This week, some girls in grade 6 code an app to help hikers stay safe, SFU looks to give girls an introduction to computer science and robotics, Twitter may exclude photos and links from the 140-character limit, and Google unveils its digital assistant. But first, the game Uncharted 4 brings the story of Nathan Drake to an end.
Uncharted 4 a fitting, thrilling finale for adventure series
In the Straight last week I reviewed Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, which I describe as being a fantastic movie.
Note that it’s also a game, but it’s a specific kind of game, and it’s important to keep that in mind when talking about it.
The Uncharted games and The Last of Us all come from Naughty Dog, and a studio they have focused efforts on giving players an opportunity to embody interesting characters who are involved in incredible stories.
It’s a very different thing from the open-world games like Destiny, Fallout, and Grand Theft Auto.
I really enjoyed Uncharted 4, by the way. It’s an incredible achievement for a studio that keeps setting the bar higher, and getting well over it.
Google announces Assistant and Home
At the annual I/O developer conference in Mountain View, California today, CEO Sundar Pichai showed off Google Home, a small speaker for the home, which will be powered by Google Assistant, a digital artificial intelligence similar to Amazon’s Alexa, or Apple’s Siri.
Google already has Google Now, which is a digital assistant you can talk to, but the company claims that the functionality of its Assistant, supported by years of data collection, will be superior to any other service being offered.
In a demonstration today, the company showed how Assistant can track a conversation with a user, so it’s not a simple “ask one question, get one answer, repeat” experience. Instead, users can ask follow-up questions and have a “conversation” with you.
And when used with Google Home, the Assistant can take care of home automation, also. It can talk to Google’s Chromecast device, and I suspect it will also work with the Nest products before long.
Twitter may be making changes to 140-character limit
It’s not a done deal, but Bloomberg reports that Twitter is going to make it easier to add photos and links to tweets.
The move would exclude links and photos from the 140-character tweet limit. Currently, images use up 24 characters while links use up 23 characters.
If the rumours are true, expect to see the change in the next couple of weeks.
SFU science faculty give girls a glimpse at a life in IT
Last weekend was the latest Girls Get IT event at Simon Fraser University (SFU).
The annual event provides females aged 9 through 11 with an opportunity to spend the day at SFU learning about what it’s like to have a career as a computer scientist or engineer.
My daughter took part this year, and reports that she had a great time. The group she was with spent half the day learning how to tell a story using Scratch, a project of the MIT Media Lab that makes provides a simple interface to program interactive stories.
The second part of the day they spent at the robotics lab which is equipped with VEX robotics components that can be snapped together to learn how to create robots and robotic applications.
Girls Get IT is a supported by SFU’s Faculty of Applied Sciences.
North Vancouver students named semi-finalists for tech competition
Technovation is an organization set up to challenge girls to build a mobile app to solve a problem in their community. This year, three students from Ross Road Elementary in Lynn Valley are semi-finalists in the international competition.
In their pitch video, which you can watch below, Madeline Williams describes her community as being “on the edge of the wilderness.”
The app designed by SEM Coderz (watch a demo of the app in action) is called Hike Safe, and is a response to the two million hikers that use the trails in the area every year.
Eleni McLaughlin and Saoirse Pontin round out the trio of developers. Their app will help hikers determine – before they begin their trek – whether they can finish safely before sunset. It takes into account the route being taken, the fitness level of the hiker, the time of sunset, and the time the hike is to begin.
Hike Safe is a practical, pragmatic, simple solution to a problem that North Shore Rescue confirms is one of the key reasons that hikers end up in distress.
And like any good development team, SEM Coderz have also planned updates to the app that would permit agencies like North Shore Rescue to broadcast information about trails and conditions. They’re also wanting to add language options, a good idea considering how many out-of-town visitors enjoy the local trails.
SEM Coderz were helped by Cher Main and the Vancouver chapter of Girls Learning Code.
Four teams of girls 14 and younger will be invited to the World Pitch Summit 2016 in San Francisco this July. One of those teams will receive US$10,000 to help launch their app.