NYT FAQ’s the Royal Wedding

Complete with cutesy gifs that harken back to the Geocities and Angelfire era of web design, the NYT Style section has crafted a comprehensive FAQ to answer all the questions you never had about the upcoming royal nuptials.


Why it’s hot: Is it good? Maybe not. Is it fun? Yes.


Meme Alert

There’s a meme and this is a post about it. The meme is the American Chopper meme. Here is the thing about the meme: it takes a format unsuitable for Twitter (vertical image), four frames of two volatile motorcycle reality stars with facial hair, and crams in surprisingly dense arguments.



People also used it in strange ways.


People used it for other Twitter memes. Wow!


It also got meta:

Krang T Nelson, a very smart person, sums up this meme:

There is another meme, though, but it’s a bad meme. This is the meme:


What does it mean? Who cares. It is bad.

Say no to this meme, unless it is Fleetwood Mac adjacent:

This guy is good though. Look at that chomping:


This has been a meme alert. Thanks.

Fribo, the robot that tells all your friends you came home at 4am

Fribo is a robot developed in Korea for young singles living alone. It seems to set up a virtual communal living space built by communication at home activities with a small group of friends.

Fribo listens to household activity sends messages to the group about. If you arrive home Fribo might message Your friends: “Your friend opened the front door. Did someone just come home?” Friends can respomd with a clap to their own Friebo which would send a message to the group chat.

Users in Korea responded positively “I usually wake up late in the morning,” said one, “but when I began to notice my friends getting ready early, I started thinking about starting the day earlier with my friends.”

Why it’s hot?

Although this is not for me its interesting how we’re mixing text with voice and smart home technology. It’s an out of the box way to think about human interaction.

AI helps deliver JFK’s words from beyond the grave…

On a fateful day in November of 1963, JFK never got to make his “Trade Mart” speech in Dallas. But thanks to the UK’s The Times and friends, we now have a glimpse at what that speech would’ve sounded like that day. Using the speech’s text and AI, The Times:

“Collected 831 analog recordings of the president’s previous speeches and interviews, removing noise and crosstalk through audio processing as well as using spectrum analysis tools to enhance the acoustic environment. Each audio file was then transferred into the AI system, where they used methods such as deep learning to understand the president’s unique tone and quirks expressed in his speech. In the end, the sound engineers took 116,777 sound units from the 831 clips to create the final audio.”

Why It’s Hot:

It seems we’re creating a world where anyone could be imitated scientifically. While in an instance like this, it’s great – to hear JFK’s words spoken, especially the sentiment in the clip above, was a joy for someone who cares about history and this country, especially given its current climate. But what if the likeness wasn’t recreated to deliver a speech written by him during his time, but rather something he never actually said or intended to say? Brings a whole new meaning to “fake news”.

[Listen to the full 22 minute version straight from the Source]

Speak and thou shalt receive

Google has issued its first voice-activated coupon, a $15 offer for Target orders placed via Google Assistant.

Using a Google Home, a phone with Google Assistant built in, or the Google Assistant app (on either Android or iOS), simply say or type, ‘Spring into Target.’ If everything goes as planned, you’ll get a small paragraph informing you about the credit you’ve just received,”

The paragraph reads: “Three cheers for Spring! You’ve unlocked the Spring promo. Save up to $15 on your next order from Target on Google Express. You can order essentials like paper towels, laundry detergent, and trash bags. To try it out, ask me to order something you need from Target.”

Of course, it would be weird if this happened without any hitch. ‘Android Police’ reported potential confusion between “in to” and “into,” requiring a manual edit of the voice entry in some cases.

Why its hot?
Voice enabled things starting to hit adolescence. This coming of age means they are ready to go beyond basic stuff like weather to playing music to finally enabling hardcore retail sales. The possibilities are endless.

Source: MarketingWeek

Norman? More like No, Man.

This is Norman.

