technology

Connecting for Good

Connecting for Good, a Kansas City-area non-profit that’s working to provide digital literacy and computer access across the metro, established a computer lab last year across from the Juniper Gardens Housing Project in Kansas City, Kansas. The organization recently added 25 computers, because the lab became so popular.

Matt Hodapp / KCUR

Kansas City Council has approved a $15 million agreement with San Francisco based Cisco Systems Inc., to turn a two mile stretch of the streetcar line into a "Smart City" network. 

The project calls for the creation of interactive digital kiosks that share information about events and city services with pedestrians.

Data about infrastructure and traffic will be detected by sensors and sent back to the city in real time.

Interactive toy maker Sphero has challenged University of Kansas design and engineering students to create its next generation of products — robots that can be  companions and have emotional value to a person. On this edition of Up To Date we talk about the potential social significance of robotics and what the future looks like in the field. 

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Technology is finding it's way into every part of our lives, and it may be in our roads sooner than we think. One Kansas City engineer is proposing a smart I-70 that could charge electric cars by contact, connect to navigation systems, and more. 

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Courtesy Photo / Paula Rose

Gender representation at Wikipedia is well-documented. Studies conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation (which serves as Wikipedia’s support structure) conclude that less than 15 percent of the popular online encyclopedia’s contributors are female.

According to Siko Bouterse, director of community resources at the Wikimedia Foundation, diversity among editors is vitally important to Wikipedia’s vision.

“Our vision for Wikipedia is ‘the sum of all human knowledge,’” she says. “We need everyone to contribute to that. The encyclopedia is incomplete without that.”

The lack of female editors has significant repercussions on the encyclopedia’s content. Pages on women’s health, women’s issues, and famous women artists tend to be mere paragraphs long, or as Wikipedians say, “stubs,” if they even exist at all.

Wikipedia’s gender trouble is well-documented. Research by the Wikimedia Foundation determined that less than 15% of its contributors identify as female, which creates a great disparity in the popular online encyclopedia's content. We discuss what organizations in Kansas City and around the world are doing to fix this problem.

Guests:

Eleanor Klibanoff / KCUR

If I asked you to imagine the next great tech mind, you might picture a 20-something man in Silicon Valley. But the 20 girls at Coding and Cupcakes at the Sprint Accelerator last Saturday don't have time for gender stereotypes. They've got a website to design. 

Like 8-year-old Kyanne Carlgren, who says she "just maked an account" — her first e-mail account.

Flicker-CC

From FitBits to Smart watches and Google Glass, tech developers want to incorporate their products into our everyday uniforms. But as the makers of Google Glass found out in January, creating wearable technology that people actually want to use is harder than they they thought. 

Laura Spencer / KCUR

Big Data – it’s a catch phrase these days. But museums in cities across the country, from New York to Dallas to Cleveland, are taking cues from corporations and shopping malls, and collecting data to track visitor behavior. It’s starting to shape what’s on view.

In December, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art hired Doug Allen as its first chief information officer, to help analyze data and map a technology strategy.

"Technology will allow us to enrich the experience of a visit, and also allow for a pre-visit," says director and CEO Julián Zugazagoitia.

The Super Bowl is a national celebration of football... and advertising. For one day a year, we all gather around our television screens to watch commercials so we can partake in the sport of reviewing them the next morning. But is this still a relevant platform for advertising? Local ad experts weigh in.

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  When it comes to personal technology in America, Google and Apple are locked in a battle of the titans for supremacy. We take a look at that fierce competition, and the risks each is willing to take, in their quest to be on top.

Guest:

  • Fred Vogelstein, author of Dogfight: How Apple and Google Went to War and Started a Revolution

HEAR MORE: Fred Vogelstein speaks at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Central branch of the Kansas City Public Library.

Cody Newill / KCUR

Nearly 500 students from the Kansas City metro area competed in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, Tech Challenge qualifier Saturday. 

Thirty-seven teams of middle and high school students filled UMKC's Swinney Recreation Center. Each team brought a small remote-controlled robot to roll around small arenas. The students guided their robots to try to collect Wiffle balls and place them in tall bins.

We don't have flying cars, and futurists guess we never will. That's an infrastructure thing. On the other hand, leaps in communication technology have changed our lives in ways that surpass most of our wildest dreams. How does the 2015 we are living in compare to the 2015 visited by Marty McFly in Back to the Future Part II? Up next: Blade Runner, 2019.

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nimbus.unl.edu

In the Middle East the U.S. military has used drones with great effect.  More properly called UAS or UAV for Unmanned Aerial Systems or Vehicle, their use on American soil for more peaceful purposes have been a source of controversy.

Carolyn Williams, Flickr

A whole podcast genre has developed around devices that put giant sound libraries inside people's pockets. Podcast-lovers enjoy the "headspace you can crawl into when you're listening to incredible radio," says audio-whiz Andrea Silenzi. "You kind of travel to this other space with a podcast." Our guests debate the hugely popular Serial, and discuss their top recommendations for podcast listening.

Audiofiles Recommend:

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

One of the latest trends in fashion and technology is based on a very old technology.

