Technology

So Long, VCR. We Hardly Knew You (Were Still Around)

Jul 21, 2016

The VCR is officially going the way of the Betamax and LaserDisc: into the technology graveyard.

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

So, you had a baby a couple of years ago, and you go to a store’s app to search for a toy for your now-toddler. And whaddayaknow, there's a sale on the perfect treat.

That could become more common as artificial intelligence continues to creep into our mobile shopping experiences.

One Pittsburgh company, CognistX, is at the forefront of that movement. Its mobile app enhancements let retailers use advanced information about a person’s lifestyle and spending habits to target specific content toward shoppers.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Perched in the shadow of the Homestead Grays Bridge, Pittsburgh Public Schools teacher Tom Higgs flicked his index finger up and down a cracked Android screen.

Laurl Valn / Flickr

In a sparsely decorated office in Braddock, two men are trying to build a parking payment empire and it all started with a lunchtime conversation.

“One of our colleagues, she opened up her purse to help chip in and instead of pulling out money she pulled out a fist full of parking tickets,” said MeterFeeder co-founder and CEO Jim Gibbs. “She looked at us with desperation in her eyes and said, ‘If you make an app where I can pay for parking I would use it every day.’ And two weeks later MeterFeeder was born.”

Matt Nemeth / 90.5 WESA

Blue roadside signs reading “Bus Stop” could become a thing of the past as the Port Authority of Allegheny County begins its rollout of more robust bus stop signage this summer.

Starting in July, roughly 85 Downtown bus stops will be outfitted with signs that include route maps, bus schedules and frequency information. Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie said the new wayfinding system will eventually be at all PAT bus stops in the county.

Meet Herb, A Robot To One Day Help Around The House

May 24, 2016
Carnegie Mellon University

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Personal Robotics Lab have spent years working on ways to make robots execute subtle, human-like movements in the hopes of helping around the house. 

With cameras for eyes, two thick arms and the occasional bowtie, Herb – an acronym for home exploring robot butler – only recently learned to move a cup across a table.

"We’re trying to get robots to be able to work in a home environment," said Carnegie Mellon University Ph.D. student Jennifer King. 

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

Saint Bartholomew School student Daryl Jean, of Penn Hills said she can’t understand why more girls don’t get excited about science and technology.

“I feel like girls, they can like science and stuff, but they don’t understand it, and some boys can be intimidating,” she said. “But I think you should try your best, because there’s a lot of inspiration out there.”

The American Association of University Women tried to kick start some of that inspiration in young Pittsburghers last weekend with its “Tech Savvy” computer coding workshop at La Roche College.

Scott Barkley / 90.5 WESA

Allegheny County school officials are considering taking a bold step – ditching textbooks.

Superintendents, curriculum directors and librarians from multiple districts met Thursday to discuss getting using new materials.

They're looking to follow in the steps of other schools around the country using open educational resources –- which are free and non-copyrighted, shared materials.

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

A doctorate project-turned-start up by two University of Pittsburgh students has grown from its days sharing a space at AlphaLab in East Liberty.

Kasey Catt and Noah Snyder first started InterPhase Materials with the intent of developing nontoxic coatings to be used inside the body for brain or dental implants. But after hitting roadblocks with the FDA, they refocused their efforts on coatings to keep marine life, such as mussels and barnacles, and mold from sticking to boats and buildings. 

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

As companies like Uber and Google work to make self-driving cars, a local company is working on another autonomous vehicle: forklifts.

Engineers and designers at Seegrid have spent the last decade perfecting technology that allows automated forklifts to travel through warehouses and move heavy product without a human behind the wheel. The machines roll about like robots, making noises that sound like beeps, bells and sirens as a means of communicating with one another and employees.

Mora McLaughlin / 90.5 WESA

Anyone who visits a Community Recreation and Healthy Active Living Center in Pittsburgh can meet with neighbors or grab a bite to eat. Now, they can also surf the internet with free Wi-Fi.

