HHH: Video Games & Esports

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Hello! Henry here. I’m happy to highlight a new high-tech hot topic. It’s historically been a hobby, but now it’s headlong become a hardcore habit, heavily hitting the right buttons on people’s hearts. Today I’m talking about…

Video Games & Esports


Two weeks ago, Google announced it was getting into the gaming business with its own platform called Stadia to come out this year:

Logo for Google Stadia

A week later, Apple announced it was launching its own gaming platform this year called Apple Arcade (along with other new services such as a credit card and streaming TV channel).

Logo for Apple Arcade

What’s so special about these two tech giants’ gaming platforms? Typically video games require special hardware called consoles, but Google and Apple are each promising their platforms will remove the need for players to buy separate consoles and will instead put games on what people already own – their phones, tablets, laptops, computers, and TVs.

Google Stadia will actually run through the Google Chrome browser, which will stream the games live over your broadband. It will be integrated both with Google’s voice assistant so you can get help from the AI during challenging parts of the game you’re playing, and with YouTube (owned by Google) so you can easily share out a live stream of your gameplay.

Meanwhile, Apple Arcade will be an app that will run on Apple devices. It will be like a Netflix of games – an all-you-can-play service via a single subscription.

Details are still slim about both platforms, especially Google’s – but we do know Stadia will require an Internet connection, which means no playing offline. As for what internet speeds you’ll need to support Stadia, Google recommends 25 megabits per second – the same speed that Netflix has suggested to watch their streaming content. Most of the libraries in Texas don’t even reach this 25 Mbps download requirement for all patrons sharing their network WiFi bandwidth.

So why should I care?

What impact will two of the biggest industry names in the world entering the gaming market have on our communities and our libraries? What does gaming have to do with libraries anyway?

A lot actually. Both games and libraries are more connected than you might think. As ALA’s Center for the Future of Libraries points out:

  • Both promote interest-driven learning and self-directed discovery.
  • Both help improve social skills. ALA writes, “Equally important, libraries as public gathering spaces can capitalize on the benefits of co-play, helping to improve players’ social skills by encouraging play together, in small groups, or large classes. The social setting of the library may also encourage users to be reflective in their play, building awareness, asking questions, and processing what is being learned through play.”
  • Both support digital literacy. Games help and encourage people to learn how systems (like interfaces and computers) work. These are crucial, next generation job skills, and libraries being in the business of assisting their communities with workforce development are wise to take notice.

For these reasons and many others, libraries – even here in Texas – have recently started offering esports programming.


The Future Today Institute (FTI) publishes an annual report on emerging technology trends, and for the first time in 2019, they’ve included esports – competitive digital gaming with all the trappings of traditional sports. They write that, “advancements in both gaming technology and streaming capabilities have led to an astronomical rise in its popularity and perceived legitimacy in recent years.” And they predict it’s primed to continue as a major cultural phenomenon. According to a market report by Newzoo, global esports revenues have reached $906 million in 2018, a year-on-year growth of +38%. The ridiculously popular game Fortnite is a big reason for this. Viewership of esports tournaments may soon rival those for the NFL. FTI points out esports results in a more engaged audience because it’s so accessible – the skills needed to compete are more attainable than classic athletic sports, “closing the gulf between fans and competitors.

Screenshot from Simpsons episode featuring esports

What does the rise of esports mean for libraries?

I’m glad you asked! There’s a lot to explore here.

I’ve actually asked someone who successfully runs an esports program for their public library to conduct a free webinar for us on the topic of esports and libraries next month on April 25th . Hope you’ll join me! Here are the details and the link to register below:

Title: Get in the Game: Esports and Libraries

When: Thu, Apr 25, 2019, 2:00 PM – 3:30 PM CDT

Have you heard of esports but want to learn more? Ever wonder if esports could be featured in libraries? Interested in reaching and engaging more patrons through gaming and esports? Are you intrigued by a program offering which attracts a broad cross section of patrons of different ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic standing? Let’s take an in-depth look at esports and its community and discuss ways to build more games-related programming in libraries. Join our webinar with Tristan Wheeler (Outreach and Programming Services, Cleveland Public Library in Ohio) for an introduction to the Cleveland Public Library GAMING & ESPORTS event series. Discover how the world of libraries meets all things gaming and learn why a program like this is important to his library and could be for yours!

