Facebook just bought a furniture shopping startup

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facebook-shop

Facebook has acquired GrokStyle, a shopping startup that uses AI to help you buy furniture and other items for the home. The move, which was reported by Bloomberg, is the latest sign yet that the social network is looking to push deeper into e-commerce in 2019.

Facebook spokesperson Vanessa Chan confirmed the acquisition saying, “We are excited to welcome GrokStyle to Facebook. Their team and technology will contribute to our AI capabilities.”

GrokStyle, which was founded in 2016 according to CrunchBase, is a San Francisco startup specializing in visual search. The company is known for technology that allows shoppers to search for furniture and other items by taking photos with their phones. Last year, the company partnered with Ikea on its augmented reality furniture app.

In a note posted on its website, the company said it had “only scratched the surface of what is possible with computer vision.”

“Our team and technology will live on, and we will continue using our AI to build great visual search experiences for retail.”

It’s not clear exactly what team within Facebook GrokStyle and its “AI capabilities” will be a part of. But it’s another potential sign that Facebook plans to move deeper into shopping features.

The company has been steadily adding shopping features to Instagram, but hasn’t said much about similar shopping experiences in other places.

Continue on to Mashable to read the complete article.

Google’s desktop search results get a redesign

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Laptop open on table with the screen open to Google search

Google search pages are going to look different on desktops starting this week, according to the tech news website 9to5Google, which closely monitors the search engine and its related brands.

The change will make domain names, favicons and ad labels prominent in search result listings the same way the company has implemented these features on mobile device views in May.

The verified Twitter account, Google SearchLiaison, announced the design update Monday afternoon on Twitter.

“Last year, our search results on mobile gained a new look,” the tweet began.

That’s now rolling out to desktop results this week, presenting site domain names and brand icons prominently, along with a bolded “Ad” label for ads.”

The tweet included an attached mockup that shows how the search result pages will look going forward.

Favicons will appear first, followed by website domains in black font and clickable page names in Google’s iconic blue.

Updated look for Google search thread on a computer

Ad labels will lose their green hue but will be more noticeable with a distinct marker.

In an official statement, representatives at Google said this format will help people “better understand where the information is coming from” and “more easily scan the page of results and decide what to explore next.”

Additionally, Google’s redesign is meant to improve site branding since the favicons serve as an introductory logo.

Continue on to Fox Business News to read the complete article.

Cigna will now let you go to the doctor on your phone

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Close-up Of A Man Using Laptop To Communicate With Doctor

Health insurance company Cigna is launching a new video-based primary care service that will reach over 12 million people.

The company is partnering with MDLive, which already provides telehealth services to several hospitals including Humana and some locations of Blue Cross Blue Shield. However, this is the first time it has waded into primary care.

Due to fears that a whole generation of doctors will soon be retiring, reducing the supply of available doctors and therefore appointments, there is an increasing push from the medical community to conduct as many medical visits as possible online or at home. As it is, doctors feel overextended in their day-to-day practice, and burnout is recognized as a pervasive problem in the industry. Unless in-person presence is absolutely necessary, virtual care has the promise of making individual appointments more efficient, freeing up doctors’ time.

It is also a lot more convenient for patients. According to an 2019 Accenture survey, 29% of respondents said they’ve used virtual care, up from 21% two years ago. Cigna has been working with MDLive and its platform of 1,300 physicians for the past five years on 24-7 online urgent care services. The insurer has now added MDLive’s therapy and behavioral services to its client benefits and will roll out primary care in April. The hope is that by putting services online, Cigna will be able to get members who historically have not gone the doctor to finally go.

“There’s a whole portion of our population not seeking any care, and we need to find convenient and affordable ways for those patients to be accessing care,” says Julie McCarter, head of product solutions at Cigna.

The deal between Cigna and MDLive comes at a time when virtual care may finally be hitting the mainstream.

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

The Global Search for Education: Global Create-a-thon Makes the “A” in STEAM as Important as Every Other Letter

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A group of sudents pose at the Global Create-a-thon

Creative problem solving is as important as STEM, and a day-long hack-a-thon based in California is putting the focus on creativity instead of coding.

A developer in today’s world needs more than engineering, math and tech skills. The process of creating product is also about design-thinking, creativity and communication competencies.

While attending an Adobe Education Leader summit, educator Lisa Gottfried came up with the idea of producing the first-ever Create-a-thon to showcase student creative work.  With sponsorship from Adobe, she was able to launch her initiative, a day-long design challenge workshop in which the best creative work was ultimately presented at the Napa Lighted Art Festival. Students were given an entire day to explore, create, make and share their works of art with international artists in the festival. Gottfried is now in the process of expanding the program.

Lisa Gottfried is recognized internationally for innovation in education. She is an Adobe Education Leader and teaches Digital Design at New Technology High School. She is also an adjunct professor for Touro University, California in the Innovative Education Master’s program.

