Volume 95 Issue 20 | p. 2 | Letters
Issue Date: May 15, 2017

Re: Your new lab assistant

Department: Letters
Keywords: opinion

Readers headed online to share their thoughts about Bethany Halford’s May 8 feature story on using Amazon’s Alexa as a tool for scientists.

Wow—this product could be adapted to enable ADA (particularly sight impaired) chemists to function better. Particularly if it’s able to access data from a sensor (for example, an audible readout from an instrument or balance).

Kimberley Cousins via C&EN’s website

I’d LOVE to see this idea married up to C&EN and perhaps journals. It would be really great to have C&EN articles read to me while I worked, or maybe even research papers. And can you imagine the impact it could have for the sight-challenged? ACS—get on the stick and talk to these guys about audio versions of articles and papers! You could even give ACS publications authors the opportunity to submit audio files along with [the] paper where they read the paper—at least the narrative part.

James Davis via C&EN’s website

As a blind chemist I can definitely say this would be awesome, especially the research paper idea. There are so many websites that I have to simply hire a sighted person to read for me because the setup isn’t right for a screen reader or has only PDFs where it just says “picture” and doesn’t tell me the text.

Ashley Neybert via C&EN’s website, in reply to James Davis

I see a safety benefit more than a workflow benefit. Asking Alexa for SDS [safety data sheet] info is something that there is a legit need for across all labs.

Dorothy via C&EN’s website

Although I can see it being a somewhat useful gadget (with price versus usefulness being a point of evaluation), I would worry about it becoming a distraction at critical times when safety may be affected. Of course, use or misuse of any tool is up to the individual as well as the organization, but I would not want it [rashly] adopted with too much enthusiasm. I have seen radios as a dangerous lab distraction during detailed operations.

Otto Herrmann via C&EN’s website


Corrections:

April 17, page 23: The article on Japanese companies expanding into health care materials mischaracterized JSR’s business. The company supplies both custom manufacturers of biological drugs as well as innovators. JSR’s products used to purify biopharmaceuticals are based on polymer beads paired with proteins. And the company’s life sciences business includes reagents as well as in vitro diagnostics made from both ferromagnetic and latex beads.

May 1, page 10: In the science brief about a catalyst that can carry out multistep reactions, the final benzoxazole structure in the reaction scheme was missing a double bond on the nitrogen.

 
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