Lithium batteries in shoes…what could go wrong?

At long last someone has designed a digital smartshoe. Cue the obligatory eye roll. And a pair of these can be yours for the whopping cost of $599.

Digitsole Smartshoe integrates street style with wearable technology, featuring auto tightening, accurate tracking, and individual coaching based on your movements.”

The shoe has a lot of features, including smart heating, activity tracker, cushion monitor, stair counter, pedometer, speedometer, calorie counter, auto tightening and an app that analyzes your stride.

Why It’s Hot
Well, I never said it was hot. I guess the shoelace tightener is kind of cool.

To be fair, the company has also developed a product that fits into any shoe as an implant, which is a much better idea.

Why It’s Not so Hot
Where to begin? Shoe styles are highly subjective and the cost is very prohibitive for an item that most people have more than one of. Seems like over-engineering. It’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist.

Beer Vending Machine Uses Blockchain To Verify Age Before Dispensing Cans

Blockchain startup Civic found a creative way to show off the technology—and facilitate alcohol sales. At the fourth annual CoinDesk Consensus summit from May 14 to 16, Civic introduced a vending machine that users can grab a beer from free of charge, provided they have the Civic app handy on their phones to confirm via blockchain that they’re of legal drinking age.

You anonymously verify your age via the app to get your hoppy goodness sans human intermediary.

The idea is a one-off partnership with Anheuser-Busch, though it could be the start of additional measures in which blockchain-based technology is used to “facilitate on-demand, secure, low-cost access to identity-verification services,” as Civic’s website notes. That’s the calling card of the San Francisco-based company, which launched in 2016. Titus Capilnean, the communications and marketing director at Civic, told CoinDesk that unmanned access to casinos is another potential area where blockchain technology could come in handy. For now, though, Civic is content with giving out beers to test its prototype.

In action on Twitter

Source: PSFK

Why It’s Hot: Can I get closer to understanding what blockchain is if it’s connected to beer?

Zillow wants to serve you right

Zillow plans to build AI into its search engine with the goal to transform the site from a real estate search engine to an assistant that understands what people want and are looking for. The idea is to learn and understand the types of criteria people are looking for and recommend homes based on that.

For example, the AI will be able to understand your taste in decor. It’ll be able to take into account the interior photos of homes people are looking at, understand what they might like and make recommendations based on that.

Why it’s hot (or not): There’s a chance that a home buyer might miss a house that has a lot of potential but does not meet the right criteria according to AI.

Zillow recommends homes with your preferred amenities that you may have missed in your selected region.

Source: Mashable

Birth Control Pill Emoji Officially Under Consideration

The process of getting an emoji added to the Unicode Standard is a surprisingly complex one. (If you’re interested in learning more, check out the 99% Invisible podcast episode linked below!) It involves submitting a lengthy application to the Unicode Consortium, who can then vote on the proposal, request revisions, or deny the proposal altogether, then getting final approval by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), in a process that can take over 18 months to complete. The Unicode Consortium is responsible for selecting and approving of all emojis, and their voting board comprised mostly of multinational American tech companies like Apple, Adobe, Facebook, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Netflix, Oracle, and SAP. (The government of Oman is the only non-tech voting member.)

You have to be savvy about getting emojis approved because the voting members are huge corporations and, once approved, the emoji will literally populate every emoji-enabled keyboard in the world – so the voting vendors have to feel comfortable releasing the emojis in all markets and all cultures. For example, as Emojination co-founder Jennifer 8. Lee mentions in Engadget, the same-sex family emoji was scorned in Russia, and the alcohol emojis were a big issue in Muslim countries. (Unicode circumvented the alcohol issue by calling the emojis “wine glass” and “beer mug” instead of “wine” and “beer”.) In 2015, Durex submitted an application for a condom emoji, and that was pretty swiftly rejected. (Part of the reason may have been because it was submitted by a company who stood to profit financially from the popularization of the emoji – but still, yeah, that did not go over well.)

