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Monday, October 23, 2017

Looking Back at Second Life

Yes, it still exists, and has roughly the same number of users.   Surprised me.  We did quite a bit of experimentation with it.  Worked with several large IT  groups looking at ways to make it useful.  Even a way to do research in that other world that might mirror our real world.    At the end of the day it was not very useful for us.  Does it still merit examination as an environment for marketing experiments,  or a retail architecture?  Experimented with using worlds to interact with the abstractness of data.  Virtualitics is doing that today.  Good piece that shows what Second Life is today. 

Returning to Second Life
Long after its grandest ambitions have faded, the platform still boasts people and profit.   By Samuel Axon in ArsTechnica .... " 

Spotting a Machine Learning Opportunity

 Good thoughts, though not quite enough cautions on the implementation.  It contains risk as well as payout.   Also very much like the immediate inclusion of business subject matter experts.  To best measure potential value and understand risk.   Also make clear the need for the right data.  This approach is very much the same in any kind of analytical method. 

How to Spot a Machine Learning Opportunity, Even If You Aren’t a Data Scientist   By Kathryn Hume in HBR

Artificial intelligence is no longer just a niche subfield of computer science. Tech giants have been using AI for years: Machine learning algorithms power Amazon product recommendations, Google Maps, and the content that Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter display in social media feeds. But William Gibson’s adage applies well to AI adoption: The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.

The average company faces many challenges in getting started with machine learning, including a shortage of data scientists. But just as important is a shortage of executives and nontechnical employees able to spot AI opportunities. And spotting those opportunities doesn’t require a PhD in statistics or even the ability to write code. (It will, spoiler alert, require a brief trip back to high school algebra.)

Having an intuition for how machine learning algorithms work – even in the most general sense – is becoming an important business skill. Machine learning scientists can’t work in a vacuum; business stakeholders should help them identify problems worth solving and allocate subject matter experts to distill their knowledge into labels for data sets, provide feedback on output, and set the objectives for algorithmic success .... " 

FBI Fails at Device Decryption

As the article suggests, one more example of another blind spot in accessing data.   And no indications that the big IT and Communications companies are helping.  FBI Tried and Failed To Access 7,000 Devices Because of Encryption.  In CIO Mag.

IBM Process Modeling and Automation Anywhere

Attended the first webinar given about the partnership of Automation Anywhere and IBM notably about the integration of RPA (Robotic Process Automation) with other business processes.  A very good high level view.    There are essentially three parts to be considered:

  Business Process Modeling (BPM)  (IBM has this capability)
  Robotic Process Automation (RPA)   IBM does not do this, AA does, but IBM has a rules engine JRules that could be further applied to RPA,
  Operations Decision Management (ODM)  Being integrated with the other parts by IBM.

And IBM has Watson, which could tie together with the other parts, especially at a lower level to provide supporting solutions to humans or systems.  Watson was not brought up by IBM,  nor was the term AI used,  but participants brought up its integration. IBM seemed to indicate it could be applied as needed.

The participants also asked if this could be integrated with ERP systems.  The answer was yes.  No specific ERP was mentioned.  Are the ERP systems planning anything like this?

We saw these needs starting in the expert systems era,  but the integration of the different kinds of needs were forced with rule based systems.  An approach that ultimately failed.   The systems then and those now will also need close maintenance.

See the tag RPA below for more.

Can we Teach Robots Ethics?

Non technical look at the problem.   Or can we teach robots our ethics?  In the BBC:

Can we teach robots ethics?
We are not used to the idea of machines making ethical decisions, but the day when they will routinely do this - by themselves - is fast approaching. So how, asks the BBC's David Edmonds, will we teach them to do the right thing?

Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics

Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics

Head of the Institute: Prof. Dr. Alin Albu-Schäffer

The Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics develops a wide array of robots to enable humans to interact more safely and efficiently with their surrounding environments. The robots are designed to act in surroundings inaccessible or dangerous to humans as well as to support humans in everyday life and work.

Our robots mimic and extend upon the manipulation and locomotion capabilities of humans on a functional level. In a more general sense, they perform any tasks of locomotion and interaction with the environment with a wide range of autonomy to suit different tasks. As a key aspect for the usability of robots, we address the interfaces to humans through multimodal human-robot interaction. ... "

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Metaphors and Algorithms as Sources of Knowledge

" ...  Cognitive Systems Institute Group Speaker Series on Thursday Oct 26, 2016 at 10:30 am ET US (7:30 am PT US and 4:30 pm in Spain).  Our presenter this week is Xavier Busquets Carretero, ESADE, Ramon Llull University in Spain, who will present “Metaphors and Algorithms as Sources of Knowledge.”

Please point your web browser to https://apps.na.collabserv.com/meetings/join?id=2894-8491password=cognitive.   Use audio on computer or 855-233-7153 in the US  ...  PIN Code: 43179788    Non-IBMers, please use the "guest" option instead of entering your email

A link to slides and a recording of each call should be available on the CSIG website (http://cognitive-science.info/community/weekly-update/). 

We encourage those who join the calls to add questions and comments to the https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Cognitive-Systems-Institute-6729452 on LinkedIn and please ask questions at the end of the call.

Thank you.
Dianne Fodell

IBM Global University Programs
fodell@us.ibm.com

Amazon Rekognition

Impressive tutorial embedded here and information about available face and image recognition services.   This is a place to understand a major piece of where AI has been moving.   And now its all available as a service.  Show this to your computer oriented kids or colleagues.   APIs can leverage you to valuable capabilities.

Amazon Rekognition
Deep learning-based image recognition
Search, verify, and organize millions of images

Amazon Rekognition is a service that makes it easy to add image analysis to your applications. With Rekognition, you can detect objects, scenes, faces; recognize celebrities; and identify inappropriate content in images. You can also search and compare faces. Rekognition’s API enables you to quickly add sophisticated deep learning-based visual search and image classification to your applications.

Amazon Rekognition is based on the same proven, highly scalable, deep learning technology developed by Amazon’s computer vision scientists to analyze billions of images daily for Prime Photos. Amazon Rekognition uses deep neural network models to detect and label thousands of objects and scenes in your images, and we are continually adding new labels and facial recognition features to the service.

Rekognition’s API lets you easily build powerful visual search and discovery into your applications. With Amazon Rekognition, you only pay for the images you analyze and the face metadata you store. There are no minimum fees and there are no upfront commitments. ....   "  

About AI: Build a Face Recognizing Doorbell

I was reminded of how good the O'Reilly sites on AI were by my last post.    Especially about AI and advanced tech topics.      I had somehow missed the piece below, which is a good DIY piece for IOT, AI, voice interfaces and the smart home.   If you build this, you will have a good idea of the challenges involved.   In particular about how you can integrate multiple capabilities and services that are available.  Also a great instructional family project.   Will take a closer look.  Let me know your experiences.

Build a talking, face-recognizing doorbell for about $100  By Lukas Biewald .... 

DIY with Amazon Echo and Raspberry PI: Recognize thousands of people at your door every month, for pennies. .... " 

(Update)  And similarly using Tensorflow   --------------- 

How to build a robot that “sees” with $100 and TensorFlow
Adventures in deep learning, cheap hardware, and object recognition.

By Lukas Biewald September 21, 2016

Gain an intuitive understanding of the concepts and tools for building intelligent systems with "Hands-On Machine Learning with Scikit-Learn and TensorFlow," by Aurélien Géron. ....  

