Marketplace - American Public Media

Public radio's teachable moment

Wed, 2014-05-28 23:32

If public radio sometimes feels a little like a classroom—and we all know it does – there’s a reason.

Or, at least, a convenient excuse.

Public radio got its start in schools. “Broadcasting began in the U.S., largely on university campuses in engineering departments,’’ said Michele Hilmes, a professor of media and cultural studies at the University of Wisconsin- Madison.  “People were experimenting with radio and building radio sets.” 

By the mid-1920s, those engineering experiments were becoming stations, and broadcasting educational programs. 

The earliest programs were aimed mainly at homemakers and farmers.  Later, said Hilmes, the stations “got into schoolroom broadcasts, where kids in schools could actually listen to things that related to their lessons.” 

Dozens of state universities, departments of education and school boards created shows for kids. 

In Cleveland, for instance,  WBOE was licensed to the local board of education in 1938 (hence the BOE).  The station broadcast instructional programming for nearly 40 years, beginning in the morning—like the school day— and ending in mid-afternoon. 

John Basalla,  an archivist with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, says schools had radios made specially to pick up only WBOE’s frequency.

WHA now a part of Wisconsin Public Radio — had one of the most active “schools of the air.” There were music classes.  Drama classes.  Nature classes. (Check out their 1943 programming schedule. )

The idea was simple.  Broadcasting would transform education by making it possible for students to learn from great teachers wherever they were—so long as there was a radio in the classroom.

There was hype. Hope.

And a lot of money.

Check out these photos and captions from the 1952 book Teaching Through Radio and Television.

Levenson and Stasheff, Teaching through Radio and Television, 1952

But, the revolution never came. Lots of schools didn’t have radios. Those that did, often had trouble coordinating regular lessons with those on the radio.  And many of the shows just weren’t that good. “If you talk to old practitioners in public broadcasting,  they actually use ‘educational radio’ as a pejorative,” said Josh Shepperd, a media studies professor at Catholic University, in Washington, DC.

Commercial broadcasters also took a crack at the classroom.  CBS had the American School of the Air;  NBC broadcast the Music Appreciation Hour.  “The best and most effective educational broadcasts did come out of the networks,” Sheppard said.  But there wasn’t enough money in it, to keep them interested.  Broadcasting education shows to school kids just wasn’t sustainable for commercial radio.

Gradually, public stations that stayed on the air started making better shows.  They started making radio less -geared to students sitting, listening, in circles. 

And more for learners like us.

We’ve got more on the history of radio in the classroom here

Seven more fun facts about the history of public radio

Wed, 2014-05-28 23:22

We’ve got the audio piece and the 1951 map of instructional radio stations across the country. But there’s only so much ground they can cover. Here are more cool things to know about the history of radio as an education technology.

The hype was huge. In his 1932 book, Radio: The Assistant Teacher, Benjamin Darrow (who founded the Ohio School of the Air) wrote: "The central and dominant aim of education by radio is to bring the world to the classroom, to make universally available the services of the finest teachers, the inspiration of the greatest leaders... and unfolding events which through the radio may come as a vibrant and challenging textbook of the air."

Stations named themselves after their educational missions. At WABE in Atlanta, the ABE stands for Atlanta Board of Education. The BE in WBEZ (Chicago) stands for Board of Education. Bonus points to anyone who knows what the Z stands for.  Do we need to tell you what Cleveland’s WBOE stood for?  And you might think that the “ED” in KQED stands for “education”?  Turns out KQED comes from the Latin quod erat demonstrandum, “which was to be demonstrated.”

Some classroom-broadcasts were… live. Check out this archival broadcast from WBOE.  Around 0:40, there’s an example of why there’s nothing like live radio.  The clip comes courtesy of John Basalla, archivist at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

It wasn’t all about listening.  Worksheets came with many of the lessons. Here’s one that went  with the radio show “Good Health to You”,  from WBOE in Cleveland.  We found it in Teaching through Radio and Television,  published in 1952,  by William Levenson and Edward Stasheff. Teaching Through Radio and Television, Levenson, 1952

Educational broadcasting was college material.  Ohio State University offered a college class in “Education by Radio” in 1930.  Bonus points for anyone that can dig up a syllabus for us.