CE Credit: 1.5 hours

Register now for this free webinar from TSLAC!

Let’s play with the idea! See you April 25.

HHH: Artificial Intelligence

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Hello, Henry here! Happy High-Tech Highlight Day. Today’s highlight is something big, something I’ll undoubtedly come back to again and again because it promises to radically change everything about our lives and the future of humanity in so many ways:

AI. Artificial Intelligence.

One way to think of AI is it’s like a child with humans as the parents. Our computers used to only follow a single set of explicit instructions each time they tried something. Now, with advancements in machine learning, AI can recognize patterns and infer things. And with humanity’s help in this process of gaining knowledge, it will soon be able to surpass its teachers and accomplish so much more.

But not like this…

AI won’t necessarily become our antagonists, but rather our partners – offering behind-the-scenes enhancements. With AI, we’ll become augmented humans, using our former student AI’s help to improve our own lives.

Things are happening pretty quickly on the AI front. Check out these two crazy-sounding recent advancements:

AI can sense people through walls. Which means we will eventually be like Superman.

AI can identify genetic disorders by simply looking at a face. Which means we will eventually be like psychics or fortune-tellers.

As libraries, we can do a lot to help prepare our communities for this huge change and what’s going on with our still-developing children, AI. Here are a few free resources and tools I recently learned about that you can access via your browser or a mobile app that help showcase machine learning.

Evolution – browser-based tool with an app as well: “Use joints, bones and muscles to build creatures that are only limited by your imagination. Watch how the combination of a neural network and a genetic algorithm can enable your creatures to “learn” and improve at their given tasks all on their own.

SeeingAI – Load this free app from Microsoft on your phone and point your camera to people and things. An AI will attempt to report what it sees. Give your own feedback on its accuracy and the AI learns!

Quick Draw – This browser-based game from Google gives you prompts to draw different things, but what you are actually doing is contributing to the AI’s pattern recognition skills. Over time, it will be better and better at associating a visual drawing with a particular concept.

You can then pair QuickDraw with another cool tool from Google: AutoDraw. Here you can actually start to draw something and the same AI that was honed through QuickDraw starts to suggest what you might be trying to depict. If you ever need an icon or quick representative graphic for something, feel free to use the AI’s guesses as your own.

Creative Help – Start typing a story in this browser-based tool, then see what the AI does to continue the story with another sentence. Could be useful in the creative process.

Microsoft Translator – Recently released by Microsoft for free, this app is loaded with multiple languages. You can have translated conversation without having to continually change the language input settings; the AI does it automatically. This is great in classrooms: Just share a code and have up to 100 students read what you say, as you say it, translated into whatever language the individual student has set it to.

HHH: Interactive Print

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Hi there, Henry here! In my monthly column, “Henry’s High-Tech Highlights”, I share my thoughts on an emerging technology and its relevance to libraries.

Today’s highlight: Interactive Print

What is it?

Interactive print is anything that enhances the printed page with interactivity. Remember QR codes? That was one example of interactive print. Scanning a QR code can point you to another location, usually a website, which presents with you with additional content or information.

Technology has been steadily advancing well beyond the QR code and getting closer all the time to Harry Potter levels of magic.

Animated gif of Harry Potter scene
Harry Potter’s magical moving newspapers

How it’s being used:

In an earlier HHH post, I discussed Augmented Reality (AR). AR is the most promising way to make print more interactive. By pointing your phone’s camera at the page usually after downloading a special app, or by looking through AR-enabled glasses (coming soon!), one can see an overlay of content and information which can be interacted with. The page seems to come to life.

Example of AR showing 3D building when pointed at blueprint
Example of AR showing 3D building when pointed at blueprint

AR incorporates the digital world into the analog one. But what if you stick with analog and still make your print interactive? The marketing industry has been pioneering this ‘old school’ approach recently, and use of interactive print in advertisements is growing rapidly.

Examples of innovation in this area:

  • Magazine ads that change color when you push a button on the page:
Photo of Motorola magazine ad
Motorola ad
  • Inserts that collect solar power to charge your cell phone:
Nivea ad
  • A car ad that plays sounds, emits smells, and checks your heart rate while simulating a race :
Photo of interactive print ad
Toyota ad for 2018 Camry

Check out more examples of innovative interactive print ads.