Evolution of Chaos

Excellent piece.   Have only rarely see this concept used in the enterprise, deserves more examination.    Here with an intro and then pointers to more.  My tag points to more resources I have gathered, including a free pdf book ....

The evolution of chaos
Kolton Andrus explores the evolution of chaos engineering and explains why it’s becoming the go-to approach for building resilient systems. 

This is a keynote highlight from the O'Reilly Velocity Conference in London 2017. Watch the full version of this keynote on Safari.

You can also see other highlights from the event. ..... " 

Security Eyeball Home Hub

Security solutions seem to be in vogue, added to the architecture of the smart home.  Naturally an extention to home control hubs.   Here something unique:

The Moon is a floating eyeball that can control and monitor your house
By Mark Austin  in DigitalTrends   .... "

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Top 10 Machine Learning Algorithms for Beginners

Nicely done intro from KDNuggets:  I have followed KDNuggets long before Machine learning and AI got sexy again, well worth a follow.

I. Introduction

The study of ML algorithms has gained immense traction post the Harvard Business Review article terming a ‘Data Scientist’ as the ‘Sexiest job of the 21st century’. So, for those starting out in the field of ML, we decided to do a reboot of our immensely popular Gold blog The 10 Algorithms Machine Learning Engineers need to know - albeit this post is targetted towards beginners.

ML algorithms are those that can learn from data and improve from experience, without human intervention. Learning tasks may include learning the function that maps the input to the output, learning the hidden structure in unlabeled data; or ‘instance-based learning’, where a class label is produced for a new instance by comparing the new instance (row) to instances from the training data, which were stored in memory. ‘Instance-based learning’ does not create an abstraction from specific instances.  ...  " 

Danger of a Botnet of Things

Well known security expert suggests that the net is in danger.

Botnets of Things
The relentless push to add connectivity to home gadgets is creating dangerous side effects that figure to get even worse.

by Bruce Schneier  in Technology Review

Global Payment Systems

How can you help your local online business go global?
By Caroline Bullock
Technology of Business reporter

But then he came across a Dutch payment company, Adyen, whose payment processing platform harnesses machine learning to customise the payment method depending on which country the buyer is in.

Adyen's clients include heavyweights such as Netflix, Uber and Spotify, so Mr Whiteoak was surprised to find out how affordable its service was, with a minimum monthly invoice of $100 (£75) and transparent per-transaction processing and commission charges.

"Before we started selling outside of the UK we had a turnover of around £6.5m," he says. "Last year we posted 10.9 million, and with the bulk of our sales coming from overseas, this growth is directly linked to our ability to offer local payment methods."

Sales have grown 125% over the last three years, he says, proving that knitting and crochet is big business. .... "

Drones and Event Cameras

Drone With Event Camera Takes First Autonomous Flight     By Evan Ackerman

Inspired by insect eyes, an event-based camera tracks changes rather than recording images to help drones move fast and reliably.

A few years ago, Davide Scaramuzza’s lab at the University of Zurich introduced us to the usefulness of a kind of dynamic vision sensor called an event camera. Event cameras are almost entirely unlike a normal sort of camera, but they’re ideal for small and fast moving robots when you care more about not running into things than you do about knowing exactly what those things are.

In a paper submitted to Robotics and Automation Letters, Antoni Rosinol Vidal, Henri Rebecq, Timo Horstschaefer, and Professor Scaramuzza present the very first time an event camera has been used to autonomously pilot a drone, and it promises to enable things that drones have never been able to do before.  .... " 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Wal-Mart on Voice Technology and AI

Wal-Mart commenting on voice tech an their work with Google on voice ordering.  Also notice the direct mention of AI as changing environment in the near future.  Appears Wal-Mart is involved here.   See also the expert comments in this piece. 

E-commerce chief expects Walmart to ‘crush it’ over next two years   by George Anderson in Retailwire

Bigger is better when it comes to online sales and operations. That was one of the messages delivered by Marc Lore, chief of Walmart’s e-commerce business in the U.S., at The Wall Street Journal’s D.Live technology conference earlier this week.

Mr. Lore said Walmart is reimagining what retail and e-commerce will look like in the years ahead and making investments on a wide scale to own that future.

“E-commerce is a scale game,” Mr. Lore told the Journal. “We’re looking at a lot of different things right now, everything, in every sector.” ....

The retailer has also engaged with Google to enable customers to order products by speaking to their Google Home device or a mobile phone that uses Google Assistant. Walmart’s customers will need to link their accounts with the retailer to Google Express to take advantage of voice ordering.

“People use it [voice activated tech] for weather, use it for transportation, a little bit of shopping,” Mr. Lore told CNET. “And I think many people are writing it off, saying it’s kind of clunky [or] I don’t think I’m going to shop that way.”

Mr. Lore does, however, see advancements in artificial intelligence over the next five to 10 years dramatically changing people’s attitudes about voice tech.  .... " 

Wal-Mart Thinks the Future of Retail in VR

In our own experiments in virtual spaces, retail can work there, but only in contexts where you need to understand and manage space or appearance.    If your product does not deal with space, an assistant based retail interaction makes more sense.

Walmart's Store No. 8 showcases the future of VR

The event, a first of its kind for Walmart, drew an exclusive group of high-tech brands, technologists and venture capitalists to debut the latest in VR. .... "   

Corinne Ruff    @corinnesusan  in RetailDive

Another Invoke Review

Microsoft Expert looks at the Microsoft Cortana Invoke:

My week with Harman Kardon's Cortana-powered Invoke speaker
My "non-reviewer's review" of the Haman Kardon Invoke speaker that works with Cortana: A solid device, but still not something I want or need. .... "     By Mary Jo Foley

Big Tech Controlling our Minds

Podcast of interest.

A ‘World Without Mind’: Big Tech’s Dangerous Influence

Author Franklin Foer reflects on the dangers of losing ourselves in a society dependent on a handful of tech firms.

  French philosopher Rene Descartes famously said “I think, therefore I am.” But in the digital age, what we think and how we live are being influenced in a big way by just a handful of tech firms: We are informed by Google and entertained by Apple; we socialize on Facebook and shop on Amazon.

It’s time to reclaim our identities and reassert our intellectual independence, according to Franklin Foer, a national correspondent for The Atlantic and former editor of The New Republic, in his book, World Without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech. He recently joined the Knowledge@Wharton show, which airs on SiriusXM channel 111, to explain why these firms’ hold on society is a cautionary tale for the future.  .... "

An edited transcript of the conversation follows. ....  "

Kroger Invests in New Tech

Followed Kroger for year, always had an impressive depth of tech use,  not as much breadth.  This and other efforts many be an example of new take.


Kroger unveils plan to invest in technology, store resets
“Restock” initiative includes private brand growth, digital shopping, meal solutions  Mark Hamstra  in Supermarket News
Kroger on Wednesday unveiled a series of strategic moves that include reducing its investments in new stores and leveraging technology to accelerate changes in assortments and improve customer service at existing locations.

As previously reported, the company also is considering the potential sale of its convenience-store division, a $4 billion business operating 784 locations in 18 states.

