The future is voice-first, but not for everyone

The tech industry is banking on artificial intelligence like Siri, Alexa and OK Google becoming ubiquitous. Voice assistants are notorious for misinterpreting local accents, but many overlook that this extends to people with disabilities.

Voice recognition algorithms are built from libraries of standard pronunciations and speech patterns, so people who have difficulties with speech or enunciation also have trouble accessing these technologies. And because they may have physical disabilities as well, these are often the very people voice assistants could help the most.

Because of their unique speech patterns, voice technology doesn’t understand people with Down syndrome. Out of the box, Google’s voice assistant misunderstands about every third word from an average speaker with Down syndrome. This is due to a large lack of training data.

Project Understood aims to improve Google’s algorithms by building out the database of voices. The Canadian Down Syndrome Society is working with Google to collect voice samples from the adult Down syndrome community to create a database that can help train Google’s technology to better understand people with Down syndrome. The more voice samples we have, the more likely Google will be able to eventually improve speech recognition for everyone.

Spots from FCB Canada follow Matt MacNeil, a Canadian with Down syndrome who works with CDSS, as he travels to Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, to work with Google engineers and product managers to refine the voice recognition tools.

Why it’s hot: We’ve seen the repercussions of a lack of diversity in advertising and tech, from alienating workplaces to tone deaf creative. But there remains much to explore and address. As artificial intelligence becomes more ubiquitous, the design of relationships between humans and machines carries exciting opportunity to help people in meaningful ways, and more serious implications to getting it wrong. Overlooking people with disabilities is a glaring misstep that is part of a larger problem – we can’t design inclusive experiences from a single perspective. We need to develop new design frameworks, blended skillsets, diversity of thought and ethical systems of governance for building empathy into technology.

Facebook and Twitter don’t agree on political advertising

After Facebook said it would not fact-check political advertising, Twitter’s CEO announced that they would ban all forms of political advertising on their platform, taking a completely different stance on the issue, than Facebook’s stance.

The announcement immediately became partisan with the Trump campaign blasting Twitter and Democratic candidates for President applauding the decision.

Twitter only has a small piece of the pie when it comes to political ad spending. A majority of the digital ad spending from political campaigns goes to Facebook, with its sophisticated demographic and psycho-graphic targeting.

Although Facebook runs a live-video service, it is not considered a broadcaster as defined by the F.C.C. Neither is YouTube. Social media was exempt from Federal Election Commission disclosure laws, which require political advertisements to state who is paying for them, until December, 2017. The Honest Ads Act, first introduced in Congress, in 2017 aimed to require social media platforms to meet disclosure laws. It was blocked by Senate Republicans in October 2019.

Which is why it has been so much easier for political campaigns to run exaggerated or factually ambiguous ads on social media as opposed to on television or radio.

Why it’s hot: Political advertising on social media is not as regulated (financial disclosure laws, fact-checking) by the government as it is on TV or radio, making it much easier to run disinformation campaigns on such platforms (precise demographic targeting makes it even more appealing).

Sources: The New Yorker, The New York Times, Jack Dorsey Twitter

 

 

This Dog Can Talk!

Meet Stella, the talking dog. Stella’s mom Christina Hunger is a speech language pathologist. Per Bustle, Christina “uses her skills to teach Stella how to communicate. According to Hunger, Stella already knows 29 words and can even form five-word phrases or sentences.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4AcoDPnNkO/

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4QAxF1ht3K/

https://www.instagram.com/p/B4VfYtFhJLV/

This seems pretty legit. We’ve seen science in non-verbal communication advance a lot over the years

Why it’s hot?

Here at MRM we’re OBSESSED with linguistics. And rightfully so! There is so much amazing data about how we communicate and what guides language. Think about what else we don’t know.

 

If you were on a Desert Island, what 5 apps would you use?

Google came out with Desert Island App. An experimental app, where you choose your top 5 essentials and see how well you were at sticking to just those. The next day, you bring it down to 4. Simple enough, there are a ton of apps like this that strip down your home screen to have less UX influence.

I can’t help but wonder what data they could possibly be getting out of this. Could this be a way to fuel the next Pixl phone, by seeing your top apps and then going into that space and creating them to be even more addictive? This could also be a way to segment a certain type of person, with their whole host of information on you (if you have gmail).

Also, PS, if you change the interface on your phone to black and white it helps phone usage too. Just not specific addictions like twitter.

