Unmute Presents Friday Finds: Empowering Tech? Social Media Revamp & Canine AI

In this episode of Friday Finds, we share good news about the resolution of the iOS 17 braille display bug. We also discuss a smart headband called EYECAN, designed to assist blind individuals in navigating swimming pools. We explore the changing landscape of social media and the emergence of platforms offering more control. Additionally, we mention the development of a language model for robotic dogs and express gratitude to our listeners.# You can tune into this call live every Tuesday.

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00:06.090 –> 14:14.180
Hello and welcome. You’re listening to Friday Finds for September 1, 2023. I’m Lynn Schneider, and I thank you so much for joining me today. Let’s start today’s episode with some good news. About three weeks ago or so, you might remember that we a segment on this program where we expressed some concern about some braille display connectivity bugs in the betas of iOS 17. And there was concern that these bugs might not be addressed in time for the September twelveTH release. So I’m happy to report that based on some posts from the Mantis users list, it seems that thankfully, the connectivity bug has been addressed. And so we can all get excited now about iOS 17, which is coming up in a couple of weeks. And we thank everybody involved in the process of isolating this braille bug situation and resolving it in time for the release. So I have been totally blind from birth, and over the years, I have seen some crazy stuff invented for blind folks to solve problems that gosh, we didn’t even know we had. So I thought this post was very interesting. I saw it in many different places on the Internet, and it concerns a company called ICANN EYECAN. And these great folks have invented for us a smart headband to help us navigate public swimming pools and other aquatic spaces, lest we lose our way or, God forbid, accidentally make uninvited contact with another human being. So this device uses bone conduction and vibration technology to help the user detect objects in real time. And it even has a camera that scans the bottom of the pool and the area directly in front of the swimmer, and then it gives feedback to the user. There are chips on both sides of the person’s head, and then there’s a processor in the back, and it does all these, I guess, artificial intelligent things. I don’t know. Well, I’m trying to say this with a straight face, actually. I mean, how would you feel about wearing this device? Do you really think, as a blind person, that you need it? Is it something is navigating in a swimming pool? Is that one of your challenges? Now, according to this article, they say that blind folks have challenges around swimming. For example, we can become disoriented. We can whack our head on objects like coming too close to the edge of the pool, for example. And worse than that, we have trouble staying in our own lane. Yes, I definitely have that problem, even outside of the swimming pool. Anyway, I just don’t know. How do you guys feel about this? Is this something that I guess if you’re in a swimming competition, maybe this might help, or if you’re in a really crowded swimming pool, but I wonder what this thing looks like. Are you going to look like some kind of space cadet with this thing on in public? And is this going to give you negative attention or positive attention. People might just be really intrigued, but you would probably stand out. But anybody in the audience that tries this thing out, I would love to see a review of it. I don’t plan to purchase it anytime soon, but maybe I could be convinced. Now, one of the conversations that has been occurring lately in many different places concerns what is happening with social media? And there was an article that I thought was interesting in Business Insider, but there are other articles that are similar that are talking about how people nowadays are just not posting to social media like they used to and they just feel like there’s a lot of pressure and it’s not fun anymore. In fact, I saw one headline that said something like is Social Media Dead? And of course that is sort of a clickbaity headline. But it does beg the question, doesn’t it, that when you see the turmoil that’s happening in Twitter and in some of these other spaces, what is the future of social media? In the article it says that social media now is more media than social people have learned. Creators have learned how to game the system to get their content, more exposure through the algorithms, and it’s become really a big business for a lot of creators. So the article kind of mentions that average people are feeling like their favorite social media spaces are being taken up now with influencers marketing stuff that they really don’t want to see or they’re being fed content that they really don’t want. And they also feel like now there’s no place for them in this ecosystem. The person that wakes up jumps out of bed, they’re in their pajamas and they have their cat in their arms, their hair is out of place or whatever. Is there a place for them in this new, perfectly polished social media landscape where everyone looks perfect and not a hair out of place? So yeah, people are