Norman isn’t your typical AI who’s here for you to just ask random questions when you’re bored. Oh no, Norman here was created by researchers at MIT as an April Fools prank. At the beginning of its creation, it was exposed to “the darkest corners of Reddit” which resulted in the development of its psychopathic data processing tendencies. The MIT researchers define norman as;

“A psychotic AI suffering from chronic hallucinatory disorder; donated to science by the MIT Media Laboratory for the study of the dangers of Artificial Intelligence gone wrong when biased data is used in machine learning algorithms”

Because of the neural network’s dark tendencies, the project’s website states that Norman is being “kept in an isolated server room, on a computer that has no access to the internet or communication channels to other devices.” As an additional security measure, the room also has weapons such as hammers, saws, and blow-torches in case there happens to be any kind of emergency or malfunction of the AI that would require it to be destroyed immediately.

Norman’s neural network is so far gone that researchers believe that ” “some of the encodings of the hallucinatory disorders reside in its hardware and there’s something fundamentally evil in Norman’s architecture that makes his re-training impossible.” Even after being exposed to neutral holograms of cute kittens and other fun and magical stuff, Norman essentially is so far gone that it’s just evil. While being presented with Rorschach inkblot images, Norman just went … well, let’s say in the comic universe, it’d be the ideal villain.

Why it’s hot:
We all know that AI is going to take over the world and that technology seems to be controlling us more than we’re controlling it but this almost perfectly depicts the dangers that could result in AI being developed using violence-fueled datasets.

Source: norman-ai.mit.edu & LiveScience

How tech companies design for trans users (or don’t)

You’ve set up your Airbnb host account, spent years getting your name out there, and received stellar review after stellar review. Then you transition.

For Sophie Alpert, the transition posed a challenge for her Airbnb business. While her profile displayed a new picture, her reviews still used male pronouns and referenced her old name. At best, it was inconvenient to explain to potential guests. At worst, guests might suspect some kind of scheme. On the verge of deleting five years of reviews to start from scratch, Sophie called Airbnb in the hopes that there was a better fix. It turns out Airbnb will not only update your profile, but go through each and every post and review, updating names and pronouns to align with your gender identity. A low-tech solution for a high-tech company, but one that made all the difference. The interesting question is how emerging tech companies and services will design for inclusion in the future, or how they plan for users to update their presence beyond (at the very least) a gender toggle.

In case you were wondering, here’s an overview of how different tech companies design for updating a user’s gender:

  • Facebook – updating your gender updates all pronouns automatically (ex. “Mark updated [his/her] profile image”) as far back as your page has existed.
  • Google – can update your name and gender in your profile.
  • LinkedIn – can change your name, and all updates about users are gender-neutral. Previous comments by other users are not updated.
  • Twitter – the UI does not require people to select gender and the profile can be updated easily. Twitter also uses usernames in most contexts, which don’t usually include real life names to begin with.

Snapchat next effort is a TV commercial… for our parents.

We all know how Snapchat is fighting to compete with Instagram and Facebook. Now, the most recent thing is their first TV commercial, in order to get new users.

The TVC that was released last weekend takes a minute to explain how Snapchat works and what functionalities it has, especially the ones related to AR. It’s clear by the tone of voice, the informative content and the people who appear on the commercial that they are looking for new users, older users.


One other interesting thing to mention is the way the position Snapchat – not as pure fun and refreshing platform, but “a camera, where how you feel is more important than how you look”.

Why it’s hot: 
We are witnessing numerous attempts from Snapchat to stay relevant and this shows a more ” desperate” one. If people are living the app, if usage is decreasing, the only way to survive is to get new users.

Source: Brainstorm9 

Apple Watch Data Could Solve a Murder

A woman in Australia has been charged with the murder of her mother-in-law after data collected from the victim’s Apple Watch proved her depiction of the events wrong. The watch outlined a timeline of the victim’s demise, giving prosecutors a look into the woman’s last moments.