The “Restock Kroger” initiative will involve an accelerated and more data-driven effort around pricing, personalized communications with customers and a massive revamp of product assortments, executives form the Cincinnati-based company explained in Kroger’s annual Analyst Day. Kroger is the largest collector of food purchase data in the U.S., the company said, and it intends to use that data as a competitive advantage as it expands its efforts to provide meal- and food-shopping solutions. .... " 

First Review of MS Invoke Assistant

Well hardly a full service Butler, but we know that they mean.  Play music, order things and turn on the lights with your voice.  Breaking the existing infrastructures will tough without a real killer functionality, and I don't see mixing drinks emerging.   Smoother voice intelligence would be good.  Cost less than I was expecting, and I was already expecting better audio quality.    Have used Cortana from time to time under Windows,  and was never very impressed, but lets see what she does as part of a smart home.   Again I note that Harman-Kardon is part of Samsung, so lets see that than may imply longer term.

Review: What It's Like to Have Microsoft's Virtual Butler in Your Living Room  By Lisa Eadicicco in Time

Microsoft is out to prove that Amazon's Alexa and the Google Assistant aren't the only virtual concierges worth inviting into your home. After first teasing its Cortana-powered speaker last December, Harman Kardon's Invoke will finally launch on October 22 for $199. With Microsoft's Cortana butler built-in, the Invoke can recite the weather, control smart home devices and more, just like its Amazon and Google rivals.

Invoke's arrival along with similar high-end devices also marks a turning point for intelligent speakers. Potential buyers no longer need choose between high quality audio and having a smart assistant they can summon by voice. Early Internet-connected speakers, such as the first generation Echo and Google Home, provided good enough sound for casual listening. But audiophiles still turned to premium dedicated speakers to get superior sound. .... " 

Facebook Scours Posts and Comments


Facebook Tests Letting Marketers Scour Posts and Comments   in Adage.

By Garett Sloane. 

Facebook is experimenting with letting brands study people's posts and comments on the network in an effort to better inform their marketing.

The beta test, an extension of Facebook's Audience Insights API marketing tech platform, isn't expected to be widely available until next year, according to people familiar with the offering who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss something Facebook hasn't announced yet. Early ad partners, which include top agencies and media companies, are searching Facebook's vast history of public posts to see what topics, themes, brands and products are being discussed. Users' identities are withheld.  ....  "  

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Cortana Virtual Machine for Batch Machine Learning

This is not an open solution as I see it.

Cortana Intelligence and Machine Learning Blog
Announcing the Data Science Virtual Machine in Batch AI Service

Cortana Intelligence and ML Blog Team 
by Paul Shealy, Senior Software Engineer at Microsoft.

We are pleased to announce the integration of the Microsoft Data Science Virtual Machine (DSVM) with the Batch AI service in Azure.

DSVM is a family of popular VM images published on Azure with a broad choice of machine learning, AI and data science tools. All tools are pre-configured giving you a ready-to-use, on-demand, elastic environment in the cloud to help you perform data analytics and AI development productively. You focus less on IT administrative tasks and more on your data science with the DSVM.   .... Read more at Batch AI Overview and see their recipes for examples with TensorFlow, Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit, Keras, Chainer, and others.  ... " 

Intel and Amazon Partner on Voice Tech

Intel and Amazon partner on voice recognition tech
The Intel Speech Enabling Developer Kit is now up for pre-order.
 By Timothy J. Seppala, @timseppala

Intel and Amazon are partnering to combine the former's silicon and smarts with the latter's Alexa voice platform. The chipmaker has introduced the Intel Speech Enabling Developer Kit to provide a "complete audio front-end solution for far-field voice control," according to a press release. The idea is that Intel has done the hard work of designing the mic arrays and voice systems and that all developers will need to do is write applications for them. It offers algorithms for echo cancellation and beam forming, wake words, an 8-mic array and the company's dual digital signal processor. ... " 

Intel Delivers Neural Network Chips

Intel delivers Nervana Neural Network Processor chips for AI workloads  By Mike Wheatley

After pushing the concept of using Field Programmable Gate Arrays as accelerators for artificial intelligence and deep learning neural networks, Intel Corp. is taking the next step with the launch of its first batch of dedicated AI chips.

The chip giant today announced it will soon ship what it says are the first processors built specifically for AI workloads. Intel said its new Nervana Neural Network ... "

More on Bixby, AI on Appliances Everywhere

I was at the local Lowe's recently and saw some of their Smart  Frig's.  A sign mentioned  assistant Bixby, but not that it was available there yet.  But first time I had seen Bixby mentioned at all in a retail setting.   They have the platforms,  just need the value in context.  Our innovation research indicated there was a place for it.

SiliconAngle reports on Bixby:
 AI everywhere: Samsung aims to bring updated Bixby digital assistant to every device

Bixby, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.’s smart digital assistant, no longer will be trapped inside the Korean giant’s smartphones, as the company today announced plans to make it available on its own smart TVs and refrigerators and eventually other companies’ products. .... "

By Robert Hof in SiliconAngle.

Forecasting Challenge

I had mentioned superforcasting  again, was brought to my attention that they have had a hybrid competition under way for a while.  Are looking for volunteers.  Worth a look.

Samsung Does 8 Nanometer

Samsung has the hardware.  Will neural chips follow?  Implications for Bixby?

Samsung leapfrogs Intel again with 8-nanometer chips
Working with Qualcomm, Samsung can "rapidly ramp up" to production.

By Steve Dent@stevetdent in Engadget .... "

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Samsung Announces Bixby 2.0 for IOT

Today announced Bixby 2.0 and SmartThings Cloud. Been following for a long to see what they might do with smart home appliances.  They have the appliances in many homes that could be the platform. Even hear some hints of that we hosted early Samsung smart appliances;   But have seen nothing to indicate it will happen.

Samsung is all talk about the IoT with Bixby 2.0 and SmartThings
Samsung talked up an ambitious vision, but it's all theoretical for now.
By Samuel Axon 

Samsung's annual developer conference at Moscone West in San Francisco doesn't always get a lot of public attention; in past years it has often focused on things like Tizen app development. But at this year's conference, the company focused on launching a new platform for connected devices in the home, the car, and elsewhere—or at least, a collection of previously existent platforms that are getting updated and combined into a new one.

That new platform is called SmartThings Cloud, and it unites existing Samsung IoT services like SmartThings, Samsung Connect, ARTIK, and Harman Ignite. Frankly, Samsung's offerings have been a confusing mess of different platforms and services with overlapping functionality and purposes. It's a rebranding, which could mean little, but developers may be hopeful that it also means an actual restructuring of resources and products to unify what Samsung is doing across all of these. .... " 

Also comments in TheVerge. 

Online and Amazon Continue Move Forward

With interesting data and comments on the topic by retail experts.  And even with some classic retail help:  Kohl’s opens Amazon shops in Chicago  ....

Online and Amazon to grow more dominant over the next decade
By George Anderson  In RetailWire

Consumers will continue to make more purchases online while cutting back on in-store purchases over the next decade, according to a report by FTI Consulting, which forecasts total online spending in the U.S. to surpass $1 trillion by 2027.

Online sales, which now account for roughly 12 percent of total retail sales, excluding auto and gas, will grow to 22 percent over the next 10 years, according to the estimates.

“The impact of accelerating online sales growth has been evident in the past two years, with elevated levels of retail bankruptcies and announced store closures amid a non-recessionary environment,” said Christa Hart, a senior managing director in FTI’s retail & consumer products practice, in a statement. “If online sales double by 2023, as we expect, stores will have to contend with the prospect of losing the same amount of sales to the online channel in the next six years as they did in the previous 16. The frustration for many retailers is that even building a complex and expensive omnichannel enterprise has just kept them in the game instead of leading to renewed profitability.”

