Staff picks for the week of Sept. 19, 2016

Staff Picks GeneralHappy Friday! Here are the most interesting tech stories our staff read this week.

Confused about those emergency cellphone alerts? Here’s how they work. (Read by Camillia S.)

Some people believe that technology is pulling us away from the present and each other, but in many cases it comes through for the greater good of human safety. Unless you disabled the feature, you’ve probably heard your phone emit a screeching noise to alert you to a missing child in the area or dangerous weather. Have you ever wondered how the alerts work? If so, this article answers all of the FAQs about how they’re delivered, where they’re from, and who’s sending them out.

Forensic techniques sending people to prison may not be scientifically valid (Read by Camillia S.)

Everything you’ve seen on CSI may end up being more of a lie than you thought. While crime investigation shows often fudge the details for the sake of good TV, for the most part they try to stay reasonably close to the truth. Well now the White House’s Council of Science and Technology is questioning the accuracy of many forensic science techniques. The council issued a report to the National Institutes of Standards and Technology urging them to review the current techniques for validity, and with good reason. In numerous cases, forensic evidence has contributed to convictions that were later overturned. I think it’d be worth reviewing, but apparently the Justice Department does not and politely declined The White House’s request.

10 cool little things to try in iOS 10 (Read by Heidi B.)

Have you updated to iOS 10 yet? If you’re like me, you made the change but are still discovering all of the new features. This article highlights the coolest new functions, including Siri’s ability to use apps (e.g. Venmo-ing your friend $10 for lunch) and searching photos by subject (e.g. searching for all images of a cat) or by specific person, thanks to Apple’s facial recognition technology. Two of my personal favorites not listed in the article are the new keyboard sounds and digital touch messaging, which allows you to draw in text messages and send your friends digital heartbeats, kisses, fireballs, and more. Save yourself some time and check it out!

Wireless signals can detect your feelings with new device (Read by Heidi B.)

Did you know your emotions can be detected by a wireless device? A group of MIT researchers recently developed a device that can determine your mood by measuring heartbeats. That’s right, this thing can tell if you’re happy, sad, or angry just by bouncing signals off your body and interpreting your physiological patterns. Possible uses for the device span from measuring viewer reactions in the advertising industry to diagnosing anxiety and depression in the medical field. Be sure to watch the video to see the gadget in action!

CoinOut wants to digitize the pennies in your pocket (Read by Alexandria H.)

Swiping a card at checkout has always been my payment method of choice. It saves time from counting coins, and I’m not left with a pile of change at the end of each transaction. Luckily, the days of handling loose change may be a thing of the past. Startup CoinOut enables users to opt out of receiving cash change by turning it into digital money instead. With CoinOut, the change you would normally get after a cash transaction can be sent to your bank account, loaded to an Amazon gift card, or donated to a charity of your choice. What’s great is that consumers don’t even need to download an app to use the service.

Casper is rolling out a chatbot for insomniacs (Read by Alexandria H.)

Casper the friendly … chatbot? You read that right. The popular mattress company is experimenting with artificial intelligence to provide companionship during times of insomnia. This week Casper rolled out its new chatbot Insomnobot3000, which as the company puts it, aims to “make 3 a.m. a little less lonely.”  When you’re unable to sleep, send a quick text to Insomnobot3000 and you’ve got yourself an artificially intelligent friend willing to chat about work, friends, TV shows, or anything else that keeps you up at night. The chatbot is equipped to hold a conversation just as a real person would, using common phrases and terminology. It even initiates texts from time to time! So the next time you’re feeling restless, let your friends sleep and text Insomnobot3000 instead.

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