Caroline Nilsson told authorities that a group of men invaded her home, tied her up, and killed her mother-in-law. She claimed the act took a total of 20 minutes. The watch’s heart rate data showed a spike in activity followed by an abrupt slowdown on the day of the murder, limiting the timing of the events to a 7-minute window, meaning Caroline is either lying, or terrible at telling time.

The trial is set to continue in June, when it will be decided if the Apple Watch data will be accepted as evidence. Caroline has continued to deny the allegations.

Why It’s Hot:

This is actually the second instance this year where Apple Health data was used as evidence in a murder trial. In Germany, a third-party company examined the data to re-create the murderous activities the accused man had participated in through his movements. As more situations like these occur, the debate over ethical surveillance data is bound to heat up. The creators and distributors of software will face a complex question of when and where they should have to hand over their data.

Source: https://www.digitaltrends.com/wearables/apple-watch-health-data-murder-trial/

You’re Going to ‘Dig’ This App

I recently took a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico and along the way I read “The Great Quake” by Henry Fountain. The book details the 1964 Good Friday earthquake that struck southern Alaska and how its subsequent study helped confirm the long-debated theory of plate tectonics.

The book made me think a lot about geology and while flying over New Mexico, I found myself looking down at the geography of the land and wishing I knew more about it.

Well, like all things, there’s an app for that.

Flyover Country was developed by geologist Shane Loeffler and it provides information about the ground below as you fly over it. Following the information in the app’s UI, you can learn about everything from extinct volcanoes, fault trails, and even where dinosaur bones have been discovered. It even works in airplane mode!

Flyover Country is part of an initiative called EarthCube. Created by the National Science Foundation in 2011, it’s a loosely defined coalition to fund “community-created cyberinfrastructure” that makes huge stores of data about the natural world more accessible to everyone–through technology like Flyover Country. “Creating content for the entire world of potential flight paths would be impossible, but right now is an amazing time for open access to geoscience data thanks to initiatives like NSF’s EarthCube,” Loeffler says.

Loeffler hopes to add AR to the app so you can simply hold up your phone to look at the data overlaid on the world below.

Why Its Hot

I love apps that seamlessly integrate with the world around us to teach us things. Night sky apps are another example. This could also be great for kids in search of things to entertain themselves on flights…or adults who hate flying and need a distraction.

Microsoft AI Knows When to Interrupt You

In an interesting social/behavioral development, Microsoft’s latest Xiaolce chatbot AI upgrade includes learnings for when to interrupt human conversation.

The functionality is called “full duplex voice sense” and what it does, on a basic level, is that it allows the chatbot to talk and listen simultaneously. (The old, walkie-talkie way of AI conversation is called “half duplex”.) It can predict what you’re likely to say next, and knows when to interrupt you with relevant information.

There are two goals for this functionality:

  1. Provide a more natural flow to your conversation
  2. Users don’t need to use a wake word every time they respond during conversations

Microsoft plans on spreading this technology to Microsoft’s chatbots in the US and Japan, though it could quickly catch on in other conversational AI tools as well.

Why It’s Hot: What makes a computer feel more human? I’d venture to say that human speech patterns have a lot to do with it. How will having a more human-like AI assistant change how we speak to our computers, how we interact with them, and on a bigger level, how we start to view them within the context of our lives? Will this change how we feel about our computers, how we rely on them in our daily lives? Will our brains begin to process AI like how we process other humans? (Basically, will we all be like Joaquin?)

Learn More: Engadget | Microsoft

Blurring the line between CGI and reality

“She’s a digital personality created using a new real-time motion-capture technology.”

“Epic Games has been obsessed with real-time motion capture for years, but the company is now trying to take its experiments with the technology one step further. Enter “Siren,” a digital personality that it created alongside a few prominent firms in the gaming industry: Vicon, Cubic Motion, 3Lateral and Tencent (which just became a major investor in Ubisoft). The crazy thing about Siren is that she comes to life using live mocap tech, powered by software from Vicon, that can make her body and finger movements be captured and live-streamed into an Unreal Engine project.”

