Preserving cultural heritage one language at a time | Microsoft on the Issues

Preserving cultural heritage one language at a time | Microsoft on the Issues

There are close to 7,000 languages spoken around the world today. Yet, sadly, every two weeks a language dies with its last speaker, and it is predicted that between 50% and 90% of endangered languages will disappear by next century. When a community loses a language, it loses its connection to the past – and part of its present. It loses a piece of its identity. As we think about protecting this heritage and the importance of preserving language, we believe that new technology can help.

More than many nations, the people of New Zealand are acutely aware of this phenomenon. Centuries ago, the Māori people arrived on the islands to settle in and create a new civilization. Through the centuries and in the isolation of the South Pacific, the Māori developed their own unique culture and language. Today, in New Zealand, 15% of the population is Māori yet only a quarter of the Māori people speak their native language, and only 3% of all people living in New Zealand speak te reo Maori. Statistically, fluency in the language is extremely low….

Globally, as part of our AI for Cultural Heritage program, Microsoft has committed $10 million over five years to support projects dedicated to the preservation and enrichment of cultural heritage that leverage the power of artificial intelligence. The ultimate role of technology is to serve humankind, not to replace it. We can harness the latest tools in ways that support an environment rich in diversity, perspectives and learnings from the past. And when we enable that knowledge and experience to be shared with the rest of the world, every society benefits.

For more information on Microsoft Translator please visit: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/translator/languages/

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Microsoft went all in on accessible design. This is what happened afterwards | Fast Company

Logitech photo as part of a Fast Company article.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is one of the most telling products in how design as we know it is changing. It’s a boxy controller with two giant buttons and over a dozen ports for external peripherals, to allow people with disabilities the option to play Xbox in any manner they can…

But the Xbox Adaptive Controller was just the first step into more inclusive video games and voting machines. And we’re seeing that proven in a new, companion product developed by the mouse and keyboard giant Logitech. Called the Adaptive Gaming Kit, it’s a collection of mix-and-matchable buttons that plug into the Xbox Adaptive Controller for additional customization…

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Imagine a way to create skin and 3D print it. In Singapore, it becomes closer to reality | NowThis

When alerted to the story, a famous activist I follow, @PattyArquette had inquired about doing this for burn victims.

As I did some simple Binging (only because they Bribe you to search with them, but that’s another subject altogether) I found the closest Medical School to where I live is working on it. This particular University is in talks with the dominant health system here on a partnership to bring a Medical School to Charlotte after prior talks with UNC Healthcare fizzled.

There is a “kinda” branch of UNC Healthcare that is apparently still operational. My guess is that the planned combination either has not gotten far enough along to cover this conflict, or it’s not publicly communicated. Around here, either scenario is possible.

PyDev of the Week: Martin Uribe | The Mouse vs The Python

PyDev of the Week: Martin Uribe | The Mouse vs The Python

This week we welcome Martin Uribe (@clamytoe) as our PyDev of the Week! Martin helps out at PyBites. You can find him on PyBite’s Slack channel answering lots of Python related questions. You can also find out what Martin is up to via his Github or LinkedIn profiles. Let’s take a few moments to get to know Martin better!

Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc):

I’m 46 and happily married with 8 kids. Born and raised in South Central L.A. I joined the California National Guard while I was still in high school. I went to Basic Training between my 11th and 12th grades; came back and graduated with honors and was gone within the month for Advanced Initial Training where they taught me how to fix helicopter radios. After a couple of years I decided to enlisted full-time in the regular Army and did a stint for another 8 years in Automated Logistics and got an honorable discharge as a Sergeant in 2001.

Before getting out, I got in a semester of full-time college as part of a re-enlistment bonus. I loved it and I hit the books pretty hard. I was so pumped to learn that I pushed myself to continue to grow when I went back to work. As a result, I was able to get my MCSE, MCP+I and A+ certifications which allowed me to get into the role that I still hold as a Senior Field Engineer for Fidelity. I’m contracted out to one of our many customers, PNC Bank, at their Dallas lockbox location. The title has changed over the years but it entails a lot of hardware and software support. In case you don’t know, a lockbox is where everyone’s checks go for processing when they make a payment over snail mail. Everything gets imaged front and back and entered into the bank’s system and the banks customers can access their documents through a secure proxy connection immediately. The money transfers are made the next day once the checks have cleared. At the end of the month, the banks customers images are placed on encrypted CD’s or DVD’s and mailed out to them.

To blow some steam I like to play Minecraft with my kids, edit movies, play Beat Saber, take online courses, and do some Python coding.

Why did you start using Python?

While in the Army I got into the role of maintaining the 4th Infantry Division’s logistics database. Once I figured out that I could automate most of my work, I was hooked! I had this report that I had to generate daily. That thing was a beast and took several hours to put together. After doing it a couple of times, I decided to record a macro and the next time, it only took several minutes! I went from macros, to editing the VBScript code itself, to writing batch scripts on the NT servers. By the time that I left, the only I had to do was make sure the tape was in the tape drive for the nightly backups!

