For Gen Z in the workforce, AI and automation are useful and time-saving tools, but also possible threats to job security.
Typically characterized as the demographic born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, Generation Z is the first generation to truly grow up exclusively with modern technologies such as smart phones, social media and digital assistants.
Many Gen Z-ers first experienced Apple’s Siri, released in 2011, and then Amazon’s Alexa, introduced in 2014 alongside Amazon Echo, at a young age.
The demographic as a whole tends to have a strong understanding of the usefulness of AI and automation, said Terry Simpson, technical evangelist at Nintex, a process management and automation vendor
Gen Z in the workforce
Most Gen Z employees have confidence in AI and automation, Nintex found in a September 2019 report about a survey of 500 current and 500 future Gen Z employees. Some 88% of the survey takers said AI and automation can make their jobs easier.
“For most organizations, almost 68 percent of processes are not automated,” Simpson said. Automation typically replaces menial, repetitive tasks, so lack of automation leaves those tasks to be handled by employees.
For Gen Z in the workforce, a lack of automation can be frustrating, Simpson said, especially when Gen Z-ers are so used to the ease of digital assistants and automated programs in their personal lives. Businesses generally haven’t caught up to the AI products Gen Z-ers are using at home, he said.
Yet, even as Gen Z-ers have faith that AI and automation will help them in the workplace, they fear it, too.
According to the Nintex report, 57% of those surveyed expressed concern that AI and automation could affect their job security.
“A lot of times you may be a Gen Z employee that automation could replace what you’re doing as a job function, and that becomes a risk,” Simpson said.
Anthony ScriffignanoChief data scientist, Dun & Bradstreet
Still, he added, automation can help an organization as a whole, and can ease the employees’ workloads.
“Everybody says I don’t want to lose my job to a robot, and then Outlook tells you to go to a meeting and you go,” said Anthony Scriffignano, chief data scientist at Dun & Bradstreet.
Jobs that can be easily automated may eventually be given to an automated system, but AI will also create jobs, Scriffignano said.
As a young generation, Gen Z-ers may have less to fear than other generations, however.
Younger generations are coachable and more open to change than the older generations, Scriffignano said. They will be able to adapt better to new technologies, while also helping their employers adapt, too.
“Gen Z have time in their career to reinvent themselves and refocus” their skills and career goals to better adapt for AI and automation, Scriffignano said.
How Microsoft is cutting through the noise to create a more useful, beautiful ‘sound world’
You might never have thought about the sounds your computer emits when an email arrives, your battery runs low or a meeting reminder pops up on your screen. Matthew Bennett has. A lot.
Bennett personally composed, performed and digitally manipulated more than 400 versions of the Windows 10 calendar alert sound before choosing the perfect one.
“That’s just how long it took to get it right,” Bennett said with a shrug during a recent visit to his Redmond, Washington sound studio. The ambiently lit, sound-damped room features a mixer, multiple high-end studio monitors and large LCD screens, and, front and center, a multi-octave synthesizer keyboard.
As audio creative director for a large portfolio of Microsoft software and devices, Bennett has played a key role in the company’s sound design for 15 years. He has strong opinions and well-developed philosophies about sound, as well as a highly specialized vocabulary to discuss it.
Video: How I composed the Windows 10 calendar alert
Summarizing his role, he reflected, “Our responsibility to customers is, first, do no harm – no annoying audio! Second, make it functional, and third, make it beautiful. Beauty and function go hand in hand. The more beautiful the design, the better it will support the experiences we’re creating.”
The Windows 10 family of sounds took many months to perfect, as he collaborated closely with key members of his team, including visual designers, researchers, project managers and engineers. “We iterate a lot to be sure every sound is just right,” he said.
A composer of classical and improvised music who has done extensive research on non-Western music cultures, Bennett carried out Ph.D. work in ethnomusicology (the anthropology of music) at the University of Washington, before leaving the program to accept his first full-time position at Microsoft. After a five-year stint, he struck out to form his own agency, and for the next decade devoted himself to creating scores for film and television, as well as brand sound design for Fortune 500 companies. But he eventually became dissatisfied with the music he was creating.