So why should I care?

Whenever there’s a new technology, it’s helpful to ask the question, ‘What problem is it going to solve for you that you can’t solve today?’

People love print, and we in the library world know it’s not ever going away. I thought the following video said it well:

“What’s more interactive than touch? The feel of texture. The direct accessibility and immediacy, the three-dimensionality of something you hold in your hands. That’s print. You touch it, it touches you. It’s the medium that invented interactivity.”

Print is here to stay, but we have also grown to love the functionality that comes from using the digital environment, enabling us to increase our abilities and enhance our lives. This is partly why we invented ebooks and readers, so we could incorporate the digital world into our reading experience.

But what if you could bring the same added enhancements and features of ebooks to the printed page? Have your physical book, and interact with it too?

This is just around the corner. And as repositories of both the printed and digital word, it’s the library’s business to keep up with these advancements.

How do you see it coming?

Future use ideas:

Lighbulb icon

Imagine: A patron plugs headphones into a magazine and can access another layer of accompanying audio content. Check out a demo of this concept:

Lighbulb icon

Imagine: A patron places printed work on a smart desk, which enables her to accomplish much of what she can do with an ebook. Check out some demos of this concept:

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What else comes to mind for you when thinking about interactive print? Send your ideas to Henry at hstokes@tsl.texas.gov and I’ll share them during future Henry’s High-Tech Highlights!

Animated gif of Severus Snape reading a newspaper.
Until next time!

Libraries: Go Forth and Collect Your Wi-Fi Usage! (…OK, but how?)

The Texas Public Libraries Annual Report asks public libraries each year to provide their annual number of Wi-Fi sessions. In addition to some other information that you provide in your Annual Report, your library’s Wi-Fi statistics are given to the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) where they are aggregated with information to illustrate the state of libraries in the United States.  Beyond this state and federal request, collecting your Wi-Fi statistics serve the library’s best interests. This information provides crucial data for decision-making on purchasing, as well as communicating the value of the library to your stakeholders. If you don’t know how many people are accessing your library’s Wi-Fi, then how will you know when to upgrade your bandwidth, install more Access Points, or develop programming to meet specific users needs?  As library staff, we know providing free wireless access to the community is a staple of what public libraries do; it’s a crucial, supportive service that improves quality of life and gives access to those the library serves who may lack it at home. It stands to reason we would want to be able to monitor our Wi-Fi network’s use over time so that we can show value to our stakeholders.

So how do libraries go about collecting those numbers?

It’s important to understand that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.  Many libraries have tackled the issue with a variety of methods, and one or more methods may simply not work for you depending on your library’s network setup or staff’s expertise/comfort level.

As a quick introduction to what’s involved with library Wi-Fi usage collection, here’s a rundown of the solutions out there:

1) Your Wi-Fi hardware has a built-in tool that collects statistics

Access Points (APs), modems and routers are the devices that connect your wireless devices to your wired network and Internet.

A photo that shows a wireless access point.
Wireless Access Point

These devices often have a web management interface that shows connection information.  You’ll need to log in manually using the information that came with the AP. If that’s long gone, you can often find this information with a quick Google Search for the model and make of the AP.  From there, look for the numbers; sometimes the section you need is referred to as “site survey” or “client information” in the interface.  To start collecting the data, periodically log in at each of your library’s individual access points at a predetermined schedule.

Screenshot of a router interface
Screenshot of a router interface

New to the settings interfaces of routers and access points? Check out our “You Can Do I.T.! Basic Network Technology for Libraries” course for a step-by-step router settings demo.

Some routers or firewalls collect usage in their logs, and you may be able to get access to these logs by contacting your County/City IT or your volunteers.  If you can control how it sets its logs, make sure it’s set to log a minimum of 12-24 hours.  If it can’t keep a whole year, you may have to take an average day or week and extrapolate the amount for the year (for example, multiplying by 52 if weekly). Be sure to account for holidays and other closures.

Have Meraki? Here are instructions for how to find the data on its dashboard.