Source

A Drone-Planted Tree For You, You, and You

A startup called Now is making it easy for people to support the goal of globally planting a trillion more trees to help fight climate change through subscribing to support an army of drones that’s planting millions of trees around the world.

If a trillion trees are planted on all of the land on the planet that’s available for reforestation, scientists have calculated that it could capture two-thirds of the carbon that humans have emitted since the industrial revolution.

This is where Now comes in. They are trying to reach this goal by planting the majority of these trees… using drones.

“We said, ‘Well, 1 trillion trees is a really massive goal—is this possible?’” says Jessica Jones, one of the Now’s co founders. “It’s clear that with hand planting, that just won’t happen in the time that it needs to happen.”

Drones, however, could potentially plant 20 billion trees a year over 50 years to reach the goal. The drones fly over land to map the topography and soil conditions and identify the best area to plant, and then shoot biodegradable pods filled with a seed and nutrients into the ground. On the platform, customers subscribe to plant trees by donating $10-$100 monthly.

A major study released in July mapped where trees could feasibly be planted, avoiding cities, farms, and landscapes that weren’t previously forests. On those 1.7 billion hectares—an area bigger than the U.S. and China combined—restored forests could collectively store more than 200 billion metric tons of CO2.

“We’re committed to closing the gap between the people and reforestation projects, while creating community in the process,” Jones says.

Why It’s Hot:

So many people (it seems) are interested in climate change and helping when they can, but maybe don’t know where to start. This is making an obvious and easy way to help, without even leaving your house and by giving such a small commitment.

Source

 

Sustainable Baby Clothes

UpChoose, a year-old startup, aims ‘to reimagine and redesign consumption in a way that’s less wasteful and more sustainable and efficient’ with its organic babywear rental service.

Body image for Always in fashion

New parents are confronted with endless choices of baby clothes, toys and accessories. Whether they feel pressure to buy the latest products or are given them by well-meaning family and friends, what we think of as an exciting time in our lives, entrepreneur and sustainability advocate Ali El Idrissi, the founder of UpChoose, views the occasion as a source of enormous waste, with many of the products outgrown in a matter of weeks.

But instead of lecturing people to buy less, he’s providing a sustainable and somewhat affordable alternative.

Body image for Always in fashion

Why it’s hot: With UpChoose, El Idrissi is democratizing sustainability. While sustainable subscription services aren’t new, one targeted to new parents seems to be. UpChoose is a way for individuals to help tackle over-consumption in their lives, while governments and companies attempt to tackle it on the larger world stage. Also, depending on where your live, the option to have temporary baby clothes, and eventually even furniture (his plan to expand at some point in the future), could be a real time and space saver for urban families in cities with itty-bitty living spaces (NYC).

Source: Contagious.io

A Re-imagined Post Office in Finland

On November 1st, Finnish state-owned postal service provider Posti opened a new facility called Box in Helsinki featuring giant package lockers and a fitting room for online shoppers. The location will also serve as a physical store for online retailers and a testing space for Posti’s new digital services.

Posti conducted a study showing that almost a fifth of Finns expect to be doing most, if not all, of their shopping online by 2025. So they want to make it easier for customers to have their order delivered to Box and pick it up when they’re on the go, and be able to finish their experience in-store.

For example, if a customer has ordered clothes online, they can try on the clothes at Box. If they fit, they can take their package home, but if not, they can return the package right away. Posti will also allow customers to open packages and leave the packing materials behind to be recycled. While customers are there, they can take care of other postal activities or shop pop-up displays from various online retailers that will be featured.

In addition, Box has been designed to be carbon neutral. The convenient location in the city-center is easily reachable by public transportation and along many of their customers’ everyday routes.

Why It’s Hot

Returns are often the biggest pain point in e-commerce. This model has turned an annoying task into a pleasant experience.

How the Internet Laughs

It’s getting harder and harder to negotiate the spectrum of humor online.

The editors at The Pudding, a digital publication that explains ideas debated in culture with visual essays, noticed this problem and set out to explore how the limited visual cues we have access to online make it harder to decipher genuine laughter from the passive acknowledgment that something is “funny.”

The result is a three-part visual essay full of funky data visualizations which, as The Pudding describes it, take “a closer look at the usage, evolution, and perception of the digital laugh” to help us decode the intricacies of tech-based communication.

The first installment looks at our “laughter vocabulary” and ranks different sorts of responses, from “bahaha” to “heh” to “rofl” in order of usage. Unsurprisingly, “LOL” accounts for a whopping 55.8% of the world’s laugh language, and “ded” is the least used, at 0.2%.

