Staff picks for the week of Nov. 23, 2015

 In News, Staff Picks

Can you imagine a world where everything is automated and digital? Tech developments like car vending machines and bank-less banking are putting us one step closer. Read on for more about these and other tech innovations.

Staff Picks General

Survive any apocalypse in this $17.5 million underground bunker (Read by Camillia S.)

As a huge fan of “The Walking Dead,” my belief that a zombie apocalypse will occur increases each season, even though this theory has been disproved several times by scientists and the CDC. For those who still aren’t convinced, this bunker is designed for you. The underground house is equipped to keep up to 20 people safe in the case of a zombie attack, nuclear bomb, or other world-ending event. It’s an underground submarine! Side note: The bunker is just three hours southeast of Atlanta, where “The Walking Dead” version of the zombie apocalypse began. How’s that for a coincidence?

Automated car vending machine opens in Nashville (Read by Heidi B.)

In addition to its booming music scene, Nashville is now also home to the world’s first car vending machine, Carvana. The giant robotic vending machine hopes to take the hassle and haggling out of the car-buying process. With Carvana, you can choose your vehicle and fill out paperwork online, then stop by the vending machine to pick it up. You even receive a giant coin to insert into the machine’s coin slot. Check out the video of Carvana in action – it’s pretty fascinating!

A program that captions your photos (Read by Heidi B.)

Have you ever taken a picture but aren’t sure what to caption it? No problem – computers can do it for you. Researchers at Idiap Research Institute have developed an algorithm that can automatically describe a photo. Unlike similar systems that use previous captions to predict new ones, Idiap’s process creates vector representations of images and compares them to a range of possible words. Then the photo is broken into nouns, verbs, and prepositions that are put together to create a caption. Not only is this cool, but it could also be used to help the visually impaired.

Want a Look at “The Future of Money” in action? Go to Kenya. (Read by Ed M.)

Being on a communications team in this industry means reading, writing, and sharing stories on trending topics like mobility, the environment, and the Internet of Things, but this “60 Minutes” segment about M-PESA hit the jackpot. With the “M” representing “mobility” and “PESA” the Swahili word for money, M-PESA is used by over 90 percent of Kenyans to pay for everything from taxi rides to clean drinking water to solar power, right from their cell phones. Bypassing the need for expensive bank branches or ATM machines, M-PESA brings a secure marketplace anywhere a phone receives a signal. After Kenya’s largest cell phone provider (Safaricom) generated $250 million in revenue by supporting M-PESA last year, both the banking and telecom industries are paying attention to how consumers are conducting business in Kenya.

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