Leading the News
Microsoft’s Build Conference Focuses On AI, Cloud Services.
Bloomberg News (5/10, Bass) reports Microsoft unveiled some “new cloud services for AI and industrial sensors as well as database software tools designed” to compete with Oracle’s services at the Build developers conference yesterday. Bloomberg reports that CEO Satya Nadella focused on Azure service for the Internet of Things, demonstrating Azure IoT Edge which showed how “multiple sensors and smaller computing devices track data that can be analyzed by Microsoft’s cloud and AI tools.” Nadella also showed off how AI software can be used to help workplace safety on construction sites. Bloomberg reports Microsoft showcased Azure SQL Database as a Service, and Azure Cosmos DB at the event.
PC Magazine (5/10, Muchmore) reports that at Build 2017, Nadella announced Windows 10 now had over 500 million monthly active users, and Cortana had 141 million users. PC Magazine reports that “90 percent of Fortune 500 companies use the company’s cloud services,” according to Nadella. PC Magazine says the focus on the first day at Build was on “new developer tools and services, in particular Azure cloud services that developers could tap to create scalable, AI-powered intelligent apps and services.” PC Magazine adds the company announced two new services Azure Database for MySQL and Azure Database for PostgreSQL, as well as Azure Cosmos which is “the first globally distributed, multi-model database service.”
The AP (5/10, Liedtke) reports that despite reaching half a billion devices, Windows 10 is still falling short of Microsoft’s goal of “1 billion devices by 2018.” The AP reports that one way Microsoft has been trying to boost its Windows usage is through Cortana, its digital servant, with the company announcing a new “internet-connected speaker featuring Cortana in a partnership with Samsung’s Harman Kardo” earlier in the week. Microsoft also said that it was working with Intel and HP to bring Cortana to more devices, though it didn’t provide any specifics.
The AFP (5/10) reports that at the conference Microsoft “revealed its I betting big on AI.” AFP reports that Executive Vice President of Artificial Intelligence and Research Harry Shum said the company is “infusing AI into every product and service we offer,” adding that Microsoft is in position to “use decades of research breakthroughs” in AI for upcoming products.
TechCrunch (5/10, Lardinois) reports Microsoft also debuted a “new feature for the Azure Portal” called the Azure loud Shell, which “brings a full Bash shell to the Portal.”
TechRadar (5/10, Lee) reports Microsoft also showed off AI capable of real time translation in PowerPoint, as well as “AI with a cognitive vision service.”
Arizona State University Students Finish Mobile Dental Clinic.
The Arizona Republic (5/9, White) reports that Engineering Smiles , a team of current and former engineering and design students at Arizona State University, has finished designing and building an $80,000 “mobile dental clinic that will serve tens of thousands of people in Nicaragua and underserved communities in Arizona and California.” The students came together on the project through ASU’s Engineering Projects in Community Service program. According to the article, the mobile dental clinic “ended up being one of the moist ambitious projects to come out of the program.”
FAFSA Data Entry Tool Will Be Down Until October.
THE Journal (5/10) reports that the IRS data retrieval tool for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid won’t be back online until October 1. The piece reports that “in written testimony to the House Oversight Committee, James Runcie, chief operating officer of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid, told committee members that the department had been receiving about 500 more customer inquiries a day related to the tool than before it was taken offline in early March.”
Survey: Student Debt Prompts Some Millennials To Move Back Home.
USA Today (5/10, Shell) reports that, according to TD Ameritrade’s Young Money Survey, “26% of Millennials in college say they plan on moving back home once they earn their degree to help save to pay off student loans.” The survey of young people between the ages of 20 and 26 found that 32% said “they owe anywhere from $10,000 to more than $50,000 on student loans” and that the “average student loan balance was $10,205, but was even higher ($11,475) for those still in school.” The survey found “millennials don’t expect to pay off their student loans until they are 35.” Meanwhile, “nearly half of the post-college Millennials surveyed by TD Ameritrade said they had ‘moved back to my parents home after college.’ And one-fourth that are still in college said they ‘expect’ to move back with mom and dad after graduation.”
Government Raises Rates On Student Loans.
