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Category Archives: Hype

Voice assistants I love to unplug, and smart fridges I really don’t need

I’ve had some fun with Alexa. The matter was settled over the Christmas break: We can do without AI in our home.

I had previously written about it here. And featured voice assistants in my last tech column, “I spy with my little AI.” I reference how creepy it could get should an AI enabled device such as Alexa, Google assistant or even Siri eavesdrop on our private conversations. AI devices after all are supposed to do our bidding, not spy on us. But there’s a fine line between passively listening and spying.

So when we discovered that an AirBnB we rented over the break provided an Amazon Echo speaker, it got to the point where (after a few rounds of asking Alexa random questions and finding ‘her’ quite annoying) I unplugged it and put the darn thing away.

It was no surprise then to hear that at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Vegas,  several new breeds of AI devices were unveiled, designed to respond to human inclination to suddenly want to talk to hardware. Such as the smart refrigerator by LG that ‘talks’ to a smart oven etc.

Which makes me wonder: Just at the time when we have plenty of research pointing to the correlation between being too plugged in, and being extremely socially disconnected, we have the tech sector pushing products that seem to exacerbate the issue. I don’t need a smart fridge, thank you very much – I just need a painless way to talk to an LG service rep (25 minutes on hold, seems customary) when my fridge behaves badly.

And speaking of snooping devices, here’s something that is advertised as being able to monitor a home. A clothes hook with a hidden camera. Creepy? Or is it the sign of (the Internet of) things to come?

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Posted by on January 17, 2018 in Business Models, Hype, LMD, Technology

 

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Targeting 6-year olds. Facebook, how low could you go?

It’s shocking –but no surprise– to see how young children are being sought after as social media customers.

“Today, in the US, we’re rolling out a preview of Messenger Kids, a new app that makes it easier for kids to safely video chat and message with family and friends when they can’t be together in person.”

Sure Facebook’s release is sprinkled with words like ‘safer,’ ‘standalone’ and ‘controlled.’ It probably went through many, many iterations to make sure it addressed the hot-button issues. But let’s not be fooled as to what the real deal is: To groom younger customers to expand and dominate the base.
We like to see the research that they lean on, which they say led them to fill the need to allow kids to connect.
Facebook, if you want to have ‘thought-provoking conversations’ with parents, talk to any Montessori school, and they will tell you how and why their kids are becoming disconnected. (I am cross posting this from my wife’s Montessori school website.)

Gifs, masks, drawing tools, and stickers don’t constitute social media. Nor do they nurture connections!

C’mon, Facebook!

Read what others have to say:
 

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A need to ‘register’ your face –and other tech silliness

As if we don’t have enough to be concerned about! Users of the iPhone X must ‘register’ their faces so that facial recognition –a feature that everyone seems to be fawning over– works.

I am not making this up. This was reported where an iPhone user had to repeatedly ‘register’ her face because her 10-year old son unwittingly unlocked her phone. The story cites Wired reporter Andy Greenberg who :

suggested that Sherwani re-register her face to see what would happen. Upon doing so, the iPhone X no longer allowed Ammar access. Interestingly, after Sherwani tried registering her face again a few hours later in the same indoor, nighttime lighting conditions in which she first set up her iPhone X, the son was able to regain access with his face.

Does this mean that:

  • Some day there will be a facial registry, somewhere in the Cloud? For now, it’s on the device.
  • There might be an after-market for 3-D printed facial masks to crack iPhones? Apple is skeptical. Of course!
 
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Posted by on November 16, 2017 in Hype, Technology

 

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Airbags on lamp posts – Signs of the times

This sounds so funny I thought it was a parody. But on checking, it appears that authorities in Salzburg, Austria have installed airbags on lamp posts. To prevent people (tourists) from hurting themselves as they walk around staring at their phones.

If ever there was a head-thumping situation to counter head injuries. Worth a read just to come to terms how far phone usage has come.

 

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2017 in Hype, Mobile

 

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Spin doctors and the ‘Ministry of Truth’ go back a long way

There’s a new way to do spin, and it comes packaged from the Ministry of Truth. (Poor Edward Bernays. The so-called father of spin, must be doing somersaults in his grave.) Modern day spin is much more insidious that doublespeak, or ‘Newspeak.’

We the hoipolloi have a ‘scientific’ way to deal with spin. It involves making air-quotes whenever we use a word or a term generated by the Ministry.

I take on this delicious topic in my May column in LMD Magazine, titled, Alternative facts from the Ministry of Truth

Read it here.

 
 

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Spinners – Stress reduction fad or potential STEM tool?

Gadgets fascinate me, especially those that have levers, sensors or even gyros. So the Spinner, a ‘momentum toy’ also known as a ‘fidget toy‘ looks promising.

If not for the fad factor.

Every kid finds it irresistible, no different from how yoyos, or Rubik’s cubes were hard to put away. But the Spinner is also seriously hyped, being claimed to solve many problems. Stress, ADD, and whatever seems to fit. But we better make a distinction between a sensory aid and a gadget that could be used just to show off. Not to mention it becoming a distraction device, rather than solving an ‘attention’ problem.

Having said that, I could envisage how with a few add-ons and variations of the Spinner design, it might be used in a STEM lesson. I’ve seen at least one teacher use the rotations and spin time as variables for math challenges. My colleague and I just discussed how this could become part of a robotics-related lesson, being a mechanical device, after all. No apps required, please!

The field is wide open. Let’s hope we don’t get steamrolled by the fad, and it doesn’t evaporate like…. last Summer’s Pokemon Go.

 

 
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Posted by on May 8, 2017 in Hype, Robotics, STEM, Technology

 

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Pepsi lesson: Our B.S. detectors still work

Brand storytelling can be too fixated on featuring celebrities, weaving them in for name recognition, rather than for something they represent.

So why did Pepsi take this latest tack with Kendall Jenner? After all it had decades of insight, having used people from Michael J Fox to Michael Jackson. (Remember this one, in which Michael J Fox braves traffic, and rain?)

Inserting Jenner into a protest movement means nothing to Millenials. Unless Pepsi assumed they would fall for the fake anti-establishment story line. (Throwing in a head scarfed photo-journalist into the mix.) Or they thought most young people would like to see a can of soda solve a street crisis. Maybe they were trying to borrow from the iconic image of that calm activist in Baton Rouge who walked up to armed police.

It reminds me of the cringe-worthy tweet by Kenneth Cole in 2011, trying to hijack the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt with a brand message about its spring collection.

Writer Eric Thomas called out the lame Pepsi ad as “the holy grail of offensive media.” He dissected, frame by frame, what Pepsi got so wrong. He noted that as storytellers, we owe it to ourselves to “fight for more understanding” –and by this he means coming up with course corrections for other storytellers. “Millennials have hyper-advanced B.S. detectors,” warns Thomas.

To me there was positive that emerged out of this brand story. The hoi polloi detected the B.S. and told Pepsi in no uncertain terms.

 

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