Discussion on voice interfaces and services

Interesting discussion on the use of voice interfaces and services. There is a certain amount of cheerleading involved in the talk; but that is to be expected with vendors in the room. If found it interesting that one of the panelists; Sam Liang of AISense moved out of where2.0 services and into voice. because location is a great gateway to lots of rich contextual information and voice is desperately in need of context and by extension user intent.

It is interesting to get a perspective on the organisations involved in the discussion on voice interfaces:

  • SRI International
  • Amazon
  • Microsoft
  • AISense

All of them seem to be well behind where the telecoms voice services managed to get to like Orange’s Wildfire.

Key takeouts from this:

  • 50,000,000 voice devices to ship this year (2018). A total installed user base of 100,000,000 (presumably excluding voice interfaces on smartphones)
  • AISense is looking to build in voice biometrics that would prompt you about who a person is. Privacy implications are profound
  • The panel struggled to articulate an answer to privacy concerns beyond ‘services need to build trust’ and transparency
  • Information security and hacking wasn’t a point of discussion; which surprised me a lot
  • Context still seems to be a huge issue, I think that this is a bigger issue than the panelists acknowledge. Google still struggles on user intent, without adding the additional layer of understanding voice. The biggest moves seem to be ‘social engineering’ hacks, rather than improvements in technology
  • Amazon and Microsoft don’t have plans for advertising services on voice (at the moment)
  • We’re very far away from general purpose voice services
  • Work has only started on trying to understand emotion
More information
  • Orange’s Wildfire and The Register on its shutdown. Wildfire’s problem seemed to be a failure of marketing more than anything else. We haven’t seen anything else like it. Even Siri is only scraping over the ashes of the work done on Wildfire 15 years ago
  • Google’s published research on speech processing. What becomes apparent from looking at the list of research is how basic the current state-of-the-art currently is
  • Stuff that I have written that touch on context dependent services

Technology sector macro issues perspective with Reid Hoffman

This video stands in sharp comparison to the Ayn Rand-loving frat-bro culture that seems to infect technology  sector companies based in Silicon Valley.

Hoffman is cut from different cloth and represents a slightly older generation in the technology sector who pioneered the dot.com era.

He grew up in Berkeley, back when the technology sector was more hardware focused and Silicon Valley actually made micro-chips. Back then HP and Agilent made measurement equipment in the Valley and it was the centre of the cold war missile technology. The east coast from IBM in New York State to the Boston corridor represented a worthy adversary of Silicon Valley. The technology sector only opted to have Silicon Valley as its home during the move to personal computing.

Hoffman worked at Apple on eWorld – an early way of connecting Macs to the nascent public internet. He founded a prototype-social network and was part of the PayPal mafia before founding LinkedIn.

Reid Hoffman offers a more thoughtful considered viewpoint on the future of the technology sector.

How Technology is Shaping the Future of Human Society was filmed by the Aspen Institute.

Uncanny valley of the web

The technology sector is in a maelstrom.

Strange Magicks

Cambridge Analytica

Whilst Cambridge Analytica surprised most people in digital marketing who get the technology. The claims surprised for three main reasons:

  • Facebook’s scope of data access wasn’t surprising to marketers, but the level of shock the media felt was seismic
  • Cambridge Analytica was considered to have some mythical secret sauce by the media. Those marketers close to the political scene were surprised. How was Cambridge Analytica thought effective?
  • The media have avoided discussing the advertising technology that underpins modern online media. This creates richer data profiles and improves media targeting. Unfortunately this technology runs on their website, analysing their traffic, vending their advertising
‘Supernatural’ technology

I caught up with a friend who had recently upgraded the operating system on their Mac laptop and iPhone. They made a restaurant booking and were surprised when the web site ‘knew who they were’. and automatically completed their information. Then, on the day of the booking a notification popped up. It said that they should leave now as there was moderate traffic.

They ascribed all this magic to the the website ‘knowing’ everything about them. I explained to them that this was their Apple products trying to be helpful rather than dialing their anxiety levels to 11.

People are powerless

There is an assumption amongst the general public that technology has supernatural powers.

It makes them uncomfortable, but they feel powerless in the face of it. This discomfort reminded me of the ‘uncanny valley’ experienced with humanoid robots. For the rest of consumer there is latent inertia. They will generally put up with a lot of discomfort.

They realise at a base level that The Technium is – . They don’t realise how they should adapt to it.

The technium is a superorganism of technology. It has its own force that it exerts. That force is part cultural (influenced by and influencing of humans), but it’s also partly non-human, partly indigenous to the physics of technology itself.

It’s just the way things are. Consumer actions won’t make a difference. #deletefacebook will barely make a dent and that’s what’s scariest of all.

More information

The Technium and the 7th kingdom of life | Edge.org

SaveSave

ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우

Naughty List – Secured.fyi – Alpha – great simple checklist for n00bs. The answer per platform needs more nuance

Justice Dept. Revives Push to Mandate a Way to Unlock Phones – The New York Times – Clipper Chip style bullshit that is bad for consumers and governments since it will be broken and used by criminals and state actors

Sex Workers Say Porn on Google Drive Is Suddenly Disappearing – Motherboard – don’t assume that the contents of your Google Drive hasn’t been thoroughly examined by Google. Adult entertainment is merely the canary in the coal mine for privacy.