2) The Captive Portal Solution

A captive portal (also called a splash page) is a web page that is shown before the user starts using the Internet when accessing the library’s Wi-Fi.  Many libraries use their splash screen to provide the library’s wireless and/or Internet usage guidelines (also known as terms of use). After the user accepts, it then redirects to the library’s website.

Screenshot that shows an example captive portal
A example of a Captive Portal with usage guidelines (Source: Brooklyn Public Library)

Libraries have found ways to count the number of successful acceptances of the terms of use, or they simply count the number of times someone has accessed that landing page.  Using a Web Analytics tool, one can monitor the number of page counts.  You can purchase a turn-key product, or use a free or open source tool.  Free, browser-based Google Analytics has become very popular.  Libraries can embed  tracking code on the splash page, and Google’s bots will begin tracking the page’s traffic for you.  The number of Wi-Fi sessions during the year can be extrapolated from its reports.

 3) Network Monitoring Utilities

Network scanners are software that scan your library’s wireless network and display the list of all computers and devices that are connected to your network. This option requires a dedicated computer or device running on your wireless network (laptop, tablet, phone). Run it periodically throughout the day based on your schedule for sample data, or run 24/7 to collect all the data for later analysis.  Set up a spreadsheet to record the sessions and extrapolate for the full year based on the schedule.

TIP: Does your library have its own devices connected to its Wi-Fi?  You will want to find a way to exclude them from your count. This could be done by setting up separate public and private wireless connections.

Graphic of a confused person


The above may be new to you, and that’s okay! We’re here to help. If you have any questions, please get in touch with TSLAC’s Library Technology Consultants, Cindy Fisher or Henry Stokes, toll-free in TX: 800-252-9386.

Apply NOW for E-rate funding with help from FREE consultants

It’s E-rate Season!

 That means it’s time for accredited public libraries to apply for big discounts on their broadband services! Libraries are eligible to receive up to 90% on their monthly Internet access costs, plus equipment and cabling, through E-rate, the federal discount program which puts billions of dollars aside each year for schools and libraries.

The Filing Window to submit the second form, the Form 471, starts TODAY (January 16) and will close Wednesday, March 27, 2019 at 10:59 PM Central. This means that the first form, the Form 470, should be submitted asap in order to have time for the required 28 days of competitive bidding. The deadline for the Form 470 is February 27.

E-rate funding becomes essential in enabling libraries to afford attaining basic national standards of broadband for their communities and to continue providing patrons efficient access to distance learning, e-government information, and employment opportunities.

Take advantage of FREE consultants this year!

This year, as part of TSLAC’s Libraries Connecting Texas project, accredited public libraries in Texas can use the free expertise of E-rate Central who will help them file the forms correctly and on time. 

NOTE: Last chance to get free, E-rate consultant help is Friday, February 1!

For more information about E-rate and getting started with the free help with LCT, please see TSLAC’s E-rate page or contact TSLAC’s E-rate Coordinator, Henry Stokes, at 512-463-6624, hstokes@tsl.texas.gov.

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Close the Homework Gap with a local Wi-Fi Map

The Homework Gap”

If you haven’t heard the phrase before, it refers to the fact that so many school-age children must now rely on Internet access to complete their homework. Even though access is provided within the school grounds, once the school day ends, homework can’t be completed by students with no Internet at home. There’s literally a disconnect between what’s expected and what they are actually capable of. These students are seriously disadvantaged and fall dangerously behind.  To illustrate this growing problem, watch this entertaining video:

The best solution for schools and public libraries is to check out Wi-Fi hotspots (See our post for more info). If you’re a school district, you can also put Wi-Fi on your school buses or even install Wi-Fi kiosks throughout your community.

But sometimes checking out hotspots is either not feasible (due to funding or network availability), or it is feasible, but demand is too high with many students left out and unable to take advantage of the service.  That’s why schools are trying out an additional solution: Community Wi-Fi maps and decals.

Maps & Decals

The homework gap can be further closed by leveraging the existing free Wi-Fi in the area.  Schools can reach out and partner with local businesses who become powerful allies, offering to share their Wi-Fi so students can complete their schoolwork. Or if the businesses don’t have Wi-Fi to share, schools can provide them hotspots to use for maximum benefit.  Maybe not every student without access at home can check out their own personal hotspot. But with this solution, they can go to places in town with a school-purchased hotspot or already free Wi-Fi in place. 

