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Tech Talk May 9th, 2018

• NASA and Uber have signed an agreement to explore putting flying taxis in the skies over US cities.

NASA said Tuesday that it will begin simulations for so-called “urban air mobility” vehicles that also include delivery drones.

The announcement comes as the Uber Elevate summit in Los Angeles brings together tech and transportation leaders to discuss the future of urban aviation.

NASA says the goal is to create a rideshare network that will allow residents to hail a small aircraft the same way Uber users can now use an app to call a car.

The space agency says simulations are planned at its research facility at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport.

• TECH moguls Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg said Tuesday they will team up to help develop new technologies for kids with trouble learning — an effort that will include dabbling into child brain science.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative intend to explore a number of potential pilot projects.

They’ll focus on maths, writing and brain functions — key areas of classroom learning that they note are crucial for academic success.

The effort is now seeking information and ideas from across sectors, from education and academia to business, technology and medicine. Future investments based on that information are expected, but no dollar amount has been set.

The idea that disadvantaged children struggle to learn because of poor executive brain function involving memory, thinking flexibility, and behavioral issues related to autism and other attention disorders has long been lamented by social workers and health advocates.

The joint project by Gates and Zuckerberg details possible ways to mitigate those shortcomings.

Among the ideas is using games and technology simulations to support teachers and family, and tracking progress in certain vulnerable student populations such as kids with disabilities or those who are learning English as a second language. Leaders of the effort say technology is not a primary focus, but they recognise the role it can play.

The new endeavour marks the latest effort by deep-pocketed philanthropists who have tried with little success and much controversy to change entire school systems.

In some ways, it advances the reform agendas of the philanthropists, including helping low-performing students catch up to their potentially more prosperous peers and using classroom technology for digital or personalised learning.

Gates, the world’s top philanthropist, recently announced more support for students with disabilities, issues involving American poverty and Alzheimer’s disease research.

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