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Xprize names two grand prize winners in $15 million Global Learning Challenge

Posted by | Android, bangalore, california, carnegie mellon, carnegie mellon university, cci, Education, Elon Musk, Google, kenya, machine learning, musk, New York, pittsburgh, Seoul, south korea, Speech Recognition, Tanzania, TC, technology, transhumanism, United Kingdom, United States, XPRIZE | No Comments

Xprize, the nonprofit organization developing and managing competitions to find solutions to social challenges, has named two grand prize winners in the Elon Musk-backed Global Learning Xprize.

The companies, KitKit School out of South Korea and the U.S., and onebillion, operating in Kenya and the U.K., were announced at an awards ceremony hosted at the Google Spruce Goose Hangar in Playa Vista, Calif.

Xprize set each of the competing teams the task of developing scalable services that could enable children to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills within 15 months.

Musk himself was on hand to award $5 million checks to each of the winning teams.

Five finalists, including New York-based CCI, which developed lesson plans and a development language so non-coders could create lessons; Chimple, a Bangalore-based learning platform enabling children to learn reading, writing and math on a tablet; RobotTutor, a Pittsburgh-based company, which used Carnegie Mellon research to develop an app for Android tablets that would teach lessons in reading and writing with speech recognition, machine learning and human computer interactions; and the two grand prize winners all received $1 million to continue developing their projects.

The tests required each product to be field-tested in Swahili, reaching nearly 3,000 children in 170 villages across Tanzania.

All of the final solutions from each of the five teams that made it to the final round of competition have been open-sourced so anyone can improve on and develop local solutions using the toolkits developed by each team in competition.

Kitkit School, with a team from Berkeley, Calif. and Seoul, developed a program with a game-based core and flexible learning architecture to help kids learn independently, while onebillion merged numeracy content with literacy material to provide directed learning and activities alongside monitoring to personalize responses to children’s needs.

Both teams are going home with $5 million to continue their work.

The problem of access to basic education affects more than 250 million children around the world, who can’t read or write, and one-in-five children around the world aren’t in school, according to data from UNESCO.

The problem of access is compounded by a shortage of teachers at the primary and secondary school levels. Some research, cited by Xprize , indicates that the world needs to recruit another 68.8 million teachers to provide every child with a primary and secondary education by 2040.

Before the Global Learning Xprize field test, 74% of the children who participated were reported as never having attended school; 80% were never read to at home; and 90% couldn’t read a single word of Swahili.

After the 15-month program working on donated Google Pixel C tablets and pre-loaded with software, the number was cut in half.

“Education is a fundamental human right, and we are so proud of all the teams and their dedication and hard work to ensure every single child has the opportunity to take learning into their own hands,” said Anousheh Ansari, CEO of Xprize, in a statement. “Learning how to read, write and demonstrate basic math are essential building blocks for those who want to live free from poverty and its limitations, and we believe that this competition clearly demonstrated the accelerated learning made possible through the educational applications developed by our teams, and ultimately hope that this movement spurs a revolution in education, worldwide.”

After the grand prize announcement, Xprize said it will work to secure and load the software onto tablets; localize the software; and deliver preloaded hardware and charging stations to remote locations so all finalist teams can scale their learning software across the world.

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This wristband detects an opiate overdose

Posted by | america, carnegie mellon, Gadgets, Health, medicine, pittsburgh, TC, Wearables | No Comments

A project by students at Carnegie Mellon could save lives. Called the HopeBand, the wristband senses low blood oxygen levels and sends a text message and sounds an alarm if danger is imminent.

“Imagine having a friend who is always watching for signs of overdose; someone who understands your usage pattern and knows when to contact [someone] for help and make sure you get help,” student Rashmi Kalkunte told IEEE. “That’s what the HopeBand is designed to do.”

The team won third place in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Opioid Challenge at the Health 2.0 conference in September and they are planning to send the band to a needle exchange program in Pittsburgh. They hope to sell it for less than $20.

Given the more than 72,000 overdose deaths in America this year, a device like this could definitely keep folks a little safer.

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Safety and inspection bot startup Gecko Robotics adds $7 million to the coffers

Posted by | founders fund, Gadgets, Gecko Robotics, hardware, industrial equipment, Justin Kan, machine learning, mark cuban, pittsburgh, Recent Funding, robotics, Silicon Valley, Startups, TC, Y Combinator, yc | No Comments

Gecko Robotics aims to save human lives at our nation’s power plants with its wall-climbing robots. To continue doing so, the startup tells TechCrunch it has just secured $7 million from a cadre of high-profile sources, including Founders Fund, Mark Cuban, The Westly Group, Justin Kan and Y Combinator.

We first reported on the Pittsburgh-based company when co-founder Jake Loosararian came to the TechCrunch TV studios to show off his device for the camera. Back then, Gecko was in the YC Spring 2016 cohort, working with several U.S. power plants and headed toward profitability, according to Loosararian. 

You can see the original interview below:

The type of robots Gecko makes are an important part of ensuring safety in industrial and power plant facilities as they are able to go ahead of humans to check for potential hazards. The robots can climb tanks, boilers, pipelines and other industrial equipment using proprietary magnetic adhesion, ultra-sonics, lasers and a variety of sensors to inspect structural integrity, according to a company release.