Public radio almost got left behind.  The Public Broadcasting Act of 196, which created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, was originally the Public Television Act of 1967.  Jack Mitchell wrote a great history of how radio finagled it’s way into the legislation over on Current.org.  The story includes Scotch-taping the word “radio” into the law at the last minute.

We want to know what else we should add to this list.  We know you’ll write. From 1930 to 1940 radio listeners sent approximately 225,000,000 fan letters to radio stations. 

Putting public radio on the map

Wed, 2014-05-28 23:14

Where did your public-radio station come from? If it acquired a license in the 1940s or 1950s, there's a good chance it was started for instructional purposes. Many stations created educational programming that was used by students in the classroom. 

As reporter Adriene Hill chronicles in her story on the roots of public radio, over-the-air education fizzled out after television came along.

The map above shows nearly 100 radio stations that had been granted a broadcasting license as of 1951. They include universities, school boards, trade schools and even a public library. The stations were required to have an educational purpose. It could be anything from teaching broadcasting,  to creating programs to be used in the classroom (some stations broadcast only during school hours), to simply playing classical music (apparently it had more to teach us than other types of music).

The red markers show stations that are now defunct; the green ones  are still broadcasting; and yellow is for stations broadcasting under different call letters.

By clicking on a marker, you can read a little more about the station's history

 In general, most stations that were run by school boards are gone. Many of the stations that were licensed to universities have become NPR member stations, and are only nominally affiliated with the institution that was granted the license.

At the college level,  there are still some student-run stations and some are still creating instructional material.  There are even a few high-school radio stations that have survived.

We know there's a lot more public-radio history that we've missed, so please fill us in.  We'd also love to hear from you if your station is not on the map, but was founded for over-the-air instruction.

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How did 'driverless' cars become 'self-driving' cars, and should we be worried?

Wed, 2014-05-28 19:51

A futurist named Brad Templeton got mad at me some months ago. We don't say "driverless cars" anymore, he told me with a hint of scolding in his voice. We say "self-driving" cars.

OK, I thought. I didn't know the computer-navigated cars had feelings. But as much as the moment felt like a weird discussion of political correctness on behalf of sensors and data-crunching algorithms, it also made some sense to me. After all, it is true that the cars are being driven. Just not by humans. So, fair enough, I thought, and made the switch. Ever since then I've called them by the preferred nomenclature. 

But now that Google has released a new self-driving car prototype, I'm thinking more about it. While self-driving maybe more accurate than driverless, there's a lot more that comes with that, right? Driverless suggests unhinged. Nobody at the helm. A carriage out of control. But self-driving suggests independent, efficient--even magical. A self-driving car is something we want, because it does the work for us. 

Could it be then, that this is really about marketing? The new self-driving prototype we got to see this week has some interesting changes from past vehicles: no brake pedals and no steering wheel. It doesn't look like a car really, either. It's more of a pod. Maybe it's an owl. Whatever it is, it looks like its own thing, and that is also part of the plan. Because if you started seeing Priuses driving around without anyone in the driver's seat, you might not feel so good about it. Like some of Google's other recent inventions, this thing makes some of us a little nervous. If you've been keeping up with HBO's show "Silicon Valley," you might have caught the scene where the cowardly Jared gets screwed by a self-driving car's malfunctioning computer.

 

It's a really funny bit, in part because that feeling of helplessness hits so close to home. None of us want to be in the backseat, do we? This is America gosh darn it. Where we want the right to benefit from the endless permutations of human error. An even more cynical way of saying it, according to the unnamed futurist: We'd rather let drunk drivers kill people on the road than even entertain the thought of letting a computer do it at what is likely to be a far lower rate.

