This week, in addition to celebrating our nation’s birthday, the Delaware County District Library celebrates our two-year anniversary of using what’s known as “Conversational A.I.” — otherwise known as Skills in the Amazon Alexa app.
Currently, households who subscribe to the Delaware County District Library Skill can ask Alexa questions about library hours, holidays and closures, and search library programs and classes by branch, date, age group or event type.
The library works with Pellucent Technologies LLC to continually improve the Skill, including adding features like setting reminders for favorite events or receiving push notifications. In addition, in June we added the same services to a Google Action for users of the Google Home platform.
Speaking of Amazon services, this coming week is the kickoff to the annual Amazon Prime Day. The company has extended the sales event to two days, and a concert will be headlined in advance by Taylor Swift, exclusive for Prime members. Watch the concert live on July 10 at 9 p.m. on Prime Video or ask Alexa to play or show you the Prime Day Concert.
Looking to just start a conversation with your Alexa device? Just say “Alexa, tell me something weird” and see what fun fact she has to share.
As devices become smarter and robots continue to be more integrated in our daily lives, sometimes it feels like we’re living in a science fiction novel. So this week, I bring you some book suggestions that are recent releases in the fantasy and science fiction genres. Enjoy!
• “Waste Tide” by Chen Qiufan; translated by Ken Liu. Welcome to “Silicon Isle,” the e-waste recycling capital of southern China, which serves as the setting of this class-conscious, cyberpunk-inflected debut.
• “Exhalation: Stories” by Ted Chiang. This long-awaited short story collection features “The Life Cycle of Software Objects,” in which humans and machines form parent-child bonds; and “The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate,” a time travel tale in the style of One Thousand and One Nights.
• “A Brightness Long Ago” by Guy Gavriel Kay. Elderly courtier Guidanio Cerra recounts how his life changed forever after a fateful encounter with assassin Adria Ripoli. His story, and hers, intertwine with other people’s perspectives on the event.
• “Middlegame” by Seanan McGuire. Created by alchemists, twins Roger (linguistically talented) and Dodger (mathematically gifted) can communicate via quantum entanglement yet can’t escape their fate. This dark and stylistically complex novel opens with the line, “There is so much blood,” giving readers some idea of how much violence to expect.
• “The Gordian Protocol” by David Weber and Jacob Holo. Introducing 21st-century history professor Benjamin Schröder, who has two sets of conflicting memories, and 30th-century time traveler Raibert Kaminski, who has an explanation for Schröder’s plight that involves multiverse theory and temporal knots.