So, basically, to get an emoji approved, you have two obstacles: the thoroughly corporatized and self-interested voting board, and the complex cross-cultural norms and expectations. Within this framework, it’s easy to see why a birth control pill emoji would be a complicated one. But last month, two women, Nora Hamada and her friend Megan Giller, sent in a proposal for just that.

Hamada and Giller submitted their application with the support of the organization Emojination, a nonprofit dedicated to democratizing the emoji approval process through encouraging and supporting people in submitting emoji proposals to the Unicode Consortium. Some of Emojination’s successful projects include the dumpling, hijab, and ballet flat emojis.

The women came up with the idea after attending an Emojination workshop in NYC. Hamada says, “When you search for emoji to represent women and safe sex, the things that come up most often are breastfeeding and babies,” and she realized there should also be an emoji for women who are deciding not to have children. They were also inspired by the invention of the birth control pill in the 60s as a historical turning point for women. As Giller says, “the pill stands for equality and the right to choose.”

In their application, Hamada and Giller smartly named the emoji “pills in a circular case” – but that’s the only politically-minded concession they made. The rest of their application, in fact, is very explicitly political. They go into depth on the historical significance of the pill and how relevant and widespread it is in today’s society. And it’s no coincidence that their application coincides with the current devastating rollbacks in female reproductive rights in America. As Hamada says, “Our rights for birth control are being taken away. In a way, this is a small form of protest against that.”

In a positive development, the Unicode Emoji Subcommittee recently came back to the two women asking for revisions and more statistics. (The original submitted design is on the left above; revision is on the right.) The next steps are certainly not guaranteed to go well, but it’s a good sign that the Subcommittee showed interest and engagement with their proposal. Hopefully we’ll hear more news about this potential emoji soon.

Why It’s Hot: With their emoji application, these two women are forcing the hands of each voting member of the Unicode Consortium to vote on a symbol that represents so many things that corporations are historically total cowards about: feminism, female sexuality and sexual autonomy, womanhood separate from motherhood, etc. The emoji is politically charged for the corporations either way – which message will they decide to send?

Learn More: Engadget

99% Invisible podcast: https://99percentinvisible.org/episode/person-lotus-position/

The rise of compassionate technology

The UK technology sector is booming – and one of the biggest growth areas was is compassionate tech.

Compassionate tech is things like apps and online services aimed at helping society’s most vulnerable. Examples include Beam, a pledge site that lets people contribute to training for someone that is homeless. Another is ‘GP at Hand’, which allows you to book an appointment with an NHS doctor on your smartphone within two hours. A third is Komp, a high-resolution easily controlled screen that is helping the elderly communicate with others more easily to combat isolation and loneliness.

Komp

The UK has more investments in compassionate technology companies than the rest of Europe put together. Why the U.K.? Well, it already ranks as the 8th most charitable country in the world.

Read more: BBC

Why It’s Hot
Leveraging tech to help people who most often don’t have a seat at the industry table is a great reminder of the positive potential of innovation.

New Technology Analyzes Gender Equity in Scripts

At this point we are all familiar with the disparity between men and women’s roles and screen time in film, TV and even ads. Year after year, women appear less often, say fewer words, and general do less on screen than their male counterparts.

A new screenplay software can automatically tell whether a script is equitable for men and women. It only took a few weeks for Christina Hodson, a screenwriter who is involved with Time’s Up, to take her idea from theory to reality, working with the developer of screenwriting software Highland, John August, to create Highland 2. She wondered if screenwriters could tackle the problem before casting directors and producers even stepped in.

Above: an analysis of La La Land.

WHY IT’S HOT:

The next issue will be one of buy-in. While Hodson has already inspired others in the film community to come up with tests and tools of their own, will gender representation become the new benchmark of getting a film, show, or even script for TVC green-lit? And how might this tool or others tackle other issues of underrepresentation in Hollywood, and beyond? The Times writes, “Ms. Hodson and the software makers say they expect their tools will be expanded to address other issues of representation, like race and ethnicity, although that is more complicated, because those details are not always mentioned in scripts.”