If you can't tell already, I support the idea of self-driving cars. I think they'll make our world more efficient, less polluting, and safer. But that doesn't mean I will ignore the possibility that we're being sold a product; that we're being conditioned. Words and designs carry meaning, and these vehicles are no different. That meaning is born in motivations both virtuous and unnerving. If you think companies like Google aren't thinking about how to deliver us video advertisements once we can all kick back and veg out during the road trip, you're not being cynical enough. So I'll do it--I'll call them self-driving cars. But I'll also leave you with another scene I'm reminded of while mulling all of this. It's from the movie "Wall-E," and it's a fate I hope we avoid.

 

How did 'driverless' cars become 'self-driving' cars, and should we be worried?

Wed, 2014-05-28 19:51

A futurist named Brad Templeton got mad at me some months ago. We don't say "driverless cars" anymore, he told me with a hint of scolding in his voice. We say "self-driving" cars.

OK, I thought. I didn't know the computer-navigated cars had feelings. But as much as the moment felt like a weird discussion of political correctness on behalf of sensors and data-crunching algorithms, it also made some sense to me. After all, it is true that the cars are being driven. Just not by humans. So, fair enough, I thought, and made the switch. Ever since then I've called them by the preferred nomenclature. 

But now that Google has released a new self-driving car prototype, I'm thinking more about it. While self-driving maybe more accurate than driverless, there's a lot more that comes with that, right? Driverless suggests unhinged. Nobody at the helm. A carriage out of control. But self-driving suggests independent, efficient--even magical. A self-driving car is something we want, because it does the work for us. 

Could it be then, that this is really about marketing? The new self-driving prototype we got to see this week has some interesting changes from past vehicles: no brake pedals and no steering wheel. It doesn't look like a car really, either. It's more of a pod. Maybe it's an owl. Whatever it is, it looks like its own thing, and that is also part of the plan. Because if you started seeing Priuses driving around without anyone in the driver's seat, you might not feel so good about it. Like some of Google's other recent inventions, this thing makes some of us a little nervous. If you've been keeping up with HBO's show "Silicon Valley," you might have caught the scene where the cowardly Jared gets screwed by a self-driving car's malfunctioning computer.

 

It's a really funny bit, in part because that feeling of helplessness hits so close to home. None of us want to be in the backseat, do we? This is America gosh darn it. Where we want the right to benefit from the endless permutations of human error. An even more cynical way of saying it, according to the unnamed futurist: We'd rather let drunk drivers kill people on the road than even entertain the thought of letting a computer do it at what is likely to be a far lower rate.

If you can't tell already, I support the idea of self-driving cars. I think they'll make our world more efficient, less polluting, and safer. But that doesn't mean I will ignore the possibility that we're being sold a product; that we're being conditioned. Words and designs carry meaning, and these vehicles are no different. That meaning is born in motivations both virtuous and unnerving. If you think companies like Google aren't thinking about how to deliver us video advertisements once we can all kick back and veg out during the road trip, you're not being cynical enough. So I'll do it--I'll call them self-driving cars. But I'll also leave you with another scene I'm reminded of while mulling all of this. It's from the movie "Wall-E," and it's a fate I hope we avoid.

 

Apple confirms it will buy Beats for $3 billion

Wed, 2014-05-28 14:00

Apple on Wednesday confirmed the previously-reported acquisition of Beats Electronics for $3 billion. The deal will make Dr. Dre even wealthier.

And the $3 billion price tag for the headphone and streaming music company is also the equivalent of...

10,001,666

Beats Studio headphones.

103,448,275

 Apple ear buds.

300,300,300

Copies of Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" available on iTunes.

Apple confirms it will buy Beats for $3 billion

Wed, 2014-05-28 14:00

Apple on Wednesday confirmed the previously-reported acquisition of Beats Electronics for $3 billion. The deal will make Dr. Dre even wealthier.

And the $3 billion price tag for the headphone and streaming music company is also the equivalent of...