Bloomberg News (5/10, Nasiripour) reports that beginning in July, interest rates on new government student “loans are set to rise by 0.69 percentage point, according to Wednesday figures from the Department of the Treasury.” Bloomberg says that “for undergraduates, that could amount to nearly a 20 percent increase in interest charges.” Bloomberg explains “new undergraduate loans from the Department of Education are due to carry an interest rate of 4.45 percent, up from 3.76 percent for the academic year ending in June.” Meanwhile, “rates on some graduate loans are set to rise from 5.31 percent to 6 percent, while rates on loans to parents and guardians are due to experience a jump from 6.31 percent to 7 percent.” The report says “higher costs to borrow from the U.S. government could help private lenders such as SLM Corp., more commonly known as Sallie Mae, and Discover Financial Services.”
Research and Development
MIT Researchers Demonstrate 3D Printing Construction Process.
Fox News (5/10) reports researchers at MIT have developed technology called a Digital Construction Platform, enabling them to “create a large-scale building using 3D-printing technology.” The technology “consists of a tracked vehicle that carries a giant, robotic arm with a smaller precision-motion robotic arm at its end. The smaller arm is highly controllable and…directs a construction nozzle, similar to one used to pour concrete or spray insulation material.”
Google Acquires Owlchemy Labs VR Game Studio.
CNET News (5/10, Musil) reports Google has acquired Owlchemy Labs – the Austin-based VR game studio behind “Rick and Morty: Virtual Rick-ality” and “Job Simulator.” Owlchemy announced the acquisition on Wednesday, indicating it will still be creating content for Oculus Touch, HTC Vive, and PlayStation VR after it has joined Google. Speaking of the acquisition, Owlchemy stated, “We are continuing to do all of this with even more support and focus on building awesome stuff…It’s incredibly exciting that Google and Owlchemy are so well aligned on our goals and vision for the future of VR.” International Business Times (5/10, Chiu) reports the official announcement from Google stated as follows: “Today, we’re thrilled to welcome Owlchemy Labs to Google. They’ve created award-winning games…which have really thoughtful interactive experiences that are responsive, intuitive and feel natural. They’ve helped set a high bar for what engagement can be like in virtual worlds, and do it all with a great sense of humor!” ZDNet (5/10, Condon) reports Google’s AR and VR engineering director Relja Markovic wrote that Owlchemy will work with Google “to create engaging, immersive games and developing new interaction models across many different platforms to continue bringing the best VR experiences to life.”
Microsoft: HP, Intel Sign On To Launch Cortana-Enabled Devices.
The Verge (5/10) reports Microsoft revealed yesterday “that HP is partnering with the software maker to create its own hardware that will run Cortana.” Microsoft is also “working with Intel to provide a reference platform for Cortana-enabled devices, allowing Microsoft’s digital assistant to appear on a range of hardware.” TechCrunch (5/10) questions why Microsoft isn’t “launching its own Echo and Google Home competitor,” especially after “clearly” proving “that it can build very good hardware.” However, TechCrunch adds, “Rumor has it” that Microsoft “will also try another approach to taking on the Echo – and that approach will look more like a PC. If those rumors are true, then its ‘HomeHub’ feature for Windows 10 will be its first tentative foray into this market.”
Venture Beat (5/10) reports Microsoft Artificial Intelligence and Research Group executive VP Harry Shum “announced the news onstage at Build, Microsoft’s annual developer conference,” but “no further details about the new partnerships were provided.” The piece says the agreement by Intel to work on a reference design with Microsoft “marks the second major spark speaker design from Intel, which agreed late last year on a reference design to work with Amazon on a smart speaker with Alexa inside.”
The Street (5/10) characterizes Microsoft as “going after Amazon.com’s…Amazon Echo smart speaker device,” while Engadget (5/10) reports that Microsoft’s Invoke and other Cortana-run devices “will encroach on a hot IoT market currently dominated by Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.”
Engineering and Public Policy
Interior Department Moving Forward With Plans To Conduct Seismic Surveys In Atlantic.
The AP (5/10, Daly) reports the Trump Administration is moving forward with plans to conduct seismic surveys in the Atlantic Ocean, the first step toward offshore drilling in the region. The Interior Department said it is reviewing six applications by energy companies that were rejected by the Obama Administration. The department said that the surveys are needed to update information about the Outer Continental Shelf because the current data is more than 30 years old.