Seeing is believing

Ford created a device that lets blind and visually impaired people feel the view from a car passenger seat by transforming car windows into a haptic display.

“The Feel The View appliance takes a picture of the view from the window and converts the image into greyscale. Every shade of grey is then translated into a vibration on the car window, which allows visually impaired passengers to experience contours of the landscape by feeling the window.”

It also comes with a voice assistant connected to the car audio system that explains the view to the passenger.

Why it’s hot: It’s machine vision’s (algorithms that can analyse and understand images and videos) time to shine.

Undetectable Commands for Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa Raise Serious Security Risks

Researchers in the U.S. and China have discovered ways to send hidden commands to digital assistants—including Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Google’s Assistant—that could have massive security implications.

Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doorswire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio.

This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.

“My assumption is that the malicious people already employ people to do what I do,” said Nicholas Carlini, a fifth-year Ph.D. student in computer security at U.C. Berkeley and one of the paper’s authors.

Last year, researchers at Princeton University and China’s Zhejiang University also found voice-activated devices could be issued orders using inaudible frequencies. Chinese researchers called the technique DolphinAttack.

 

Amazon told The New York Times it has taken steps to ensure its speaker is secure. Google said its platform has features that mitigate such commands. And Apple noted an iPhone or iPad must be unlocked before Siri will open an app.

Still, there are several examples of companies taking advantage of weaknesses in the devices, from Burger King’s Google Home commercial to South Park‘s stunt with Alexa.

And the number of devices in consumers’ homes is on the rise. Digital assistants have been among the hottest gifts of the past two holiday seasons. And Amazon, alone, is expected to sell $10 billion worth of the devices by 2020.

Source: NY Times and Fortune

Why It’s Hot

It seems like every week we are posting something else about Voice (Alexa, Google Home) and emerging capabilities or how brands are using them. As with any tech, there are concerns about how it will be used. I do wonder though if there’s something positive here, versus scary?

‘er’, ‘mmm-hmm’ – it’s a robot

Duplex, Google’s robot assistant, now makes eerily lifelike phone calls for you.

The unsettling feature, which will be available to the public later this year, is enabled by a technology called Google Duplex, which can carry out “real world” tasks on the phone, without the other person realising they are talking to a machine. The assistant refers to the person’s calendar to find a suitable time slot and then notifies the user when an appointment is scheduled.

During demonstrations, the virtual assistant did not identify itself and instead appeared to deceive the human at the end of the line. However, in the blogpost, the company indicated that might change.

“It’s important to us that users and businesses have a good experience with this service, and transparency is a key part of that. We want to be clear about the intent of the call so businesses understand the context. We’ll be experimenting with the right approach over the coming months.”

Why It’s, Ummmm, Hot
Another entry in our ‘is it good, is it bad’ AI collection. Helpful if used ethically? Maybe. Scary if abused? Absolutely.

“What If We Just Make The Fake News Really Small?” – Mark Zuckerberg (Allegedly)

The first round of attempt to stifle rampant fake news on Facebook via “red flags” were removed due to:

  1. “Buried critical information a.k.a. required too many clicks
  2. Could sometimes backfire because strong language or visuals can reinforce ideas
  3. Required at least two fact-checkers so was a slow process to be applied
  4. Only worked for false ratings so stories that were partly false or unproven were not marked”

What the disputed flag tool looked like

The crack team at Facebook has another idea…just make the fake news real small like….Or at least that’s what Tech Crunch is claiming with their new behind-the-scenes reporting.

“We reduce the visual prominence of feed stories that are fact-checked false,” a Facebook spokesperson told TechCrunch at the Fighting Abuse @Scale event in SF.