Citiparks and the Department of Innovation and Performance announced the installation of free Wi-Fi in 22 of its centers throughout the city.

The announcement was made at the Greenfield Healthy Active Living Center on Wednesday.

Margot Callahan

Margot Callahan, of Highland Park, is providing her voice for a stranger – literally. She’s one of thousands of people who have donated their voices to people with vocal disabilities, caused by a range of factors such as a stroke, cerebral palsy or Lou Gehrig’s Disease.

VocaliD is collecting those voices and using them for voice software devices. The goal is to provide a more accurate representation of the actual person’s voice, rather than being stuck with a robotic generic one.

Melinda Roeder / 90.5 WESA

A Pittsburgh-based company is finding new ways to use eye-tracking technology to help children with disabilities learn language skills at a younger age by playing digital games. Now the video gaming industry is taking notice.

Tobii Dynavox has been making devices to help nonverbal patients communicate with the help of computer-assisted voice technology. Many of their customers are stroke survivors and adults with degenerative diseases like ALS, in which sufferers lose muscle control. But the company is now looking to expand their devices to young children, and even toddlers.

Self-Driving Cars Are Coming, But They’re Not Ready For Pittsburgh Yet

Mar 4, 2016
Anita DuFalla / PublicSource

Ninety percent of car crashes are preventable.

As it stands, about 30,000 people die in car crashes every year in the United States, said Mark Kopko of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation [PennDOT]. “If you could reduce that by 90 percent, that’s huge.”

Autonomous cars have the capacity to do that.

In Allegheny County, that could mean a vast reduction in the roughly 12,000 crashes in 2014 — especially of those attributed to driver error, like drunk or distracted driving and speeding.

4Moms

Pittsburgh-based 4Moms, which works to create innovative parent-friendly products for children, unveiled a new product to streamline the clunky process of installing a car seat.

For sale later this year, the self-installing car seat joins a battery of other user friendly products that harness technology to sterilize, self-fold and mimic a parent's touch.   

Mara McFaddon, director of product management, said it’ll be the safest one yet on the market.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A soldier in the field with little or no technical training could fix a piece of high-tech weaponry, seniors might use a complex health monitoring device and a newlywed couple can be coached through complicated IKEA instructions, all without the help of another human. 

Researchers at the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science are using wearable technologies like Google Glass to place an "angel" on a user's shoulder to do those types of tasks.

'Scrubba' Designed To Clean Large Buildings, Like Giant Roomba

Jan 5, 2016
Jennifer Szweda Jordan / 90.5 WESA

Small, autonomous, robotic vacuums like Roomba, Botvac and others revolutionized tidying for the average at-home cleaner. Four inventors in Oakland want to do the same with an industrial-scale robotic janitor built to sweep and mop big spaces like malls and airports.

On a recent evening, Discovery Robotics’ inventors gave the boxy, blue, metal prototype a trial run as engineer Naman Kumar looked on. In his hand was a remote garage door opener programmed to start or stop "Scrubba" and its 300-pound heft.

Fighting An Airplane's Natural Enemy: Ice

Dec 23, 2015
Jennifer Szweda Jordan / 90.5 WESA

A Canonsburg-based company’s superfast computer simulations are helping airplane designers learn about something that the rest of us might not want to think about: how ice forms on airplane wings and engines.

Once an airplane takes off, it soars into hard-to-predict natural elements. One of the most dangerous of those elements is ice. A technology stalwart in the region called ANSYS is addressing this problem.

Jennifer Szweda Jordan / For 90.5 WESA

University of Pittsburgh student Chuck Ward pointed at a map inside the Cathedral of Learning. Classroom G8, where his Dustin Hoffman film class planned to meet to watch a movie, eluded him.

“Where’s Bellefield, do you know?” he asked a stranger. Then another. Then one more. 

