Connecting Technology and Business.

Cognitive Systems and the Classrooms of the Future

Technology that understand individual human behaviour and act accordingly are called cognitive systems. This is the next level of Artificial intelligence that is now getting incorporated into the machines that are being built today. Repeated actions, the frequency, the time of those actions and the related reactions of an individual are learnt by the computer systems that are equipped with various sensors (cameras, mikes, touch surfaces). Over a period of time the systems fine-tune themselves and start proactively functioning with the acquired intelligence. They provide assistance to the individual to do his activities better and much quicker. A new era of Cognitive systems will learn, reason and engage with individuals in a more natural and personalized way.

While software evolves to "think" in ways similar to the human brain, computing power and troves of data kept handy in the Internet "cloud" will enable machines to power innovations in classrooms. Over time these computers will get smarter and more customized through interactions with data, devices and people, helping technologists take on what may have been seen as unsolvable problems by using all the information that surrounds us and bringing the right insight or suggestion to our fingertips right when it's most needed.

All these while we have heard of students walking into classrooms to learn. But one of the predictions by the technology stalwart IBM for the next five years is classrooms getting to know students. Classrooms will be equipped with systems that track and analyse each student's progress to tailor curriculum and help teachers target learning techniques. Students with learning difficulties can look forward to these classrooms that will help them move ahead at their own pace but in ways that will keep them on track to better learning experiences. Brighter students can aim for much more challenging learning activities that will give them an edge over the others and stay ahead in the competitive space.

3D printing - an overview


Concept modelling or functional prototyping of a certain physical product is a very time consuming process. It starts from detailed research to designing, dimensioning, drawing, sketching, choosing the right material and then building the model or the prototype. While the first set of activities can be achieved faster using various technologies like Computer aided designing (CAD), Computer aided Engineering (CAE), Computer aided industrial design (CAID) and Computer aided Manufacturing (CAM), the final leg of producing the actual model or the prototype is a real challenge. 3D printing helps industry professional meet the challenge head on with its innovative technology - converting the 3D models on screen to actual and functional 3D models. 3D printers, instead of printing onto paper using ink, moves back and forth, printing layers in order to build up an object using various materials.

Industrial relevance

Industries across various verticals have started adopting 3D printing technology to arrive at results faster. Consumer goods & electronics, aerospace & defense, automotive, education, dental, medical and medical devices, architecture, industrial machinery, footwear, sporting goods, toys and service bureaus – 3D printing finds its relevance in a number of industries. Consumer-product designers, automotive manufacturing engineers, dental labs and countless other professionals use this technology to accelerate designing and manufacturing of their products.

Architectural design

Computer simulations have been used in engineering and architecture to visualize buildings but traditionally real live models were built using wood or foam boards which let the architect see how the building would stand in physical space. Architectural models can now be created with the precision offered by computers rapidly using 3D printing.

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Ergonomic designing is essential to prevent injury and improve productivity. 3D printed models permit accurate testing of ergonomic performance during the product development process.

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3D printed concept models help market products powerfully. Focus groups can be shown a pre–launch model of a new product that's nearly identical to the real thing. They can see it, hold it and examine it from every angle.

Functional modelling

The 3D printed prototypes and models can also be functional – they work the way the intended end product functions. This is achieved using original or nearly original materials like thermoplastics, Photopolymers and Polyetherimides that can withstand thermal, mechanical and chemical stresses that come into play during functional testing. Jigs, fixtures, tool masters and even low-volume production tooling can be produced in-house in hours or days.

Consumer Products

Customized end user parts can also be manufactured using this technology. MRI components with ultimate accuracy can be developed to meet very specific needs in the medical field. Dentistry can take the help of 3D printing to digitally design teeth models.

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3D printers

A leading provider of 3D inkjet printers is Objet. Another example is the Replicator 2 from MakerBot which is a fourth-generation 3D printer, and it lets you print just about any creation you have in mind out of plastic. Well, as long as it fits within the printer's confines, that is--it can print anything about the size of a shoebox. For instance, you could print your own toys, jewelry or household objects, or if part of a gadget breaks, you can just run off a replacement part (though there are some potential copyright pitfalls there). There's also a growing MakerBot community that offers plenty of templates for you to print off to get you started. Prices of 3D printers today range from less than $500.

