Arts & Culture

The future of shopping expands–grab and go at Amazon’s 4th store in Chicago

Yixuan Xie
Medill Reports

Amazon launched a fourth automated check-out store in Chicago this month, giving Chicago and Seattle most of the 10 stories open nationally.

The latest Amazon Go store opened at 111 E. Wacker Dr. at the Illinois Center this month,  offering 1,950 square feet of ready-to-eat foods and grocery essentials. Its “Just Walk Out” technology allows shoppers to walk in a store, grab items they want and simply walk out with everything automatically charged.

A store without cashiers or checkouts? Although it sounded like a gimmick when the first Amazon Go store opened to employee testers in 2016 in Seattle at company headquarters. It has expanded rapidly to the 10 stores operating across the U.S, including four each in Seattle and Chicago and two in San Francisco.

Chicago’s first Amazon Go store, located at 113 S. Franklin St., debuted in September 2018. The second and third, which opened in October and November, are located at 144 S. Clark St., and 500 W Madison St.

Photo at top: Chicago’s fourth Amazon Go cashierless store opened this month. (Yixuan Xie/Medill)

Social media brings Chicago Native Americans home to their reservations

By Lily Qi
Medill Reports

Pamala Silas used to hold annual meetings in downtown Chicago with other Menominee tribal members who lived in the area.

“I could get a hundred people to come to a meeting two times a year. I gave them a nice dinner, we had a presentation, the tribal leaders would come, we gave little gifts,” says Silas, who lives in Avondale.

Now meetings are no longer all downtown, with smaller breakfast meetings hosted in the suburbs as well.

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Local Chicago Instagram account helps launch international media company

By Seth Schlechter
Medill Reports

Andy Lederman describes himself as the friend who likes to find fun new things to do with his pals. This mindset didn’t change when he moved to Chicago after college seven years ago to work in private equity. The issue was he couldn’t find the go-to guide he wanted, so he decided to produce his own.

“We were all working really hard at our respective finance jobs so we didn’t have time to research this stuff and there was no good research out there,” he said.

Lederman created Chicago Bucket List, an Instagram account with a mission to curate a list of the best things to do in Chicago for his friends.

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Show-stopping concept vehicles grandstand music and grill fresh pizza at Chicago Auto Show

By Cyan Zhong
Medill Reports

As the flashiest fleet revved its way into the 2019 Chicago Auto Show, one special model boomed into spectators’ ears and eyes at the pre-show media exhibition. Penetrating bass and beats came from the back of the vehicle.

Kicks DJ, an orange Nissan vehicle adapted into a music powerhouse, has four diaphragms bouncing on what was supposed to be the rear window. Standing near a mixer board extending from the window, the knob-twisting, button-pushing “badass” DJ, Eric Shimp, jammed to the beats.

Eric Shimp of Vehicle Effects in California mixes music with the Kicks DJ’s mixer. (Cyan Zhong/Medill Reports)

“It’s not something that you would really want to drive, but it is fun to be able to take this into a concert venue or a field or a warehouse in this, roll it off the truck and rock a party,” Shimp said.

Aside from being a “superstar DJ,” Shimp is also project manager at Vehicle Effects, a small car-making team in Sun Valley, California. He works with Dennis McCarthy, a famous car builder for Hollywood films including the Fast and Furious series, Justice League and Batman v Superman.

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Demystifying artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning

By Xieyang Jessica Qiao
Medill Reports

Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and deep learning (DL) – these buzzwords are used so interchangeably that they become fluid in interpretation. But while these emerging technologies are intertwined, they provide different levels of application.

DL is a subset of ML, and ML is a subset of AI, the umbrella term that is common to all three. In a diagram, AI is the biggest circle encapsulating ML and DL. But the progression toward smaller circles takes us to more sophisticated and brain-like systems of analyzing data and learning from it for new applications.

“Human intelligence exhibited by machines, that’s the formal definition of AI,” said Jason Mayes, senior creative engineer of Google. “Now, there are two types of AI: artificial general intelligence (AGI) and narrow AI.”

Hollywood movies such as “The Terminator” revel in the idea of AGI, where machines can successfully perform any intellectual task a human being can. While human beings might automate products and services in the future with AGI, we are now still in a phase called narrow AI.

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Frances Willard and the fight for women’s suffrage

By Nora Mabie
Medill Reports

The Midterm elections of 2018 catapulted women to political victories at all levels of government, with a record number of women now serving the 116th Congress. These historic triumphs take on new meaning as we approach June 2019, marking 100 years since Congress passed the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote.

One of the heroes of the movement to get the vote is Frances Willard, a suffragist whose home and museum in Evanston celebrates a woman and a political master worth remembering.

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Cleantech innovations in the Midwest need more venture capital money

By Cyan Zhong
Medill Reports

Though still an industrial metropolis, Chicago is actively becoming a clean energy innovation hub for microgrids, electric cars and next generation battery research.

But the startup momentum in the energy sector isn’t matched with enough venture capital enthusiasm.

“There are great founders working hard on great new inventions and new technologies, and there’s simply a lack of capital here,” said Ben Gaddy, chief technology officer at Clean Energy Trust, a not-for-profit providing venture capital for early-stage cleantech startups in the Midwest.

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How AI can help you make better sense of the world

By Xiaoyi Liu
Medill Reports

Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the cusp of materially changing our own intelligence and decision-making ability. Just as we saw the replacement of human labor with machines during the Industrial Revolution, plan on a similar revolution in the modern workforce. AI will also bring economic opportunity, societal disruption – and lots of mixed feelings.

The definition of AI, a buzzword in computer science and digital marketing, can vary depending on who is answering the question. For Kristian Hammond, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering, if a machine is doing something that we think is intelligent when a human does it, give the machine credit for AI.

With mind-boggling amounts of data drowning people as they try to make decisions, AI offers a cool head and clear analysis. “I was struck by the bad relationship that people have with data,” Hammond said, and that is a motivation for him. “In general, every single day, the data that we generate – that moves one way to the other through the computer, is roughly equivalent to about 500 hundred books,” Hammond said. “Some of them are really valuable, we can get a lot of insight from them.”  Hammond makes tools to craft those insights for easy understanding.
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Fight Club: Women sweat, punch and kick their way to fitness

By Stephanie Fox
Medill Reports

Chicago area women gather at Studio DelCorpo, 1115 W. Armitage Ave., every Thursday evening for Girls Fight Club to sweat, punch and kick their way toward healthier and stronger selves. During the sessions, women of all ages learn a blend of martial arts and boxing from Rachel Lavin, a national and international winner of several competitive fighting events.

Lavin also has extensive competitive experience in Judo, tennis, triathlons and more.

The self-defense and workout class is all about building the confidence of women. Continue reading

Coats and booties protect dogs from winter’s sting

By Stephanie Fox
Medill Reports

Slideshow: Chicago dogs sport their winter clothes. (Stephanie Fox)

There’s nothing more adorable than a dog dressed up for winter. Even before the first big snowfall of the year, social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook are plastered in photos of French bulldogs wearing fuzzy holiday sweaters and videos of greyhounds wobbling across tiled floors in their winter booties. But, do canine winter clothes really serve a practical purpose, or are they just a cute addition to the holiday season?

The benefit of wearing a winter coat depends on the dog, but all dogs could benefit from winter booties, according to veterinarian Dr. John Hanover. Continue reading