The Global Search for Education welcomes the Founder of Global Create- a-thon, Lisa Gottfried.

Lisa, what makes Global Create-a-thon unique to other programs like it?

This project is completely student created and student-run. All important decisions are made by the leadership team or the entire class. I, as a teacher, do not own the project as much as I collaborate with the students throughout the program. I and their mentors help the student leaders to navigate the entire project.  This means that the rigor for this project goes up tenfold. Students really own the success of the project and own their own learning in a way they have not experienced with other projects.

Also, where else can students get the chance to have their artwork seen by over 20,000 visitors on a 70-foot-long wall?  It’s one thing to make artwork for your teacher, but when the stakes have been raised this high and the risk is this big, the payoff in student buy-in is palpable.

We’ve made a big effort to make creating artwork as accessible as possible to all students, no matter their skills in art or their skills in digital design.  This project can be done with paper and pencil, or with computers and advanced Adobe software skills, which makes it an exciting way to collaborate with students from around the world, regardless of their access to technology or their technical skills.

What have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced getting schools to participate in your program?

We have had so many educators express interest in participating in our project with their students that recruitment has not been an issue. The challenge has been in getting all our ducks in a row so that we have the right supportive tutorials and clear directions for how to turn work in.  Establishing systems for receiving the work so that we are ready to curate a show has meant that students in charge of the event have had to really think through all the ramifications for every systems decision they make. Our long-term vision for the future is that our show tours different lighted art festivals in major cities around the world.

Continue on to CM Rubin World to read the complete article.

Here are the top tech trends of 2020, according to top experts

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computer technologies UI by Artificial intelligence (AI) hand touching low poly icon

In 2020, technologies will move toward the mainstream and begin impacting daily life. The next generation of wireless network, 5G, will begin to take hold, for example, and may work as a catalyst for other things like smart cities and smarter mobile and wearable devices.

Augmented reality eyewear, which places digital content in the context of the real world, will begin to appear, and may use fast 5G connections to the cloud to identify people and things for us. The role of AI will increase in business, and the public will become more aware of it.

Next year’s tech will appear in the context of a turbulent political scene and perhaps the biggest election in U.S. history, a warming planet, an inefficient healthcare system, and a growing skepticism that tech companies will do no evil. Tech companies (and their investors) will be more aware of the public’s expectation that new products solve real, non-trivial, problems.

We talked to venture capital pros and other in-the-know sources to get an idea of the technology that we’ll be talking in 2020 and beyond. Their statements have been lightly edited for clarity.

HEALTHCARE AND SCIENCE
Vijay Pande, general partner, Andreessen Horowitz:

AI has the potential to democratize healthcare. With a natural place in virtually all areas of care, from prevention to diagnosis to treatment, it can lower costs, provide greater access, and give everyone the very best doctor, leveling the playing field on a global scale.

Beth Seidenberg and Sean Harper, founding managing partners, Westlake Village Biopartners:

We believe gene therapy will continue to take shape as one of the most promising and exciting technologies to emerge in the treatment of cancer. The field has been validated with approved therapies for B cell malignancies and the goal is to apply the technology and therapy to the treatment of solid tumors such as prostate, pancreatic, ovarian, and other cancers that remain some of the toughest to cure.

Bryan Roberts, partner, Venrock:

Inscripta’s automated desktop gene editor, Onyx takes a single/low multiplex, laborious manual process of CRISPR gene editing to a highly multiplexed, automated, industrially robust workflow.

Bob Kocher, partner, Venrock:

Suki has created the most advanced, easy to use, and intuitive enterprise oriented voice application. Their product is a digital assistant for doctors that allows doctors to no longer type as they see patients and dramatically reduces the time it takes them to write notes and orders.

Joseph Huang, CEO, StartX:

We’re expecting medical device and biotech innovation to see increased attention, together with sustained interest in machine learning and AI in the coming year. My dark horse candidate for 2020? Biosensing. Imagine wearables measuring your temperature to predict that you’re catching a cold before you have one and then matching you with a distributed online pharmacy that delivers medicine straight to your door. Many exciting things coming in this sector.

Shez Partovi, MD, director of global business development for healthcare, life sciences, and genomics, Amazon Web Services:

As the country moves toward value-based care, artificial intelligence and machine learning, paired with data interoperability, will improve patient outcomes while driving operational efficiency to lower the overall cost of care. By supporting healthcare providers with predictive machine learning models, clinicians will be able to seamlessly forecast clinical events, like strokes, cancer, or heart attacks, and intervene early with personalized care and a superior patient experience.

Andrei Iancu, founder & CEO, Halo Industries:

In the coming year, we’ll see the beginning of a large-scale shift in focus from software to science-based innovations. Despite the additional technology risks involved in science-oriented endeavors, the upsides of market creation and defensibility will begin to outweigh them and significantly more capital will flow to the associated enterprises. This will lead to meaningful advances in the functionality and form factor for varied products such as next-generation consumer electronics, industrial hardware, vehicles and infrastructure.