10,001,666

Beats Studio headphones.

103,448,275

 Apple ear buds.

300,300,300

Copies of Dr. Dre's "The Chronic" available on iTunes.

Solving Detroit's blight, one scary poster at a time

Wed, 2014-05-28 13:46
Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 14:43 Andrew Burton/Getty Images

A dramatic example of an abandoned home in Detroit.

Good news has been in short supply in Detroit, of late.

There’s the bankruptcy, of course. And then there is the blight. Which, according to a new federal report, is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars more to clean up than anyone thought. Its a huge challenge, but you don’t need to tell that to Erica Gerson.

“It’s 330 pages, that is a lot of digesting,” said Gerson, Chair of the Detroit’s Land Bank Authority, which is in charge of dealing with the broken down properties the city owns. “One of the problems here is there are houses that having been sitting empty for three to five years and they are not getting any better. So we have to get our hands on them faster.”

Gerson says sometimes a direct approach is the best way to deal with neglectful landlords.

“I have a staff of attorneys who go out and put big posters on [abandoned] houses that say ‘Call this number within 72 hours or your property will be seized by the Detroit Land Bank.' That tends to get the landlord’s attention.”

Gerson says that, yes, the task before her can seem daunting. But she doesn’t have to look far for signs that the city is getting better.

“Yesterday people saw a man who they thought was scrapping--tearing down the gutters on a beautiful old house that seemed abandoned. When the police got there, instead of arresting the man, they started laughing...turned out that it was one of the houses we had postered. And [the man] was putting up brand new gutters. A lady in the neighborhood said she hadn't seen anyone do that in 20 years.  That’s what keeps you going.”

Marketplace for Wednesday May 28, 2014Interview by Kai RyssdalPodcast Title Solving Detroit's blight, one scary poster at a timeStory Type InterviewSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Data brokers set the price tag on your head

Wed, 2014-05-28 13:25

Big data is the topic at issue in a report issued by the Federal Trade Commission this week.

To be more specific, the FTC took a deep dive into the business of data brokers. Data brokers collect information on us, create profiles using that data and sell those profiles to marketers and other entities. The facts the FTC collected were pretty mind boggling—one data broker it looked at had 3,000 pieces of data on nearly every U.S. consumer; another had more than 1 billion transactions in its data bases. 

Data brokers gather up or buy bits of information about us: public records, online purchases, social media posts, trips to the drug store.

"There’s thousands and thousands of data elements on each consumer," says Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau for Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission. She says data brokers use the information to slot us into categories, which they sell to marketers. "The level of specificity and detail are mind-boggling. They have 'Urban Scramble', which is a category referring to low income and minority consumers; they have 'Thrifty Elders'; they have 'Diabetes Interest'; 'Bible Lifestyle'... 'Biker Lifestyle'."

This information is used in all kinds of ways--to show us ads for things we're likely to be interested in and to set insurance premiums and interest rates. Good luck getting life insurance if you fall into the 'Biker Lifestyle' category," says Rich.

"More and more, the stories that are told about us are told through numbers and the collection of data about us," says Joseph Turow, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication and author of "The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry Is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth""Some of those stories help people--some prevent fraud, but, like the FTC report says, a lot of them may be dangerous for us and for the kinds of opportunities we have in life." 

The FTC report calls on Congress to require data brokers to be transparent and allow consumers to see the data that's been collected on them. They're also supposed to have the ability to opt out of having that data sold and used for marketing.

"At the end of the day, The FTC makes some pretty good points," says Russell Glass, CEO of Bizo, a data-profiling company that specializes in business professionals. It sells those profiles to more than 1,000 clients, including American Express and UPS. Bizo gets its information from about 2,000 sources, and it shares its revenue with them. Glass says a little regulation in the industry would be a good thing.

"Nobody really knows what the rules are," says Glass. "There’s this self-regulation that some people follow and some people don’t. Some degree of smart regulation, I think that would be a net positive for the industry. Right now a lot of this is the monster under the bed syndrome. Right? Where everything seems really scary in the dark."