Seeking new inspiration, he quit composing to study medieval chant and the musical cultures of West Africa, India, the Middle East and Indonesia. When he gradually resumed composing, his goal was to create a personal musical language – “a sound world that I could live with,” as he describes it. These examples show the results.
Once back at Microsoft, Bennett dug in hard. Now his work can be heard not only throughout the Windows platform, but also in the Xbox operating system and products including Office, Surface, Cortana and Skype. Having a strong sound design philosophy and creative point of view at the center is intended to help unify the soundscape of Microsoft products, just as the company’s user-interface design principles attempt to create a company-wide visual and functional continuity among its products.
We want to orchestrate harmony across devices and senses.
Beyond that, Microsoft’s Fluent Sound and Sensory Design development environment seeks to influence sound design in the technology industry more broadly.
“We use sound to shape the rhythm and emotional texture of the user experience,” Bennett said. “Sound is an element that’s integrated with other sensory experiences like touch, texture and movement. We’re shifting the way we think about sound design at Microsoft, and hopefully the industry at large. Our goal is to help orchestrate harmony across devices and senses.”
Rick Senechal, a Microsoft media solutions architect, has worked with Bennett for 20 years. Senechal directs a worldwide music service for company teams and agencies. Each year the service provides 4,000 songs for events, videos, podcasts and products.
Bennett takes his time and is extremely deliberate, Senechal said.
“Matthew is the most focused person I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “He takes a long, in-depth view of his craft and really thinks things through. He’s not just making sounds and saying, ‘Oh, that sounds good.’ There’s a logic and intelligence behind the sounds and textures he creates.”
Bennett is quick to declare what Microsoft sounds are not.
“We’re not sound effects, game sounds, generic sounds (beeps and bloops), novelty sounds (dogs and fog horns), futuristic sounds, wall-to-wall music or alarms,” he said. “Our product sounds are not live musicians or sampled bits of real instruments, like a piano or guitar or analog synthesizer, because those evoke specific musical styles and emotional memory, which is very subjective between individuals and across cultures. Those design approaches don’t make sense for the kinds of modern digital experiences our teams are creating. Our goal is to develop a sound design language that feels unique and authentic and deeply integrated with our products and devices.”
Sounds in older versions of Windows were quite different from those in Windows 10, Bennett noted. For one thing, there were a lot more of them. Triumphant sounds denoting a successful boot-up “aren’t necessary anymore,” he said. “We no longer need to celebrate the fact that our devices are turned on. That’s something we can take for granted at this point.”
Many modern product sounds tend to be shorter. Earlier sounds, such as the shutdown signal in Windows NT Workstation 4.0 (1996), lasted 8 seconds – interminable by today’s standards, which call for less intrusive sounds measured in milliseconds (1/1,000 of a second). And, like start-up sounds, shut-down sounds are a thing of the past, deemed just another needless contributor to tech-induced noise pollution.
The start-up sound in Windows NT Workstation 5 (2000), nearly 12 seconds long, sounded like a squadron of fighter jets taking off, followed by twinkling marimbas. Today’s sounds are “more deeply integrated with the product and as calm, quiet and non-intrusive as possible,” Bennett said.
Gone are sounds that specialists call skeuomorphic – those that replicate their real-world counterparts, like a piece of paper being crumpled up when a document is deleted or the clacking of 19th century, mechanical typewriter keys denoting on-screen keystrokes.
“In earlier stages, those sounds helped people get familiar with technology, but we don’t need them anymore. They no longer add to the experience, and they tend to feel more like clutter now,” Bennett said. “For many years now, the visual design world has been reducing clutter and using more space,” he observed. “Now sound is starting doing the same.”
Windows 7 had about 40 sounds. Windows 10 has about eight, though legacy sounds are included with the OS to ensure backwards compatibility, he said. “When I started, there were seven different system error sounds. They had accrued over years and no one knew what they meant. There were no clear guidelines for partners or for ourselves. We got rid of the whole set and replaced them with two much more focused sounds – one gentle background notification and another more urgent sound.”
One design technique Bennett has developed involves the extensive recording and comparison of vocal contours – the melodic and rhythmic aspects of speech – from many different languages, to identify universal patterns that can help create a sound design language. For example, a statement that means “Ready to go?” can have a very similar pitch pattern when spoken in English, French, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish or Russian. It’s basically “up, down, and a small leap,” he says.
