But amidst all that craziness, we’ll outfit you with one thing for sure—a recap of five stories you might have missed this week.
Passing notes in class: the high-tech version
Because the tech industry’s imagination is never-ending, there is now an app to fly a classic paper airplane. Here’s how it works: a small device attaches to any homemade paper plane, which allows a user to control its movements via an app. The device can help your ordinary paper plane perform tricks, and it’s priced at $29 apiece. The startup, which arose from a Kickstarter campaign, originally sought to crowdsource $25,000—but the internet gave it over $1 million. Now that’s one startup that’s taking flight.
Can you say fluent?
Microsoft is working on growing its AI inventory with a Chinese language-learning app. The app will teach the user new words and phrases, as plenty of similar apps already do, but with this app, the AI component will simulate a real-life conversation with the user. Developers trained the AI using data from native Chinese speakers and text-to-speech technology to give users a realistic practice partner that will not only converse naturally, but will also give direct feedback.
Speaking of communicating…
A new study has revealed that when babies and adults make eye contact, their brain waves sync up. Just as face-to-face conversations leave less room for misunderstanding among peers, having synced brainwaves facilitates communication between adults and babies (though exhausted new parents might beg to differ). Researchers call it a “joint networked state,” which has led them to conclude that networking between humans is an unconscious, natural phenomenon embedded in us from day one.
Alexa’s in the office
Amazon has announced that it is expanding Alexa to serve as a voice assistant for business. Now, instead of saying “Alexa, set a timer. Alexa, order a vase,” you can say, “Alexa, book a meeting. Alexa, join conference call.” This expansion comes as voice assistants are gaining so much popularity that the quality and reputation of the assistants are actually beginning to dictate their devices’ success. We’re keeping an eye out to see where we’ll find voice assistants next.
Busting myths one Yeti at a time
A British researcher recently published new findings on the infamous Abominable Snowman, the Yeti. Based on an analysis of countless bone samples, the study determined that the creature is merely a local species of brown bear that got split up from the pack. Its isolation allowed it to grow apart genetically from the brown bear we are familiar with. The legendary Yeti was long-rumored to roam the Himalayas in the bitter cold, and the tale is so widely recognized that one premium cooler company used the mythical creature as the basis for its entire brand. But perhaps Brown Bear isn’t the catchiest name for a cooler.