POLITICS, GOVERNMENT, AND INFRASTRUCTURE
Shomik Dutta, cofounder and partner, Higher Ground Labs:

We used to reach voters by calling them on their cellphones, [but] calling people is actually falling off a cliff. And I predict that texting will soon face a similar challenge. We’re starting to see diminishing returns there, in part because the electorate is going to start developing antibodies to texting. And so what we have to do is lean into a place where trust is still very high, which is amongst friends. The ability to use your phone and find your friends online and talk to them about a Democrat is a very influential channel that we’ve invested heavily behind, and we expect to see it scale the rest of the way in 2020.

Peter Rojas, partner, Betaworks Ventures:

As many have feared, in 2020 we’ll see the first malicious use of deepfakes and other forms of synthetic media with the aim of influencing the Presidential election. Though there will be at least one attempt that does initially cause a good deal of outrage, these efforts will largely fall flat. This will be due to a combination of greater awareness by the general public of the need to be more skeptical of video evidence circulating online, combined with publishers and social platforms employing detection tools to help them identify deepfakes and blunt their impact.

Chip Meakem, cofounder and managing partner, Tribeca Venture Partners:

An unnamed large search engine will face formal antitrust action claiming systematically using search data to build out content to retain a greater share of internet traffic is anticompetitive. Also, the incredibly resilient third-party cookie will finally die.

Dan Hays, U.S. technology, media, and telecommunications corporate strategy leader, PwC U.S.:

Undoubtedly the headlines in 2020 will be dominated by announcements of new 5G networks, expanded coverage, and new mobile devices which incorporate 5G connectivity. While we expect coverage at the start of 2020 to still hover in the single digits across the United States, this should rise rapidly in 2020 as new devices become available and demand increases. Look for more announcements at the global MWC Barcelona 2020 event in late February.

AI AND VOICE TECHNOLOGY
Omoju Miller, senior machine learning engineer, GitHub:

The public needs an introductory understanding of how AI works. They need a general sense of how data meets algorithm and turns into a decision. For example, facial recognition is being readily used in our smart home security systems, and for that reason we need to understand the abilities and limits of the technology to protect our loved ones.

Kuldip Pabla, senior VP of engineering, K4Connect:

As predicted, voice has had huge success in adoption by older adults. They like the ease of use and how they’re able to use the technology in a natural way. In 2020, voice technology will become an integral part of older adults’ lives with proactive voice. Current voice solutions require conversation to be initiated by an older adult. With the advancement in voice technologies and with the maturity of chatbots and custom digital assistants coming into the market, voice will bring a two way conversation in 2020.

[K4Connect creates tech solutions for older adults and those living with disabilities.]

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

Designing a Safer Football Helmet

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image showing the new design of a football helmet

Private company VICIS and its academic partner, the University of Washington, have created a football helmet that aims to make playing the sport safer.

Designed with a soft shell that acts like a car bumper and vertical struts inside the helmet that bend and buckle, this product seeks to mitigate the forces that lead to concussions and brain injuries.

The innovative project is one of three final winners in Head Health Challenge II, which was part of the Head Health Initiative, a four-year, $60 million collaboration between the NFL, GE and Under Armour to accelerate diagnosis and improve treatment for traumatic brain injury.

The project has received two grants totaling $750,000 for continued research and development.  “Current helmets were designed against skull fracture, they were modeled primarily after motorcycle helmets,” says Dave Marver who is CEO and co-founder of VICIS.

The company started the project as a collaboration with the University of Washington to develop what they called the Zero1 Helmet.

Marver says current versions of football helmets “are not optimized to prevent or mitigate traumatic brain injury or concussion.” He says: “They don’t slow acceleration, which is the force that’s thought to cause concussion.”

The Zero1 helmet has passed the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment tests, which means it can be used on NFL fields. “The Zero1 helmet is designed to address not just linear forces acting upon football players’ heads but also angular and rotational acceleration,” Marver says. “The idea is pretty simple and rooted in physics. If force is the product of mass and acceleration and you can’t change the mass of a football player (football players can deliver up to one ton of force), a helmet must address acceleration if it’s going to impact force.”

Product Features/Technology

  • LODE Shell – Deformable Outer Shell

o Absorbs impact load by locally deforming, like a car bumper. Automotive safety engineers

have used local deformation to protect people for decades.

  • RFLX Layer – A Columnar Structure That Mitigates Impact Forces

o A highly-engineered columnar structure that moves omni-directionally to reduce linear and

rotational forces. This proprietary layer of columns bends and buckles upon impact, making

it effective against both linear and rotational forces. The columnar geometry used in the

RFLX layer is based on principles first described by 18th century Swiss physicist, Leonhard

Euler.

