technology

MEDION P61110_01 / Flickr

Use of smart speakers in the Unites States is growing rapidly. According to new research put out in January from NPR and Edison Research, one in six Americans now own a smart speaker, that's around 39 million people. It's an increase of 128 percent from January 2017. Predictions show 75 percent of U.S.

Ashley Leal parks in front of the Plains, Kansas, Community Library. It’s about to close, but she doesn’t care. She pulls out her blue laptop.

“I’m ... using the Wi-Fi,” Leal says with a laugh.

Her home internet was so slow, she came to the library parking lot. Cars often idle there in the evening while their drivers tap into a plodding, but treasured, link to the internet.

“I’m just thankful that we have somewhere to go,” Leal says.

It’s the only free internet in this small western Kansas town. For many people, it’s the only internet, period. Surprisingly, part of the problem and the solution, for rural areas may lie in Netflix traffic.

Rob Dillard / Iowa Public Radio

The drive to draw more young women into science, technology, engineering and math has been gaining momentum in recent years. There's a program in Des Moines that makes sure low-income girls are given a chance at the so-called STEM fields.

Many of the girls Nancy Mwirotsi works with are beginning at ground zero when it comes to computers.

“Most of them are pretty new in the country," she says. "We had to start with basic what is an e-mail address.”

Emily Woodbury/IPR

Two years ago, the launch of the virtual reality headset Oculus Rift was the first time consumers had access to relatively affordable virtual reality. While still not a household staple, market forecasts predict that virtual and augmented reality will be a $40 billion industry by 2020. 

Chapendra/Flickr

The World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric Association will classify video game addiction as a mental disorder in the 11th International Classification of Diseases.

Iowa State University Psychologist Doug Gentile says that to tell the difference between a healthy passion for gaming and a damaging addiction, it's best to consider when it becomes dysfunctional.

Facebook

Des Moines is among the first five U.S. cities to be included in an initiative launched by Facebook called Community Boost. It’s designed to help small businesses and job seekers sharpen their social media skills.

Emily Woodbury

Last month, head of the Federal Communications Commission, Ajit Pai, unveiled plans to repeal the landmark 2015 rules known as "net neutrality," which are Obama-era regulations that prohibit internet service providers from impeding consumer access to web content.

Pai argues the rules are too heavy-handed and have stifled innovation and investment in the broadband industry.

Tony Townsend, associate professor of Information Systems at Iowa State University, says it is likely that Pai’s plan will be voted through.

Chatterkick

The Technology Association of Iowa is launching a first-of-its-kind podcast in the state highlighting women leaders in high-tech. The project is known as “Technically Iowa.”

The series of interviews for the podcast is hosted by a woman who is already at the forefront of using technology to start a business. Beth Trejo is CEO and founder of the Sioux City-based social media agency Chatterkick. She says the goal of the show is to develop a network of women techies.

Autonomous Future

Nov 27, 2017
Silver Blue / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

Imagine a world in the not too distant future where human car and truck drivers are the exception rather than the rule. In this segment of River to River: life after driving. Host Ben Kieffer talks with University of Iowa computer scientist Dan Reed to look at ways our society would change when we leave the driving to machines and become mere passengers.

Reed is generally optimistic about the future use of this technology, but says it will change economic models and allow companies to collect more data.

Patricia Izbicki

The Technology Association of Iowa is handing out its annual Women of Innovation Awards this week. One of the recipients is exploring the connection between music and the brain.

A doctoral student at Iowa State is being recognized for her research into how music impacts the nervous system. Patricia Izbicki has an undergraduate degree in music performance and is now applying it to her scientific studies in the Neuroscience Graduate Program at ISU. She says she hopes the results of her work lead to more support for music programs.

A suburban Des Moines school district says it will resume tomorrow after it canceled classes today due to threatening text messages that were anonymously sent to a number of students and parents.

The texts were received last night from a number with a 818 area code, which is used in Los Angeles County, CA.

Precision Agriculture 101

Oct 2, 2017
Flickr Creative Commons

In 1960, the average yield per acre of seed corn in Iowa was 63.5 bushels per acre. Last year, that same measure was 203 bushels per acre, because of advancements in farming technology like precision agriculture.

Precision agriculture includes auto-steering, yield monitoring, precision planting, and  "allows a farmer to really have a window into his machine and see what's going on," said Pete Youngblut, owner of Youngblut Ag, an independent precision agriculture product dealer in Dysart.

The Growth of Iowa Telemedicine

Sep 28, 2017
Andy G. / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode

Telemedicine is the remote delivery of healthcare services including using new technologies like video streaming. This method has been growing in use in recent years, and the topic was the subject of a panel discussion earlier this month at the Iowa Ideas Conference in Cedar Rapids. It was moderated by River to River host Ben Kieffer.

Amy Mayer/IPR

Drones are gaining in popularity as industries from farming to retail to insurance find ways the unmanned flying vehicles can help make businesses more profitable. At Iowa State University, a team of engineers is trying to get ahead of likely complaints about drone noise.

Anupam Sharma, an aerospace engineering professor at Iowa State, takes inspiration from owls to design noise-reduction strategies for airplanes and wind turbines because owls are naturally nearly-silent fliers. Drones challenge Sharma’s team to think on a scale closer to the size of an owl.

Harper Collins

Author Adam Piore says he's always been interested in stories of resilience. As he was looking for the topic of his latest book, he says he realized some of the most interesting stories of resilience today are taking place through technology. The result is The Body Builders: Inside the Science of the Engineered Human.

