Staff picks for the week of June 6, 2016

 In News, Staff Picks

Every day brings new innovations or developments in technology, and this week was no different. Catch up on what’s new in tech with our staff picks!

Staff Picks General

Microsoft finds cancer clues in search queries (Read by Camillia S.)

Microsoft scientists are making strides in e-health by using search engine queries as a way to possibly identify users suffering from pancreatic cancer. Researchers sifted through search data to determine which users may have been already diagnosed and then worked backwards by examining previous queries indicating possible symptoms. With this information, scientists aim to detect cancer quicker and more easily than a trip to the doctor. The data used was anonymous so there was no way to contact the users to determine if they have cancer or if they were searching on behalf of someone else, but researchers are confident that they’re onto something. I believe our online habits are quite telling and the earlier cancer is detected the better, so anything helps!

Smart mirrors might be the future of in-store customer analytics (Read by Alexandria H.)

There’s no shortage of analytics tools available to help interpret the behavior of online shoppers as online sales continue to climb. But how do brick and mortar stores get in on the action? Enter smart mirrors. Through radio frequency signals inserted into merchandise tags, smart mirrors can track the location of merchandise and where it is within a store. With this information, retailers can discover trends among customers and how they move within a store as well as maintain a more accurate log of items in stock. I for one prefer shopping online from the comfort of my own home. But if the use of smart mirrors and other interconnected technologies can improve the in-store customer experience, then I’m all for it.

Comfy raises $12 million for app to end office thermostat wars (Read by Alexandria H.)

Finding a temperature that’s comfortable for a group is like trying to find Waldo. Now imagine an office building with hundreds of employees complaining that they’re either too hot or too cold. What a nightmare for building managers! Fortunately, a company called Comfy aims to solve this conundrum through a new app that helps companies lower their energy consumption while allowing employees to adjust their surrounding temperatures. The difference between Comfy and its competitors is that Comfy offers an app that captures feedback from the employees themselves. As someone who is constantly cold and uses a space heater on a daily basis, a tool that’s helpful to the environment, saves money, and promises productivity improvements definitely gets my vote.

Google’s computers are creating songs. Making music may never be the same. (Read by Heidi B.)

Move over, musicians, Google is coming to town. Using a computer network that functions similarly to a human brain, Google’s new  Project Magenta analyzes musical sequences from thousands of songs and then creates its very own tunes. While Project Magenta does aim to advance art and music generated by artificial intelligence, it also hopes to benefit human musicians by featuring an open-source infrastructure. I’m used to hearing about artificial intelligence grasping technical concepts, so it’s interesting to watch it begin to understand creative, open-ended concepts like music, as well.

How your iPhone photos make you happier (Read by Heidi B.)

If I had a nickel for every time I heard someone say smartphones take us away from the present moment, I’d have enough money to buy another smartphone. Researchers at the University of Southern California, however, are challenging that notion. The team recently ran a series of experiments testing whether people are happier when they have access to a smartphone camera, or when they are phone-free. The results were surprising — the team found that taking photos actually makes people enjoy what they’re doing more than when they don’t have the handheld technology. I still strive to “unplug” every day, but if snapping iPhone photos makes you happier, then by all means keep on snapping.

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