Bizo lets the 190 million businesspeople it profiles see the data it’s collected on them and gives them the choice of opting up. Glass says fewer than 1 percent of the people who look at their profiles opt out. He says the rest want the convenience and the tailored marketing that comes with a data profile.

If you want to see your Bizo profile, check it out right here.

Data brokers set the price tag on your head

Wed, 2014-05-28 13:25

Big data is the topic at issue in a report issued by the Federal Trade Commission this week.

To be more specific, the FTC took a deep dive into the business of data brokers. Data brokers collect information on us, create profiles using that data and sell those profiles to marketers and other entities. The facts the FTC collected were pretty mind boggling—one data broker it looked at had 3,000 pieces of data on nearly every U.S. consumer; another had more than 1 billion transactions in its data bases. 

Data brokers gather up or buy bits of information about us: public records, online purchases, social media posts, trips to the drug store.

"There’s thousands and thousands of data elements on each consumer," says Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau for Consumer Protection at the Federal Trade Commission. She says data brokers use the information to slot us into categories, which they sell to marketers. "The level of specificity and detail are mind-boggling. They have 'Urban Scramble', which is a category referring to low income and minority consumers; they have 'Thrifty Elders'; they have 'Diabetes Interest'; 'Bible Lifestyle'... 'Biker Lifestyle'."

This information is used in all kinds of ways--to show us ads for things we're likely to be interested in and to set insurance premiums and interest rates. Good luck getting life insurance if you fall into the 'Biker Lifestyle' category," says Rich.

"More and more, the stories that are told about us are told through numbers and the collection of data about us," says Joseph Turow, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication and author of "The Daily You: How the New Advertising Industry Is Defining Your Identity and Your Worth""Some of those stories help people--some prevent fraud, but, like the FTC report says, a lot of them may be dangerous for us and for the kinds of opportunities we have in life." 

The FTC report calls on Congress to require data brokers to be transparent and allow consumers to see the data that's been collected on them. They're also supposed to have the ability to opt out of having that data sold and used for marketing.

"At the end of the day, The FTC makes some pretty good points," says Russell Glass, CEO of Bizo, a data-profiling company that specializes in business professionals. It sells those profiles to more than 1,000 clients, including American Express and UPS. Bizo gets its information from about 2,000 sources, and it shares its revenue with them. Glass says a little regulation in the industry would be a good thing.

"Nobody really knows what the rules are," says Glass. "There’s this self-regulation that some people follow and some people don’t. Some degree of smart regulation, I think that would be a net positive for the industry. Right now a lot of this is the monster under the bed syndrome. Right? Where everything seems really scary in the dark."

Bizo lets the 190 million businesspeople it profiles see the data it’s collected on them and gives them the choice of opting up. Glass says fewer than 1 percent of the people who look at their profiles opt out. He says the rest want the convenience and the tailored marketing that comes with a data profile.

If you want to see your Bizo profile, check it out right here.

Lost in translation? Skype hopes not

Wed, 2014-05-28 13:13

It’s one of those “living in the future” technologies. Microsoft is unveiling a live translation feature coming to its Skype service later this year. You have a conversation with someone in another language, and a moment later, the software translates it.

Gurdeep Singh Pall, a Microsoft Vice President, demonstrated the technology on stage at Re/code’s Code Conference this week, and the company says an early version of Skype Translator will debut later this year.

“It has some syntax problems, but yeah, wow, it’s good,” says Alice Leri, who teaches at the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, and speaks German. 

Her colleague, Ken Erickson, a business anthropologist at the school, was a bit more skeptical. This kind of electronic translation, good as it is, “lulls you into a sense of comfort where you should be not so comfortable,” he says. 

A lot can get lost in translation in international business. Computer translations can send the opposite meaning than you intended in languages like Chinese. Skype Translator might be useful for simple things like scheduling a meeting, but, “if you want to negotiate a contract, you better not rely on something like this,” Erickson says.  

