Innovation is still possible while your team is working from home

Despite initial results, are executives and employees growing frustrated with working from home and concerned that it’s killing innovation? Yes, but there are other ways to foster innovation.

Image: iStock/EtiAmmos

Working from home is affecting all teams differently, but some believe it’s stifling innovation. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal featured excerpts from interviews with various CEOs regarding remote work. More than 60% of the comments were negative about the value and sustainability of working from home, and interestingly only one of those negative comments was related to the logistics and infrastructure of working from home, a common complaint among workers.

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Also interesting was that concerns about productivity and quality of work only concerned a single CEO of a startup. The other executives who expressed a negative opinion of working from home were concerned with two overarching themes: Innovation and interpersonal interactions. Much has been made of the initial productivity concerns around working from home, and the surprisingly consistent or even increased productivity in the initial wave of home working. However, concerns around innovation and physical proximity are interesting and

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Noise pollution is causing damage to lobsters

There are many different kinds of pollution. For example, light pollution in cities is what prevents you from seeing the stars at night. Meanwhile electromagnetic pollution may disorient birds and cause problems for our own electronics. Then there is air pollution, water pollution, soil pollution and so on, and so forth. But did you know that marine animals are suffering from acoustic pollution as well? Scientists at the University of Tasmania found that everyday marine noise from human activity can seriously harm lobsters.

Spiny lobsters adapt to living in noisy environments, but still suffer from seismic air guns as well as ships and other sources of noise. Image credit: DrKjaergaard via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Sound pollution is impacting everyone. Cities are never silent and it does affect both people and animals. But seas are not exactly quiet either. Ships are causing a lot of noise, as well as drilling platforms and various coastal activities. Scientists decided to see how sound pollution is affecting lobsters living close to a high-traffic shipping lane in Hobart. They compared them with lobsters that live in a quiet remote area and found that sound pollution is causing damage, which resembles damage caused by seismic

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Amazon’s Alexa and Echo event: The 4 most important highlights

Anyone working from home should read about these products and features announced during Amazon’s September 2020 hardware event.

The new Amazon Echo Show 10. 

Image: Amazon

Amazon introduced at its Sept. 24 event a number of new products and features that business pros might use in their home office; improvements and privacy upgrades to Amazon Alexa, Eero mesh routers, newly designed Amazon Echo smart speakers, and the Echo Show 10 are some of the highlights. Here’s an overview of each of these products. 

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Eero 6 mesh routers

Amazon introduced the Eero 6 and Eero Pro 6 mesh routers, both of which support Wi-Fi 6 (the newest and fastest version of Wi-Fi) and have ZigBee Smart Home Hub built in. 

Notable features of the Eero 6 mesh router include: 

  • It extends Wi-Fi 6 coverage up to 1,500 square feet; 

  • it’s easy to set up through the Eero app; 

  • It’s backward compatibility with previous Wi-Fi generations; 

  • TrueMesh technology reduces drop-offs, which allows better streaming for 4K video, gaming, and video conferencing; and  

  • automatic updates to bring the newest Wi-Fi features and keep your network safe.

The Eero 6 mesh router system requires an existing

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NIST Scientists Get Soft on 3D Printing

New method could jump-start creation of tiny medical devices for the body.

Illustration of a prospective biocompatible interface shows that hydrogels (green tubing), which can be generated by an electron or X-ray beam 3D printing process, act as artificial synapses or junctions, connecting neurons (brown) to electrodes (yellow). Image credit: A. Strelcov/NIST

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a new method of 3D-printing gels and other soft materials. Published in a new paper, it has the potential to create complex structures with nanometer-scale precision. Because many gels are compatible with living cells, the new method could jump-start the production of soft tiny medical devices such as drug delivery systems or flexible electrodes that can be inserted into the human body.

A standard 3D printer makes solid structures by creating sheets of material — typically plastic or rubber — and building them up layer by layer, like a lasagna, until the entire object is created.

Using a 3D printer to fabricate an object made of gel is a “bit more of a delicate cooking process,” said NIST researcher Andrei Kolmakov. In the standard method, the 3D printer chamber is filled with a soup of long-chain

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Open source: Why governments need to go further

Commentary: Yes, governments should open source their custom code. But more than that is needed.

Image: lucky-photographer, Getty Images/iStockphoto

For Drupal (and Acquia) founder Dries Buytaert, “the default [in government] should be ‘developed with public money, make it public code.'” That is, if a government is paying for software to be created, that software should be available under an open source license. While he acknowledged there might be exceptions (e.g., for military applications, as I’ve called out), his suggestion makes sense.

Years ago I argued that government mandates of open source made no sense. I still feel that way. Governments (and enterprises) should use whatever software best enables them to get work done. Increasingly, that software will be open source. But when good open source alternatives don’t yet exist, it makes no sense to mandate the use of suboptimal software. 

But software that governments create? There’s no compelling citizen-focused reason for closing it off. Instead, there are many reasons to open it up.

SEE: How to build a successful developer career (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Of the people, by the people, for the people

This topic of why countries should embrace open source is an easy argument

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A Human-Computer Duet System for Music Performance

Despite the popularity of virtual musicians, most of them cannot play together with human musicians following their tempo or create their own behaviors without the aid of human characters. The authors of a recent paper created a virtual violinist having these characteristics.

Image credit: 刘睿忱 via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

It can track music and adapt to the human pianist’s tempo varying with time and with performance, making the two voices harmonized. The virtual musician’s body movements are generated directly from the music. The motion generator is trained on a music video dataset of violin performance and a pose sequence synchronized with live performance is generated.

These features mean that the human musician can practice, rehearse, and perform music with the virtual musician like with a real human, by following the music content. The proposed system has successfully performed in a ticket-selling concert, where a movement from Beethoven’s Spring Sonata was played. 

Virtual musicians have become a remarkable phenomenon in the contemporary multimedia arts. However, most of the virtual musicians nowadays have not been endowed with abilities to create their own behaviors, or to perform music with human musicians. In this paper, we firstly create a virtual violinist, who can

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