It then behooves schools to make their students aware of these safe spaces in the community to utilize this approved Internet access.   Businesses are asked to display a decal, usually with the school’s branding, that signals to students it’s a good place for homework to be completed. 

Decal example
Example of Decal (Source)

Then, using existing free Google Maps tools, schools can pinpoint exactly where these approved Wi-Fi spots are in their communities. By embedding the map on their web pages, it becomes easily shareable via mobile device. Students can then navigate to the most convenient safe space when needed.

Texas is on the map for being one of a few states with school districts creating community Wi-Fi maps and decals, and even supplying businesses the Wi-Fi hotspots to make it happen and help close the Gap. 

Here are a few examples I found:

1) El Paso ISD (El Paso, TX)

Map: Free WiFi sites in the El Paso TX area

Screenshot of El Paso ISD web page showing WiFi map

2) Weatherford ISD (Weatherford, TX)

 Wi-Fi “HopSpots” Program (their mascot is a kangaroo – get it?)

Weatherford’s HopSpot Decal

3) San Marcos ISD (San Marcos, TX)

News article and video from 8/27/2018: San Marcos CISD students encouraged to use WiFi at local businesses

Video of news report
Decal for local businesses
Photo of decal being applied

OK, but what about Public Libraries?

Public libraries need to be part of this community partnership if they aren’t already!  They need to ensure they are included on any local Wi-Fi maps and are displaying the decals their school districts are creating. Or, if map and decals don’t exist, they should make them!

Public libraries should be the first place schools partner with to help address the homework gap problem. Not only do they provide free Internet as part of their mission, they also have supportive staff available to assist students.   

Photo of Marathon Public Library's Internet sign
Sign in front of Marathon Public Library (Marathon, TX)

(And one is never obligated to buy anything like in a coffee shop or fast food place.)

Further reading

Announcing our Library Technology Academy Participants

outline of school building with computer in the doorwayAround this time last year, Henry Stokes and I traveled to five different rural libraries around Texas to assist Carson Block and Internet2 in testing their broadband toolkit. As we listened and learned library staff discuss their technology challenges, especially related to managing library technology without local IT support, the wheels began to turn in our heads.  Over the course of the next few months, we developed a plan to pilot a new kind of training grant, which we titled “Library Technology Academy”. To address the needs we’ve seen in small and rural libraries, we limited the grant to libraries with service populations of 25,000 or fewer.

With a new program, we also decided to experiment with a more blended learning approach. Unlike some of our other day-long in-person workshops, participants will meet in person for 1.5 days here in Austin and then continue building their skills through a six week online course.  Learning how to be strategic is something that takes time so we thought it essential to create learning experiences to enable library staff more time, guidance, and individualized attention to support technology planning and management. Each library will then build on what they’ve learned through the training by designing and implementing a technology project supported by a reimbursement grant of up to $11,000 per library.

We opened the grant in September 2018 and closed it in late October 2018. We had an overwhelming response and a very competitive pool of applications – in fact, while we only intended to award grants to five libraries, we had a tie, and were able to include all six libraries. Congratulations to the following libraries who will each send two participants to the Academy:

  • Hillsboro City Library
  • Hondo Public Library
  • Lakehills Library
  • Mitchell County Library
  • New Boston Public Library
  • Patrick Heath Public Library

We are also so pleased to announce that Carson Block will be instructor for this course and integrating elements of his new book, Managing Library Technology. Some of you may remember Carson as the instructor for two of our You Can Do I.T. courses!

Today is the first day of our in-person meeting so watch this space for more updates on the program and reports as our first class of Library Technology Academy participants leads the way.

Questions on the program? Contact Cindy Fisher at cfisher@tsl.texas.gov for more information.

HHH: Coding (Next week is Hour of Code Week!)

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Hi there, Henry here!  Next week, December 3-9, is Hour of Code Week – the largest learning event in history – and one where libraries should be taking center stage. So it seemed appropriate to put this month’s high-tech highlight on:  Coding


Why should you care about coding?