Bennett took that particular vocal contour and replicated it musically, so that it can be heard underlying the 2.5-second Windows 10 calendar alert prompt. This technique has shaped the entire set of Windows 10 sounds. “The language contours are deeply integrated, not intended to be heard literally, or consciously,” he said. “They should just be felt intuitively to create an emotional connection that feels natural, instinctive.”
Bennett believes the best operating system sounds should be deeply integrated with the events they support. For example, texting is more time-sensitive than emailing, so the Windows 10 text messaging sound “pulls you forward a bit and is a little more alertful,” he said. For a new email, “you still want to know something’s come in, but the sound pulls back a bit. It’s a little more relaxed.”
Does he call his creations “music”?
We design sound with silence in mind.
“In the broadest sense, yes. I would describe them as paramusical,” he said. “They utilize musical elements – rhythm, melody and harmony – to make sounds that feel beautiful, but they should never call attention to themselves as a piece of music,” he said.
Musical concepts certainly play a major role in Bennett’s design thinking.
“The error-message tone uses a minor 9th interval, which is definitely a little dissonant and says, ‘You really need to pay attention to this,'” he said.
While more tech companies are now employing audio directors like Bennett, “as a discipline, sound design still lags a little behind hardware and visual design,” he said. “We traditionally haven’t been deeply integrated into product design teams, aside from games. Microsoft was one of the first companies to realize the value of embedding sound designers with product teams.”
In addition to influencing Microsoft and technology design more broadly, Bennett thinks the discipline of sound design has an obligation to the world at large. The New York Times, in a Feb. 9, 2018 story, noted the cacophony produced by today’s ubiquitous electronic devices, asserting that “bombastic, attention-grabbing inorganic noises are become the norm [and] disruptive sonic alerts trigger Pavlovian feedback.”
Bennett hears that.
“There are so many device sounds in our environment now. Windows sounds alone are heard hundreds of millions of times a day around the world,” he said. “That’s a lot of sound affecting a lot of lives. Even if they are relatively short, every sound has an emotional impact, whether we’re aware of it or not. We have a responsibility to approach this as a system and to help create an audio ecology that supports healthy relationships between people and technology.”
The World Health Organization has recognized that unexpected loud sounds can cause stress and anxiety which are detrimental to public health, and that unnecessary sounds and excessive volume are just another form of pollution.
“In a rainforest, there’s an incredible amount of information being communicated through sound, with many layers in motion simultaneously – birds, insects, trees, plants, water and wind. And it’s all very intelligible because the acoustic design of a rainforest has evolved to be naturally orchestrated, with a deep harmony that let’s all the layers breathe and function together. That’s a powerful metaphor for how we should be designing sound.”
Toward the end of our conversation, I made a confession to Matthew: I haven’t operated my Windows computer with the sounds turned on since, oh, about 1990. I found them unnecessary and even irritating.
I asked him what I’d been missing – whether there is some subtle aspect of the OS that is being lost on me.
He answered, “The right sounds at the right time, can support a more efficient and more pleasant user experience. They can convey important information and improve the rhythm and flow of attention, which is really our most important resource. They can convey crucial information when we’re away from a screen. They can improve the way our technology feels. We want people to know it’s OK to turn your sounds back on. Our modern approach to sound design is deeply respectful. We’re not going to boot up loudly in a meeting or in the library, we’re not going to disturb the people around you. It’s not going to be random noise. It’s going to be a small set of beautiful sounds that are carefully curated to communicate important information very efficiently and to sit well in your environment.”
A Gentle Reminder
Matthew Bennett on creating the Windows 10 calendar alert sound
A lot of people feel anxiety over their calendar sounds, because it means there’s something they have to do. Some of them say it’s like responding to fire alarms all day. We needed something that was alertful but not anxiety-producing. And we wanted to get the right amount of optimism and energy, pulling the user forward to their next activity, but with the feeling of a calm, supportive friend.