  • Field of View – Industry Leading Field of View

o The VICIS ZERO1 provides a wider field of view than traditional helmets. In laboratory

testing, the ZERO1 was shown to offer players a 212-degree field of view, nearly the

maximum of human peripheral vision (220 degrees). This is nearly 5 degrees more than the

next best traditional helmet and 13 degrees more than another popular traditional helmet.

  • AXIS Fit System® – Custom Fit, Superior Comfort

o One of VICIS’ founders is a neurosurgeon and some of the world’s preeminent neurosurgeons

serve on the company’s scientific advisory board. We incorporated feedback from these neurosurgeons and scores of elite football equipment managers to develop the VICIS AXIS Fit System®, which incorporates head length and width measurements to determine a player’s optimal helmet size.

Source: VICIS

You don’t need to be tech savvy to be a tech caregiver

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woman showing mother how to be tech savvy on computer

Kevin Hanna’s class on cyber safety in Upstate New York attracts adults of all stripes, from 40-somethings to those well into their 80s. Some are tech neophytes, drawn in by the need to video chat with children no longer living in the area. Others are retired computer programmers looking to keep up on the latest online and phone scams. What they have in common is relative financial security and the fact that they’re often too trusting. And now they’re targets.

Hanna is the regional director of external affairs for AT&T. He teaches this class because 95% of Americans age 60 or older have experienced a scam online, costing them an estimated $1 billion last year alone. For two hours, the students sit rapt as Hanna draws from local news and AT&T’s Cyber Aware website to identify the major themes, tactics, and tricks that scammers use: pop-up boxes warning of computer viruses or calls that imitate authority to trigger a sense of fear and urgency. “I get voice mail messages that I have warrants out for my arrest,” Hanna says. When he asks if anyone in the class is, like him, supposedly on the lam, “evading law enforcement,” many hands go up.

It’s not just seniors who are at risk. According to a recent survey sponsored by AT&T, 90% of Americans across generations have experienced phishing via email or robocall, while roughly 25% have discovered a virus or malware on one of their devices. So once Hanna gets home to his family, his workday continues. He advises his teenage son never to assume online strangers are who they claim to be and educates his mother-in-law that providing seemingly innocent information to a stranger over the phone is, in fact, over-sharing, opening the door to a nefarious follow-up call.

Hanna is on the front lines of a burgeoning cyber trend called “tech caregiving,” in which people give or receive help on tech matters from those close to them. Hanna points out that a tech caregiver does not require educating an audience like he does; it’s often an unwitting role. “Folks who have older parents are often caregivers but might not be familiar with the label,” Hanna says. “While people as young as 12 can play caregiver to grandparents on things as simple as sending a photo. If I had a question about social media, my wife would be the expert. We each play our role based on what we do online and use the technology for.”

HELP IS ON THE WAY

When it comes to cyber security, the role of caregiver is ever changing. “Scammers and their techniques and tactics are constantly evolving,” Hanna observes, citing the trend in social-media mining, in which scammers target people based on what they post in their feeds. “As our use of technology grows in its sophistication, scammers likewise use that against us.”

Neil Giacobbi, assistant vice president of corporate social responsibility for AT&T, acknowledges the challenges his industry faces in both cyber security and digital safety. “There’s overwhelming awareness that there’s a problem,” he says. “It’s evidenced by daily reporting on scams, parental anxieties, children’s self-esteem—I can go on and on with all of the social issues. [But] where do you go for help, and what form does that help take?”

The Cyber Aware website, which provides tips to consumers to keep them secure online and protect them from scams and fraud, is one such resource. Another is ScreenReady, an innovative pilot program in New York City that is training the company’s retail sales force to be digital-safety consultants. Consumers—whether they’re AT&T customers or not—can get free support on how to use parental controls and safety settings. The program has been so welcomed by consumers that AT&T is considering expanding it to all of its retail stores in 2020.

Continue on to Fast Company to read the complete article.

Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation Announces the Julio Iglesias Scholarship

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Julio Iglesias in tuxedo smiling clapping hands with joy

A Music Student with Financial Hardship Will Receive a Four-Year Scholarship, Worth up to $200,000 USD Toward a Bachelor’s Degree at Berklee College of Music in Boston

Deadline to Apply is April 10, 2020

MIAMI (DEC. 16, 2019)— The Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation® announced today that it is accepting applications for the Julio Iglesias Scholarship from music students admitted to Berklee College of Music who are interested in Latin music. The four-year Prodigy Scholarship, which holds a maximum value of $200,000 USD, was created five years ago in an effort to support music education and Latin music genres, and will be awarded to a student who is exceptionally gifted and needs financial assistance to complete a bachelor’s degree in music starting in the Fall 2020 semester.

Julio Iglesias is considered an enduring star on the world stage and the best-selling Latin artist of all time. Recipient of a GRAMMY®, 2001 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year™ honor, and the Recording Academy® Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019, the singer/songwriter has recorded in multiple languages and sold more than 300 million records worldwide.