Code.org reports that a whopping 93% of Texas parents want schools to offer computer science to their children.  And as there are 44,972 computing jobs open in the state of Texas (and over 500,000 across the country) in which the average salary is around $100,000, this should come as no surprise. And yet, the reality is that only 40% of Texas schools teach coding.

It’s not just today’s workforce. Coding will increasingly become integrated into all aspects of our lives, literally powering the future.  It’s behind every innovation and technology that I highlight: artificial intelligence (AI), robots, nanotech, VR, Internet of Things, etc.  I’ve  heard programming described as a kind of modern-day magic: a  special, behind-the-scenes language that can make things happen – almost like spells from a spell-book.  In the future, with coding becoming even more ubiquitous, kids will grow up knowing how to code and basically become wizards!  This was why I had to laugh when I saw a new Harry Potter coding kit from Kano that gives kids a chance to build their own magic wands to learn programming.

As Code.org, puts it: “Computer science is one of the few policy issues that can address both foundational education needs and workforce development demands for a state’s future workforce.”

Libraries with their focus on STEM/STEAM programming and maker spaces are the perfect space to offer programming about computer coding skills and address this state and national need, providing enormous value. To prevent the U.S. losing its competitive edge and falling behind on computer science, consider it your patriotic duty to introduce coding to your community, especially women and people of color.

If you are new to offering coding training at your library, the best place to get started is participating in Hour of Code. And I don’t just mean next week during the official annual event. You can provide HOC whenever you like, any time of year.

Logo for Hour of Code

What is it?

Hour of Code is a one-hour tutorial that the library provides to its patrons. No previous experience with coding is necessary for the teachers or learners.  Every step is spelled out and provided by Code.org. Just start here at this simple How-To Guide.

To get a sense of what it’s like (and how fun it is), try out this first puzzle yourself that helps you create a Dance Party.

Many Texas public libraries are offering Hour of Code events next week. Here’s a few:

And one last thing: IMLS recently awarded three Texas public libraries: Atlanta Public Library, Honey Grove Library and Learning Center, and Stamford Carnegie Library (out of a nation-wide total of only 50 small, rural library recipients) a Code Club grant, which provides the training, resources, and skills to teach coding at their libraries. Congratulations!

Logo for Code Club


UPDATE 11/29/18: Google and ALA just announced they are teaming up on coding for public libraries with Libraries Ready to Code!

Libraries Ready to Code logo

  1. Google will be bringing their Grow with Google in-person workshops for job seekers and small businesses, library staff trainings, and ongoing support to libraries in all 50 states.
  2. Google will provide a $1M sponsorship to the American Library Association, creating a pool of micro-funds that local libraries can access to bring digital skills training to their community.  An initial group of 250 libraries will receive funding to support coding activities during Computer Science Education Week. Keep an eye out for a call for applications from the ALA as Grow with Google comes to your state.

Fast Company and Fox Business posted about it so far:


Further reading:

Need funding? Get your library on E-rate for up to 90% Internet discounts

E-rate is THE program for public libraries to get funding for technology.  Billions of dollars are put aside each year by the FCC for accredited public libraries to pay for faster Internet to their libraries. Not only does this mean happier patrons, it frees up funds so libraries can pay for other great things.

Free up funding graphic

And NOW is the perfect time to get started. For the next application cycle (for services starting in July 2019), you can get E-rate help from hired experts at E-rate Central entirely for free.

They’ll make the application process much easier and help ensure you submit the forms correctly and meet the deadlines.  It’s part of a special program that TSLAC provides called Libraries Connecting Texas (LCT).

We had tremendous success with LCT last year:  TSLAC helped 84 Texas libraries increase their bandwidth by an average of 927 percent.

Contact TSLAC now to get started: hstokes@tsl.texas.gov.  But hurry: time’s running out to participate!


Need a one-pager to explain E-rate and the LCT program to stakeholders? Download this pdf.


HHH: Two Terrifying Technologies

Hi there, Henry here! In honor of this horrifying holiday, I’m highlighting a double dose of dreadful technologies sure to give you a scare. I couldn’t pick just one; both are bona fide bone-chillers, a couple current computer capabilities that will conclusively creep you out:


  1. Biometric verification
  2. Deepfake

1. Biometric verification,
what’s that?

This means using biological traits or measurements to help identify someone.  Fingerprinting is the analog version of biometric verification, but digital technology has developed to the point that we now have both voiceprinting and faceprinting.

