Review: BlackBerry PlayBook strong, well-priced

You need three things to compete with Apple’s iPad tablet computer: A gorgeous, easy-to-use device that people will love, a bustling app store and an attractive price tag. Nobody has been able to match the iPad thus far. But the PlayBook, the first effort from BlackBerry smartphone maker Research In Motion, has emerged as one of the strongest contenders, the Associated Press reports. On the surface, the PlayBook looks similar to other iPad competitors: Its slick touch screen measures 7 inches diagonally, smaller than the iPad’s but comparable with those of others… It has front and rear cameras for snapping photos and video conferencing and a black rubberized plastic back and sides…

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AI project funded by Google wants to teach computers regret

Computer researchers at Tel Aviv University are working on a project funded by Google that aims to teach computers how to minimize “regret” or, in other words, to learn from their decisions and make better ones next time, reports Mashable. According to Prof. Yishay Mansour of Tel Aviv University’s Blavatnik School of Computer Science, this foundational research could improve efficiency in many branches of computer science. The machines would be able to learn and improve tasks like packet routing, load balancing and prioritizing server resource requests by being able to evaluate all the relevant variables in advance and make the best possible decision…

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Google tablets expected to challenge iPad

Android-based tablets will make up 39 percent of the market in 2015, Gartner predicts.

Apple’s iPad will maintain tablet supremacy for the next four years, but higher education soon could see an influx of tablets that operate with Google’s operating system (OS) during the same period, according to an April 11 report from IT research company Gartner.

After changing the tablet market the way the Apple iPhone “reinvented” the smart-phone market, the iPad and its iOS—Apple’s operating system—account for almost 70 percent of media tablets, while Android-based tablets account for 20 percent of the market, according to Gartner.

Google’s Android OS, however, will see steady growth over the next four years. By 2015, Google will own 39 percent of the tablet market, compared to the iPad’s 47 percent, Gartner predicts.

Growth of the Android OS will be “capped,” according to Gartner, because Google officials decided not to open its OS—known as Honeycomb—to third parties, meaning the price of Android tablets will decline more slowly than the iPad.

More than 47 million iPads will be sold in 2011, a number that will skyrocket to 138 million in 2015, according to the report. Nearly 14 million Android-based tablets will hit the market this year. That figure is expected to jump to 113 million.

Carolina Milanesi, Gartner’s research vice president, said iPad competitors are focusing on hardware and “making the same mistake that was made in the first response wave to the iPhone, as they are prioritizing hardware features over applications, services, and overall user experience.”

She added: “Tablets will be much more dependent on the latter than smart phones have been, and the sooner vendors realize that, the better chance they have to compete head-to-head with Apple.”

Gartner analysts predicted that customers would gravitate to tablets made by the same companies as their smart phones. On college campuses, where students with web-enabled phones favor the iPhone, this could give Apple an advantage.

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U.S. lagging in using technology, study shows

The United States continues to lag other nations in its use of computing and communications technology, according to an annual study issued Tuesday by the World Economic Forum, reports the New York Times. For the second consecutive year, the United States finished fifth in the study’s comparison of 138 countries that make up 98.8 percent of the world’s total gross domestic product. Sweden was first, followed by Singapore, Finland and Switzerland…

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eCampus of the Month: Abilene Christian University

ACU gives iPhones and iPods to its 4,700 students.

Abilene Christian University (ACU), long a leading advocate for the use of web-ready mobile devices in higher education, is taking its tech savvy to K-12 schools, where students are becoming familiar with the ins and outs of tablets such as the Apple iPad.

ACU’s commitment to mobile technology has earned the 4,700-student institution the distinction of being eCampus News’s first eCampus of the Month, an award given to colleges and universities that push for more advanced and efficient use of educational technology, establishing national models for small and large schools alike.

Three students from ACU’s Teacher Education Department recently partnered with a local kindergarten teacher to introduce mobile devices to the class and document students’ familiarity with common mobile technology terminology such as “apps” and “upload.”

ACU education students helped the kindergartners develop digital stories using mobile devices, while observing the children and how they used each learning tool.

“We quickly realized that most, if not all, of the children viewed the iPod touch as just a way to play games,” said Jody Reese, a kindergarten teacher at Taylor Elementary School in Plano, Texas. “As they worked with their ACU students, they began to realize there is technology available beyond just these games.”

ACU officials said working with Taylor Elementary students was just the start of a larger initiative to partner with local K-12 schools. ACU students picked to work with elementary students will be given a “cart of iPads” to use in their work with youngsters, according to an ACU announcement.

Mitzi Adams, coordinator of field experiences and professional development for ACU’s Education Department, created an iPad math application that will be used by elementary students this spring.

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Arizona defies public opinion, passes guns on campus bill

Two days after the Jan. 8 Tucson shootings, as Rep. Gabrielle Giffords lay in a medically induced coma, Arizona’s House of Representatives introduced the session’s very first piece of legislation: a bill allowing college professors to carry concealed weapons on campus, the Huffington Post reports. A similar bill, SB 1467, which would allow anyone to carry a gun on the sidewalks and roads of public universities, sailed through the House last Thursday, despite the fact that the majority of Arizonans oppose sending guns to college…

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Spending cuts will affect nearly every federal agency

The largest domestic spending cut in U.S. history will upend almost every federal agency and slash programs dealing with healthcare, transportation and education, but will give the Pentagon an extra $5 billion, according to aides familiar with the negotiations, reports the Los Angeles Times. It preserves funding for some of President Obama’s cherished initiatives, including the healthcare and Wall Street overhauls and his education program, Race to the Top. But four of the president’s policy czars get the ax: healthcare, climate change, cars and urban affairs…

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3-D avatars could put you in two places at once

If Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson are right, here is what’s in store for you and your avatar very soon, probably within the next five years, reports the New York Times:

1)      Without leaving your living room or office, you’ll sit at three-dimensional virtual meetings and classes, looking around the table or the lecture hall at your colleagues’ avatars…

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