“I’m proud to offer a promising student the opportunity of a formal music education at one of the best schools in the world through the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation,” said Iglesias. “Through this scholarship, I hope to expand my legacy helping to build the next generation of Latin music ambassadors.”

“We are pleased to announce our sixth annual Prodigy Scholarship in association with music legend Julio Iglesias,” said Manolo Díaz, Senior Vice President, Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation. “We are grateful for Julio’s support and commitment to inspire future generations of Latin artists to achieve greatness.”

Every year, the Foundation’s Scholarship Committee carefully evaluates applications from a highly competitive pool of aspiring musicians on a variety of skills and under rigorous policies. As of today, the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation has allocated a remarkable $5 million USD in scholarships, grants, musical instrument donations, and educational events worldwide. Previous artists who have co-sponsored Prodigy Scholarships include Enrique Iglesias (2015), Juan Luis Guerra (2016), Miguel Bosé (2017), Carlos Vives (2018), and Emilio and Gloria Estefan (2019).

For application, guidelines, and for the latest news, please visit the official website of the Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation at www.latingrammyculturalfoundation.com. As part of the process, students must complete two audition videos, submit two letters of recommendation and answer two essay questions. The materials can be submitted in English, Spanish or Portuguese. The deadline to apply is April 10, 2020, by 11:59 p.m. EDT. After reviewing the guidelines that can be found on our website, submit any questions to LGCF@grammy.com.

ABOUT THE LATIN GRAMMY CULTURAL FOUNDATION:
The Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation was established by The Latin Recording Academy® to promote international awareness and appreciation of the significant contributions of Latin music and its makers to the world’s culture, and to protect its rich musical legacy and heritage. The Foundation’s primary charitable focus is to provide scholarships to students interested in Latin music, as well as grants to scholars and organizations worldwide for research and preservation of diverse Latin music genres. Take action in supporting our mission by donating today via our Facebook page. For additional information, please visit us at www.latingrammyculturalfoundation.com. For the latest news and exclusive content, follow us at @latingrammyfdn on Twitter and Instagram, and Latin GRAMMY Cultural Foundation on Facebook.

ABOUT BERKLEE COLLEGE OF MUSIC:
Berklee was founded on the revolutionary principle that the best way to prepare students for careers in music is through the study and practice of contemporary music. For 70 years, the college has evolved to reflect the current state of the music industry, leading the way with baccalaureate studies in performance, music business/management, songwriting, music therapy, film scoring, and more. In June 2016, the Boston Conservatory merged with Berklee, creating the world’s most comprehensive and dynamic training ground for music, dance, theater, and related professions. With a focus on global learning, the Berklee campus in Valencia, Spain, offers graduate programs and study abroad opportunity, while Berklee Online serves distance learners worldwide with extension classes and degree-granting programs. The Berklee City Music Network provides after-school programming for underserved teens in more than 40 locations throughout the U.S. and Canada. With a student body representing more than 100 countries, abundant international undergraduate and graduate student populations (33 and 53 percent respectively), and alumni and faculty who have won more than 360 GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY Awards, Berklee is the world’s premier learning lab for the music of today—and tomorrow. Learn more at berklee.edu.

ABOUT JULIO IGLESIAS:
Julio Iglesias is the most celebrated artist in Spanish and Latin music history. Recipient of a GRAMMY, The Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year in 2001, and the Recording Academy™ Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019, Iglesias is the best-selling Latin artist of all time with more than 300 million records sold in 14 languages. Photo Credit: Jesús Carrero

11-year-old ballerina dances into history as 1st black lead in NYC Ballet’s ‘The Nutcracker’

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Charlotte Nebres smiling holding a large Nutcracker

Four years ago, Misty Copeland became the first African American woman to be promoted to principal dancer in the American Ballet Theatre’s 75-year history. Now, an 11-year-old girl is also breaking barriers as the star of the New York City Ballet’s holiday production of George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker.”

In a story first reported by The New York Times, Charlotte Nebres, a student at the School of American Ballet, danced her way into ballet history as New York City Ballet’s first black Marie, the young heroine of a show that dates back to 1954.

The annual production also includes a diverse cast of other young leads this season, including Tanner Quirk, Marie’s Prince in the ballet, who is half-Chinese; Sophia Thomopoulos, the ballet’s second casting of Marie, who is half-Korean and half-Greek; and Kai Misra-Stone, Sophia’s Prince, who is half-South Asian.

“It’s pretty amazing to be not only representing S.A.B., but also representing all of our cultures,” Nebres told “The New York Times.” “There might be a little boy or girl in the audience seeing that and saying, ‘Hey, I can do that too.'”

Charlotte, who was just 6 years old when Copeland became the first female African American principal at American Ballet Theater, recalled being inspired when she saw Copeland perform for the first time.