just feeling like they want a different kind of interaction with people and they want to go back to the old days when it was more social and less media. So there are platforms that are springing up that allow people to have more control over what they see and who they communicate with. Now, this is a good thing in a way, but the article mentions the concern that we are already a polarized society. So without that town square, everyone goes into their own thought bubbles. We have communities that are more like tribes and that’s not necessarily a good thing for society as a whole. Now, as a creator, I can sort of see both sides of this issue because I’m a content producer and a content consumer. And of course, as a content consumer, I want to be able to see the things that interest me. I want to be able to hang out in communities where people share my interests and share my Ideologies and such but I also believe that we do need to be exposed sometimes to opposing viewpoints, different opinions, different ideas, so that we become more intelligent and we at least understand how the rest of the world thinks. As a content producer, I always have this internal conversation where I am interested in the algorithm because when you produce a podcast, we make it look easy, but it’s not. It’s a labor of love for me. I love doing it, but if I know that only two people are listening, then it’s really not worth the effort. So as far as, like, search engine optimization and things that help me in the algorithmic process, I do think about that. I don’t obsess about it because I really enjoy communicating with my audience and I like being authentic. You guys will probably hear every once in a while a weed whacker in the background or somebody on a motorcycle riding past, or today my neighbors have a yapping dog next door and I’m trying my hardest not to get that into the sound, but you might hear it. I mean, that’s authenticity. That’s just me being a human being, not being a super professional, polished podcast. I believe that both as consumers and as producers, we all sort of are wanting more authenticity from the content that we consume. And I think that we always have to do this balancing act as producers, content producers, where you wouldn’t want a podcast with a whole bunch of static in the background and noise and such. But I myself would not necessarily want a podcast that’s so perfect that it sounds like it comes from AI. I mean, I think there’s something to be said for authenticity. I think that’s what people really want in a podcast. And people are now looking outside of traditional Internet social media sites to find a place where they feel like they fit and they belong and they are surrounded with communities that share their value systems. Okay, so how many of you out there would like to have, instead of a real guide dog, would you like a robotic guide dog or just a robotic dog to begin with? Well, it seems like the researchers at Google DeepMind are working on this. They are developing now a language model that will be able to make human commands understandable to a robotic dog. So they were using what’s called a large language model. And they say that large language models have an interesting issue in that they have difficulty doing simple things. They can often do sophisticated things. But in the case of this robotic dog, they had struggles with getting it to do just basic things. However, as it learned, as it kept doing things, and it was able to reproduce patterns, they were shocked at how it was able to then do things that they hadn’t even taught it. So basically, they were able to assign different patterns to each of the paws so that a one meant that it was in the air, and a zero meant that the paw was on the ground. And just by doing that, they were able to then start, I guess, teaching the dog, the robot dog, how to do different things. But they were amazed that it was able to do some stuff that they didn’t even teach it. And I wonder for many of you out there who don’t have guide dogs, would you want a robotic dog? Would you want a robotic pet? I don’t know. I think so. My mom I live with my mom who is elderly, and she really doesn’t like animals. She has allergies, and she just would prefer to not have them. So I think a robot dog would be pretty cool. You could teach it to do all sorts of different things, and I guess it would never stop learning. I have to say, I really love real canines. I enjoy just the feeling that you get when you’re with real animals. I don’t think anything could replace that. But for some people, maybe their robotic dog is. I’m interested to see how this comes out, and I would like to get one because I’m really interested in robotics, and I just think it’s really cool, kind of scary, but also pretty fun. So, I don’t know, maybe there will be a robotic guide dog in your future or in mine. And with that, I think we’re going to wrap it up for this week. I want to thank you all for joining me, for subscribing, for sharing, and for your comments. We love your feedback. If you’d like to get in touch with us, you can drop us a note at Feedback at Unmute Show. That’s feedback at Unmute show. Again, I thank you so much for your support, and I hope you have a great weekend and a great week ahead.