Amazon Alexa, Snapchat, Operabase, More: Saturday ResearchBuzz, December 22, 2018


TechCrunch: Alexa gets access to Wolfram Alpha’s knowledge engine . “Knowledge base is one of the departments where Alexa has lagged Assistant. After all, it’s pretty tough to compete with Google when it comes to a sheer breadth of knowledge. Wolfram Alpha is a pretty good place to start. The answer engine offers a wide cross-section of curated data, with a heavy focus on math and sciences. Starting this week, U.S.-based Alexa users will get access to that information, with rollout completing over the coming weeks and months.”

CNET: Snapchat adds feature that lets people join in challenges . “Snapchat just came up with a new way to engage users. The popular social app on Wednesday rolled out a new feature, Lens Challenges, that lets users participate in challenges with others by filming a snap with a particular lens.”

Bdaily News: Opera house database acquired in six-figure deal with Truelinked. “Operabase, an online database of opera performers, houses and companies, has recently been taken over by Truelinked. Founded in 1996 as a means of collating and sharing information on opera performances worldwide, Operabase’s catalogue is available in 27 languages and, at its peak, was collecting 25,000 new performances year-on-year.”

The Verge: Google denies altering YouTube code to break Microsoft Edge. “A former Microsoft intern has revealed details of a YouTube incident that has convinced some Edge browser engineers that Google added code to purposely break compatibility. In a post on Hacker News, Joshua Bakita, a former software engineering intern at Microsoft, lays out details and claims about an incident earlier this year. Microsoft has since announced the company is moving from the EdgeHTML rendering engine to the open source Chromium project for its Edge browser.” Google has formally denied this.


G2 Crowd: 3 Free Tools to Delete All Your Tweets. “No, I’m not talking about creating a new account and pestering old followers to find and follow you again. I’m talking about deleting your old tweets and starting new. Born again on Twitter. Here’s how.”

Lifehacker: How to Keep Your Internet-Connected Device From Spying on You . “A typically geeky holiday might sound something like this: You wake up on the morning of December 25, run down to your Christmas tree, unwrap everything in a frenzy, plug in all your long-awaited gadgets, connect them to your wifi, and speed past the installation screens (or manuals) to start having all kinds of fun. What’s the problem? In your frenzy to try out all of your brand-new devices, you haven’t spent the time to fully understand what they’re up to. What data are they collecting? What data are they sending somewhere else? What privacy issues might you face months later?”


Smithsonian Magazine: For the First Time in More Than 20 Years, Copyrighted Works Will Enter the Public Domain. “‘Whose woods these are, I think I’—whoa! We can’t quote any more of Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” because it is still under copyright as this magazine goes to press. But come January 1, 2019, we, you, and everyone in America will be able to quote it at length on any platform. At midnight on New Year’s Eve, all works first published in the United States in 1923 will enter the public domain. It has been 21 years since the last mass expiration of copyright in the U.S.”


Medium: Facebook’s Illusion of Control over Location-Related Ad Targeting. “Facebook’s advertising principles and statements from the VP of ads, Rob Goldman, emphasize that its Ads Preferences tool allows users to ‘control how your data informs your ad experience.’ However, Irfan Faizullabhoy and I have observed that when it comes to one of the most privacy-sensitive types of data, location, Facebook does not provide meaningful controls and is misleading in its statements to users and advertisers.”

Bloomberg Quint: Google Foes Get Chance to Pick Holes in $2.7 Billion EU Appeal. “Some of Google’s oldest foes have been given the chance to take a swipe at the U.S. giant’s appeal of a $2.7 billion European Union antitrust fine for choking competition for shopping-search services. The EU’s General Court said European consumer group BEUC, German magazine publishers and Foundem — the first company to complain to the EU about how Google treats shopping rivals — can all intervene in the case because they have a direct interest in the result. The decisions dated Dec. 17 were published online.”


Cornell University: New maps light up information on birds. “Move over, range maps. A new series of dynamic bird maps from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology reveals unprecedented details not only about where the birds are, but how their numbers and habitats change through the seasons and years. Unlocking this wealth of information required more than 114 years of cloud computing time to process observations recorded in eBird by more than 120,000 bird watchers across North America, along with satellite imagery from NASA.”

NPR: Is Genocide Predictable? Researchers Say Absolutely. “Since 2014, the Holocaust Museum and scholars from Dartmouth have mapped the conditions that precede a genocide. They built a database of every mass killing since World War II. Then they went back and looked at the conditions in the countries where the killings occurred just prior to the attacks. And now they use that computer model to analyze which nations currently are at greatest risk.”

Tech Xplore: Team locates nearly all US solar panels in a billion images with machine learning. “Knowing which Americans have installed solar panels on their roofs and why they did so would be enormously useful for managing the changing U.S. electricity system and to understanding the barriers to greater use of renewable resources. But until now, all that has been available are essentially estimates. To get accurate numbers, Stanford University scientists analyzed more than a billion high-resolution satellite images with a machine learning algorithm and identified nearly every solar power installation in the contiguous 48 states.” Good morning, Internet…

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