Microsoft admits the technology is still not ready for primetime. It will likely first be used by regular Skype users, who don’t have the same demands for accuracy as business customers. 

“It makes more sense to introduce the technology is through consumer applications,” says Raúl Castañón, a senior analyst with the Yankee Group. 

And, the tech giants are all becoming more interested in translation services. Google recently bought Word Lens, an app that uses a smartphone's camera to translate text on signs and menus. 

Law & Order: tech edition

Wed, 2014-05-28 13:07
Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 04:00 NBC/Jeff Thompson

An early appearance of a computer in Season 1 of Law & Order

For those who have spent an entire day on the couch letting Netflix dominate the tv or laptop screen, binge watching is not such a new phenomenon. Artist Jeff Thompson is certainly no stranger to the concept: he has watched all 456 episodes of the original Law & Order franchise. But unlike the rest of us, he was getting paid to do it.

That's because Thompson received a grant from Rhizome to track the use of technology throughout the show's 20 year history. The fact that the show thrived on being "ripped from the headlines" (i.e. as current as possible), produced a weekly episode, and ran for such a long time make it a particularly useful series for such a project. 

Aside from maintaining a blog of screenshots of every computer that makes an appearance on the show, Thompson used the opportunity to track other technology-related data. For example, he maintained a list of every URL used throughout the series, as well as a chart that tracked the parallels between the drop off of computer useage on the show in tandem with the burst of the dot-com bubble. The chart below shows the number of computers used per season, while the following chart tracks the closing price of the Nasdaq (in light grey) over the same years.

A chart of the computer count in every episode of Law & Order

The light grey portion charts the closing price of the Nasdaq

Thompson also saw an opportunity to track the evolution of our attitude towards technology as well. In the beginning of the series, computers generally sat in a corner, eventually making their way onto individual's desks as their use became more ubiquitous. It's these minute details that really interested Thompson. He points out that while a lot of people document and write about the history of technology, the seemingly boring details are not as thoroughly documented. In fact, when asked about his favorite bit of technology in the series, he points to a pretty mundane piece of furniture: the computer desk. 

Marketplace Tech for Thursday, May 29, 2014by Podcast Title Law & Order: tech editionStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

What Google's driverless car actually means

Wed, 2014-05-28 13:01

Imagine for a moment that it is the year 2050. You are watching TV, a movie from the early 2000s. It’s a rom-com and a couple is at the end of a date, about to kiss awkwardly in their car, when your eight-year-old grandkid walks into the room, looks at the screen and says, “What’s that round thing?” That, you answer, is a steering wheel.

This scenario is not entirely unlikely. Google just unveiled the second generation of its self-driving car. The big difference between Google’s new driverless car and the old one is that the new version has no brake pedal and no steering wheel. So passengers are controlled completely by Goggle’s software.

“Now for some people, this might not be a big deal. For some people, this might be a benefit,” says Thilo Koslowski, an analyst with Gartner.

The self-driving car presents us with all kinds of opportunities. The elderly would be less isolated, blind people could hop in a car and go anywhere, at any time. The designated driver could get hammered. And everyone would be on safer roads because traffic could be coordinated.

“The question we will have to ask ourselves as a society,” says Koslowski, “is are we willing to give up some of that freedom in exchange for fewer accidents and improved traffic flow.”

Along with that freedom, we would also be giving up even more of our privacy. Tech companies would not only know our movements at all times, they would have control over them.

Eric Noble is with The Car Lab. He believes the best estimates about the growth of autonomous vehicles is a report by IHS titled "Emerging Technologies: Autonomous cars-Not if But When". “By 2035 they predicted 54 million automated vehicles [will be] on the road,” says Noble.

To put that in perspective, that’s roughly a quarter of all the cars on the road. The IHS report predicted that nearly all of the vehicles in use are likely to be self-driving sometime after 2050.