The team’s second go at data collection tracks the evolution of everyone’s favorite shorthand, “LOL.” Over the past decade, it has only risen in popularity, in part because of its myriad applications. It can connote nervousness, be an attempt to soften the blow of a harsh text, or actually mean someone is laughing out loud (albeit rarely). “Lol’s transformation is less like a shift and more like an evolution,” the team at The Pudding notes.

Most recently, The Pudding has explored degrees of funny. The website offers users the opportunity to match each laugh style with the level of laughter that it represents to them. (After all, intention, and reception, are different for everyone!) So, when you type “rofl,” does that actually mean you’re rolling on the floor with laughter, unable to speak? Does using “lulz” indicate a passive chuckle? You be the judge.

Netflix Experimenting with new viewing formats

When streaming services introduced the ‘Skip Intro’ button, it was a wonderful way to streamline binging, but seemingly, recently they asked – “Why stop there?”

Streaming services are now experimenting with playback speeds and skipping different types of content all together…

Skipping content: 
“Seth Meyers’ first-ever comedy special Lobby Baby hits Netflix Nov. 5, and it’s a gamechanger. The revolution is not in the Late Night host’s jokes or performance, but courtesy of stand-up comedy’s ongoing disruptor: Netflix.

A little over halfway through Lobby Baby, Meyers addresses the elephant in the room and prepares the audience for a set of jokes about Donald Trump. But for the first time ever, he offers at-home viewers a chance to skip the political jokes entirely.”
Article – Mashable

Speeding up content:
Netflix is letting some people speed up or slow down their shows as part of a new test.

The company says that some users will be given the option to speed up films or TV to 1.5 times their normal speed, as well as slowing them down 0.5 times.”
Article – Independent 

Why it’s hot? 
The streaming wars are heating up and beside best in class content, services are doing what they can to stand out.

Ex. Hulu has the ‘Random episode generator’ Article – Mashable

Interesting to see how people are changing the viewing experience itself to differentiate themselves.

HEFTY’S HOLIDAY PARTY CUPS ARE DESIGNED TO KILL ANNOYING FAMILY CONVERSATIONS

There are a variety of strategies for avoiding uncomfortable family conversations during the holidays—silently nodding, changing the topic, chugging the champagne, heading to the loo or skipping dinners altogether. But now, Hefty has swooped in with a solution that requires you to do practically nothing at all.

The brand has created special “Party Cups” inscribed with messages designed to prevent those awkward discussions from happening at all.

Printed on the festive vessels are lines like “Don’t ask my who I’m voting for,” “Yes, I’m single and happy,” “Diet starts Monday,” “Ask about my furbaby” and “I’m funemployed.” So if Aunt Mary asks you about your love life or Uncle Joe irks you with a fake news headline, all you need to do is just take a sip of your drink.

The Hefty Holiday Party Cups are on sale for a limited time at $2.99 for 20 at HeftyPartyCupsSaveTheHolidays.com.

Source: Ad Age

Why It’s Hot

In a rather basic category with little differentiation (red solo cups are what brand? didn’t know…) this is a nice way to drive brand choice and a good example of people getting a kick out of product “personalization.”

Cars are fundamentally changing. Do we want them to?

The Ford Mustang sold so well after its 1964 release that it is credited with creating the ‘pony car’–an affordable coupe with a long hood and muscular motor that was widely imitated.

Now, after 5 decades of continuous production, Ford has developed an electric prototype, revealed at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) trade show in Las Vegas last Tuesday.

Though electric vehicles have no need for an elongated hood to house a gas-powered motor or a transmission to moderate combustion power, Ford’s release includes a the stylized hood and six-speed manual transmission to make it feel like a traditional Mustang.

Why it’s hot: 

Cars have been marketed as symbols of power, freedom, control, and sex. But with the underlying nature of vehicles changing–from roaring to silent, from people-driven to autonomous, from private to shared–will our societal vision of what a car is change, or will we hold on to our dated car dreams as long as automakers continue to satisfy them?

What’s the deal with space?

Under Armour. Samsung. And now Adidas. It’s the latest brand to jump on the intergalactic space wagon. The brand recently signed a multi-year partnership with the International Space Station US National Laboratory. Adidas says the focus of the partnership will be to focus on innovation and product testing in microgravity.

Earlier this year, Adidas delivered soccer balls to the ISS during a cargo mission. The balls were then tested, seeing how they reacted with gravity or air resistance distorting the shape. While those tests are still being processed, the brand said it could lead to alterations into the design of the ball such as what materials or textures are used. But is this truly research for product improvement or just another stunt? Probably, a bit of both.