When I got into the role that I have now, it was a whole new ball game. Up to that point I was only familiar with Windows NT and Windows 95. I was plopped in front of a terminal on a FreeBSD network and told to take care of it! Trial by fire as they say! I soon got the hang of it and since our whole platform runs on Perl, I started to dabble a bit with that. Pretty soon I was writing Perl and shell scripts to make my job easier.

At this point of my life, I was into a bit of everything. From pentesting, web development, database management, to 3D modeling/rigging/animation. I even got certified as a Macromedia Flash Designer! Boy was I wrong for betting on that platform… My interests where so scattered that I was good at a lot of things, but not an expert at any of them. I finally got fed up and decided that it was time to stick to one thing and become really good at it.

While pentesting I had come across several Python scripts and I was impressed with how easy they were to read compared to Perl and how powerful they were. I decided Python would by my train and I hoped on without a second thought.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

While taking some college courses I learned Java, but I didn’t like it much. I know enough of the following to get things done: HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Perl, SQL, and BASH. Python is my favorite; I use it pretty much every day even though my job doesn’t require me to code

Thanks for doing the interview, Martin!

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Open government data – more critical than ever. | Microsoft on the Issues

Open government data – more critical than ever. | Microsoft on the Issues

What strikes me as interesting that there was no mention of former CEO Steve Ballmer’s USAFacts website, that is one of his first post-MS initiatives.

Today, in Washington, D.C., Microsoft was pleased to participate in an event hosted by  the Business Software Alliance, focused on Data Innovation Policy:  Enabling Access and Promoting Use. We were honored to have U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) provide introductory remarks. Rep. Kilmer is a strong advocate for open data, having served as sponsor of the OPEN Government Data Act, which was signed into law in January 2019. As Rep. Kilmer noted, Congress and the administration have recognized that the availability of useful government data is essential for the U.S. to lead a digital economy powered by AI and data analytics. The OPEN Government Data Act’s mandate – to encourage every federal agency to publish information as open data – is fundamental to achieving this goal. This mandate is ambitious and presents a range of policy, structural and technical challenges. Multiple agencies need to develop and implement effective approaches to identify, maintain and publish relevant data inventories, in a standardized, machine-readable format. Important progress has been made toward these ambitions.

And yet, there is more that can be done to achieve this vision. One idea I mentioned at the event is the idea of creating a Federal Chief Data Officer role to help spearhead the goals of the OPEN Government Data Act. The creation of such a role would help agencies coordinate and prioritize the work to unlock high value government data.

At the event today, we heard about many compelling examples where open government data has been used to advance research in important areas. For example, our speaker from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center spoke about how government data was being used by a scientist to help look at new ways to identify and treat endometriosis. We also heard from Rep. Kilmer about how environmental data was being used to help forecast weather and transportation trends.

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A conversation with the researcher who put a movie on a piece of glass with Project Silica | onMSFT.com

A conversation with the researcher who put a movie on a piece of glass with Project Silica | onMSFT.com

At Microsoft Ignite, I, Abhishek Baxi, sat down with Ant Rowstron, partner deputy lab director of Microsoft Research Cambridge, to learn more about Project Silica.

Why did you choose glass?

So, I think there are several reasons. First off, it’s a durable media, and it’s got a very long lifetime. So, the data that we’ve got written in here won’t get any decay, and it will be good for, you know, tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of years.

You got your archive data, which is just cold. Today we’re using hard disk drives or tape to store that. With hard disk drive, you’re lucky to get five years from it. Not much longer. A tape, you’re going to get ten years. I think ten is the upper bound; some people use it for five years or even less…

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Microsoft study: Teens are better than adults at finding help with online issues | Microsoft on the Issues

Microsoft study: Teens are better than adults at finding help with online issues | Microsoft on the Issues

It’s World Kindness Day – and we’re calling on teens across the globe to assist adults with online issues. That’s because, according to our latest research conducted in 25 countries, teens are considerably better than adults at tracking down useful resources to help resolve digital difficulties…

Confidence in facing online risks

While two-thirds of teens say they know where to find help with online risks, their self-assuredness in managing online risk exposure is slightly lower than that of adults. Just under half of the teens surveyed (48%) said they were confident in handling online risks versus just over half of the adults (52%). To help build those confidence levels, check out our resources guide, which offers primary and secondary sources for all 21 risks covered in our survey. Additional information about a wide  range of online activities and potential risks and harm can be found on the resources page of our website

Chart showing online safety

Microsoft’s Digital Civility Challenge

We’re making this preliminary research available on World Kindness Day to again call attention to Microsoft’s Digital Civility Challenge – four basic tenets for life online to encourage kinder, more empathetic and more respectful interactions. We’d never want to thwart debate, discussion or the free flow of ideas; it’s just important that those interactions take place free of name-calling and abuse. Specifically, we’re encouraging people to:

  • Live the “Golden Rule” and treat others as you would like to be treated by leading with empathy, compassion and kindness, and affording everyone respect and dignity both online and off.
  • Respect differences by honoring diverse opinions and perspectives and, when disagreements surface, engage thoughtfully by avoiding name-calling and abusive
  • Pause before replying to comments or posts you disagree with and refrain from posting or sending anything that could hurt someone, damage a reputation or threaten someone’s safety.
  • Stand up for yourself and others if it’s safe and prudent to do so; report illegal and abusive content and behavior, and preserve evidence.

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