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3D printing Windows 8.1 app from Microsoft

Even Microsoft has released a 3D printing app for Win 8.1 users enabling them to print 3D objects. The simple, simplistic, free app from Microsoft provides a basic way to print common 3D objects, as well as to import other files from SkyDrive or elsewhere. But the degree of customization that the app allows is small, so 3D Builder basically serves as an introduction to the world of 3D printing.

3D printing – Sidelines

There is a choco-creator that will print customised chocolates for you and your loved ones. By connecting it to an iPad and taking a photo, you could have your face printed onto a vase, all done with a 3D printer. Want to make electric guitars more practical without compromising sound? Then you can print a more- streamlined version of the instrument. You can also create your own unique fashion accessories with the help of 3D printing.

3D printing – IP issues

Unfortunately, printing off copies of objects, even if it's just to innocently replace a personal item, does raise intellectual property issues—both in terms of patent law and copyright. The problem here is that 3D printing is still regarded as a new technology, so the issue of intellectual property and what's legal is yet to be fully clarified. Still, it would probably be advisable not to reproduce someone else's idea in its entirety.

Arranging Content In A Page Is Easy – Use Tables

I have seen users struggling to hold various contents at particular places. If the page has to hold a certain tables, some text boxes and graphics with title, headings and subheadings, quotes, notes and various such items, it is a real challenge to put them in the right places.

This can be addressed in various ways. The easiest is to insert a table with certain number of rows and columns to begin with. Then we can put each of the contents mentioned above in various cells of the table. The next step is adjusting the heights of individual rows, width of individual columns, merging cells or splitting cells so that the contents fits well. Filling the cells with suitable colours will give the contents a distinct look. There is no set rule to do any of these but experimenting with these will make you a professional page designer over time.

The final step is to remove the borders (or at least the unnecessary ones) so that the contents in the page all look naturally arranged in their respective places (but we know they are held in place by the table).

I am presenting a simple example of this here for better understanding.

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Electronic direct mailers, brochures, quick reference cards, datasheets and one page letters can be designed quickly and with much less effort using this method.

Strikethrough Scenarios In Mails

When can the strikethrough option be used in everyday documents? Many keep wondering whether this feature would be really useful at all. Think again.

You are forwarding (or replying to) an email. You are intent on discussing one or more points related to the original mail received by you. But you also want to draw the attention of the recipient/s of your mail to certain portions of the original mail while the rest is irrelevant to the receiver. (You also do not want to add a highlighting to the selected content which might lead to a confusion as to whether you added the emphasis or it was originally there). All the while, you also don't want the reader to lose the context in which the selected portions of the text were found. What do you do now?

You can strikethrough the content that is irrelevant to the point you are discussing in your mail. It preserves the complete context of the selected content and drives home the point quickly and well.

If you have another scenario for this this strikethrough feature, please share.

A Quick Monthly Planner

You are the beginning of a month and you want a monthly planner to plan your work activities for the month. Or, you want your team to submit a planner for the month so that you can keep track of their plans and align your activities accordingly. Here is a monthly planner for you in just one click.

Under the Insert tab, click on Table and Quick Tables and then choose the first option - Calendar 1. You will see that month's calendar displayed in your document. You can increase the size of the calendar as required and customize it with different font colours and an image as well.

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The Proper Use of the English Underline

​Underlines are used to emphasise text. This has been inherited from the Manuscript days and typewritten documents. (It meant different things - A single underline meant Italics, a double underline (not showing up here properly) meant SMALL CAPS and a triple underline (can't show this here!) meant FULL CAPS and a wavy underline (neither here) for boldface).

Even we can do the same to the words, phrases, sentences or paragraphs in our documents using the options under the Underline feature of the Font cluster in the Home tab of the Ribbon. We can also use various colours for underlines to indicate various meanings.

When there are a list of proper names to underline in the same paragraph and we want to separate them word by word so that it does not get mixed up one with the other or wrongly related, we use a special type of underline – the Word only option. It is found at the More Underlines option at the Underlines dropdown. We can select the Words Only option at the Underline Style dropdown so that it does not include the space between words and clearly separates the words one from the other.