While not cheap — the robots run anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 — they are also obviously a minuscule cost compared to human life.

Gecko robot scaling the wall for a safety inspection at a power plant.

Loosararian also mentioned his technology was faster and more accurate than what is out there at the moment by using machine learning “to solve some of the most difficult problems,” he told TechCrunch.

It’s also a unique enough idea to get the attention from several seasoned investors.

“There has been virtually no innovation in industrial services technology for decades,” Founders Fund partner Trae Stephens told TechCrunch in a statement. “Gecko’s robots massively reduce facility shutdown time while gathering critical performance data and preventing potentially fatal accidents. The demand for what they are building is huge.”

Those interested can see the robots in action in the video below:

Diesel_tank_A from Gecko Robotics, Inc on Vimeo.

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ANGLR raises $3.3 million to create a Fitbit for fishing

Posted by | ambient intelligence, Android, anglr, Apps, arkansas, computing, Fishing, gps, Internet of Things, pittsburgh, Software, Startups, TC | No Comments

ANGLR, a tracking system for fisherpersons, has raised a $3.3 million Series A to add AR and wearables to their already impressive package of fishing trip management and devices to help record fishing data. That’s right… they caught a big one!

Nic Wilson and Landon Bloomer started this Pittsburgh-based company to build an app that can help record and plan your fishing trips. The system has been around for five years and they’ve logged thousands of catches. They’re releasing “patent-pending connected tracking accessories” to record catch locations so you don’t have to pull out your phone while in the middle of reeling in a real beauty.

“Most fishing apps let users record catches. Our platform is built around trips,” said Wilson. “Mid-July our users will be sharing the first comprehensive summaries of fishing trips. The catch is only the result of many variables coming into alignment. Our system quantifies them We work with the top weather and water data providers and have spent years mastering GPS and pathing under many fishing scenarios.”

The cash, raised from KB Partners with participation from Brunswick Corporation, will help them grow their selection of wearable devices.

“All fishing apps require some form of manual data entry. We’re automating it with the word’s first connected accessories and third party integrations,” said Wilson.

The team started with some pretty basic technology and are now expanding past their modest beginnings.

“Our first prototype was an android phone mounted to a fishing rod, which spurred a network of resources in Western PA who wanted to help get it done,” said Wilson. Over the past few years they’ve perfected their app and they’re looking to create software and hardware to “become the center of fishing intelligence.” A noble goal, especially if they can get the one that got away.

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Video: The driver of the autonomous Uber was distracted before fatal crash

Posted by | arizona, Automation, autonomous car, car sharing, commuting, Gadgets, pittsburgh, San Francisco, self-driving car, spokesperson, toronto, Toyota, transport, Uber, United States, volvo | No Comments

The Tempe, Arizona police department have released a video showing the moments before the fatal crash that involved Uber’s self-driving car. The video includes the view of the street from the Uber and a view of minder behind the wheel of the autonomous Uber.

Warning: This video is disturbing.

Tempe Police Vehicular Crimes Unit is actively investigating
the details of this incident that occurred on March 18th. We will provide updated information regarding the investigation once it is available. pic.twitter.com/2dVP72TziQ

— Tempe Police (@TempePolice) March 21, 2018

The video shows the victim crossing a dark street when an Uber self-driving Volvo XC90 strikes her at 40 mph. It also shows the person who is supposed to be babysitting the autonomous vehicle looking down moments before the crash. It’s unclear what is distracting the minder. It’s also unclear why Uber’s systems did not detect and react to the victim who was clearly moving across its range of sensors at walking speeds.

Uber provided the following statement regarding the incident to TechCrunch:

Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.

Since the crash on March 19, Uber has pulled all its vehicles from the roads operating in Pittsburgh, Tempe, San Francisco and Toronto. This is the first time an autonomous vehicle operating in self-driving mode has resulted in a human death. In a statement to TechCrunch, the NHTSA said it has sent over its “Special Crash Investigation” team to Tempe. This is “consistent with NHTSA’s vigilant oversight and authority over the safety of all motor vehicles and equipment, including automated technologies,” a spokesperson for the agency told TechCrunch.

“NHTSA is also in contact with Uber, Volvo, Federal, State and local authorities regarding the incident,” the spokesperson said. “The agency will review the information and proceed as warranted.”

Toyota also paused its self-driving testing in the US following the accident.

This tragic accident is the sort of situation self-driving vehicles are supposed to address. After all, these systems are supposed to be able to see through the dark and cannot get distracted by Twitter.

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Smell PGH lets you report weird smells in Pittsburgh

Posted by | Apps, Gadgets, odor, pittsburgh, smell, TC | No Comments

 Today in odd apps I present Smell PGH, an app that lets you report weird smells in Pittsburgh. Why would you do this, you ask? Well hold on. “If you smell something bad in the air, chances are that air isn’t good to breathe,” said Beatrice Dias, project director for the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute’s CREATE Lab. “Smell PGH provides a way for citizens to… Read More

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