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On this episode of Spark: Robo-readers, Livehoods, and Pre-crime Screening. Click below to listen to the whole show, or download the MP3 (runs 54:00).

You can also listen to individual stories below.

How Alive is your Neighbourhood?

The Livehoods Project is described as “a new way to understand a city using social media.” Justin Cranshaw is a researcher at Carnegie Mellon where they are collecting data from check-ins like Foursquare and then putting that data onto a map, so you can see where people are “checking in” and see what that information tells you about a particular area. They’ve been doing American cities (New York, San Francisco) and just launched their first Canadian city, Montreal (Runs 10:09)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

Justin CranshawThe Livehoods ProjectLivehoods MontrealFull uncut version of interview with Justin CranshawPre-crime Screening Technology

It sounds like something from the movie Minority Report, but the US Department of Homeland Security is researching ‘pre-crime’ technology to screen for people who may be about to commit a terrorist act. Alexander Furnas is a journalist who has given the technology a lot of thought. He considers whether technology like this could actually work. (Runs 8:11)

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Alexander FurnasAlexander’s article in The Atlantic: Homeland Security’s ‘Pre-Crime’ Screening Will Never WorkThe Trouble With Audio Captchas

CAPTCHAs are the set of squiggly numbers and letters that you are expected to decipher on websites, in order to prove you’re a human and not a spambot. Recently on Spark, we talked about the fact that CAPTCHAs are getting more difficult for humans to figure out. What though, about visually impaired computer users? Turns out the ‘audio’ CAPTCHAs aimed at people who are visually impaired are a user interface “fail”. Nora talks to Brian Gage, a blind computer user, about the problem.(Runs 5:37)

[Audio clip: view full post to listen]

You might also like these related Spark interviews:

Reid Tatoris on Game CAPTCHAsLouis von Ahn on reCAPTCHAAustin Seraphin on the iPhone for blind usersGrading Essays with Robo-readers

Mark Shermis, Dean of Education at the University of Akron, has a keen interest in automated essay scoring programs. He’s currently overseeing a contest to find the best robo-reader, a software program used to grade essays and has recently conducted a study on the technology. How could this software change the way students learn? We also hear the personal story of Spark intern Laura Anderson, who wrote an essay tailored specifically for a robo-reader and got a perfect score. (Runs 9:13)

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Mark ShermisMark Shermis’ study on Automated Scoring TechnologyThe Automated Student Assessment Prize sponsored by the Hewlett FoundationLes Perelman’s horrible essays for robo-readersCode in the Classroom

Middle school teacher Tannis Calder doesn’t have a background in computers, but she’s become a huge advocate for getting kids to learn computer programming skills in the classroom. She uses an easy-to-use computer programming language called Scratch, designed for kids by MIT. (Runs 7:59)

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Tannis Calder’s blogTannis Calder’s textbooks about learning ScratchMIT’s Scratch programming language for kidsYou might also like this Spark story about why kids don’t study Comp Sci anymoreAdditional LinksMichelle Parise’s Tech PSAsMain page photo courtesy of livehoods.orgAPM music used in this episodePodcasts

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