“Confirmed-to-be-false news stories on mobile show up with their headline and image rolled into a single smaller row of space. Below, a Related Articles box shows “Fact-Checker”-labeled stories debunking the original link. Meanwhile on the right, a real news article’s image appears about 10 times larger, and its headline gets its own space.”

Why it’s hot?

Facebook is trying to find work arounds for it’s duties to be an actual media company with a newsroom. They have a big issue on their hands thats affecting global politics and humanity. But, LOL, let’s just make the fake news small.

google’s magical VR doodle…

If you missed it, Google released its first 360-degreee video doodle yesterday – an homage to a French silent filmmaker and artist Georges Méliès, commemorating his film “The Conquest of the Pole”.

Why It’s Hot:

When even Google Doodles start to show up in 360-degree video, you know it’s bleeding mainstream. Storytelling in 2018 isn’t just a passive experience, it’s an interactive one that immerses the viewer in the story. As we approach video projects in the future, we should be designing for the experience, not just a two-dimensional stream.

[Source]

Internet-free smartphone

samsung launches galaxy j2 pro in south korea gold

Samsung launched a new phone, Galaxy J2 Pro, a phone that lets people call make phone calls and send text messages but cannot connect to the internet.

It targets high schools students who need to focus on studying for their college entrance exam in Korea. The goal is to help them stay on task without the distraction of social media, games, or browsing the web.

Other features include an offline electronic dictionary app, a calendar app, an FM radio and a calculator.

There perk is, students who have completed the exam can trade in their Galaxy J2 Pro for a Galaxy S, Note, or A Series phone.

Why it’s hot: Sometimes it’s good and helpful going back to the basics.

Source: Yahoo

Who doesn’t want to play amateur Maury Povich?

The 23 & Me craze has spilled into the animal kingdom for pet owners who want more info on their pet’s breed and medical predispositions. Companies such as Embark and AnimalBiome will gladly take your money to test your dog or cat’s dna. Is it worth it? Probably more for dog owners curious about their breed, but don’t spend too much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Click here to see video.

Why It’s Hot

While there’s nothing wrong with digging into your pet’s dna, it does feel like someone is taking advantage of a larger trend.

the hills walls are alive…


The latest innovation to come out of the Disney Research / Carnegie Mellon partnership would basically move sensors into the very structures around us to enable interaction.

As they say, they’ve created Smart Walls that “function as a gigantic trackpad, sensing a user and their movements. Rather than using a camera to locate a user and track their movement, as other systems do, this system relies on a grid of “large electrodes” covered in a layer of water-based paint that conducts electricity. 

The result: a wall so smart, it could play a game of vertical Twister with you, and also tell if you were cheating. It can even sense if you’re holding a hair dryer really close to it through electromagnetic resonance…users could play video games by using different poses to control them, change the channel on their TV with a wave of their arm, or slap the wall directly to turn off the lights, no need for light switches.”

Why It’s Hot:

Previously, we’ve relied on hardware to do the kind of sensing, responding, and controlling that the Smart Wall concept would. Things like Microsoft Kinect, or controlling our lights through Philips Hue on our smartphone. Having this capability fade into the background could basically allow us to control our spaces as if by magic.

[Futurism]

AI Software Predicts Heart Attacks During 911 Calls

An AI program currently in use in Copenhagen, Denmark is set for wider rollout after a series of successful initial testing. The software, called Corti, listens in on emergency calls and detects common heart attack cues such as breathing patterns, tone of voice, and background noises. It then gives the call dispatcher recommendations in real time of how to proceed.

The phone dispatchers in Copenhagen can recognize cardiac arrest from phone calls around 73% of the time; Corti can improve that rate to up to 95% accuracy. This is key because when dealing with someone going into cardiac arrest outside of a hospital, time is of the essence–the chance of survival decreases about 10% each minute, so getting to a diagnosis quickly can literally save lives. Making that diagnosis can be challenging for dispatchers, who have to make sense of symptoms that are being relayed by a panicked friend or relative, often competing with a lot of background noise (sirens, yelling, etc) as well.