There’s data (not gold) in them thar hills. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can recognize our unique voices, but it doesn’t just know our identity. There’s a lot of meaningful data, a scary amount of information, that can be figured out now from a person’s voice, such as:

  • age
  • health
  • emotional state
  • room density
  • what walls are made of
  • approximate location

And M.I.T. and others are figuring out how to replicate voiceprints.  Ponder that for a minute. Yikes.

(But be careful what you think: computer systems can now pick up what you say inside your head.)

There’s also data beneath the skin. Facial recognition is getting more and more ubiquitous. For the sake of convenience, all of the new iPhones released this year only have Face ID, with no Touch ID capability any more.  Voice or face authentication helps simplify access to buildings, resources, and services. At the library of the future, it could even be used to check out materials.

In China, face IDs are all the rage. Your face gets you a loan, you can smile into a camera to pay for something, and the police wear special smartglasses for ID recognition.  If you jaywalk in one place in China, your face is captured and connected to your social media identity, and then you get publicly shamed on giant billboards for all to see.



What will it mean that these digital IDs from your voice or face become necessary to function in a connected digital world?

2. Deepfake
, what’s that?

It’s now possible with the use of AI and deep machine learning to combine and superimpose existing images and videos onto source images or videos.  Sounds straightforward – but it has huge ramifications. What we think is our reality can be manipulated in an automatic manner right in front of our eyes. Seeing is no longer believing.

I think in this instance it’s better to show rather than tell. Here is an example of a deepfake video of Barack Obama being made to give an MLK speech:




AI can also fill in the gaps inside a photo or a video:



AI can watch a video and predict what will happen next:


And it can even, all by itself, go ahead and visually show a reconstruction of that prediction happening.

A positive use of this tech is AI monitoring security footage to detect anomalies.  Inside factories, for example, AI could notice and alert humans of machine faults and fatigued workers, contributing to efficiency and saving money and even lives.

To learn more about deepfake videos, watch this recent primer from the Wallstreet Journal:


Tech in Context:

What do digital ID systems and deepfake videos have in common? In the wrong hands – like those of criminals, hoaxers, scammers, and authoritarian regimes – they have the potential to be truly terrifying.

As a recent Wired article pointed out, digital ID systems are currently ripe for exploitation and abuse, threatening our freedoms and democracies. Ars Technica pointed out this month that  “Touch ID requires a physical, affirmative act of pressing a finger onto the scanner. But Face ID can be used from a few feet away, practically with just a furtive glance.” Where we used to be able to legally opt out of giving up our personal info locked inside our phones, we may now be easily forced to relinquish it by simply having looked up when our phone is placed in front of us.

Despite its many interesting and positive applications, AI’s new abilities to understand/predict/remake videos is understandably troubling, particularly in regard to hoaxes.  A deepfake video could be a form of identity theft – someone manipulating your likeness to make it look like you did something you didn’t do.


Library Role:

Should you as library workers be scared of these technologies?  Yes. But that doesn’t mean putting your head in the sand. Quite the opposite: it’s up to our profession to stay brave and keep our eyes wide open, doing all we can to better understand the potential pitfalls and dangers so we can protect our communities.  I see the library as part of the antidote to these techs’ terrors, a sort of Defense Against the Dark Arts.  It’s part of a library staffer’s job to inform patrons about privacy and security and to provide protection tools and resources.

As the Wired article urges, all must “advocate for the principles of data minimization, decentralization, consent, and limited access that reinforce our fundamental rights.” It falls especially to libraries to help voice this and perform the role of stewards and guides.

Libraries fight against misinformation, for free speech and other patron rights and protections.  The deepfake videos have the potential to add more disinformation and untrustworthy media into the world.

But what’s new about that? These are age-old problems for librarians and archivists.

I personally think we got this.

To leave you with, here’s a fun use of deepfake video technology.  UC Berkeley recently published this research, cleverly entitled, “Everybody Dance Now“, which actually shows how everybody will, well, be able to dance now.  On video, anyway…