The commercialization of space over the years. 

It started in 1962. Omega’s Speedmaster watch was worn by US astronaut Walter Schirra during the country’s fifth manned space mission, Mercury-Atlas 8. Aboard the Sigma 7, Schirra orbited the Earth seven times.

Coca-Cola was next in 1985 when they started designing a “space can” for astronauts to drink during missions. Pepsi got wind of the experiment and developed its own. The marketing battle became ugly, with US Senators began lobbying for one brand or the other.

Then there was Kit-Kat (2012), Red Bull (2012), Hyundai (2015), and a slew of others as of late. There’s even a new media brand, Supercluster that was built specifically to get people excited about space again.

And while technically, NASA and it’s astronauts aren’t allowed to accept endorsements while working at the space agency that may soon change. NASA is currently working with two major aerospace companies, SpaceX and Boeing, to send astronauts to and from the International Space Station. And the logos of these companies will be emblazoned on the vehicles and rockets that launch crews into space, which was taboo in the early days of NASA.

On top of that, NASA’s new committee chair is focused on figuring out how NASA can explore commercial opportunities. “Capitalism works really well here on Earth. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be embracing it in [space].”

Why it’s hot:
“Space” just might be a mandatory in the next brief while product placement in space could be the next frontier. Brand logos on the sides of rockets? Astronauts as influencers? We’ll have to wait and see.

AI vs AI

Idea

The media landscape of Russia is monopolized by the government. Russia-1 channel – the key figure in this monopoly – uses propaganda techniques to influence the worldviews of Russians. TV Rain on the contrary is the only independent liberal media that gives its audience many different perspectives on life in Russia and abroad.

To demonstrate a subtle difference between the news on both channels and how they affect people worldviews we created two pristine AIs. They were like twin kids who didn’t know anything about this world and had no life experience. Their minds were pure, so we brought them up on the news programs of Russia-1 and TV Rain channels respectively. In six month each AI had its own worldview formed through the lens of the media it was watching. The differences in their worldviews and vocabularies proved one thing. We really are what we watch.

What it’s hot

AI can surface the world’s problems to see the world differently and help us get together to change the world in a meaningful way. But we also know that when AI is built with biased data, it will generate biased information. AI is a machine, trained by data… It’s time for us to think about how information carries values and beliefs and how AI can play a role in shaping a better society together with us.

 

 

 

Adobe debuts latest effort in the misinformation arms race

Adobe has previewed an AI tool that analyzes the pixels of a image to determine the probability that it’s been manipulated and the areas in which it thinks the manipulation has taken place, shown as a heat map.

It’s fitting that the company that made sophisticated photo manipulation possible would also create a tool to help combat its nefarious use. While it’s not live in Adobe applications yet, it could be integrated into them, such that users can quickly know whether what their looking at is “real” or not.

Up next: The inevitable headline of someone creating a tool that can trick the Adobe AI tool into thinking photo is real.

Why it’s hot:

Fake news is a big problem, and this might help us get to the truth of some matters of consequence.

But … not everything can be solved with AI. This might help people convince others that something they saw is in fact fake, but it doesn’t overcome the deeper problem of people’s basic gullibility, lack of critical thinking, and strong desire to justify their already entrenched beliefs.

Source: The Verge

Back to the Basics

  • The average smartphone user checks their device 47 times a day / 17,155 a year.
  • Conversation killer! 85% of smartphone users will check their device while speaking with friends and family.
  • 80% of smartphone users check their phone within 1 hour of waking or going to sleep35% of which will do within 5 minutes.
  • 47% of smartphone users have attempted to limit their usage in the past – only 30% of which feel they were successful.
    Source: https://www.bankmycell.com/blog/smartphone-addiction/

Experiments with Google is trying to help people break their cellphone addiction with a printable paper phone which will help you rest from your digital world.

An app lets you choose what to include such as favourite contacts, maps and meetings and then prints them directly to a sheet of paper. Customisable “paper apps” like recipes, phrasebooks and notepads let you get things done or unwind in a more focussed way.

Source: https://experiments.withgoogle.com/paper-phone

Paper Phone is an experimental open source Android app which is available to try and the code is available on Github for people to adapt and evolve.

Why It’s Hot:

Cellphone addiction is real, more than half (58%) of smartphone users have attempted to limit their usage. Great technology should help improve life, not distract from it.

Bonus