Is Facebook Really Scarier Than Google? | Nautilus – worthwhile reading about the effect of Google – of course they both have an impact otherwise you wouldn’t advertise on it. The question needs to be does the utility justify the impact? I think search has a better case than a social network, but both have merits

The unparalleled joy of writing with a fountain pen – and five beautiful pens to inspire you – Country Life – Among the obituaries of a former Conservative Minister a few years ago, there was one delightful snippet. A line in The Daily Telegraph described how, when she received the letter from Mrs Thatcher appointing her to the Lords, Lady Blatch initially believed it to be a hoax, because the letter was signed in Biro and she had been ‘brought up to believe that nobody who matters uses a Biro’.

Why Nothing Is Going To Happen To Facebook Or Mark Zuckerberg | Buzzfeed – consumers don’t care enough

China’s Huawei Technologies reshuffles board for first time since 2012 – I presume the reason why Mr Ren is getting back behind the wheel is that overall and smartphone revenue figures for 2017 was Huawei’s slowest growth in four years. I am not convinced that  premium products will be the way forward when they are locked out of the North American retail system. I am also not sure why the management team at Huawei Mobile Devices hasn’t been refreshed

Cloak and Data: The Real Story Behind Cambridge Analytica’s Rise and Fall – Mother Jones – probably the best account yet by the media

Restricted By YouTube, Gun Enthusiasts Are Taking Their Videos To Pornhub | NPR – Pornhub is starting to turn into a libertarian YouTube

Has Marketing Gone Too Digital? | Mediapost – a good read, send it to your clients and your agency folk

Cigarettes are the vice America needs | FT Alphaville – Cigarette smoking is essentially the anti-Facebook. While Facebook is a fundamentally misanthropic venture that pretends to be a community, smoking is a community activity for people who pretend to be misanthropes.  The activity itself is fundamentally pro-social! It gives people reasons to interact with strangers (“got a light?”). And since it was banned indoors — undeniably a good choice — it gives people a reason to go outside and make idle small talk, all while pursuing a common activity. And unlike alcohol, cigarettes alone don’t often lead to property damage or missed days of work (paywall)

China’s young consumers are snubbing foreign brands amid growing national pride, says Credit Suisse | SCMP – this should share the shit out of MNCs

Google has reportedly acquired Lytro, the Leader in Light Field Imaging Technology for Photography and VR Content – interesting, Apple had a patent licence from them

Interpublic Upgrades U.S. Ad Spending Growth To 5.5% This Year – which looks much more like what I would expect the advertising market to be with the Winter Olympics and forthcoming World Cup and an ok global economy

Building for the modern web is really, really hard | O’Reilly – average website clocks in at 4MB with 100s of elements including 3rd, 4th and 5th party based interactions – which also explains page load times – and slow AF ad related technology such as trackers

Mobike to charge bad riders more | Techinasia – a la eBay, Uber etc

Study: Smart Speakers are Changing the Way We Select Products – interesting how this is impacting retail. FMCG brands in particular should be really concerned as this is far beyond what supermarkets could do with dodgy shelving layouts and look-a-like private label brands

The Valley of Death: the students vying to be millionaires | Telegraph – In 2015 Oxford, the UK’s number one university for research, produced four spin-outs. Not per professor. That was for the whole university. The situation was not better elsewhere. Data on British university spin-outs is not in any publicly available league table. But it exists, via what’s called the HE-BCI survey (it stands for Higher Education – Business and Community Interaction). For 2015-16, Cambridge University recorded a total of two spinouts in the HE-BCI survey. Imperial College London, another of this country’s most vaunted research universities, listed three. Of 160 institutions, 59 officially produced no spinouts at all.

Does it Really Matter if James Jebbia is Not a “Fashion Designer”? The Fashion Law – Supreme is an anti-consumerism consumer brand. Its now going into luxury baskets, it doesn’t have much room left in the hype beast space though

Alex Stamos, Facebook Data Security Chief, To Leave Amid Outcry – The New York Times – Some of the company’s executives are weighing their own legacies and reputations as Facebook’s image has taken a beating. Several believe the company would have been better off saying little about Russian interference and note that other companies, such as Twitter, which have stayed relatively quiet on the issue, have not had to deal with as much criticism

Our mission to buy a fake Rolex on Facebook reveals how the company is playing host to countless criminal enterprises | Business Insider – only a matter of time for this story to be written. You also have a similar problem on Instagram

Millennials: you will not be quite so special in the ‘futr’ | FT – could it be that millennials, the most scrutinised, criticised and debated generation of our time, were not that special any more? “Millennials are still important as a customer,” Ms Ganatra told me later. But there is now a “millennial mindset” that has nothing to do with age, she said. In other words, millennials may have been the first generation to have grown up in a digital world but the rest of us are catching on fast. People of all ages are now so used to shopping with a click or talking to a chatbot that retailers need to think about the needs and desires of all their customers, not just those born between 1981 and 1996 – or an artificial construct in terms of their digital uniqueness

 

On truth and politics

The Guardian’s Cambridge Analytica files.

Read the thread on Rob Blackie’s tweet for a bit more balance

Django pioneer Simon Willison highlighted this great thread

Who needs the truth? By The Aspen Institute

SaveSave