The biggest beneficiary of the shift from stores to online will be Amazon.com, according to FTI. The e-tailer, which currently accounts for 34.2 percent of online sales, will see its share grow to more than 50 percent of the market by 2027, the firm estimates. .... " 

Amazon Suggests Apartment Hubs

An you might take this beyond to other sectorizations, like retirement centers.   And imagine using assistant leverage to extend this into every apartment.  We experimented with a number of 'locker' solutions in our innovation centers.  Other sectors?

Amazon Has a New Way to Get Stuff Into Your Apartment
The final mile of the logistics chain is being conquered.
By Keshia Hannam  in Fortune.

... Amazon has taken another step toward consolidating control over the process that leads goods from the warehouse floor directly to the doors of its customers. To that end, the retail giant has just introduced Hub by Amazon, which are Amazon-owned locker systems installed in apartment buildings.

By partnering with some of the nation’s largest apartment building owners and managers, the e-commerce giant has already signed contracts to install Hubs in buildings with more than 850,000 units across the U.S., according to the Wall Street Journal.

The lockers are able to receive packages from any major carrier, such as FedEx, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service. The physical modular unit, which is about 7 feet by 7 feet and has 42 lockers in various sizes, is accessible 24 hours a day and costs landlords $10,000 to $20,000 upfront with no further monthly fees. According to the Journal, “most landlords said they don’t plan to charge residents but to offer it as an amenity. They could also make back some of that cost in savings on staff labor.”  .... " 

China IQ Test for Assistants?

Am somewhat skeptical about such tests, its not raw 'IQ" , but rather how well a system provides value in context.  Still it will be interesting to see how such a system could be a starting point for assistance systems.  Aiming to take a look at this.   Measures are always important, but in specific useful contexts.

Now There's an IQ Test for Siri and Friends 
Technology Review   October 13, 2017

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing have developed an intelligence test that both machines and humans can take, and used it to rank intelligent assistants such as Google Assistant and Siri on the same scale used for humans. The test is based on the "standard intelligence model," in which systems must have a way of obtaining data from the outside world. They must be able to transform the data into a form they can process, they must be able to use this knowledge in an innovative way, and they must feed the resulting knowledge back into the outside world. The researchers found that even a six-year-old human outperforms the most advanced digital assistant, which according to this test is Google Assistant. However, machine intelligence is rapidly improving. In 2014, Google Assistant scored 26.4 on this test, compared with a score of 47.28 in the most recent test.  .... "

Soft Robotics from Liquid Metals

Been intrigued by 'soft robotics' that can change shapes    Here new work out of U of Sussex, that can transform.    Applications?   Programmable materials in changeable environments. 

Researchers at the University of Sussex and Swansea University in the U.K. say they have applied electrical charges to manipulate liquid metal into two-dimensional shapes such as letters and a heart. The team notes the results mark an "extremely promising" new class of materials that can be programmed to seamlessly change shape, a breakthrough they say could lead to new possibilities in soft robotics and shape-changing displays. "This is a new class of programmable materials in a liquid state which can dynamically transform from a simple droplet shape to many other complex geometry in a controllable manner," says University of Sussex researcher Yutaka Tokuda. The team says the electric fields used to shape the liquid are created by a computer, meaning the position and shape of the liquid metal can be programmed and controlled dynamically. The research was presented this week at the ACM Interactive Surfaces and Spaces (ISS 2017) conference in Brighton, U.K. .... " 

Apple and GE Join for Industrial Mobile IOS

Apple isn't known for industrial, so this is an interesting spin.   Note also the predictive spin using I assume machine learning.  Much more about the work at the link.   I was an early tester of GE Predix, and its aimed at this kind of application.   See much more at tags on it here.

Apple and GE join forces to build industrial apps for mobile devices   By Maria Deutscher

 Apple Inc. and General Electric Co., two companies that have vastly different business priorities most of the time, are joining forces in the mobile market.

With a new partnership announced this morning, the two companies will collaborate on targeting professionals in the industrial sector who use iOS devices for their work. The alliance revolves around Predix, the cloud platform that GE has developed to help organizations analyze sensor data from physical assets such as manufacturing equipment. According to the company, this information can be employed for everything from usage tracking to predicting technical problems in advance.  .... " 
And more in TechRepublic.

Amazon Show vs Google YouTube

Brought to my attention weeks ago.  Just because they are in competition with assistants?  Or is it some technical aspect of how marketing value is shared in Youtube videos.  We need to know that channels, especially new ones, are stable.    Below look is thoughtful.   Including comments.  Supposedly being negotiated now,  will be following that.

Google pulls YouTube off the Amazon Echo Show
Goodbye, cooking lessons and music videos    by Dieter Bohn    ....  "

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Amazon, Microsoft and Healthcare

Will it be head to head or collaborative?  Microsoft  has already said they were collaborating with Alexa systems in their recent meeting.  Future health systems may need to do more listening than speaking.    More below:

Amazon may be going head-to-head with Microsoft in healthcare
Amazon isn't the only one of the big cloud vendors looking to expand its healthcare footprint. Microsoft's been there, done that, and is continuing to invest in the space.....   

 By Mary Jo Foley for All About Microsoft

Intelligent Workflow Drones

Logical, first I had seen this stated this way. But then anything that does work to perform useful tasks or gather data should ideally be integrated into a workflow. Formally or informally.

Intelligent Workflow Drones  by Biren Gandhi   in Cisco Blog

Commercial drones are moving from a novelty item to an indispensable business tool, with PwC pegging the potential opportunity size at $127B in its report, “Clarity from Above”. However, there is a key element that is needed before drones can be successful in enterprise applications: they must be integrated into regular workflow systems, instead of existing in their own silos.

It’s like saying “let’s talk” instead of “let’s talk over a telephone” in the world of voice communication.

An example of this is showcased below. A few months ago, Cisco’s Enterprise Routing and Mobility team partnered with FlytBase and AeroTestra to showcase end-to-end enterprise workflows involving fleets of drones. Cisco’s Spark, WebEx and Drone ASAP products were integrated with Built.io’s Digital Transformation Platform to create this unique solution .... "

Algorithms teaching Algorithms

The ultimate AI play has devices teaching each other in context.

AI Algorithms Are Starting to Teach AI Algorithms

Automating machine learning will make the technology more accessible to non–AI experts.   by Will Knight,  Technology Review

At first blush, Scot Barton might not seem like an AI pioneer. He isn’t building self-driving cars or teaching computers to thrash humans at computer games. But within his role at Farmers Insurance, he is blazing a trail for the technology.

Barton leads a team that analyzes data to answer questions about customer behavior and the design of different policies. His group is now using all sorts of cutting-edge machine-learning techniques, from deep neural networks to decision trees. But Barton did not hire an army of AI wizards to make this possible. His team uses a platform called DataRobot, which automates a lot of difficult work involved in applying such techniques. ... " 

Garmin Speak Adds Alexa Option

Garmin Speak puts Amazon Alexa in your car,  It's now available for $150.   By Mariella Moon, @mariella_moon

Gamin's GPS devices already feature voice control, but if you'd prefer to have Alexa onboard, its latest product is more your jam. The GPS device maker has just released Garmin Speak, which it says is the first in-vehicle device with hands-free access to Alexa. It's a tiny little thing, measuring just around an inch-a-half with a LED light ring and an OLED display that shows turn-by-turn directions. You can talk to the voice assistant through it the same way you'd talk to Alexa through an Echo: just say "Alexa" and follow it up with a voice command. ... "

Report from the Smart Kitchen Summit

Used to attend these kinds of meetings,  to feed our own innovation center experiments, always had to separate the reasonable from the outlandish.  In say a decade long frame.  I am a cook from way back so I do appreciate what is useful and is not.  Even for volume or time stressed situations.   Good piece, with useful links, note the considerable number of Alexa enabled appliances, but how to make voice control a generally useful capability will be a creativity challenge.

