Tech round-up for June 20: Alexa for Hospitality, fuel your hydrogen vehicle in Vancouver, WHO's gaming disorder, Samsung research centre in Toronto

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Categories Consumer technology | Video games

This week, Samsung has opened a new research centre in Toronto to develop artificial intelligence software and integrations, Shell has opened Canada’s first hydrogen vehicle refuelling station in Vancouver, and the World Health Organization has added “gaming disorder” to its classification of diseases. But first, are you ready to ask Alexa to order room service?

Amazon wants you to use Alexa as your personal concierge in your hotel room

This week, Alexa for Hospitality was revealed by Amazon. The new suite of voice-activated features for Amazon’s Echo devices is intended to make Alexa “the hub of the room”.

Really, this is about giving hotel guests the same kind of functionality that they are already getting at home. There’s real convenience in asking Alexa to turn on the lights for you.

Plus, at the hotel you can order room service. Or towels. You can find out about events and attractions close to you and restaurant recommendations.

Marriott International will be using Alexa for Hospitality in about a dozen of its U.S. locations this summer.

Wynn Las Vegas announced last December it intended to install Echos in all of its nearly 5000 rooms

Ultimately, Amazon hopes you’ll be able to log in to your account so you can use Alexa to tap into your playlists and contacts. Until then, you’ll be able to connect your mobile device using Bluetooth.

Amazon insists that hotel owners and operators will not be able to eavesdrop on anything said to Alexa, or accompanying responses.

And you can always unplug it.

Canada’s first hydrogen vehicle filling station has opened in Vancouver

Electric vehicles are all the rage these days. But not all EVs need to be plugged in.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles create electricity by processing compressed hydrogen. The byproduct is water vapour.

There are two primary upsides of hydrogen vehicles over plug-in electrics. The first is range. Hydrogen vehicles have a top range of some 700 km. The second benefit is fuelling time, which only takes a few minutes.

The trick there is finding a place to refuel.

Shell’s just opened Canada’s first hydrogen fuelling station in south Vancouver at Granville and West 71 Avenue. It’s the first of three planned for metro Vancouver, with another three planned for the Victoria area. The stations are being constructed by North Vancouver’s HTEC.

“Gaming disorder” added by World Health Organization as a mental health disorder

The latest edition of the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases has been released and it includes the classification of a new gaming disorder.

The criteria for being diagnosed are:

  • Not doing anything else but play video games
  • Playing the games is negatively affecting the rest of a person’s life
  • Despite those negative consequences, continuing to play

Even the WHO doctor who proposed the disorder admitted to CNN that the likelihood of this disorder being diagnosed is “very low”.

Critics say the criteria are too broad and threaten to further stigmatize people who play games.

A Texas psychologist who works with people who believe they are addicted to video games told CNN that the experts working in mental health “do not understand the gaming population”.

Treating all gamers who may have difficulties the same is a mistake. For one, ages range from preteens to adults in their forties. And people playing Minecraft and people playing Call of Duty are having vastly different experiences.

This is not to say that people don’t have problems with playing video games more than they should. This is often a symptom of other problems such as anxiety and depression. And in many cases, the playing of the games can actually help cope with and solve those other mental health problems.

Doing anything too much could be considered addictive. The answer is to make sure you’re asking the right questions if you think someone has a problem.

Samsung opens research centre in Toronto to develop artificial intelligence

Canada continues to be a hotbed for tech innovation, with Samsung announcing in May that it’s opening a research facility in Toronto.

In a release, the company said that the Samsung AI Centre will “contribute to building the connected future by accelerating the adoption of intelligence on multiple devices ranging from household appliances to cars”.

Samsung executive Larry Heck said that Canada is “home to not only world-class talent, but also some of the most innovative start-ups in the artificial intelligence field”.

The Centre is part of Toronto’s tech hub at the MaRS Discovery district.

This adds to Samsung’s Canadian tech development footprint, which includes a research and development centre in Vancouver.

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