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UMSI Fun Size for 2/4/19: Ding dong, doorbell snooping

The world of information - in Fun Size!

UMSI's Fun Size digest features tiny, delicious news tidbits relating to information and library topics. Reach us at [email protected].

The not-so-distant future
We may never fly around with our own private jetpacks (sorry, Jetsonians), but has an infographic that predicts some cool things to come in the very near future, such as ingestible robots, 3D printers for the home and undersea cities.  

Big Sister is listening
In case you didn’t know, Alexa is listening to and recording your conversations even when you haven’t said her name. C’mon, how’s she going to learn to read your mind if all you ever ask her for is the weather? explains why all your assumptions about voice technology are wrong

Outsmarting Alexa, Google
In case the above information is creeping you out, entrepreneurs are coming to the rescue with new gadgets that muffle, distract and befuddle your smart speakers. The Missing Remote details the Cone of Silence unveiled at CES last month, while Hackaday includes a video showing users having fun using Project Alias to change their devices’ wake-up words. (Especially useful for those with a real live Alexa in the house.)

Long overdue returns
Works of art weren’t the only valuables stolen from Jewish families during World War II. Three and a half million books were looted as well, and many made their way into German and Austrian libraries. Now European librarians, with the help of researchers and the internet, are working to reunite the books with the owners’ families, the New York Times reports.

A fine thing
Public libraries in the Los Angeles area are taking steps to break down barriers between libraries and low-income families by eliminating library fines for readers under 21 or letting children “read away” their fines at the rate of $5 per hour, according to the Los Angeles Times

Robot dog learns new tricks
A four-legged robot has used machine learning to move more like a real animal, without any human coding, say the roboticists at EHF Zurich. Technology Review includes a video  of the “animal” in action. (Don’t blink; it’s really short.)

Neighborhood watch
While being able to see who’s at your door via your doorbell video camera seems like a good security feature, new products like Amazon’s Ring and the Google Nest Hello are raising ethical and privacy concernsaccording to Marketplace. Like, what third-party vendors are scoping out your ’hood?

The high price of success
For years, wanna-be residents have bemoaned the impossibly high cost of real estate in high tech markets like Seattle and San Francisco. Now some tech companies are seeking to redress the problems their success has caused. Microsoft is the latest company to step up with a commitment of $500 million to tackle the affordable housing issue, says AP News.

Crash course in safe surfing
Think you can easily spot false information? Author and Vlogger John Green has a 10-part free online course that teaches how to swim more safely in the seas of information. The project is a co-venture of The Poynter Institute/Mediawise and the Stanford History Education Group. Check out this video for a quick overview. 

News from UMSI: 
The new Master of Applied Data Science degree, UMSI’s first all-online degree, is now accepting applications for fall 2019. Details for the degree, including admission requirements, curriculum and proposed tuition (pending regental approval) are now posted on the UMSI website. Read more.