This sound is meant to be heard at lower volumes and to be more felt than heard. It has a beginning, middle and end. If you listen closely, you’ll hear that it’s a rhythm of seven equal pulses. It starts low and slow, with three pulses that are designed to be felt more than heard. And it lasts a long time for a user-interface sound – 2.5 seconds – but at normal volume you only really hear part of the sound because those first three tones are so soft. They’re like a breath, a musical pick-up, to let you know something is about to happen. Then the volume swells a bit, it blooms, to make the middle section more audible. And at the end there’s a long reverb tail, falling off, that feels very transparent and light but can also improve audibility in certain loud contexts or when users are away from their device.
So it’s long sound, but very open. It’s definitely not alarming. It feels lightweight and pleasant and has a nice emotional texture.
There’s also a subtle left-to-right movement in the sound field that you can hear through headphones or decent speakers, like those on a good laptop to tablet.
There are foreground and background layers baked into the finished sound. The foreground is digitally sculpted plucks and tuned percussion. The textures sound familiar but they aren’t real-world instruments.
There’s a triplet feel to this sound and to a lot of the others in Windows 10. Over the years, the sounds that usually feel the most fluid, and that can balance the right qualities of energy and calmness, have tended to be resolved to an underlying triplet rhythm. So that pulse, that rhythmic substructure, has become part of our DNA.
We want to sound organic, and integral. That means we definitely don’t want the sounds to feel like they’ve been programmed on a computer. But we also don’t want to sound like a human being performing a little piece of music inside your device. So we resolve to a subtle temporal grid, to feel a little machine-like, while still keeping a little soulfulness.
With the new school year fast approaching for the Western Hemisphere, we thought it would be useful to look at some of the most recently released apps on the Microsoft Store for Education. These apps work seamlessly within the Microsoft Education ecosystem to enable us all to empower every student to achieve more.
Cashtivity is passionately focused on preparing students for success, in college, career and beyond. It’s this focus that drives them every day. They recently released Mindsets Learning – a digital library of inquiry based, real-world lessons for K12 math, science and STEM.
Students collaborate, predict, analyze and apply their math skills to solve a real-world challenge using design thinking and an entrepreneurial mindset. Educators are able to mentor & monitor students using real time data and facilitation tools provided in the app.
Music lessons will never be the same again with Flute Master from Classplash, a company founded by an educator with a passion for creating sustainable digital content for music education.
With Flute Master, students will learn how to play the soprano recorder! It’s easy and a lot of fun! They play a real recorder, and the sound will be recognized through the microphone. Flute Master presents an immersive story, lovely animations and includes 30 original music tracks that gradually teach each note on the recorder.
Besides learning how to play a real instrument, they will improve their music, fine motor skills and make progression in sight-reading by using the sheet music play-along for each track.
In Rhythmic Village you’ll discover the crazy and happy music notes named “Rhythmiacs.”
In this adventure you’ll learn the basics of sheet music reading, play percussion instruments and improve your sense of rhythm. Use your device and start right away in the app.
Shape robotics journey started in 2011 just outside of Copenhagen, at the Technical University of Denmark.
Moises Pacheco and David Johan Christensen, an Associate Professor and Robot Researcher respectively, shared the same vision: to develop a robot system that was extremely easy-to-use, even for younger school pupils. This resulted in the launch of the Fable Robotics System, a modular robot that allows you to build advanced custom robots in seconds.
Fable Blockly is the official programming Windows 10 app that enables Fable to become a walking Fable, a social Fable, Fable as a snake, and even an industrial Fable who can perform tasks such as sort colors.
Many teachers teach using text ,but 65 percent of students learn by visuals. Squigl solves this problem.
Squigl is software that utilizes AI to allow teachers and students the ability to transform their text into animated visual presentations in minutes. A user inputs text into Squigl, and with a couple of clicks, an animated video is produced.
Squigl allows anyone to make animated videos in minutes with ease. A student enters text into Squigl or through Word, and within a couple of clicks an animated video is produced. Squigl generates a full package that includes an MP4, sound file, a specially formatted PDF document, and the digital assets used in the project for consumption in other systems.
Vidigami is a collaborative, private and secure media management platform designed exclusively for schools. It is a cloud-based, members-only application available on web and mobile that allows staff, faculty, families, and students to crowdsource authentic school memories.
Photos and videos of everything from sporting events and field trips to class projects and artwork can be easily captured, centralized in on place, intelligently organized, and finally, privately shared with other members of the community, so they can be easily archived and transformed into incredible content for engagement, education and more.
