Category Archives: Gadgets

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New App Measures Students’ Moods and Mental Health

A computer-science professor at Dartmouth College is building a smartphone application that can detect users’ levels of happiness, stress, and loneliness, he says, with the hope of helping students monitor their mental health.

The app, called StudentLife, draws on sensor data from smartphones to “infer human behaviors,” says the professor, Andrew Campbell. It was inspired partly by the mental-health struggles that Mr. Campbell’s brother experienced while in college. The professor also wants to…

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Optimism About MOOCs Fades in Campus IT Offices

MOOC fever is cooling, at least among campus information-technology administrators, according to the 2014 edition of the Campus Computing Survey, an annual report on technology in higher education.

While a little more than half of last year’s respondents thought MOOCs “offer a viable model for the effective delivery of online instruction,” just 38 percent of this year’s participants agreed with that statement. And only 19 percent of respondents in 2014 said MOOCs could generate new reven…

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Will the Next Classroom Disruption Be in 3-D? Facebook’s Virtual-Reality Company Thinks So

Brendan Iribe, chief executive of Oculus VR. (Getty Images)

College Park, Md. — Brendan Iribe dropped out of the University of Maryland here, but before he did he amassed 227 parking tickets. And he managed to meet two business partners who would help him build the virtual-reality company Oculus VR, which Facebook bought this year for about $2-billion.

One of those parking tickets remains unpaid, but the university is likely to forgive it after Friday, when he gave $31-million to erect a compute…

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Apple Watch: Coming to a Classroom Near You?

applewatchWearable technology has entered the mainstream. The Apple Watch, announced on Tuesday, ushers in the possibility that, one day soon, campuses across the country will contend with students who are literally attached to their gadgets.

“These wearable technologies will become like appendages,” said B.J. Fogg, a consulting professor at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab. “To remove those capabilities will be like tying one hand behind your back.”

While the prospect …

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Feds’ Drone Regs Draw Profs’ Fire

Some professors are worried that the federal government will stifle their ability to teach and do research with unmanned flying machines.

In a letter sent to the Federal Aviation Administration last week, 30 professors argued that its recent pronouncements on drones would unreasonably restrict scholars’ ability to use the small aircraft for academic purposes, the Associated Press reports.

“To the best of our knowledge, no fatalities have resulted from academic research with model aircraft,” …

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Start-Up Aims to Solve Perpetual Graduation Problem: Butchered Names

Stanford University, whose students gave us the modern search engine, the modern sneaker company, and the modern method of money transfer, is finally tackling a native challenge: commencement. At graduation ceremonies over the past weekend, eight departments at the university used a web-based service that allows students to record their names before commencement for the benefit of whoever reads aloud the list of graduates.

Dubbed NameCoach, the start-up was founded last year by students at—whe…

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But Is That Ethical? Ask This App.

The disclaimer on Santa Clara University’s new mobile app strikes an ominous tone:

“In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this website/app.”

Then again the Ethical Decision Making app, developed by the university’s Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, aims for more-consequential uses than, say, Fruit Ninja or Angry Birds. The Santa Clara ethicists hope that people who make decisions that will change lives—business leaders, hospi…

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Students Prefer Smartphones and Laptops to Tablets, Study Finds

When tablets appeared on the market, there were expectations that they would be laptop computers’ greatest competition. That has not turned out to be true at Ball State University, where students see tablets as a form of entertainment—as essentially a bigger and more expensive smartphone, according to a recent study.

The study, by Michael Hanley, a professor of advertising and director of Ball State’s Institute for Mobile Media Research, found that students’ use of smartphones for entertainment,…

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Cornell U. Researchers Put Robots in Conversation, and the Result Is Surprisingly Human

When the machines take over, much will change. But perhaps not the exquisite frustrations of a halting philosophical debate.

Researchers at Cornell University’s Creative Machines Lab have demonstrated this by putting two artificially intelligent avatars in conversation with one another. The avatars, called Cleverbots, are sophisticated versions of the classic Eliza program, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1960s. The Cornell researchers—two doctoral students and an…