calling all underclassmen

Facebook taps Houston college campus for new tool on its app

Facebook is piloting a new tool at one of Houston's universities. Photo courtesy of Rice University

Facebook launched as a social media platform solely for college students back in 2004. Since then, college students have gradually moved away from Mark Zuckerberg's baby in favor of platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Now, in a bid to once again attract college students, Facebook is returning to its roots with the introduction of a dedicated "college-only space" within the social media app. The social media giant is piloting Facebook Campus at 30 U.S. colleges and universities, including Houston's Rice University.

Harvard University, where Zuckerberg hatched Facebook, isn't among the pilot campuses. The only other Texas school in the pilot group is Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches.

"While Facebook's early days saw it targeting Ivy League schools, the company says these first Facebook Campus schools were selected for diversity's sake. That is, diversity of the student population, diversity of geography, and diversity of school specialties (like liberal arts). They also represent a mix of public and private schools," the TechCrunch news website reports.

Facebook says a student's profile in the Campus section will differ from a student's profile on the main Facebook site. To create a Campus profile, a student must provide their college email address and graduation year. A student has the option to add information like major, courses, and hometown.

"Your name, profile photo, cover photo, and hometown from your Facebook profile will be added to your Campus profile, but you can edit or remove your hometown from your Campus profile if you'd like," Facebook tells prospective users.

Once a Campus profile is set up, a user can explore groups and events specific to their school, and connect with classmates who share similar interests. Only people on the Campus platform can view content posted there.

Features of Facebook Campus include:

  • Campus-specific news feed where students can read updates about classmates, groups, and events. They also can establish study groups, plan virtual concerts, or seek advice.
  • Directory of classmates at each campus. "Like in the early days when Facebook was a college-only network, students can find classmates by class, major, year, and more," Facebook says.
  • Real-time chat rooms for dorms and campus groups.

"This year, students across the country are facing new challenges as some campuses shift to partial or full-time remote learning, so it's more important than ever to find a way to stay connected to college life," Facebook says in a post about Facebook Campus. "College is a time for making new friends, finding people who share similar interests and discovering new opportunities to connect — from clubs to study groups, sports, and more."

With the Campus feature, Facebook hopes to lure younger users back to the platform in a setting where their parents and grandparents can't spy on them.

In the fall of 2019, U.S. teens named Snapchat as their favorite social media app (44 percent), followed by Instagram (35 percent) and TikTok (4 percent), according to Statista. Just 3 percent of teens cited Facebook as their favorite social media app.

By comparison, 42 percent of teens rated Facebook as their favorite social media network in 2012, followed by Twitter (27 percent) and Instagram (12 percent). Snapchat and TikTok had not yet been created.

"Most of us have [Facebook], we just never use it," one teen told CNBC last year. "It's not our thing."

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Building Houston

 
 

Meet MIA — Houston Methodist's new voice technology assistant. Photo via Getty Images

Hey, MIA. Start surgery.

These are the words Houston doctors are learning to say in the operating rooms, thanks to a first-of-its-kind voice technology developed by the Houston Methodist's Center for Innovation in collaboration with Amazon Web Services. In the same way we use programs like Alexa or Siri to make our everyday tasks easier, the Methodist Intelligent Automation, or MIA, is allowing medical professionals to improve the way they interact both with technology and patients alike.

"There's been a push in the industry for a long time that people sitting behind computers and typing and staring at a computer screen is inadequate," says Houston Methodist Chief Innovation Officer Roberta Schwartz. "There's been a desire to return people back to each other rather than physicians and look at a screen and patients look at a doctor looking at a screen."

Currently in its pilot phase, MIA is working to do just that through two key functions that shift the way medical professionals work in what Schwartz calls the "era of electronic medical records."

The first is through operating room voice commands. Here medical professionals can run through a series or checklists and initiate important actions, such as starting timers or reviewing time of anesthesia, through voice instead of by typing or clicking, which can become cumbersome during lengthy and highly detailed surgeries. Information is displayed on a large 80-inch TV in the operating suite and following surgery all of the data captured is imported into the traditional EMR program. The technology has been prototyped in two Houston Methodist O.R. suites so far and the hub aims to trial it in a simulation surgery by the end of the year.

Additionally, the hub is developing ambient listening technology to be used in a clinical setting with the same goal. Houston Methodist and AWS have partnered with Dallas-based Pariveda to create specialized hardware that (after gaining patient permission) will listen into doctor-patient conversations, transcribe the interaction, and draft a note that is then coded and imported directly into the EMR.

"For EMR the feedback is that it's clunky, it's click-heavy, it's very task oriented," says Josh Sol, who leads digital and clinical innovation for Houston Methodist. "Our goal with the Center for Innovation and this technology hub is to really transform that terminology and bring back this collaboration and the patient-physician relationship by removing the computer but still capturing all the pertinent information."

The ambient listening technology is further off and is currently in user acceptance testing with clinicians.

"They've had some great feedback, whether it's changing how the note is created, changing the look and feel of the application itself," Sol adds. "All feedback is good feedback at this point. So we've taken it in, we prioritize the work, and we continue to improve the application."

And the hub doesn't plan to stop there. Schwartz and Sol agree that the next step for this type of medical technology will be patient facing. They envision that in the near future appointment or surgery prep can be done through Alexa push notifications and medication reminders or follow up assessments could be done via voice applications.

"It's all going to be of tremendous value and it's coming," Schwartz says. "We may be taking the first baby steps, but each one of these voice technologies for our patients is out there on the horizon."

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