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Tag Archives: HAL

Things I get to hear about Alexa and Google Home!

Sure, you often hear of fancy ‘life hacks’ about people who program their smart speaker to turn on a coffee maker or help with math homework. But the stories I get to hear from young people on the experimental edge of the home-based Internet-of-Things (IOT) phenomenon range from the hilarious to the unsettling.

I’ve been writing about IOT for some time now. What gets me is how quickly people appear to want to hand off simple tasks like opening one’s window blinds, or turning on an appliance

“Alexa, turn on the bedroom fan!”

And then there’s the not-so-funny side to having an app for everything. Just take a look at the recent lawsuits and missteps by tech companies.

The baby monitor story is scary. A mother discovered to her horror that the baby monitor “was slowly panning over across the room to where our bed was and stopped.” That’s just one of the ‘things” we want our smart homes connected to.

How about door locks? You can’t make this stuff up: A man wearing a Batman T-shirt was  locked out of his home in September last year when his Yale lock, combined with his Nest security system thought he was an intruder. The man was in a Batman T-shirt. The ‘smart’ doorbell identified the cartoon character and tried to be too smart for the man’s liking. Sound a lot like the command, “Open the pod bay doors, HAL” in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Poor Dave was locked out with, “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that!”

A side note on Facebook sneaky habit. As explained at Endgadget, “Privacy International study has determined that ‘at least’ 20 out of 34 popular Android apps are transmitting sensitive information to Facebook without asking permission, including Kayak, MyFitnessPal, Skyscanner and TripAdvisor. I don’t trust Mark Zuckerberg anymore. Neither his recent statement, nor his other numerous apologies. (Check last year’s apology!)  Which is another reason why I quit FB earlier this month.

 
 

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From HAL to Watson, AI is now more relevant than ever

Every time I overhear someone talking to Google to do a voice search, I am reminded the usual crop of techno futurologists from Asimov to Arthur C. Clarke to Ray Kurzweil who alerted us to the potential of AI. Just for the record I don’t buy Kurzweil’s funky ‘singularity‘ theory is about how around 1945, we will augment our bodies with super-intelligent machines…

Yet, AI is becoming more relevant. Consider what’s happening around autonomous cars. Hint: Google isn’t the only one in this race.Or consider the pace of robotics.

Sidebar: A few weeks ago I asked some students (2nd through 6th graders at a Montessori school) to design and build robots from assorted parts. Many of them gave them names, though that was not the requirement! They have no qualms about machines that might live’ alongside us. I once took some older students to visit a hospital and see a da Vinci surgical robot. They loved it! A bot that can cut and suture one of your body parts!

Back to AI. That famous ‘machine’ known as Watson, which beat humans in that game show Jeopardy, was able to search a massive databases and respond faster than Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. But that was not all. It also outsmarted them in strategy – that is in picking the categories that would win bigger. It is eerie to watch those rounds and see how a computer sitting in between two humans looks like. (It sounds human too, as it calmly picks a category such as ‘chicks dig me’ to the nervous laughter of the live audience.)

I was intrigued to read about how JWT, the agency that handled IBM and this show, was briefed on how to present Watson. At one time, the inventor behind it, specifically asked that Watson should not bear any resemblance to…HAL. If you know Stanley Kubrik’s and Arthur Clarke’s 2001: a Space Odyssey, you’ll know why. That softer logo ‘Smart Planet’ logo, derived from IBM’s larger project about a smarter planet was not supposed to look humanoid, or scare people.

Even those people who talk to their machines (Siri) or instruct them where to go (GPS).

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 13, 2014 in Technology

 

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