Piore says technology has allowed for remarkable recoveries among people with once devastating injuries. "Now we have some of the best engineers turning their sights inward to see how the body and mind work."

Rachel.Adams / Flickr

Great advancements in technology certainly assist everyday life, but these advancements often inflict people with dread.

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, Charity Nebbe speaks with two novelists, Benjamin Percy and Alissa Nutting, who reflect these anxieties in their work.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Apple, Incorporated has chosen Waukee for a new high-tech facility,  joining other tech giants Microsoft, Google, and Facebook which built data centers in Iowa in recent years.  

Apple will construct a $1.3 billion campus on 2000 acres to initially include two data centers, with additional expansion in the future.

Iowa Economic Development Authority Director Debi Durham said, once completed, it will be the largest ever private investment in the state. 

At a news conference on the capitol grounds, Apple CEO Tim Cook called Iowa a home for innovation.

Reid Chandlet, Trilix Group

Ten months after the announcement of its creation, the Iowa AgriTech Accelerator has a permanent executive director. The incubator for start-up companies involved in agriculture also is bringing in its first class of five.

Coon Valley Cooperative Telephone Association

A rural telephone cooperative in western Iowa is receiving a loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help upgrade its broadband capabilities. The money will enable it to replace copper wires with fiber.

The Coon Valley Cooperative Telephone Association in the Guthrie County town of Menlo is getting a $6.5 million loan from the USDA. It will use the money to lay more than 200 miles of fiber. Association general manager Jim Nelson says access to high-speed internet is increasingly important for the cooperative’s 700 members.

VictoryVR

Students at Davenport Assumption High School are discovering a new tool for exploring careers in the STEM fields. They can now take a virtual reality tour of sites where people in STEM-related professions work.

The phone-based virtual reality mobile app allows students to view interviews of people from around the country who are working at science, technology, engineering or math jobs. Assumption science teacher Wendy Martin says it’s not like watching television. She says when the students put on the special goggles, they join the action.

Emily Woodbury

This broadcast originally aired in June 2015.

Humans have now had access to the sky for more than a century thanks to engineering and ingenuity, but the evolution of the human brain has not kept up with its creations.

Amy Mayer/IPR

A multidisciplinary Iowa State University team will present its work this week at the National Sustainable Design Expo in Washington, D.C.

Students from apparel design and engineering worked together to create a cotton jacket fitted with nine flexible solar panels.

Beth Jusino / Flickr

It’s not only drugs that can cause addiction. New research shows dependence on your smart phone may produce some of the same addictive brain responses. 

In this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks to Adam Alter, an associate professor of marketing at New York University and author of the new book IRRESISTIBLE: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked.

According to Alter, the definition of the term “addiction” has expanded over the years to include not only substances, but behaviors as well.

Greater Des Moines Partnership

A newly launched web site is aimed at breaking the myth that start-up companies in Iowa can’t raise capital. More than 40 entrepreneurs have already shared their success stories.

Rob Dillard, Iowa Public Radio

A new technology sweeping the real estate market is hitting Des Moines. Virtual reality tours show finished living quarters while they’re still under construction.

Minnesota-based Roers Investments now offers potential downtown apartment dwellers a chance to see what they would be renting before the construction dust clears. Virtual reality devices can now lead prospective tenants of the company’s upscale Confluence on Third project on a tour of the completed building. Jeff Koch with Roers says the new marketing tool is revolutionizing the real estate industry.

National Advanced Driving Simulator

The U.S. Department of Transportation has selected the Iowa City area to be one of its ten proving grounds for driverless cars. Testing is scheduled to begin by the end of the year.

The Iowa City Area Development Group submitted the application to be considered one of the sites for testing automated vehicles. Its director of strategic growth, Tom Banta, says the presence of the National Advanced Driving Simulator at the University of Iowa helped the application stand out.

Iowa State University news service

An alliance of educators, government officials and the Iowa National Guard is setting out to inform the public about cyber security. The group aims to better protect people from increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks.

The Iowa Cyber Alliance is the nation’s first statewide program dedicated to cyber security. One of its leaders is Doug Jacobson, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Iowa State. He says one of the group’s goals is to prepare young people for careers in what he calls “the very hot field” of cyber security.

Manuel Alarcon/flickr

Iowans shopping at Amazon.com have a surprise in store when they go online today.  

Starting January 1, the retail giant will be collecting sales tax for the first time on purchases in Iowa, as they do in 30 other states.   

Department of Management Director Dave Roederer says it will be good for state coffers and for other retailers.

“It is leveling the playing field for the main street merchants,” Roederer said.  “Main Street merchants are required to collect sales tax.  The online was not.  So that levels that out.”

Marco Antonio Coloma/flickr

A tax break Iowans enjoy on digitally-delivered goods is under consideration at the statehouse.

Officials with the Iowa Department of Revenue today briefed a panel of state lawmakers who are charged with reviewing the tax credits that cost the state treasury hundreds of millions of dollars a year.    

DOR economist Amy Harris said Iowans currently do not pay sales tax when they download e-books, movies, or software from the internet.   

Wellcome Images

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and producer Emily Woodbury talk with medical providers about how different medical robots work, as well as the pros and cons of working side-by-side with machines to provide patient care.

Robots at the bedside: Telemedicine and the stroke robot

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