The Hill (5/10, Cama) reports Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said, “Seismic surveying helps a variety of federal and state partners better understand our nation’s offshore areas, including locating offshore hazards, siting of wind turbines, as well as offshore energy development.” The surveys will not necessarily lead to offshore drilling, as any permits would still need to go through an approval process that could take years.
The Washington Examiner (5/10) reports Zinke also said, “Allowing this scientific pursuit enables us to safely identify and evaluate resources that belong to the American people. This will play an important role in the president’s strategy to create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign energy resources.” The Interior Department stressed that the seismic surveys “are not expected to have significant impacts on marine mammal populations or the environment given the use of advanced technology and other safeguards that are currently required.”
Editorial: Pentagon Opposes Atlantic Offshore Drilling. In an editorial, the Hampton Roads (VA) Virginian-Pilot (5/10) criticizes the Trump Administration for recently issuing an executive order that seeks “to open significant parts of the Atlantic Ocean to oil exploration.” The paper notes that the U.S. Navy has “objected to any move that would open areas near the Virginia coast to drilling” because “the service depends on the waters adjacent to Hampton Roads to conduct its exercises.” The editorial urges President Trump to heed the warnings of the Pentagon and amend the executive order to “reflect it.”
Huerta: FAA Has Prioritized What State, Local Governments Need To Regulate UAVs.
AVweb (5/10, Bertorelli) reports FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told attendees at the AUVSI Xponential 2017 conference this week that state and local governments “continue to struggle with sensible, much less consistent, regulation of unmanned aircraft systems” and that the FAA has prioritized understanding what these governments want and need to regulate drone operations. Huerta said that the FAA will begin initial testing that “will eventually lead to certification rules for over-crowd flight by drones” and is also planning to conduct research on what happens when UAVs collide with manned aircraft.
Chao To Address 2017 Drone Focus Conference In Fargo.
The Forum News Service (5/10) reports Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) announced Wednesday that Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will address the 2017 Drone Focus Conference in Fargo, North Dakota on May 31. In addition, Secretary Chao will “attend other events on the future of the unmanned aerial systems in the state and around the nation,” and she will also “meet with Grand Forks representatives about that city’s unmanned aerial systems research and initiatives in the region.”
KVRR-TV Fargo, ND (5/10, Nelson) also reports.
Schools Shifting Focus Of Career And Technical Education Programs.
Education Week (5/10, Gewertz) reports that Warren County High School leaders “phased out their program in two- and four-cycle engines and introduced a course of study in mechatronics.” Education Week says “with only a high school diploma and an entry-level mechatronics certification, teenagers can earn more than $45,000 a year here in rural Tennessee” and with additional certifications and experience they can boost earnings to $60,000. Meanwhile, students “can earn associate degrees at local community colleges in mechanical pre-engineering or advanced integrated technology, or head to Middle Tennessee State University for bachelor’s degrees in engineering.” Education Week says “what’s happening here…reflects a growing focus nationally on building high-quality career and technical education programs.” The report says leaders in the field “are insisting on a new definition of ‘high quality’ programs – one that rests on the option of earning postsecondary credentials or degrees and on the availability of good-paying jobs in expanding industries.”
Teams Vie For FIRST World Robotics Championship.
The Houston Chronicle (5/10, Bradley) reports “robotics teams around the world gathered at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) World Robotics Championships in April at the George R. Brown Convention Center and Cypress Fairbanks ISD teams were in attendance to represent the district.” The Chronicle says “the event included 400 teams from 41 different countries, which featured nearly 21,000 high school, middle school and elementary students from Australia, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Germany, who competed in the year’s contest of FIRST Steamworks.”
Wednesday’s Lead Stories
• Army Working On New Tank To Succeed Abrams.
• Improv Class At Johns Hopkins Help Science, Engineering Students Communicate.
• Commercially-Accessible SAR Imagery Start-Up Receives $12 Million In New Funding.
• USC Center For Advanced Manufacturing Aims To Help Small Companies.
• Roush Opens New Engineering Center In Troy.
• Opinion: Increasing Truck Weight Limit Would Further Damage US Infrastructure.
• Houston-Area Homeschool Students Recognized At VEX Robotics World Championship.