Your Future Kitchen has a Smart Oven, a Burger flipping bot, and 36 Bacon Programs   By Jenny McGrath from DigitalTrend.

Last year, we predicted some of the changes that we’d see in cooking over the next decade, including precision cookware. The Smart Kitchen Summit, which was held this week in Seattle, brings together device makers, chefs, and other experts to discuss the future of food. And based on some of the items that were featured at the annual event, we may be able to get precisely cooked, hyper personalized dishes from our ovens sooner than we thought.

Major appliance brands such as Kenmore and Whirlpool are on board with embracing the smart kitchen. Both announced Alexa-enabled appliances, including fridges, dishwashers, and ranges earlier this year. There aren’t a ton of ways for Alexa and these appliances to interact yet, but manufacturers see including smart technology as a way to continuously add new features to old machines. But even people who swear they’ll never talk to their oven will see a benefit.... "

Monday, October 16, 2017

Put Humans at the Center of AI

Worked with the Stanford AI lab, and a number of the startups and students that came out of it.

Put Humans at the Center of AI  in Technology Review

At Stanford and Google, Fei-Fei Li is leading the development of artificial intelligence—and working to diversify the field.     by Will Knight  

As the director of Stanford’s AI Lab and now as a chief scientist of Google Cloud, Fei-Fei Li is helping to spur the AI revolution. But it’s a revolution that needs to include more people. She spoke with MIT Technology Review senior editor Will Knight about why everyone benefits if we emphasize the human side of the technology.

Why did you join Google?

Researching cutting-edge AI is very satisfying and rewarding, but we’re seeing this great awakening, a great moment in history. For me it’s very important to think about AI’s impact in the world, and one of the most important missions is to democratize this technology. The cloud is this gigantic computing vehicle that delivers computing services to every single industry.

What have you learned so far?

We need to be much more human-centered. If you look at where we are in AI, I would say it’s the great triumph of pattern recognition. It is very task-focused, it lacks contextual awareness, and it lacks the kind of flexible learning that humans have. We also want to make technology that makes humans’ lives better, our world safer, our lives more productive and better. All this requires a layer of human-level communication and collaboration.

How can we make AI more human-centered?

There’s a great phrase, written in the ’70s: “the definition of today’s AI is a machine that can make a perfect chess move while the room is on fire.” It really speaks to the limitations of AI. In the next wave of AI research, if we want to make more helpful and useful machines, we’ve got to bring back the contextual understanding. We’ve got to bring knowledge abstraction and reasoning. These are all the most important steps. .... " 

Google Improves, Automates Pet Tagging

We were involved in work that sought to autotag pictures of people and pets in still images and video.  So this is quite a step forward.  Not too long ago this was not achievable.   Some details at the link below. 

Meow it’s even easier to find your furry friends in Google Photos
By Lily Kharevych,  Software Engineer, Google Photos

If you have a bunch of photos of your furry friends, you now have the oppawtunity to see them all in one place in Google Photos.

When you want to look back on old photos of Oliver as a puppy or Mr. Whiskers as a kitten, you no longer need to type “dog” or “cat” into search in Google Photos. Rolling out in most countries today, you’ll be able to see photos of the cats and dogs now grouped alongside people, and you can label them by name, search to quickly find photos of them, or even better, photos of you and them. This makes it even easier to create albums, movies, or even a photo book of your pet.   .... " 

Facebook Releases Video Neural Training Data

More generally available training data for Deep Learning systems.

Facebook debuts new video datasets for training neural networks  by Maria Deutscher

 Facebook Inc. unveiled its latest contribution to the artificial intelligence ecosystem at the GitHub Universe conference on Thursday.

Researchers from the social network have put together two datasets designed to help with creation of machine learning models that process video content. Typically, the information used in AI projects doesn’t receive as much attention as the sophisticated technologies that underpin the development process. But it’s an equally important component that in many cases can be harder to obtain .... " 

Seeking Voice Assistants in the Workplace

Now been involved in a number of brainstorm meetings addressing now virtual assistants can be used in the workplace.  Especially how voice can be used without disrupting a typical workplace.    Makes sense to use these for mundane topics.   Handsfree and non disruptive.   Probably with chatbot like feedback on alternatives.   Contact to talk this with me.  Here the first general example I have seen suggested:

In ComputerWeekly:
" ... Within the next three years, workers will be using Alexa-style devices to book time off, update their addresses, and file their expenses.

Voice recognition, powered by intelligent software bots, will take off as companies look to make their IT systems easier for employees to use, according to a specialist on the future of work. ... " 

Next Gen Personalization

Good piece shows the breadth of tech being used to personalize.

Shop.org Takeaway: Three steps to next-gen personalization
 By Deena M.Amato-McCoy in ChainStoreage.

Consumers are becoming more digitally influenced on a seemingly daily basis — but omnichannel retailers find themselves hard-pressed to keep up the pace. Retailers need to meet their needs across all touchpoints, and create a frictionless shopping experience despite where the shopping journey starts and ends.

To achieve this goal, successful retailers are adopting a new digital tools that allow them to “connect the dots,” and personally engage shoppers before, during and following the shopping experience. Industry observers discussed this new level of personalization during Shop.org, held in Los Angeles, Sept. 25-28.

Among the top solutions are:

Voice: Conversational commerce is shaping up to be one of the year’s hottest disruptors, and momentum continues to grow. As customers grow more comfortable using digital voice assistants found on devices like Amazon Echo and Dot, Google Home, and others, retailers have a new way to personalize the shopping experience, and remove some of the friction that still occurs via online and mobile transactions.

Jet.com Walmart’s e-commerce arm, is so bullish on voice that it is one of the company’s “top priorities this year,” Marc Lore, president and CEO, of Walmart e-commerce U.S., said at shop.org.

“You have to look beyond the technology and toward what it enables,” Lore added. “It’s more than a tool that helps customers order product for delivery. It gives us the chance to connect with shoppers one-on-one. And we can use data to become better merchandisers.”

Artificial intelligence: Retailers that use AI are essentially adopting programs that teach their computers to learn patterns. Then brands can use results to deliver better customer experiences.

AI is playing a critical role across Disney’s retail channels. Committed to delivering “a more immersive, personalized, and robust omnichannel experience than ever before, “Disney is adding AI to our e-commerce site so we can help improve the guest experience online and in-store,” said Mike White, senior VP and chief technology officer for Disney consumer products and interactive media.

