Hear the untold stories of mind-blowing achievements in science and tech. Host David Pogue, six-time Emmy winner and “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent, takes you behind the scenes into the worlds of the people who’ve built the best in transportation, entertainment, food, internet, and health. Creators reveal their inspirations and roadblocks they encountered in bringing their breakthroughs to the public.
How Apple and Microsoft Built the Seeing-Eye Phone
Your smartphone can see, hear, and speak—even if you can’t. So it occurred to the engineers at Apple and Microsoft: Can the phone be a talking companion for anyone with low vision, describing what it’s seeing in the world around you?
Today, it can. Thanks to some heavy doses of machine learning and augmented reality, these companies’ apps can identify things, scenes, money, colors, text, and even people (“30-year-old man with brown hair, smiling, holding a laptop—probably Stuart”)—and then speak, in words, what’s in front of you, in a photo or in the real world. In this episode, the creators of these astonishing features reveal how they turned the smartphone into a professional personal describer—and why they care so deeply about making it all work.
Guests: Satya Nadella, Microsoft CEO. Saqib Shaikh, project lead for Microsoft’s Seeing AI app. Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer, Microsoft. Ryan Dour, accessibility engineer, Apple. Chris Fleizach, Mobile Accessibility Engineering Lead, Apple. Sarah Herrlinger, Senior Director of Global Accessibility, Apple.
How to Prepare for Climate Change: Intro
It's Thanksgiving weekend, and for many podcasts, a week off. But we didn't want to sock you with some re-run—or, worse, leave you with no episode at all. So David Pogue is here to offer a free chapter from his audio book, "How to Prepare for Climate Change." You'll hear the complete Introduction, which is designed to teach you the difference between mitigation and adaptation—and convince you to keep doing the former, but start doing the latter.
Who Makes the Fake Languages for Hollywood?
The first time you heard “Star Trek” characters speak Klingon, or the “Game of Thrones” characters speaking Dothraki and High Valyrian, you might have assumed that the actors were just speaking a few words of gibberish, created by some screenwriter to sound authentic. But these are complete languages, with vocabulary, syntax, grammar, and even made-up histories. There’s only one person on the planet whose full-time job is creating them—and these days, he’s swamped with requests. No doubt about it: Conlangs (constructed languages) are the new special effect. Me nem nesa!
Guests: David Peterson, author/linguist/full-time language maker. Mark Okrand, author/linguist/creator of Klingon. Angela Carpenter, linguistics professor at Wellesley College.
How NASA's $2 Billion Rover Landed Itself on Mars: "Seven Minutes of Terror"
Perseverance, NASA's latest Mars rover, is a one-ton, $2 billion marvel. The plan was for it to enter the Mars atmosphere going 12,000 miles an hour. The problem: How do you slow it down enough to set it down gently on the surface? You can't use retro rockets, because they'd stir up so much dust, the rover’s cameras and instruments would be ruined. You can’t deliver Perseverance inside a larger spaceship, because the rover wouldn’t be able to drive out of the landing crater. You can’t even control the descent from Earth, because it takes so long for our signals to reach Mars; by the time the rover received a course-correction instruction, there’d be nothing left of it but a smoking wreck. Yet NASA pulled it off—with a nutty, Rube Goldberg-y, multi-stage, seven-minute-long, completely automated system involving a parachute, an airborne launch platform, and a cable.
Guest: Alan Chen, NASA Entry, Descent, and Landing Lead for the Mars 2020 mission.
Tornado Alley is Shifting Eastward—and We're Not Ready
Tornadoes are nasty and dangerous. They appear and disappear so fast, there’s usually no time for evacuation—and the United States gets 75% of all the world’s tornadoes, about 1,300 of them a year. They occur all year ‘round, in all 50 states, but the biggest swarm forms in Tornado Alley, in the southern Plains states like Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. In 2018, storm chaser and meteorologist Victor Gensini made a startling discovery: Tornado Alley has been shifting eastward. Their growing frequency in Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee is a deadly development, because more people live in these areas, often in flimsy housing. And because there are more trees and buildings, it's much harder to see the devastation coming.
Guest: Victor Gensini, storm chaser and meteorology professor at Northern Illinois University.
Audio Deepfakes and the End of Trust
The media is plenty freaked out about “deepfakes”: Computer-generated videos of famous people saying things they never actually said. But only the video is faked; the audio parts, the voices of those fake celebrities, were supplied by human impersonators. But now, software exists to mimic anyone’s voice, opening a Pandora’s Box of fraud, deception, and what one expert calls “the end of trust.” Fortunately, a new coalition of 60 news organizations and software companies think they have a way to shut down the nightmare before it begins.
Guests: Ragavan Thurairatnam, Dessa. Nina Schick, author and deepfakes expert. Joan Donavan, Harvard Kennedy School. Charlie Choi, CEO of Lovo. Dana Rao, chief counsel, Adobe.
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