The Confluent Platform continues to expand on capabilities useful for Kafka-based data streaming, with additions that are part of a 5.0 release now available from Confluent Inc.
The creation of former LinkedIn data engineers who helped build the Kafka messaging framework, Confluent Platform’s goal is to make real-time big data analytics accessible to a wider community.
Part of that effort takes the form of KSQL, which is meant to bring easier SQL-style queries to analytics on Kafka data. KSQL is a Kafka-savvy SQL query engine and language Confluent created in 2017 to open Kafka streaming data to analytics.
Version 5.0 of the Confluent Platform, commercially released on July 31, seeks to improve disaster recovery with more adept handling of application client failover to enhance IoT abilities with MQTT proxy support, and to reduce the need to use Java for programming streaming analytics with a new GUI for writing KSQL code.
Data dips into mainstream
Confluent Platform 5.0’s support for disaster recovery and other improvements is useful, said Doug Henschen, a principal analyst at Constellation Research. But the bigger value in the release, he said, is in KSQL’s potential for “the mainstreaming of streaming analytics.”
Besides the new GUI, this Confluent release upgrades the KSQL engine with support for user-defined functions, which are essential parts of many existing SQL workloads. Also, the release supports handling nested data in popular Avro and JSON formats.
“With these moves Confluent is meeting developer expectations and delivering sought-after capabilities in the context of next-generation streaming applications,” Henschen said.
That’s important because web, cloud and IoT applications are creating data at a prodigious rate, and companies are looking to analyze that data as part of real-time operations. The programming skills required to do that level of development remain rare, but, as big data ecosystem software like Apache Spark and Kafka find wider use, simpler libraries and interfaces are appearing to link data streaming and analytics more easily.
Kafka, take a log
At its base, Kafka is a log-oriented publish-and-subscribe messaging system created to handle the data created by burgeoning web and cloud activity at social media giant LinkedIn.
The core software has been open sourced as Apache Kafka. Key Kafka messaging framework originators, including Jay Krebs, Neha Narkhede and others, left LinkedIn in 2014 to found Confluent, with the stated intent to build on core Kafka messaging for further enterprise purposes.
Joanna Schloss, Confluent’s director of product marketing, said Confluent Platform’s support for nested data in Avro and JSON will enable greater use of business intelligence (BI) tools in Kafka data streaming. In addition, KSQL now support more complex joins, allowing KSQL applications to enhance data in more varied ways.
She said opening KSQL activity to view via a GUI makes KSQL a full citizen in modern development teams in which programmers, as well as DevOps and operations staff, all take part in data streaming efforts.
“Among developers, DevOps and operations personnel there are persons interested in seeing how Kafka clusters are performing,” she said. Now, with the KSQL GUI, “when something arrives they can use SQL [skills] to watch what happened.” They don’t need to find a Java developer to interrogate the system, she noted.
Making Kafka more accessible for applications
KSQL is among the streaming analytics capabilities of interest to Stephane Maarek, CEO at DataCumulus, a Paris-based firm focused on Java, Scala and Kafka training and consulting.
Maarek said KSQL has potential to encapsulate a lot of programming complexity, and, in turn, to lower the barrier to writing streaming applications. In this, Maarek said, Confluent is helping make Kafka more accessible “to a variety of use cases and data sources.”
Moreover, because the open source community that supports Kafka “is strong, the real-time applications are really easy to create and operate,” Maarek added.
Advances in the replication capabilities in Confluent Platform are “a leap forward for disaster recovery, which has to date been something of a pain point,” he said.
Maarek also said he welcomed recent updates to Confluent Control Center, because they give developers and administrators more insights into the activity of Kafka cluster components, particularly schema registry and application consumption lags — the difference between messaging reads and messaging writes. The updates also reduce the need for administrators to write commands, according to Maarek.
Data streaming field
The data streaming field remains young, and Confluent faces competition from established data analytics players like IBM, Teradata and SAS Institute, Hadoop distribution vendors like Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR, and a variety of specialists such as MemSQL, SQLstream and Striim.
