Tech round-up for June 27: The benefit of going grey, Canadian schools win Samsung tech, Apple signs Oprah, Earth Timelapse data visualizations are revealing

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This week, getting perspective on things with some new maps, details on four clever ideas Canadian students came up with to solve problems in their communities, and why Apple wants Oprah. But first, why you might want to turn off the colour on your smartphone.

Going greyscale helps you keep your device time down

Facebook is going to show you how much time you’re spending there. Apple is introducing a new feature, “Screen Time”, to show you what apps you’re using on your iPhone and iPad.

Well, Tristan Harris, who spent three years with Google as the company’s “design ethicist”, wrote a long article in which he details all the ways that technology companies exploit us for their own ends.

He co-founded the Center for Humane Technology to help, and there’s a list of about ten things you can do to take control of your phone.

One is to get rid of the colour. According to Harris, the bright colours app icons are created in keep us coming back to the devices because our lizard brains get rewarded by shiny things.

On an iOS device, you can go grey in the Settings: Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut > Color Filters. By activating the color filters shortcut, you can triple-tap the home button to easily switch between greyscale and colour.

On Android devices enabling greyscale differs depending on which version you’re using, but the menu item is found through the Accessibility menu in the device settings.

Four schools get $20k in tech from Samsung Canada

Schools in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, and Ontario were named winners of the 2018 Solve for Tomorrow Challenge.

The objective was to use science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) to solve a problem being faced by the community students are living in. The four schools will receive $20,000 in Samsung technology as finalists.

  • Fort McMurray, Alberta’s Westwood Community High School shows the alternative energy solutions being used at the school and a plan to share their knowledge with younger students.
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba’s Meadows West School collected traffic data and used virtual reality to educate parents on the problems and dangers faced by students during the busy drop-off and pick-up times at schools.
  • Moncton, New Brunswick’s Bernice MacNaughton High School designed an aquaponics system to grow food, with the intent to one day share the surplus with a local food depot.
  • Thornhill, Ontario’s Thornlea Secondary School developed an automatic pollination system to support the growing of plants in the absence of natural pollinators like bees.

Apple inks deal with Oprah

Apple’s push to build out its content library continues. This month, the company announced a “multi-year content partnership” with Oprah Winfrey to “create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.”

This does not conflict with Oprah’s cable network, OWN, which she created with Discovery Communications.

Apple has reportedly set aside US$1 billion for content, and already has other projects in the works. There’s a reboot of “Amazing Stories” from Steven Spielberg, a series from M. Night Shyamalan, and another that will star Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, who will also executive produce.

Earth Timelapse uses maps to show what’s going on in the world

A collaboration between the think tank Igarapé Institute and Carnegie Mellon University, Earth Timelapse “tracks climactic and human-induced risks on a planetary scale over the past three decades.”

Using publicly available data, Earth Timelapse plots the information on a map over time to show trends and flows.

A number of the visualizations have been recorded and posted to YouTube and they are revealing.

In a video produced by the BBC and embedded below, Robert Muggah explains that Western anti-immigrant attitudes are unfounded, as the data shows clearly that most refugee movement is to neighbouring countries. And when terrorism data is layered on top of that, it’s also clear that refugees are not themselves terrorists, but are escaping violence.

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