Even as cellphone manufacturers and other tech companies are trying to pack every possible gadget into a "wearable" device, some people, young and old, are opting to wear old-fashioned wristwatches.

Suzanne Hogan / KCUR

Watches are about more than telling the time these days. They can monitor your body, connect to the internet, and play music. Techies at Garmin in Olathe, Kan., are busy re-inventing the wristwatch of the 21st century, while old-school techies are dedicated to keeping vintage timepieces ticking. 

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There's a silence in the conversation. Does your hand start inching involuntarily toward your phone? The speed and easy access of communication technology has changed the way we relate: to each other, our surroundings, ourselves, and our time. But as we communicate more quickly and more often, are the bonds we forge any stronger?

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Technology is all around us, and it's extending into the fabric of our cities as well. Kansas City, Mo., currently has a letter of intent with Cisco to explore the feasibility of implementing a "smart city" framework. Some are calling Kansas City a potential "laboratory" for the smart city concept. What does that mean, and how can we expect it play out in the day-to-day lives of Kansas Citians? 

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Online dating has opened up new ways to make first impressions. What happens after that depends as much as ever on the whims of chemistry and compatibility. But what informs that first impression? OK Cupid's Christian Rudder has mined his site's data and concluded that race has more to do with it than most of us acknowledge.

Guest:

www.enchantedobjects.com

Traveling via teleportation. Umbrellas, trash cans, wallets, and cars that communicate with us. Pill bottles that pester us until we take our medication, and credit cards that monitor our exercise and reward us monetarily.

In this broadcast of Up to Date, we look at the impact of technology on things we use everyday. Steve Kraske explores the power and connectivity of these "enchanted objects" with entrepreneur and MIT instructor David Rose.

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BTC Keychain / Flickr-CC

A federal commission has shut down Leawood, Kan., based company Butterfly Labs Inc., for failing to deliver high-powered Bitcoin mining equipment to customers on time. 

The Kansas City Business Journal reports that the Federal Trade Commission believes Butterfly Labs took between $20 million and $50 million in specially designed computer orders from customers. Many of those orders didn't get delivered on time, or at all. 

The idea of nuclear power is nothing new, but the traditional method of producing it by fission is being challenged by the safer and greener process of fusion.

On Monday's Up to Date, we talk with the founder of an energy company making a fusion prototype to supply commercially-viable and competitive power generation.

Guest:

  • Dr. Michel Laberge, founder and chief scientist at General Fusion
CarmaHop / Facebook

Next time you drive, look to your right, then in the back. Are your passenger seats empty? You may be alone in your car, but you're not the only one in this situation.

On Monday's Up to Date, we talk with TEDxKC presenter Jenny O'Brien about why she's advocating hitchhiking as a way to fill those seats and make our transportation more efficient.

Guest:

  • Jenny O'Brien, community manager for CarmaHop
Lima Pix / Flickr--CC

An independent journalist says he’s found a way around the so-called “ag-gag” laws – flying drones over large livestock operations to document animal welfare problems and pollution.

Will Potter, a Washington D.C.-based environmental blogger, raised $75,000 on Kickstarter to buy drones and other equipment to do investigative work tracking animal abuse and pollution problems on large livestock operations.

Christina Lieffring

For Bill Brown, the “father” of high altitude ballooning, it all started when he saw a documentary of a man who parachuted from 100,000 feet above ground.

“The description he gave of being able to see for hundreds of miles in all directions and see the blackness of space and the curve of the earth … I wanted to see that for myself,” he said. “Some people strapped a bunch of balloons to a lawn chair, but that seemed a little risky, so I decided to come up with a camera and a small video camera to put up in a small weather balloon.”

This weekend, 'near space explorers' will be gathering  in Hutchinson, Kan. for the annual Great Plains Super Launch.  They are hobbyists who launch weather balloons and track their progress using GPS or HAM radio.

On Thursday's Central Standard, we talk with participant John Flaig who uses these balloons to take dramatic photographs from the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

Guest:

John Flaig, near space photographer

David Goehring / Flickr-CC

The summer months are fast approaching, which means summer vacations are too. Whether you're taking a day trip or an international excursion, travel apps can take some of the burdens of planning, booking, even packing, off your shoulders.

In the first half of Friday's Up to Date, guest Dustin Jacobsen joins Steve Kraske with his recommendations for travel apps to help with everything from currency conversion to finding good hotel deals.

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When you get in your car, do you turn on your GPS? What would you do if it didn’t work?

On Wednesday's Up to Date, we take a look at the lost art of navigating, based on experience and innate directional sense, and not blindly following Siri’s instructions as you turn each corner.

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Biswarup Ganguly / Wikimedia Commons

This week, innovators in mobile technology descend upon Kansas City for the Mobile Midwest conference hosted by Kansas City IT Professionals (KCITP.) Among them is Raj Singh, the developer of a mobile calendar application that goes beyond storing and retrieving scheduling information. This application is actually designed to help you make your appointments, arrive at meeting places and in some cases, communicate with your colleagues to let them know you're running late.

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