“There’s huge interest in streaming applications and near-real-time analytics, but it’s a green space,” Henschen said. “There are lots of ways to do it and lots of vendor camps — database, messaging-streaming platforms, next-gen data platforms and so on — all vying for a piece of the action.”
However, Kafka often is a common ingredient, Henschen noted. Such ubiquity helps put Confluent in a position “to extend the open source core with broader capabilities in a commercial offering,” he said.
While social media marketing was once mainly useful for B2C marketing and advertising, it’s transforming into a suitable channel for B2B marketers to use to reach customers, too. Seeing this, Salesforce is offering new capabilities B2B companies can use to divine deeper insights through analyzing social data.
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A combination of better and more complete data with a change in how professionals tend to switch from employee to consumer has blended how marketers and sales reps reach their customers, making social selling tools important in the digital toolbox.
“The interesting thing about digital advertising is when you go back, you had to be in the context of the B2B sale — if you were selling computer servers, you weren’t advertising in Sports Illustrated,” said Bill Quinn, director of digital strategies and solutions at Tata Consultancy Services in Boston. “What has shifted with Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn is this realization that, at the end of the day, people are people. I’m talking to you as a professional right now, but 10 minutes ago, I was on Facebook. What Facebook and others have realized is this opportunity to merge those two worlds.”
Salesforce Lead Analytics for Facebook was launched earlier this month to capitalize on this shift in B2B marketing and the importance of social selling tools. The tool enables marketers and sales reps to better analyze specific ads on Facebook and follow those leads through the entire sales cycle.
Driving advertisements with data
While previous advertising analytics would be able to tell you that a certain prospect clicked on a Facebook ad, they didn’t drill deeper into which offer or advertisement caught the lead’s attention.
“It was difficult to tie it back to our data — other than knowing it maybe came from a Facebook ad,” said Jake Fabbri, vice president of marketing at Fonteva Inc., an association and event management company in Arlington, Va. “Now, we’ll able to bridge that gap in addition to being able to figure out where the campaigns are working and where they’re not.”
Bill Quinndirector of digital strategies and solutions, Tata Consultancy Services
Salesforce Lead Analytics for Facebook enables companies to track exactly which type of advertisement a prospect clicked on. That knowledge can then provide better insight to marketing and sales departments about which leads to target with which advertisements through social selling tools.
“From the marketing perspective, it’s valuable because of the big shift away from the old days, where you take out ads and always end up making this leap around the value you got out of that,” Quinn said. “Now, that whole mindset has shifted, and you as a marketer have to be data-driven.”
Salesforce Lead Analytics for Facebook is the latest to join the growing stable of social selling tools, including LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator and the litany of advertising tools Google offers. According to Salesforce, marketers will be able to measure Facebook ad effectiveness, visualize ad performance across the sales cycle and compare performance of Facebook ads from one dashboard.
Evolving social media
Companies are beginning to utilize mediums that began solely as B2C advertising platforms, realizing this ongoing shift in consumer behavior. Podcasts are becoming a popular way to multitask at work while doing monotonous tasks, and companies like Oracle have begun advertising on sports podcasts, which are seemingly outside of their B2B market. But when an employee’s work life and consumer life become more blended, there’s an opportunity to sell, and companies like Salesforce are hoping social selling tools help its customers capitalize on that shift.
“Facebook and other social applications have evolved from being one-size-fits-all advertising to a medium where I can utilize data to target the people only I want to target,” Fabbri said, adding that Fonteva has used Facebook for advertising for a couple of years, but lacked that deeper analytical feedback to its Salesforce platform. “Not only were we limited in use, we were limited in strategy. And now, we can go more targeted advertising. Now, I can look at segmenting my target list in a lot of different ways, and that’s where a lot of the benefit comes from.”
Instagram isn’t there yet
Salesforce Lead Analytics for Facebook works for both Facebook and Instagram, but while the former is ahead of the curve in B2B advertising, the latter still needs some development, according to Fabbri.
“Instagram has people in it and they’re using it, but it isn’t there yet [from a B2B perspective],” Fabbri said. “It’s evolving, and so is Twitter and Google’s network.”
Salesforce Lead Analytics for Facebook is generally available for Salesforce Pardot and Marketing Cloud Advertising Studio Enterprise Edition customers.