AI is helping Disney understand its best-selling category SKUs searched online, and then using this data to evaluate customer affinities. “Then we can expand online and in-store assortments, which add more value to their experiences,” he added.  .... "

Brain Machine Interface

The idea has been around for years, now approaching reality.  In Wired: 

 " .... 2017 has been a coming-out year for the Brain-Machine Interface (BMI), a technology that attempts to channel the mysterious contents of the two-and-a-half-pound glop inside our skulls to the machines that are increasingly central to our existence. The idea has been popped out of science fiction and into venture capital circles faster than the speed of a signal moving through a neuron. Facebook, Elon Musk, and other richly funded contenders, such as former Braintree founder Bryan Johnson, have talked seriously about silicon implants that would not only merge us with our computers, but also supercharge our intelligence. But CTRL-Labs, which comes with both tech bona fides and an all-star neuroscience advisory board, bypasses the incredibly complicated tangle of connections inside the cranium and dispenses with the necessity of breaking the skin or the skull to insert a chip—the Big Ask of BMI. Instead, the company is concentrating on the rich set of signals controlling movement that travel through the spinal column, which is the nervous system’s low-hanging fruit. .... " 

Blockchain and the Energy Grid

How Blockchain Could Give Us a Smarter Energy Grid

Energy experts believe that blockchain technology can solve a maze of red tape and data management problems. .... " 

by Mike Orcutt  in Technology Review

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Time Measurement Productivity Tools

Had not heard of many of these tools.  Rarely is time measured this carefully.

8 Productivity Tools Illustrate You Have Way More Time Than You Think

The scarcity of time is an illusion that most entrepreneurs struggle to overcome. The first step is to measure what you (and your team) do day in and day out. What gets measured gets managed.

By Bill Carmody, Founder and CEO, Trepoint  @BillCarmody  in Inc.

Ad Tech Emerging for Tactical Decisions

When I first joined the enterprise we constructed some near autonomous systems to analyze, select and insert ads optimally.    If anything today, we have much better data to drive such systems.  Is this the near future?  Where we wont need tactical decision making, but only strategic?

This in Ad Age, may require some registration to read. The Tenuous Future of Ad Tech Middle Men

Russian Voice Assistant

Russian Voice Assistant Alice Sounds as Natural as Developer Yandex Claims   By Brenda Stolyar in Digital Trend

It’s sometimes tough to remember the days when we didn’t have the convenience of a voice assistant. Whether it’s through your smartphone or a home device, it’s as though a new one is popping up everyday. In the U.S., this type of technology is always available for us in the English language, while that’s not always the case for other countries. This week, we have an international app that takes the concept of voice assistants and create its own.

Yandex — available for iOS and Android — is particularly known as a Russian search engine. Since it’s been around for quite some time, Yandex has also branched out into language translation, a real-time bidding platform, and antivirus software. Most recently, it also introduced its own voice assistant, Alice, and integrated the new feature into the Yandex app. While the app can be downloaded in Ukrainian and Turkish as well, Alice can only speak Russian at the moment.  .... " 

A Creative Promotion Machine

Just now examining the creative personalization angle addressed here.  A mix of personalization and creativity.  But how much?

AI-Based Promotions – Welcome to the Creative Machine    By Vince Jeffs 

As a Marketer, when you craft successful promotions, you’re especially proud of their creative aspects And it’s understandable because creativity seems our last bastion against the perceived onslaught of machine domination, so we fiercely defend that turf. The tenuous argument being, “robots are no match for human creativity!” This viewpoint, besides inviting a cage match between humans and machines, also smacks of keeping math and machines out any solution, lest boring and stiff digital influences ruin the warmth of our marketing art and experience show. However, for all the aspiring “Michelangelos” out there, it’s time to rethink this, lest you find yourself selling one-off ad creatives at street-side craft shows.

A promotion is fundamentally your story; your pitch in a nutshell – delivered through a channel to an audience of one – assuming it gets through. And the fact that it oozes creativity and garners the right emotional response can be critically important to a customer’s reaction. But what is its true worth? Compared to what? Is there a chance that for most eyes it will succumb to fading into the backdrop with all the other one-size for all advertising clutter?    .... "

Listening to Your Patients

Could virtual assistants act as a means to start efficient dialog with patients?  Consider the patient interaction to be three-way.  An assistant starts the interaction,  to establish basic facts, fears, directions.  Suggests how the patient can learn about what should be the next steps.  Constructs a knowledge graph personalized to the needs of the patient.   Then the doctor (or health professional) is added to the conversation to augment the details .... schedule procedures, add research results, etc.

Making Time to Really Listen to Your Patients
Rana L.A. Awdish, Leonard L. Berry

Modern medicine’s true healing potential depends on a resource that is being systematically depleted: the time and capacity to truly listen to patients, hear their stories, and learn not only what’s the matter with them but also what matters to them. Some health professionals claim that workload and other factors have compressed medical encounters to a point that genuine conversation with patients is no longer possible or practical. We disagree.

Our experiences — as a critical-care physician whose own critical illness led her to train physicians in relationship-centered communication (Rana Awdish) and as a health services researcher who has interviewed and observed hundreds of patients, doctors, and nurses (Len Berry) — teach us that hurried care incurs hidden costs and offers false economy. In other words, it might save money in the short term but wastes money over time. .... " 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cautions About Using this Blog

Because of the nature of a blog,  and the way it presents information serially, please be careful to read the publication date of information.  It may render information invalid.    Also note that I cannot guarantee that links presented in this blog are still active.  Over time the information pointed to may no longer be there.  I only sometimes repair or remove bad links if they are important to me.    Also over time my interests,  connected to my work, will change.  So my coverage cannot be assured to be complete or correct.   Blog Posts:  15,457      Reads:   1.72M

Infrastructure Automation

Basic Infrastructure Automation is a No-Brainer – Why Aren’t You Doing It?    Chris Gardner,  Senior Analyst  Forrester

Everyone knows they need to automate. That is not a thought-provoking statement. In fact, when we ask infrastructure decision leaders their top priorities, automation shows up at #3, just behind consolidation and implementing operations analytics.

However, when we dig deeper with clients, we find hesitation. I would break their concerns into three broad camps:

Some are just starting their journey. For those, I suggest understanding the infrastructure-as-code landscape and learning how their operations people need to become developers. (Even for those well on their way, a refresh on these topics does not hurt).

Some have fairly sophisticated DevOps strategies and need to take them to the next level. For those, continuous delivery release automation (CDRA) tools are essential. A Forrester Wave™ by Rob Stroud and myself outlines the best.

Most, however, are struggling to achieve an automation baseline. It is not uncommon to see duplicate efforts across the organization using different tools for the same job. Some are using old tools. Some only have half their systems automated. The bottom line: their automation strategy is confused at best and broken at worst.

People are confused, but who can blame them? Between enterprise and open source, there are dozens of options for infrastructure automation. Which ones are best? .... "

(More at the link, ultimately this links to an expensive Forrester report)

Fake Data

My colleague Kaiser Fung talks fake data.  Good thoughts and pointers to examples and resources. Read his whole article at the link.

Here is a problem staring many digital/Web/social media analysts in the face today: what if you are told that the majority of the data you have been dutifully reporting, analyzing and (gasp!) modeling are fake data?

By fake data, I mean, useless numbers that have no bearing on reality: visits to websites that never happened, clicks on ads by hired hands, clicks on ads by bots, clicks on ads that are buried layers deep invisible to any humans, video "views" that result from automatically playing clips, video "views" that last one second, ad reach (i.e. number of people who have seen the ad) that exceeds Census counts, reviews planted by hired hands, etc. etc.  .... " 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Ahold Digital Strategy

Considerable detail in this Progressive Grocer piece.

Ahold's digital strategy pays off
Ahold USA has seen success with a new digital strategy that has brought on 1 million new digital users, increased monthly app usage by 76% and driven a 179% increase in digital coupon activation over last year, the company reported. Ahold's new strategy focuses on enhancing promotions, personalization, and as a result, loyalty through investments in more relevant digital coupons, an improved mobile app, a recipe center, new sites and other digital tools. .... " 

Capturing the Value of APIs

Good general discussion of the architecture.   Good choices can make API possible and an asset.   In McKinsey.