In one example, when the platform was in testing, it recognized that a man who had fallen off a roof was in cardiac arrest. The dispatcher on the phone deduced that the man had broken his back from the fall, so they gave instructions to the relative on the phone as though the man were otherwise stable. But the AI recognized because of the man’s breathing patterns that he had suffered cardiac arrest and fallen as a result. Since the software was in testing only, it did not alert the dispatcher, and unfortunately the paramedics were unable to revive him. But had the software been able to intervene, it could have alerted the dispatcher, who could have then given CPR instructions to a bystander, better prepared the first responders, instructed someone to find an automated defibrillator, etc.

Expanded tests will take place in four sites across Europe from September 2018 to April 2019, and the startup will soon announce their expansion plans in America as well.

Why It’s Hot: AI in medicine is not new. What about emergency medicine? Are we ready to let AI into our darkest and most fearful moments? In moments of panic, will we trust machines more or less than humans?

Learn More: Fast Company

Meet Tess: the mental health chatbot

If you’re experiencing a panic attack in the middle of the day or want to vent or need to talk things out before going to sleep, you can connect with Tess the mental health chatbot through an instant-messaging app such as Facebook Messenger (or, if you don’t have an internet connection, just text a phone number).

Tess is the the brainchild of Michiel Rauws, the founder of X2 AI, an artificial-intelligence startup in Silicon Valley. The company’s mission is to use AI to provide affordable and on-demand mental health support.

Tess mental health chatbot

A Canadian non-profit that primarily delivers health care to people in their own homes, Saint Elizabeth recently approved Tess as a part of its caregiver in the workplace program and will be offering the chatbot as a free service for staffers.

To provide caregivers with appropriate coping mechanisms, Tess first needed to learn about their emotional needs. In her month-long pilot with the facility, she exchanged over 12,000 text messages with 34 Saint Elizabeth employees. The personal support workers, nurses and therapists that helped train Tess would talk to her about what their week was like, if they lost a patient, what kind of things were troubling them at home – things you might tell your therapist. If Tess gave them a response that wasn’t helpful, they would tell her, and she would remember her mistake. Then her algorithm would correct itself to provide a better reply for next time.

Read more: The Guardian

Why It’s Hot
While the accessibility of support like this is appealing, Tess raises the usual questions of mis-use and ‘mistakes’.

Building Ikea Furniture in Harmony

Source: https://qz.com/1256576/robots-can-build-ikea-chairs-now/

Sounds impossible, right? Well for this pair of robots it’s not. After 3 long years, a research team in Singapore has successfully taught a pair of robots to build an Ikea Chair.

They are not the first to build furniture, but the only previous contender was back in 2003 when MIT robots built a simple Lack table.

“And while a robot can be programmed to do a single assembly-line task efficiently, mastering all of the small tasks that IKEA assembly requires is a bigger challenge. Some of the same things humans struggle with, like fiddling with bags of screws, dowels, and doodads while trying to distinguish the slight variations in shape, are also difficult for robots.”

Their next goal is to go from teaching the robot ‘HOW to do it’, they want it to reason ‘WHAT to do’.

This AI will not just save time and stress, it can also save marriages. “The dynamics of flatpack furniture assembly contain a minefield of relationship conflict triggers, to the point where IKEA-related conflicts come up with surprising frequency in marriage counseling sessions.”

Additional reading: The psychology behind why couples always fight when assembling Ikea furniture

Why it’s Hot: 

  • Once we can train AI to accomplish these complex tasks, the next frontier is independent thinking.
  • We’re one step closer to a world where we don’t have to assemble Ikea furniture ourselves.

The latest Instagram influencer feud is noteworthy but maybe not for the reasons you think…

On Tuesday, the Instagram account of Miquela Sousa — also known as @LilMiquela, a 19-year-old Brazilian-American model, singer, and Instagram personality with almost a million followers — appeared to have been hacked by a blonde, pro-Trump troll named Bermuda, or @BermudaIsBae.

