Pittsburgh Tech Report

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The pandemic has created plenty of questions about voting logistics ahead of the November election, but a voting rights group is using data to take some of the guesswork out of election day.


Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Gatherings at concert halls and stadiums are still widely limited to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But a Wexford-based startup thinks it has one way to get people back to these venues sooner: an electrostatic drone capable of blanketing high contact surfaces in disinfectant.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Gina Winstead wants to see the technology industry act more like the manufacturing industry of the past, at least when it comes to hiring and training talent.

Courtesy of BeamData

An app launching this week from Pittsburgh startup BeamData aims to provide people with a direct line to their elected officials. Be the Change allows a user to create a profile that automatically generates a list of representatives based on their home address. From there, people can check out posts in their neighborhood about issues and upvote or downvote posts, similar to Reddit.

Courtesy of Wendy Gilch

With fewer child care options and health and safety concerns, getting work done at home while also keeping an eye on her two children has been a struggle for Wendy Gilch.

Google Maps

Like legal aid offices across the country, western Pennsylvania’s Neighborhood Legal Services suffers from a chronic lack of resources. 

Daylon Burt / International Dark-Sky Association, Pittsburgh

Streetlights emitting artificial beams through neighborhoods every night could be to blame for decreasing firefly populations and a generation of young people with no concept of what the Milky Way looks like in a starry night sky. A Carnegie Mellon University professor and self-proclaimed dark-sky defender, Diane Turnshek, is working with a small team to study the problem of night time light pollution in the Pittsburgh area.

Argo AI

When a human drives a car, they know that what they see at any given moment may not completely represent potential obstacles in their path. For example, a truck could block a human driver’s vision of a pedestrian crossing the street, but a reasonable driver would consider that someone could be in the crosswalk before proceeding when a traffic light turns green.

Autonomous vehicles struggle with that concept.

Courtesy of RoadRunner

A Pittsburgh-based startup is using technology to revolutionize the recycling industry. RoadRunner Recycling uses software designed to help businesses recycle more and save money.

Jessica Kourkounis / AP

When faced with a new medical diagnosis, it can be difficult for some people to retain important information about managing symptoms, treatment options and prescription regimens. 

Courtesy of WQED

High school students finishing their coursework at home can now access Carnegie Mellon University-quality robotics instructions on television. WQED has launched a new show called “The Robot Doctor” geared toward supporting STEM teachers with curriculum anyone can access. 

NOVID

Public health officials have cited contact tracing as a key part of lifting lockdowns and continuing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus; a new app developed at Carnegie Mellon University could make the effort easier.

U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

There’s a lot we don’t know about the novel coronavirus. How many virus particles does it take to cause infection? Why do some people develop severe infections while others are asymptomatic carriers? What drugs might work as therapies for COVID-19?

Kinsa

A smart thermometer company says its data show that Allegheny County’s social distancing efforts are paying off.

Nick Drombosky

Nick Drombosky didn’t set out to make face shields for health care workers. He just wanted to help his sister-in-law, a physician in the San Francisco Bay Area, find a company there who would be willing to manufacture them, using a design from the OpenFacePPE project.

Ansys

While some cities and states are using police to enforce social distancing, a team of scientists and engineers at Canonsburg-based Ansys are hoping to encourage the public to follow safety measures by showing how they work. 

NIAID-RML / AP

Robots have long been used to tackle dangerous and dirty jobs. But during a pandemic, even everyday tasks outside the home carry a risk, especially for the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

To get some sense of how hard the coronavirus shutdown has hit service-industry workers in Pittsburgh, visit the Pittsburgh Virtual Tip Jar. The initiative to help patrons funnel funds to unemployed and underemployed workers was launched March 16. As of this past Friday, less than two weeks later, it had about 7,000 names.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

University of Pittsburgh professor Juan Taboas grew up in Cuba, where he said fixing things is part of the culture. When he was a kid, his grandma had a transistor radio that seemed like it was always breaking.

“I remember being in the … kitchen with my dad and we'd open it up, and were trying to figure out how this circuit board is working and what went wrong,” he said. “That really got me into the whole idea that by fixing you learn.”

Convertsation

Political discourse is widespread on the internet, but online debates aren’t always productive. A group of Carnegie Mellon University students are using artificial intelligence to teach high schoolers how to have productive conversations online.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Personal training is a popular but expensive option in the $100 billion fitness industry; it can cost an average of $40-70/hour. Local startup Delta Trainer is using artificial intelligence to make personal training more accessible.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

People in the military often have to work as part of a team under stressful circumstances. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University want to see if artificial intelligence can help teams communicate and function more smoothly, in a project funded by DARPA, the Department of Defense's research arm.

Civic Mapper

When you flush the toilet in Allegheny County, chances are that the waste ends up at a facility just up the Ohio River from the McKees Rocks Bridge.

To track the waste's path from one's toilet to the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, people can use Flush.It.  This interactive map directs users to type in an address that’s within the ALCOSAN service area. After several seconds, a bright turquoise line appears, tracing a flush's route.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

University of Pittsburgh reseachers studying nerve regeneration are seeing promising results in monkey test subjects. Kacey Marra, a professor of plastic surgery and faculty member of the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, hopes to try the method in humans soon.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Outside a home in Moon Township last Thursday, Walmart InHome Delivery associate Nick Burmaster unloads groceries from one of the company's branded cars. Dressed head-to-toe in a blue InHome uniform, Burmaster puts surgical booties over his tennis shoes, and turns on a small camera that's strapped to his chest, which begins a livestream to the customer.

Carnegie Mellon University

In the United States, about a quarter of computer scientists are women. One dozen countries have better representation in the field, a fact that's explored in the book "Cracking the Digital Ceiling," published last month by Cambridge University Press and edited by two Carnegie Mellon University professors.

Charlie Neibergall / AP

A new app aims to enlist Pennsylvania's outdoors enthusiasts in identifying and cataloging invasive species.  

KATIE BLACKLEY / 90.5 WESA

People are increasingly turning to technology for ways to improve their lives, from saving money with budgeting apps or counting steps with fitness trackers. For people who need help dozing off, the mindfulness company Headspace offers so-called “sleepcasts,” which aim to help listeners wind down for bed with narrated tours of peaceful landscapes, including Pittsburgh.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Some Giant Eagle grocery stores are employing a unique method for monitoring inventory: a shelf-scanning robot named Tally. The slender, white, five-foot-tall machine, developed by San Francisco-based Simbe Robotics, has been gliding the aisles of the Aspinwall Giant Eagle for nearly a year now.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

Telecommunications companies are putting a lot of energy into promoting 5G, the wireless service purported to be faster and better than what customers have ever had before. 

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