of emerging media at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas says, “There are no longitudinal studies that show a link between violence and video games. Certainly, there is no linkage to gun violence.”

An AP article in the subject states, “Indiana University researchers found [in a small study] that teenagers who played violent video games showed higher levels of emotional arousal but less activity in the parts of the brain associated with the ability to plan, control and direct thoughts and behavior.”

Research by Patrick Markey, a psychology professor at Villanova University, led him to conclude, “The general story is people who play video games right after might be a little hopped up and jerky but it doesn’t fundamentally alter who they are. It is like going to see a sad movie. It might make you cry but it doesn’t make you clinically depressed.” It is pretty clear the video games do not lead to gun violence.  Still, some of these games can be disturbing to young kids and teens.  Their parents have a monitoring role to play. To help them, since 1994 The Education Software Rating Board has provided ratings designed to help parents decide what games are appropriate for their children with ratings that range from “E″ for “Everyone” to “Adults Only” for those 18 and older.  Reviews of games designed for parents can be found through Common Sense Media.

Country music’s first hit was recorded on June 23rd, 1923 in a small brown building at 152 Nassua Street in Atlanta, GA.  Recording engineer, Ralph Peer, captured Fiddlin’ John Carson’s version of two songs on that day, “The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane” and “The Old Hen Cackled and the Rooster’s Going To Crow.”  All five hundred of the records sold quickly.  Peer then took Fiddlin’ John to New York City where, under better conditions, he recorded two more songs, “You Will Never Miss Your Mother Until She Is Gone” and “Old Joe Clark.”  Both sold a million copies and the country music recording business was launched. It all started at 152 Nassau and that building is set to be demolished in a matter of days. Legal and political efforts to prevent the demolition have so far been unsuccessful. That may be because it’s in Atlanta, which, unlike Nashville, is not the historic home of country music where preserving buildings like the Ryman Auditorium are a fait accompli.  

Luke Albert Combs is one of the most popular country stars today.  Inspired by country superstars Tim McGraw and Luke Bryan, he started singing with various bands in high school. Here are some quick Luke facts:

The 29 years old is from North Carolina and he’s not the only one to have had a high school celebrity crush on Jennifer Aniston.  He went onto Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina.

He quit his two jobs after getting his first check for playing music and went on to have a debut hit single called “Hurricane.”

Luke Combs loves food, fishing in the Cumberland River and has a talent for playing Basketball video games.