Why does this matter? Well, neither of them are real people. Both Miquela and Bermuda are computer generated avatars, created by anonymous users.

Lil Miquela, is a Brazilian-American model and singer from Los Angeles and has over 1 million followers on Instagram. She’s also on Tumblr and Twitter and has two singles on Spotify.

She’s thought to be a composite of a real woman and digital renderings, giving her postings an uncanny nature. She posts photos of herself with real people, wearing real clothes given to her by high-fashion brands like Chanel, Proenza Schouler, Supreme, and Vetements.

Fashion magazines including King KongV, and Paper, have all photographed her, and she now has her own press agents, who coordinate photo shoots as well as the gifting/borrowing of designer clothes.

Bermuda on the other hand, is a pro-Trump account with 50k followers (up from 2k before taking over Miquela’s account). Lil Miquela on the other hand, has openly supported immigrants’ rights and organizations like Black Lives Matter. The given cause for the hacking, however, is that Miquela is not being forthcoming enough about her identity. Keep in mind, neither of these people are real.

Naturally, there are a lot of theories out there, including that this is a sign the world is going to end today. (Still here!) Bermuda decided to “hack” Lil Miquela when she reached 2,222 followers. Lil Miquela was born on April 22, which is Sunday. Will Lil Miquela finally reveal herself (or himself/themselves) two years in? The timing feels right. And it feels particularly relevant to have a Trump troll responsible for the leak. Our main question right now, though, is whether or not Bermuda and Lil Miquela are actually colluding.

Why it’s hot

In spite of being one of the most ridiculous things on the internet this week, this Black Mirror style beef has people on the edge of their seats. These accounts, which might be working together to drum up more drama and prestige for themselves, demonstrate how blurred the line is between real and fake online. These accounts use digitally rendered people to make real money, from real brands. It also shows how political tensions can be hijacked by brands to increase visibility and capitalize on the internet’s insatiable lust for Drama.

Read more at The Cut

it’s gotta be the shoes…


And if Nike’s vision evolves, it could, in fact, be the shoes…that are a gateway to exploring more of what we might like.

They’ve already dabbled, and we’ve already discussed connected jerseys, that bring you content specific to the team and player at the tap of an NFC enabled phone. Nike’s latest “AF1 NikeConnect QS NYC”  sneakers “will come with an NFC (near-field communication) chip embedded under a NikeConnect logo on the heel of the sneaker. By using the NikeConnect app on a phone, you can tap your phone on the sensor and gain access to exclusive content and Nike events in New York City, as well as an opportunity to purchase other popular Nike kicks.” 

Why it’s hot:

What Nike is doing is an interesting approach in a world where we’re overwhelmed with stuff and information. By making the things we buy portals to more of what we might like, it seems an attempt to make anything an easy gateway to discovery, circumventing all the noise involved in finding things on our own on the vast and wide internet. And if all Nike Connect products are linked to your personal account, Nike could conceivably provide you with even better inspiration based on the sum total of your “Nike closet”.

[Source]

Unmanned bank

China opened its first “unmanned” bank in Shanghai this week that claims to be able to handle over 90% of a traditional bank’s services, whether it’s cash or cashless. Customers will be greeted by a robot as they enter the lobby who’s supposed to communicate with them and help with their needs.

The bank also claims to offer services including:

  • Video teller machines
  • Currency exchange machines
  • Augmented Reality
  • Virtual Reality

Why it’s hot: Deferring low-value work to machines is inevitable to increase efficiency and profit margin. Brainpower should be reserved for cognitive work.

Source

FDA Approves Non-Supervised Diagnostic AI

We’ve talked a lot about AI in healthcare recently, with a big focus on AI being used as a diagnostic tool to process scans/images and find potential issues. All of this technology thus far has been created with the understanding that the AI’s results will be reviewed and evaluated by a trained, specialized medical professional. That is, the doctor is still the final decision-maker, and the AI is her assistant.