“I saw her perform and she was just so inspiring and so beautiful,” she told The New York Times. “When I saw someone who looked like me on stage, I thought, ‘That’s amazing.’ She was representing me and all the people like me.”

Charlotte Nebres in Ballet outfit holding on to ballet bar with her coachCharlotte, whose mother’s family is from Trinidad while her father’s side of the family is from the Philippines, is becoming a trailblazer herself with the role of Marie.

For Charlotte’s mother, Danielle Nebres, the experience for her daughter is a meaningful one, because she was also a dancer growing up.

Nebres, who described Charlotte as quiet and artistic, said, “You don’t know what people are seeing in your child, and they are definitely seeing something in her.”

Although Charlotte is making waves being cast as Marie, the 11-year-old is just enjoying the moment and doing what she loves most: dancing.

Continue on to ABC News to read the complete article.

Latin superstar Juanes’ enduring impact through music and philanthropy

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Juanes is on stage singing and playing guitar

By Jovane Marie

When Colombian superstar Juanes takes the stage, the atmosphere shifts. His influence is apparent, from the fanatic cheers of the audience as they sing along word-for-word to the permanent fixture of phones poised to capture each moment. With more than 15 million albums sold worldwide, to say he is a legend is undebatable.

This was the exact scene this past September at L’ATTITUDE, a business-focused annual conference, which focuses on how U.S. Latinos are fueling American economic growth. The artist was in attendance not only to serenade the crowd with a moving rendition of “La Camisa Negra” (a favorite from his ground-breaking album “Mi Sangre”) but also to share his thoughts on how Latinos are dominating mainstream music and the importance of their contributions.

It’s a perspective Juanes is more than qualified to speak on.

With a career spanning longer than three decades, 26 awarded Grammys and Latin Grammys combined, a history of philanthropic endeavors, and his naming last June as the 2019 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, Juanes has firmly positioned himself as one of Latin music’s leading global ambassadors and a committed voice for advocacy and inclusion.

It may seem a massive undertaking to be such an influential artist—maintaining a long-standing industry presence, constantly expanding your creative artistry, supporting new artists, and managing philanthropic efforts—but Juanes insists that only one thing is necessary to make it so.

“Si quieres ser artista, sigue tu corazón,” he told the L’ATTITUDE crowd. “If you want to be an artist, stick to your heart.”

Follow the Music

Considering Juanes’ background, it comes as no surprise that he ended up so fully enraptured by the magic of music. Raised in his native Colombia, he began playing the piano when he was only 2 years old, and at 7 learned the guitar from his father and brothers.

Juanes and Camillo Cabello perform on stage
Juanes and Camila Cabello perform onstage during The Latin Recording Academy’s Person of The Year Gala. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)

“I started to play guitar and sing because of my family, really—my brothers, sisters and parents all loved music,” he told NPR. “They were always singing folk music, so those beginning years were filled with sambas and chacareras and vallenatos and tangos.”

By the time his teenage years rolled around, however, his tastes had changed, leading to the start of a career with a musical sound far removed from the folk songs of his youth. At age 17, along with friends André García, Fernando “Toby” Tobón and José David Lopera, he formed the rock band Ekhymosis (Greek for “bruise”).

Inspired by the music of Metallica, the band aimed to “create

Colombian rock” through their thrash and heavy metal rhythms. Their first demo spoke to a simultaneous effort to describe the troubled environment of their hometown in Medellín, marking the beginning of a consistent pattern of speaking out against injustice and violence through socially conscious songs.

At the time, Medellín, influenced by the reign of Pablo Escobar and civil war, had the highest homicide rate in the world. Juanes was not spared from the effects of this harrowing environment, losing a cousin to violence in the early 90s. The experience encouraged him to try to use his gift of music to effect change.

“I realized that music has the power to bring people together, to change things,” he said. “That has been my mission.”

By the time Juanes made the decision to go solo in 1998—ten years after the band’s formation— the award-winning group had released eight albums.

“I just felt like I was missing something—that I needed to go back to my roots, my essence,” Juanes said of his solo journey. “And that’s what I’ve done ever since. I try to mix both the folk side and the rock side to create a contemporary sound.”

The formula has certainly paid off…in spades.

Juanes holds his big donation check for his Fundacion Mi Sangre foundation
Juanes poses for a photo with a donation made to his foundation, Fundacion Mi Sangre, at Hard Rock Cafe – Times Square in New York City.(Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Released in 2000, his first solo album, “Fíjate Bien,” earned him two Latin Grammy Awards, while his second, “Un Día Normal” (released in 2002), was certified multi-platinum in multiple countries across Latin America.

It was his third album, however—”Mi Sangre”—that positioned him as an international force and cemented him as a global ambassador for the Latin music genre. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart, produced three consecutive number one singles, was certified Gold, Platinum, or Multi-platinum in 14 countries, and won three Latin Grammy Awards.