Students and visitors at Pitt’s iconic Cathedral of Learning have been baffled by its layout since the building first opened more than 80 years ago.

Altoona-based software company Rivendell Technologies is selling a technological solution.

Start Up Finds New Use For Medical Technology With Marine Life

Nov 24, 2015
Mussel Prevention Program / California Division of Boating and Waterways

 

  

Since boating began, sailors have been vexed by barnacles and algae that attach to ship hulls. The sea life puts a drag on movement through water.

Nanograms is 90.5 WESA's new technology and culture podcast. 

Season One, 'Borg in the USA, launched September 24, 2015.

Subscribe in iTunes

 

Episode #5: Heartstrings

Nanograms is 90.5 WESA's new technology and culture podcast. 

Season One, 'Borg in the USA, launched September 24, 2015.

Subscribe in iTunes

 

Episode #4: Little Brother Is Watching

Tiny, cheap cameras mounted on bikes and helmets have given us an entirely new -- and entirely harrowing -- genre of web video.

Nanograms is 90.5 WESA's new technology and culture podcast. 

Season One, 'Borg in the USA, launched September 24, 2015.

Subscribe in iTunes

 

 

Episode #3: Panopticon Highway

'Nanograms' Looks At World Of Tomorrow, Today

Sep 21, 2015
90.5 WESA


Premiering on the 24th, a new program will join the 90.5 WESA line up. “Nanograms” is a podcast created from the mind of Morning Edition host Josh Raulerson.  The show looks at technology and its impact on culture, or, as the show’s tag line reads “brief messages from the very near future.”

Implementing Accessible Technology Throughout Pittsburgh

Sep 21, 2015
Michael Coghlan / flickr

Handheld supercomputers, or, what we all know as smartphones, are increasing our access to information more than ever.  Pittsburgh is full of developers and engineers who want to tap into the abilities of that tiny device and improve the lives of individuals by delivering resources directly to their fingers. Representatives from PNC, Carnegie Mellon UniversityIagnosis, NoWait, Better Body ImageSavvior and Tagalong Tours share why the created their “apps” and what need they aim to fill.

Ryan Loew / 90.5 WESA

It's the last week of the Learn and Earn program, and Anthony Zabiegalski, a producer at Simcoach Games, is prepping his 26 interns to test out a video game they helped build. Over the last six weeks, the interns have worked alongside developers and designers.

The Carnegie Science Center has received a $614,000 grant to promote education in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

The two-year grant, from The Heinz Endowments, will benefit the Carnegie STEM Excellence Pathway, which offers schools resources to improve their STEM classes.

It is a familiar situation for many: either leave an event to go replenish the soon-to-be expired parking meter, or risk getting a ticket.

Pittsburgh-based MeterFeeder, Inc. has developed a smart parking system to avoid these situations, and the service will soon be available in Homestead.

To start, users must download the free application and enter their plate and credit card information, according to MeterFeeder COO Jeremy Moore.

Carnegie Science Center Talks STEM on Capitol Hill

Mar 19, 2015

With the number of science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, jobs increasing at three times the rate of other industries, the Carnegie Science Center is encouraging schools and Pennsylvania lawmakers to focus on improving the way students learn about STEM fields.

During a Wednesday congressional briefing in Washington, D.C., science center representatives and educators outlined the Carnegie STEM Excellence Pathway, an initiative that launched in October to help schools evaluate and expand the way they teach math and science.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

University of Pittsburgh chancellor Patrick Gallagher calls the volume of healthcare data in the United States “staggering.”

“(It is) fast approaching a zettabyte,” Gallagher said, referencing the equivalent of one trillion gigabytes. “Even the terminology doesn’t make sense to many of us.”

Gallagher made the comments Monday at a joint news conference with Carnegie Mellon University and UPMC. The three institutions have announced a multi-million dollar collaborative initiative to harness vast amounts of health care data to “revolutionize healthcare and wellness.”

Pages