What it really takes to capture the value of APIs

By Keerthi Iyengar, Somesh Khanna, Srinivas Ramadath, and Daniel Stephens

APIs are the connective tissue in today’s ecosystems. For companies who know how to implement them, they can cut costs, improve efficiency, and help the bottom line.

Application programming interfaces (APIs) were once largely limited to technical domains but have now become a significant engine of business growth. As the connective tissue linking ecosystems of technologies and organizations, APIs allow businesses to monetize data, forge profitable partnerships, and open new pathways for innovation and growth.

Early adopters across industries are already using APIs to create new products and channels and improve operational efficiency. Within the automotive industry, for instance, APIs are used to embed efficiency data, driving statistics, route information and real-time alerts into dashboards. Some retailers are using APIs to set up multi-brand shopping platforms, track inventory, and help consumers locate stores. And a handful of banks are partnering with fintechs and retailers, among others, to develop APIs that help customers integrate banking data into bookkeeping and investment software, and provide faster internal access to a range of account information. .... "

Shopping Free with the Google Assistant

Starting an examination of the user experience of hands free voice shopping at well known retailers.   The Google Home assistant has this capability using what they call Google Express.  I just received some instructions by mail for shopping at Target, Costco and Walmart.   Simply expressed, seems easy.   Here are their Voice Orders from Google Home instructions.  More impressions to follow.




More on this effort, from retailers perspective.
Example of its use with Target.

G-Drive Tips

We were previously a shop that worked entirely with Microsoft Office 365, but connecting with Universities find ourselves working with Google drive products.   Which I have grown used to for collaborative efforts.  Found these tips useful.  They are hardly hacks, but good to know.

5 Google Drive Hacks That Will Transform the Way You Work
For millions of businesses, G-Drive is an essential collaboration tool. Here's how to make it work even harder for you.   By Amanda Pressner Kreuser   Co-founder and managing partner, Masthead Media .... "

Short Sentences are not Always Better

Today you rarely see short sentences.  So it is best to at least best to think about shortening your expression.

Why Writing ShortSentences may be Short-Changing Your Reader
Ubiquity,  | By Philip Yaffe

" .... Virtually every article on good writing includes the advice to keep sentences short. On a list of writing tips, this is often number one. However, the advice is meaningless, and even detrimental.

In the first place, "short" is a weasel word. It has no real meaning because what may be "short" in one case may be "long" in another.

Secondly, and more importantly, a series of short sentences often gives less information than a well-crafted longer one, because the short sentences don't show the links between the different elements. The key word here is "well-crafted." Long rambling sentences are confusing and tiresome. However, a well-crafted longer sentence flows like a stream. The reader is seldom aware of how long it is because everything in it is exactly where it ought to be. They simply absorb everything as if by osmosis, never really realizing how much information they are getting in such easy, palatable form. ... "

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Alibaba Wants to put Virtual Helpers Everywhere

The idea of virtual assistance continues to expand. Look for more contextually focused solutions from a number of directions.

Alibaba Aims to “Master the Laws” of AI and Put Virtual Helpers Everywhere

CTO of the e-commerce giant says its new $15 billion research academy will explore AI, fintech, and quantum computing.  by Yiting Sun  in Technology Review

Alibaba’s CTO, Jeff Zhang, speaking at an event in Hangzhou, China.
China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba has announced plans to invest more than $15 billion over the next three years in researching emerging technologies including artificial intelligence and quantum computing.

Jack Ma, Alibaba’s CEO, announced his decision to establish the Alibaba DAMO Academy (DAMO stands for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, and Outlook) on the first day of the company’s 2017 Computing Conference, which opened on Wednesday. Ma said the academy will do research aimed at “solving problems” related to the Internet of things, fintech, quantum computing, and AI. It will open seven research labs in China, the U.S., Russia, Israel, and Singapore.  .... " 

  See my index of players in this field.     We built some of the earliest assistants both within the company and consumer facing.   Connect to discuss.

Amazon Teen Prime Logins

Good further discussion at the link.  Will this lead to more use of assistants.  Good further discussion at the link.

Amazon gives teens their own Prime logins   by George Anderson in RetailWire.

Many teens already think of Amazon.com as their family’s default shopping app. What’s going to happen now that they can have their own Amazon accounts?

Amazon has introduced a new program that allows teenagers to have their own login and make use of Prime account benefits if their parents are members. In a nod to nervous parents, Amazon has designed the system to link to their accounts, which can be set up with pre-approved spending limits or require approval of all orders.

“As a parent of a teen, I know how they crave independence, but at the same time that has to be balanced with the convenience and trust that parents need. We’ve listened to families and have built a great experience for both teens and parents,” said Michael Carr, vice president, Amazon households. “For teens who have a parent with a Prime membership, they can also access Prime benefits at no additional cost, including fast, free shipping, Prime Video and gaming benefits with Twitch Prime.” 

Registered teens sign into the site using the Amazon App to make a purchase. Parents then receive a text or email with the order details. Kids may include a personal note for their parents providing a rationale for their purchase. In its press release, Amazon provided the example of a student needing a book for school as the type of message that might be sent. Other absurd examples also come to mind to anyone who has ever parented a teenager.   .... "

Kasparov Book: Deep Thinking

See Garry Kasparov's blog featuring information about his book: Deep Thinking

“Writing this book became type of therapy. It was a painful process, but I learned a great deal about myself and my opponent, and am now very glad I had the opportunity to turn all this experience into a positive story that I could share with the world. I make it clear in Deep Thinking that my loss to Deep Blue was also a victory for humans — its creators and everyone who benefits from our technological leaps. That is, everyone. This is always the case in the big picture, and why the book rejects the ‘man vs machine’ competition storyline. The machines work for us, after all. The last third of the book is about the bright future of our lives with intelligent machines, if we are ambitious enough to embrace it. I hope my optimism is contagious.”  .... ' 

This Medium article discusses this further.   And more on Amazon.


Engaging with Customers on Facebook

We looked at ways to connect effectively to customers to do product development.  How should it be done?

Does Engaging with Customers on Facebook Lead to Better Product Ideas?    By Irene Bertschek, Reinhold Kesler

Feedback on social media can serve as a valuable source of information for companies, helping them to improve and develop products and services. Examples include Gillette, which launched the very first product for assisted shaving based on feedback inferred from social media, and Tesla, which improved the company’s app based in part on CEO Elon Musk’s reading a customer’s complaints on Twitter. At end of 2016, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky asked on Twitter what the company could launch in 2017.

Anecdotes aside, does this user feedback actually help create better products? In our study, we analyze the role that Facebook plays in the innovation process. For our analysis, we used data from nearly 3,000 German manufacturing and service firms from a 2015 survey by the Centre for European Economic Research. In contrast to studies focusing on large listed companies, our data set includes a large share of small and medium-size enterprises reflecting what’s typical in the German economy. With this data, we set out to study how important social media is for smaller firms. ... " 

Thinking the Science in Data Science

Evocative piece:

The scientific method to approach a problem, in my point of view, is the best way to tackle a problem and offer the best solution. If you start your data analysis by simply stating hypotheses and applying Machine Learning algorithms, this is the wrong way.

By Rubens Zimbres, Data Scientist & Machine Learning Researcher.