The Underline (called the Underscore _ ) character is sometimes used to create visual spacing within a sequence of characters, where a whitespace character is not permitted, e.g., in computer filenames, e-mail addresses, and in World Wide Web URLs.

Beware of automatic underlines that are wavy and coloured Red or Blue in Word documents. It indicates a spelling mistake or a grammar/punctuation mistake. Right click on the word and make use of the suggestions displayed.

Underline has altogether a different meaning in Chinese. Checkout the Wikipedia.

Cover Page For Your Report

You have worked for hours together to create a multipage report. You want to share this report with others. You are looking for a quick way to design a cover page for your report. Are you stuck somewhere? Here is a one click solution for your search.

MS Word provides a very useful feature for folks who are looking for a professional way of presenting your report.

Once your report is ready, click on the Insert tab of the Ribbon and click on Cover Page option in the Pages cluster which is at the left end of the ribbon. You will be presented with many cover page designs. Select the one that suits your requirement and then populate the fields. If you are not satisfied with the first selection of your Cover Page, you can go back to the same Cover Page option and Remove Current Cover Page and choose an alternative.

Some cover pages also let you include a picture or a graphic. This not only adds intrinsic value to the document but also makes it look attractive. You can also change the colours of boxes and fonts if you have time enough to play around.

Use A Term In MS Office Documents With Confidence

You are in the middle of a Word document – say a report. You are trying to use a word that you though will be the best fit in that contest. But you are not sure. Does this word really mean what I think is its meaning? Is the tone expressed by the word right? Word is here to help.

Right click the word and immediately you are presented with one or more synonyms that will help you decide whether to use the word in question or to choose a weighty or lighter word in its place. It also helps you with one or more antonyms (if available in its installed default dictionary) so that you are doubly sure you are not using a word that conveys a completely opposite meaning than the intended one.

What happens if there are no synonyms to a given word in your default dictionary? (I was searching for the word 'Trove'). The Thesaurus comes to your rescue now. Word will look for an installed dictionary or help you download a dictionary (if not done earlier) to display the meaning. Many such dictionaries are available even free of cost in the Office Store today. (The audible pronunciation in US English and UK English is a bonus).

Fit Content in One Page

Often users a faced with a very knotty problem – unable to fit the last two or three into a page that overflows to the next page in a Word document. [There is also the other side, content not enough to fit a page but would look better if the page is filled]. Here are a couple of tips to overcome the overflow or the shortage. These are not put in a certain order. Use one or more of these tips whatever befits the requirement.

  • If the font size does really matter try changing it. Use Ctrl + < to decrease the size and Ctrl + > to increase the size 1 pt at a time. You might also want to try the .5 pt size – the middle ground between two full point sizes at the Font cluster under the Home tab of the Ribbon.
  • If the width of the margins can be compromised, then try the Narrow Margins or the Wide Margins option at the Margins command of the Page Layout tab.
  • You can also try modifying the spacing between lines depending upon the situation. Try the Line Spacing option in the Paragraphs cluster of the Home tab.
  • You might also try to Remove Space After Paragraph or Add Space Before Paragraph if you have formatted the page with paragraph headings.
  • If your file content is only one page, then, you might also try the Paragraph Spacing option in the Document Formatting cluster under Design tab of the Ribbon.

Online Pictures - A Trove Of Images From The Web

There is a powerful feature in the New Office (Office Pro Plus 2013/ O365 pro plus) that helps you browse the web for images and then include them in the documents or slides you are working in.

Under the Insert tab of the ribbon, in the Illustrations cluster, you see the Online Pictures option. When you click here, you are presented with two powerful resources – one – the Office.Com Clip art collection of royalty free photos and illustrations. The other is the Bing Image Search. (Search results are images licensed under Creative Commons. We need to review the specific license for any image we want to use to ensure we can comply with it)

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Other images that are not licensed under Creative Commons also can be seen when you click the Show all web results option.

You can select more than one image at a time for download using the Shift key or the Ctrl key.

Really easy. Isn't it?