Since the release of “Mi Sangre” in 2004, Juanes has released four more albums, including 2017’s “Mis Planes Son Amarte,” a full visual concept album featuring the artist’s first song in English.

His eighth solo album, set for release in November 2019, has already produced a Latin Grammy- nominated single in “La Plata”—a Colombian folkloric tune mixed with pop reggaeton that is close to the singer’s heart.

“This song is light and happy…I’m very excited,” he gushed about the single, which features emerging Columbian trap artist Lalo Ebratt of the collective Trapical Minds. “It has to do with Colombia, and with my roots, and with who I am.”

The Juanes Effect

Juanes’ worldwide appeal is undeniable. He has performed everywhere from the Nobel Peace Prize concert in Oslo to Sesame Street, and has been recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People.

And while many Latin artists eventually “cross-over” to record English language albums in an effort to expand their audiences, he waited almost 30 years to record “Goodbye for Now,” his first English song. The move was deliberate and based, he said, on a desire to respect his fan base while adapting to the changing musical landscape.

“Singing in Spanish is very important because it is the language in

Karla Martinez, John Cena, Juanes and Ana Patricia Gamez are seen on the set of ‘Despierta America’ to promote the film ‘Ferdinand’in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Alexander Tamargo/WireImage)

which I think and feel,” he explained. “But I am also conscious of the fact that the world and the way we communicate is changing. I do love Anglo music, and now that I’m a little bit more familiar with the language, I feel like it’s more honest for me to do it.”

It may have taken him some time to release a track in English, but Juanes has effortlessly maintained a presence in the mainstream American music scene, nabbing several groundbreaking firsts in the process of building his musical empire.

His performances at the 84th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade (2010), The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (2014), The TODAY Show Plaza concert series (2014), and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (2017) marked the first time any of these platforms had featured a performing artist singing exclusively in Spanish. And, in 2015, he performed “Juntos”—the first Spanish song featured in over a decade at the Grammys.

For Juanes, these historic performances speak to the ability of music to transcend language.

“It’s really a magical feeling,” he explained. “People come to our shows or listen to these performances, and they respect the fact that we sing in Spanish. They are paying attention to the melodies and the arrangement and the music itself, and it’s a beautiful gift. It’s just the magic of music.”

A Voice for Change

Growing up a witness to prevalent violence in his hometown of Medellín had a profound effect on Juanes that has reverberated beyond his lyrics into a passion for philanthropy.

In 2006, he created the Mi Sangre Foundation in response to Colombia’s needs in the treatment of landmine victims. Under the umbrella of psychosocial support, peace education, and peace building project programs, the organization “helps children, teenagers, and youth heal wounds of the soul by creating safe environments and strengthening social fabrics while enabling the participation of families, the community, and the educational sector.” The venture, which has provided support for thousands of landmine victims, is a labor of the heart.

Recording artist Juanes performs onstage during MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Fleetwood Mac
Recording artist Juanes performs onstage during MusiCares Person of the Year honoring Fleetwood Mac at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)

“The name Mi Sangre [My Blood] is inspired by the same sentiment as my album of the same name—it’s about my children, my children’s children, my land, my roots. It’s what’s important to me,” Juanes said of the foundation. “When I heard firsthand the stories of people who had been directly affected moved me to the point that I said, ‘I want to do something.’”

The artist also co-founded the Paz Sin Fronteras (Peace Without Borders) effort, a series of free outdoor concerts aimed at uniting people across borders and promoting non-violent conflict resolution.

His efforts have earned him a multitude of humanitarian awards, appointments, and recognition, including Colombia’s National Peace Prize, a position as a Goodwill Ambassador for nonprofit organization United for Colombia, France’s highest cultural honor for social activism (L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres), and a namesake recreational park in Medellín, which provides rehabilitation space for people with disabilities.

For Juanes, however, the recognition isn’t the end goal. In his eyes, it’s all about making a difference.

“I do these things because they matter for me and to me,” he explained. “I often think about what we as a people are doing here in this world and why we are here. And what I know for sure is that we are not alone…we need to help each other.”

A Continuing Legacy

Juanes’ legacy of artistic innovation, support for emerging artists, and humanitarian recently manifested into yet another recognition—one reserved for the most culturally impactful Latin musicians.

Last June, the Latin Recording Academy announced that as part of its milestone 20th anniversary, the singer, composer, musician, and philanthropist would be named the 2019 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year.

Juanes performs at the 2nd Annual L'Attitude Conference
Juanes performs at the 2nd Annual L’Attitude Conference – LatiNExt Live on September 26, 2019 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images)

Bestowed upon musicians of Ibero American heritage in acknowledgement of their artistic achievements in the Latin music industry, fellowship, and philanthropic efforts, past honorees have included Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Shakira, Ricky Martin, and Carlos Santana.