All that changed this week, when the FDA announced its approval of the first AI tool that is meant to operate and issue a diagnosis completely independently, without any supervision from a specialized doctor. The software program, named IDx-DR, can detect diabetic retinopathy, a form of eye disease, by looking at photos of the retina that a nurse or doctor uploads to the program. After checking the image to make sure it’s high-resolution enough, the program evaluates the photo and then gives a diagnosis.

This is great on one level – it means that any nurse or doctor can upload a photo, and patients don’t need to wait to see a medical specialist in order to review the AI results and get a diagnosis. So theoretically, medical care will be more accessible and sooner. But, the flip side is a tricky ethical situation… Who is responsible when the diagnosis is wrong?

Why It’s Hot: Wait, are robots actually coming for our jobs after all? And who do we blame when they screw it up?

 

Learn More: The Verge | FDA release

Death to passwords!

It’s life in the Dashlane.

A new web standard is expected to kill passwords. The Web Authentication (WebAuthn) standard is designed to replace the password with biometrics and devices that users already own, such as a security key, a smartphone, a fingerprint scanner or webcam.

One example of how WebAuthn will work is that when a user visits a site they want to log into, they input a user name and then get an alert on their smartphone. Tapping on the alert on their phone then logs them into the website without the need for a password.

The W3C has moved WebAuthn to what’s called the “candidate recommendation” stage – the penultimate step before it becomes an approved web standard – inviting sites and services to begin implementing it. The web standards body announced that Google, Microsoft and Mozilla had committed to supporting WebAuthn, meaning that all major web browsers short of Apple’s Safari will implement the new standard.

Source: The Guardian

Why It’s Hot
Haven’t we all been waiting forever for this? They say we’ll be safer too. We’ll see!

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

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

An Inaccurate Census Could Have Big Consequences

It was recently revealed that the Department of Justice is pressing to add a question about citizenship in the 2020 census. This question, one that has not been included in the census since the 50s, is believed to be meant to deter immigrant communities from participating, typically Democratic communities, and therefore depressing final population count and the distribution if house representatives, which is tied to population, not citizenry. John Thompson, who served as director of the Census Bureau until he resigned last year said:

The risk that really troubles me is that there’s a big undercount and then there’s a big lack of representation.

So what are the repursussions of a lower response rate other than less house seats for Democrats? It will be harder for the Center for Disease control to predict outbreaks if they think certain places have lower population (and therefore falsely higher instances of reported disease.

It’s also bad for brand strategists!

Why it’s hot?

Brand strategist need to know the true population of certain areas almost all of our research contain some sort of data from the US Census. Inconsistencies in census data one of the true long term high dats resources is a real loss for industry across the board.

 

 

Apple Pay transit card integration goes live in Beijing and Shanghai

Apple rolled out transit card integration in China today. The latest update to iPhone and Apple Watch offers users tap-to-ride public transportation access in Beijing and Shanghai. People can refill their transportation cards using the Wallet app on iPhone. Balance of an existing physical card can be transferred to Apple Pay through the recharge mechanism in Wallet.

Why it’s hot: Mobile payment and transaction just became more advanced and is making people’s daily life more convenient.

Source

I’m so ready for the next extreme weather event

These days, innovation means taking a traditional product and making it “smart” by connecting it to the internet or collecting tons of data on the user. Sometimes you just want a better version of the product that doesn’t fall apart after 2 uses.

A New Zealand company called Blunt makes an apparently indestructible umbrella that even Mary Poppins would be impressed with. The umbrellas “can withstand winds of up to 72 mph” according to the manufacturer, though reviews on Amazon are mixed (4 out of 5 stars, but some complaints about the cheapness of the plastic parts). It retails for around $60; you’ll pay $80 if you want it in green camo.

Why It’s Hot

Sometimes improving an old design is better than re-imagining it.