Increase your v-o-c-a-b-u-l-a-r-y

Wed, 2014-05-28 12:43
Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 13:26 Alex Wong/Getty Images

Nathan J. Marcisz of Marion, Indiana, tries to spell a word during the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee competition in Washington, DC. Spellers participate in the annual competition to become the best spelling bee of the year.

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Thursday, May 29:

John F. Kennedy was born 97 years ago. He was the youngest man elected President.

In Washington, the Commerce Department releases its second estimate for first quarter domestic product.

The National Association of Realtors issues its April Pending Home Sales Index.

Wisconsin joined the Union on May 29th, 1848.

And kids compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship Finals. You can watch it live on ESPN while gripping your dictionary.

Marketplace for Wednesday May 28, 2014by Michelle PhilippePodcast Title Increase your v-o-c-a-b-u-l-a-r-yStory Type BlogSyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

Goodbye driver's ed, hello self-driving car

Wed, 2014-05-28 12:00

Google has released a new prototype in its long mission to put self-driving cars on the road. Proponets of the technology say it has the potential to free up parking lot real estate in cities, make delivery services more efficient, and make roads safer. Though, certain features (or lack thereof) make others uneasy: This latest Google car doesn't have a steering wheel, or break pedals.

It's hard to be nervous about a vehicle that's so adorable, though. Michelle Krebs, an analyst at Auto Trader, says the minimalistic look of the car reminds her of a Volkswagen Bug. The retro design makes sense when considering the fact that, at least in its debut outing, the audience for the self-driving car is largely baby boomers, says Krebs:

"I think absolutely the older generation will be interested, because you get older, you're driving is not as good, and people are very reluctant to give up their driver's license."

Krebs also points out that the technology could be very popular with millenials for a completely different reason:

"On the opposite side of the spectrum, you've got the millenials, who haven't...shown much of an interest in driving. Although, this isn't going to be inexpensive technology right away, so whether they can afford it or not is the question."

Krebs says that while the technology is largely there for self-driving cars to be a reality, the stumbling blocks of regulation and legality still remain. In her mind, the next step is most likely cars that give the driver an option of driving, or letting the vehicle take control. 

 

Solving Detroit's blight, one scary poster at a time

Wed, 2014-05-28 11:43

Good news has been in short supply in Detroit, of late.

There’s the bankruptcy, of course. And then there is the blight. Which, according to a new federal report, is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars more to clean up than anyone thought. Its a huge challenge, but you don’t need to tell that to Erica Gerson.

“It’s 330 pages, that is a lot of digesting,” said Gerson, Chair of the Detroit’s Land Bank Authority, which is in charge of dealing with the broken down properties the city owns. “One of the problems here is there are houses that having been sitting empty for three to five years and they are not getting any better. So we have to get our hands on them faster.”

Gerson says sometimes a direct approach is the best way to deal with neglectful landlords.

“I have a staff of attorneys who go out and put big posters on [abandoned] houses that say ‘Call this number within 72 hours or your property will be seized by the Detroit Land Bank.' That tends to get the landlord’s attention.”

Gerson says that, yes, the task before her can seem daunting. But she doesn’t have to look far for signs that the city is getting better.

“Yesterday people saw a man who they thought was scrapping--tearing down the gutters on a beautiful old house that seemed abandoned. When the police got there, instead of arresting the man, they started laughing...turned out that it was one of the houses we had postered. And [the man] was putting up brand new gutters. A lady in the neighborhood said she hadn't seen anyone do that in 20 years.  That’s what keeps you going.”

Increase your v-o-c-a-b-u-l-a-r-y

Wed, 2014-05-28 10:26

From the Marketplace Datebook, here's a look at what's coming up Thursday, May 29:

John F. Kennedy was born 97 years ago. He was the youngest man elected President.

In Washington, the Commerce Department releases its second estimate for first quarter domestic product.

The National Association of Realtors issues its April Pending Home Sales Index.

Wisconsin joined the Union on May 29th, 1848.