“Juanes is young, but legendary, an artist who has inspired us through his amazing music for many years and—while doing so—he vigorously campaigned for political, social, and positive change around the world,” said Gabriel Abaroa Jr., president/CEO of The Latin Recording Academy. “His leadership and his philanthropic work, in addition to his positive messages that transcend music, speak volumes about his many contributions to the community, and we are truly honored to recognize him as this year’s Latin Academy Person of the Year.”

The designation is just the latest addition to the multi-talented artist’s ever-growing legacy, and a reaffirmation that he is fulfilling his destiny.

“I’m doing what I believe I was brought to do—to create music that raises awareness, renews hearts, and generates change,” Juanes shared. “And I hope I have many years left to connect through art, to play my guitar, and to continue chasing the sun.”

Google Impact Challenge selects Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems for Innovative Workforce Development Program

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3 people are pictured working on a drone project at the NAIS, Arise workshop activity

The Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) was selected as a Google Impact Challenge winner under the Google.org Impact Challenge Nevada for its innovative Workforce Development Program called ARISE – Attaining Resilience and Independence through Support and Education.

All Nevada non-profits had the opportunity this past summer to compete for one of five coveted Google Impact Challenge winners by submitting their innovative proposals to Google to create economic opportunity in Nevada.  NIAS was further screened by Google through a rigorous interview process before they were recommended to a Nevada panel of judges to further evaluate and select as one of five winners.  The panel of judges was made up from senior Nevada business and economic development leaders across Nevada including former Governor Brian Sandoval.  The Nevada judges based their selection decision on four key criteria: community impact, innovation, reach, and feasibility.  All five winners will receive $175,000 in grants and training from Google to jumpstart their ideas.

For the first time in Nevada, with the training and support of Google, NIAS can help bridge the labor supply and skills gap for future aviators by harnessing the power and excitement generated by the world’s fastest growing Autonomous Systems Industry. ARISE will change the lives of under-served young adults by combining a new resiliency perspective with STEM training, on-the-job work experience, and mentorship to equip the under-served with skills to better adapt within the increasingly dynamic environment of the modern-day workforce and apply those skills to the challenges they face in their everyday lives.

According to Google and the National Skills Coalition, middle-skills jobs account for 51% of all jobs in Nevada, but only 49% of state workers are ready to access these jobs. According to a FAA press release in 2018, titled, “FAA Hits 100K Remote Pilot Certificates Issued,” more than 100,000 people have obtained autonomous systems pilot certification and licensing, and the FAA predicts that the autonomous systems service industry will demand over 400,000 pilots by 2021 – a 400% increase from today. Large employers are already paying up for drone pilots—about $50 an hour, or over $100,000 a year. Recognizing this exponential demand and growth potential, ARISE is the first program of its kind to train under-served young adults to tap into this highly in-demand and lucrative employment opportunity.  The NIAS goal under the Google Impact Challenge with its small cadre of volunteers is to develop and prove-out a scalable program that can be replicated in any community at the state, national, and international level.

“NIAS leads the FAA-designated Nevada Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) Test Site to grow the Drone Industry on behalf of the State of Nevada government and FAA.  NIAS has received both national and international attention through a 2019 business industry report that ranked the Nevada Drone Industry in the top two positions in the U.S for a second year in a row.  As a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation, part of our obligation is to give back to the community and drone industry by supporting workforce development.  This is why NIAS #Vote4NIAS launched ARISE to help under-served young adults gain access to the autonomous systems industry and inspire the next wave of future aviators through STEM training, on-the-job work experience, mentorship, and a new resiliency perspective that could give young adults the skills to better adapt within the workforce and apply these skills to their everyday lives to overcome challenges, barriers, or crises,” said Dr. Chris Walach, Executive Director of the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS), FAA-designated Nevada UAS Test Site, and the NIAS Unmanned Aviation Safety Center of Excellence.

The biggest stumbling block to the UAS industry gaining significant proliferation throughout various markets has been a lack of a real commercial path to do it.  NIAS once again shows their understanding of this through their workforce development program, which will help companies like us source key employees in this growing industry,” said J.B. Bernstein, CEO of AviSight, Inc.

“Drone America understands that a robust and qualified workforce is central to healthy communities, employers, families, and individuals. Achieving our mission of utilizing UAS technologies as a means to survey, protect, and preserve human life and strategic resources around the Globe requires good people.  Partnering with NIAS will assist us in providing real-world opportunities, offering the candidate industry experience in unmanned systems technology together with a potential of long-term future employment,” said Mike Richards, CEO and Founder of Drone America.

And the best part? The challenge isn’t over yet! In the next phase, the public will have an opportunity to vote for their people’s choice starting on Tuesday, November 19 until 11:50pm on Tuesday, November 26.  The organization with the most votes will receive an additional $125,000 to further support their program, so please be sure to show your support and #Vote4NIAS today!   Please vote at:  impactchallenge.withgoogle.com