Watch the video here: https://www.engadget.com/2018/03/22/siren-epic-games-unreal-engine-vicon/

Why it’s hot:

  • Breakthrough mocap tech
  • Going to save gaming company’s a ton of time on animations
  • Could easily be used to create some fake news
  • Robots taking some more jobs

The Elusive Lowercase G

Researchers from Johns Hopkins recently released a report called: The Devil’s in the g-tails: Deficient letter-shape knowledge and awareness despite massive visual experience where they found that only seven people of 25 participants, or about 28%, succeeded in identifying the correct shape of a lowercase G.

Why It’s Hot: In addition to the surprising realization that you probably can’t draw a lowercase g-tail, there are interesting implication of this study about how people can see something frequently, but not retain the information. A reason for this may be how g’s are taught in school (often without the tail). Additionally, this arises questions about if younger generations using keyboards will have problems with recognizing letters and reading proficiency.


The strange world of dropshipping (or: what’s up with all of those weird brands in your Instagram feed?)

A recent podcast from Reply All, inspired by this Atlantic article and this paper by artist Jenny Odell has sent me down a rabbit hole and into the strange world of dropshipping. Each of them set out to answer: What is up with all of those weird ads in your Instagram feeds? You know, the ones with what look like luxury products with dubiously cheap price tags or limited time offers? Does anyone ever click these and actually buy these products?

Well, the answer is yes. As it turns out, what’s behind these brands is one platform: Shopify.

Alexis Madrigal writes: “All these sites use a platform called Shopify, which is like the WordPress or Blogger of e-commerce, enabling completely turnkey online stores. Now, it has over 500,000 merchants, a number that’s grown 74 percent per year over the last five years. On the big shopping days around Thanksgiving, they were doing $1 million in transactions per minute. And the “vast majority” of the stores on the service are small to medium-sized businesses.”

Shopify helps dropshippers quickly and easily build a front end eCommerce experience and integrates directly with AliExpress, so these retailers source and ship products directly from China, without ever holding inventory (or even seeing the product, for that matter). Using a reverse image search, Odell found that the same watch had been listed by numerous e-retailers, with different branding and similarly fishy “About Us” sections on their sites.

Above: A watch listed for less than $2 on Amazon is rebranded and sold for $40 on a Shopify site. 

Above: “creatively” written About Us sections on Shopify sites; Photoshopped storefronts. 

This phenomenon has launched a sub genre of get-rich-quick “how to dropship” YouTube influencers (many of whom claim to have made hundreds of thousands of dollars with their dropshipping companies) who charge a monthly subscription to other wannabe dropshippers looking to mimic their mastery of social media advertising and Shopify tools.

As Reply All investigates, it’s difficult to ascertain how profitable any of these retailers are, if at all. The lack of transparency and semi-scamminess has also led investors to question Shopify’s huge market cap. 


Aside from being an interesting case study in the questionable valuation of an internet company, how dropshippers use Shopify for their not-really-scams demonstrates how easy it has become for brand storytelling to gloss over a sketchy business selling sketchy products. There’s also a real implication for advertisers in a world where consumers feel ripped off by “fake” brands proliferating on social. It also speaks to transparency; how important is it to consumers to know where their products are coming from – both where they are manufactured, and how they get to their doorstep? As artist Jenny Odell puts it in her piece, it all comes down to the fact that “…the internet makes it possible for anyone to tell any story, about anything, from anywhere.”

AR Meets Greeting Card

For just under $6, you can give someone an augmented reality experience. Kineticards is building AR-enabled greeting cards that animate off of the page. The user must download the Kineticards app. Then they simply point the camera to the card, and the graphics start moving. The app maps the greeting card’s illustration and then replaces the static images with an animation. The AR dimension can also add interesting layers of information to the card. Gender reveal cards, for example, only show the word “boy” or “girl” once viewed through the app.

Why it’s hot: Although this is not anything new or completely unique, it is a simple and straightforward way to revamp greeting cards, and make them more interactive and personalized.