And kids compete in the Scripps National Spelling Bee Championship Finals. You can watch it live on ESPN while gripping your dictionary.

Goodbye driver's ed, hello self-driving car

Wed, 2014-05-28 09:43
Wednesday, May 28, 2014 - 15:00 Google

This illustration depicts a very early version of a prototype of the Google self-driving vehicle. 

Google has released a new prototype in its long mission to put self-driving cars on the road. Proponets of the technology say it has the potential to free up parking lot real estate in cities, make delivery services more efficient, and make roads safer. Though, certain features (or lack thereof) make others uneasy: This latest Google car doesn't have a steering wheel, or break pedals.

It's hard to be nervous about a vehicle that's so adorable, though. Michelle Krebs, an analyst at Auto Trader, says the minimalistic look of the car reminds her of a Volkswagen Bug. The retro design makes sense when considering the fact that, at least in its debut outing, the audience for the self-driving car is largely baby boomers, says Krebs:

"I think absolutely the older generation will be interested, because you get older, you're driving is not as good, and people are very reluctant to give up their driver's license."

Krebs also points out that the technology could be very popular with millenials for a completely different reason:

"On the opposite side of the spectrum, you've got the millenials, who haven't...shown much of an interest in driving. Although, this isn't going to be inexpensive technology right away, so whether they can afford it or not is the question."

Krebs says that while the technology is largely there for self-driving cars to be a reality, the stumbling blocks of regulation and legality still remain. In her mind, the next step is most likely cars that give the driver an option of driving, or letting the vehicle take control. 

 

Marketplace Tech for Wednesday, May 28, 2014by Ben JohnsonStory Type News StorySyndication PMPApp Respond No

The Sochi Effect and the unwanted Olympics

Wed, 2014-05-28 09:37
Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 05:36 Paul Gilham/Getty Images

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach (3rd L), Russian President Vladimir Putin (4th L) and Claudia Bach (L) attend the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.

The number of countries bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympics is dropping fast. Call it the Sochi effect -- this year’s winter games hosted in Russia, which cost a crushing $51 billion. 

Poland was the most recent country to drop its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Voters soundly rejected the idea in a referendum. Switzerland, Sweden and Germany were all former contenders, but they too have dropped their bids.

"It’s not like the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny just dropped a buttload of money in your lap," says University of Chicago’s Allen Sanderson says countries lose money because the games are run by a monopoly -- the International Olympic Committee. "Countries tend to lose money on these things."

Ukraine, Norway, Kazahkstan and China all say they’re still interested in hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics.

But not all host cities come away from their hosting gig with massive debt. Here are three cities that bucked the trend

Marketplace Morning Report for Thursday May 29, 2014LIST: Three Olympic host cities that finished the games with a sweet profitby Conrad WilsonPodcast Title The Sochi Effect and the unwanted OlympicsStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No

The cost of concussions

Wed, 2014-05-28 09:32
Thursday, May 29, 2014 - 05:30 Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

This really might not be enough to prevent a concussion.

The White House hosts a summit Thursday about the perils of concussions in youth sports.

Researchers have been racing to find a fix, but gels and extra padding in helmets may not do the trick.

“Helmets stop skull fractures," says professor Dennis Molfese at the University of Nebraska's Developmental Brain Laboratory. "But we think it’s the primary rotation movement to the head that produces the concussion.” 

He’s working with electrodes to diagnose concussions. Other academics experiment with blood samples or voice patterns that can reflect brain damage. But it will be years before any reach the market.

Sports teams have an economic incentive to find a solution. The NFL is finalizing a more than $700 million settlement, which was rejected by a judge earlier this year, related to ex-players’ brain injuries. And experts anticipate more concussion-related law suits at all levels of the game.

Marketplace Morning Report for Thursday May 29, 2014by Jeff TylerPodcast Title The cost of concussionsStory Type News StorySyndication SlackerSoundcloudStitcherSwellPMPApp Respond No
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