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Wits U poses digital challenge

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An new initiative is calling on developers and entrepreneurs with innovative ideas on how to solve the Wits Campus Personal Navigator Challenge to submit their entries.

An new initiative is calling on developers and entrepreneurs with innovative ideas on how to solve the Wits Campus Personal Navigator Challenge to submit their entries at www.tshimologong.joburg/challenge.

The Wits Campus Personal Navigator Challenge is the first in a series of four annual digital innovation challenges led by the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) at Wits University with sponsorship from the Carl and Emily Fuchs Foundation (CEFF).

The first such challenge sets its focus on new ways to assist students with visual and physical disabilities, by providing them with a ‘personal navigator’ to help guide them from one campus location to another.

Professor Barry Dwolatzky, Director of the JCSE, explains that in 1986 Wits University established the Disabled Students Programme with the aim of supporting students with disabilities. This programme, now called the Disability Rights Unit (DRU), has grown to assist over 1000 students and staff with a broad range of disabilities. He notes that the challenge for developers and innovators will be to create a system that safely guides students between locations using predefined accessible routes, bearing in mind the well documented inaccuracies of commercially available GPS systems.

“The system could be a simple standalone device that attaches to a walking cane or wheelchair or be a wearable device. This unique navigation system may work independently or in conjunction with relevant existing or future systems (software, apps, maps, etc.) to provide visual or audible directions and information to the student. To do this the proposed system might also use multiple sensors installed at key points on campus which will provide location information and alerts to a base unit installed on a walking cane, wheelchair or wearable device,” Dwolatzky says. Apart from coming up with an innovative solution those entering the challenge will be assisted in turning their idea into a viable start-up.

The Wits Campus Personal Navigator Challenge will see approximately 100 aspiring digital entrepreneurs benefit from further training and the opportunity to participate in a weekend-long hackathon. Following this, the top ten entrants will each be given three months’ membership in the Tshimologong Precinct incubation programme, and the top three an additional seven months’ membership. In addition, one start-up in will spend four weeks at one of the Tshimologong Precinct’s international partner hubs located in Canada, USA, Netherlands, UK or India.

“This initiative will encourage young developers to refine their skills in location technology while also benefitting their fellow students and the greater University community and we encourage aspiring digital entrepreneurs not to miss out on this great opportunity,” says Dwolatzky.

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ConceptD: Creatives get a tech brand of their own

The unveiling of a new brand by Acer recognises the massive computing power needed in creative professions, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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It’s a crisp Spring morning in Brooklyn. The regular water taxi from Manhattan pulls up at Duggal Greenhouse on the edge of the East River. It’s a building that symbolises the rejuvenation of Brooklyn as a hub of artistic and creative expression.

Inside the vast structure, global computer brand Acer is about to unveil its own tribute to creativity. Company CEO Jason Chen takes to the stage in faded blue jeans and brown t-shirt, underlining the connection of the event to the informality of the area.

“Brooklyn is become more and more diverse,” he tells a gathering of press from around the world, attending the Next@Acer media event. “It’s an area that is up and coming. It represents new lifestyles. And our theme today is turning a new chapter for creativity.”

Every year, Next@Acer is a parade of the cutting edge in gaming and educational laptops and computers. New devices from sub-brands like Predator, Helios and Nitro have gamers salivating. This year is no different, but there is a surprise in store, hinted in Chen’s introduction.

As a grand finale, he calls on stage Angelica Davila, whose day job is senior marketing manager for Acer Latin America. But she also happens to have a Masters degree in computer and electric engineering. A stint at Intel, where she joined a sales and marketing programme for engineers, set her on a new path.

Angelica Davila, marketing manager for Acer Latin America

For the last few months, she has been helping write Acer’s next chapter. She has shepherded into being nothing less than a new brand: ConceptD.

Click here to read more about ConceptD.

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Which voice assistant wins battle of translators?

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Take the most famous phrase from the Godfather – “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse” – or “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” from the inaugural address of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and see just how the virtual assistants do in translating them using their newly introduced Neural Machine Translation (NMT) capabilities. One Hour Translation (OHT), the world’s largest online translation service, conducted a study to find out just how accurate these new services are.

OHT used 60 sentences from movies and famous people ranging from the Godfather and Wizard of Oz to Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the moon, US presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy and historical figures like Leonardo da Vinci and Aesop. The sentences were translated by Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri from English to French, Spanish, Chinese and German and then given to five professional translators for their assessment on a scale of 1-6. 

Google Assistant scored highest in three of the four languages surveyed – English to French, English to German and English to Spanish and second in English to Chinese.  Amazon’s Alexa, whose translation engine is powered by Microsoft Translator, was tops in the English to Chinese category. Apple’s Siri was second place in English to French and English to Spanish and third place in English to German and English to Chinese.  (See chart). All three virtual assistants are compatible with mobile phones.

“The automated assistants’ translation quality was relatively high, which means that assistants are useful for handling simple translations automatically,” says Yaron Kaufman, chief marketing officer and co-founder of OHT. He predicts that “there is no doubt that the use of assistants is growing rapidly, is becoming a part of our lives and will make a huge contribution to the business world.” 

A lot will depend on further improvements in NMT technology, which has revolutionized the field of translation over the past two years.  All the companies active in the field are investing large sums as part of this effort. “OHT is working with several of the leading NMT providers to improve their engines through the use of its hybrid online translation service that combines NMT and human post-editing,” notes Kaufman. He adds that this will no doubt have a huge impact on the use of assistants for translation purposes.

OHT has made a name for itself in assessing the level of translations by NMT engines.  Its ONEs Evaluation Score is a unique human-based assessment of the leading NMT engines conducted on a quarterly basis and used as an industry standard. 

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