Lately I’ve seen a lot of hype surrounding -- and lots of newcomers to -- the Data Science field. But what exactly is SCIENCE in Data Science? The scientific method to approach a problem, in my point of view, is the best way to tackle a problem and offer the best solution. If you start your data analysis by simply stating hypotheses and applying Machine Learning algorithms, this is the wrong way.

The picture below shows the steps necessary for scientific research, corresponding data analysis and simulation. In fact, it is a sketch of what I did in my PhD thesis. In a few words, I studied the past 27 years of Business Management literature and I tried to develop an epistemologically disruptive approach to measure and predict service quality, mixing Business Administration with Electrical Engineering concepts. Over the course of 4 years I performed quali-quantitative longitudinal research and developed a simulation using Agent-Based Modeling to try to find a 5 State Cellular Automata rule that could mimic human behavior. I approached Complexity concepts, self-organizing systems, emergence of order, and social networks. .... "  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Deep Learning from Neural Inspiration

So this is what all the fuss is about.  These things gather data and appear to learn.  They were inspired by biological neurons,  but are really not anything like a real neuron, either in structure or in the way the exact way they learn.  We are still learning about their biological details.

Quanta Mag piece on Deep Learning,   which describes the basics.  Some of the history.  This reminds me of when we were first introduced to the idea, and they were just called ANN or Artificial Neural Networks.   And there was less worry about the architecture,  or how the data would be effectively applied.     Now they have matured.

A quite non technical piece that introduces the concept, and a bit of the method.

How to Win at Deep Learning   By Pradeep Mutalik    In Quanta Magazine
What happens when you increase the number of layers in an artificial neural network? ... " 

Knowing Who You are Talking to

Amazon’s Alexa can now recognize different voices and give personalized responses.    Your Echo just got smart enough to tell you apart from the people you live with  .... "    by Chris Welch in TheVerge    

This has been mentioned as the best feature on Google Home, with greatest potential for intelligence. Understanding who you are talking to is the most important first part of a conversation, and a step a contextual dialog.

Superforecasting for Better Prediction

I was reminded today again of the need for the best forecasting possible when doing many kinds of analytics.     I have covered the concept of Superforecasting here a number of times.   Basically the idea that there are people out there who have a style of prediction that is significantly better than others, and can be used to provide this value.  

See  the book  Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction,” by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner on this, and my tag below. Also their frequently updated Good Judgement blog, which contains updated news and challenges.   They are even looking for volunteer forecasters there to compete.

A must read.   I will be following more closely and reporting on items from their blog now.  I taught forecasting, and this rings very true in value, beyond the usual analytic methods, or even Machine Learning or Big Data,

Podcast on the Nudge Nobel

How Richard Thaler’s ‘Simple Insights’ Led to a Nobel Prize
Wharton's Katherine Milkman discusses the awarding of the Nobel Prize to behavioral economist  

Richard H. Thaler, the “father of behavioral economics,” has this week won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in that field. Thaler has long been known for challenging a foundational concept in mainstream economics — namely, that people by-and-large behave rationally when making purchasing and financial decisions. Thaler’s research upended the conventional wisdom and showed that human decisions are sometimes less rational than assumed, and that psychology in general — and concepts such as impulsiveness — influence many consumer choices in often-predictable ways.

Once considered an outlier, behavioral economics today has become part of generally accepted economic thinking, in large part thanks to Thaler’s ideas. His research also has immediate practical implications. One of Thaler’s big ideas – his “nudge theory”  – suggests that the government and corporations, to take one example, can greatly influence levels of retirement savings with unobtrusive paperwork changes that make higher levels of savings an opt-out rather than an op-in choice. In fact, he co-authored a book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness, which became a best-seller.

In this Knowledge@Wharton interview, Katherine Milkman, a Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions — and a behavioral economist herself — discusses Thaler’s influence in economics and the practical applications of his ideas already underway. She attributes part of his success to his great clarity in thinking and in writing. She had interviewed professor Thaler for Knowledge@Wharton in 2016 regarding his then-new book, Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioral Economics.  ... " 

Optimizing Production

My earliest responsibilities in industry were to use optimization technology to improve quality and cost of manufacturing.  So the concern is not new.   We continue to improve this.   In McKinsey:

Optimizing production in the age of the machine
As machines play an ever more important role in production, companies need smarter and more holistic ways to optimize performance. .... ' 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Thinking Platform vs Process

Clever way to think about this.

Instead of Optimizing Processes, Reimagine Them as Platforms   by Michael Schrage in HBR

Process optimization can transform user experience. Rethinking process optimization — visualizing processes as platforms — can transform your business model.

One applications outsourcing team, for example, proposed a clever UX tweak to help optimize a global fulfillment process their company managed for its biggest client.

The idea was simple: Instead of making buyers go through the entire online ordering sequence only to find stock-outs or delivery delays, why not alert them to product availability upfront? A little dab of inventory data would enhance both customer expectations and process efficiencies. Surely this cheap, customer-centric, and data-driven innovation would impress the client. .... " 

Honda Robotics for Disaster Response

Quite an impressive piece.  An obvious place to use robotics of this type.   A number of images and videos in the article.  Honda has been known for a long time to provide advances in such extreme applications of robotics.  Applications where the nature of the problem context is chaotic.

Honda Unveils Prototype E2-DR Disaster Response Robot in IEEE Spectrum by Evan Ackerman ...

 .... At a recent IEEE robotics conference, Honda researchers discussed the latest prototype of their disaster-relief robot, called E2-DR. The new humanoid has an impressive design and broad range of capabilities. It can transition from bipedal to quadrupedal locomotion, squeeze itself through narrow spaces, climb vertical ladders, walk over rubble, and even work in the rain.   ... " 

Connected Car as a New Way of Marketing

A Whole new Way of Marketing in KouponMedia

With connected cars on the rise and the number of minutes spent in the car also increasing, a powerful new marketing channel has emerged. 

The connected car enables brands and retailers to reach drivers in their vehicles with highly targeted messaging, creating a captive, high-intent audience. 

Download our case study to learn how you can maximize this new channel and opportunity! 

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Gartner Blog on Conversational AI

Conversational Artificial Intelligence. We Need To Talk About It.   by Adrian Lee  in Gartner Blog

Gartner released its Top Strategic Predictions for 2018 and beyond on 29th September. I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw that one of the predictions by my esteemed colleagues read, “By 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%.” It goes on further to predict that “by 2019, half of major commerce companies and retailers with online stores will have redesigned their commerce sites to accommodate voice searches and voice navigation.  ... " 

Monday, October 09, 2017

Advertising Stats: A Cheat Sheet

At first I thought these would define the stats and how they are obtained,  but its a statement of their value, and in some cases trends.  Rounded values.  Mostly US numbers.  Still interesting.  A few links to sources.    In the Gartner Blog:

36 Advertising Stats: A Cheat Sheet
By Martin Kihn   .... "

Critical View of Data Viz Eye Tracking

Data viz expert Stephen Few looks at work done by Tableau using eye tracking methods to get insight about designing data visualizations.    I recall seeing some previous research in this area.   It is not too unlike similar work being done tracking how people look at advertising or placement on store shelves.   Where do people look, what do they see, what do they retain,  is what we think is important even noticed?   Stephen Few points out the issues.

Spending on Intelligent Assistants

Interesting piece,  note the list of companies sharing their experiences with an intelligence assistance strategy.

Intelligent Assistants Answer the Challenge of Omnichannel CX Editor's Pick!   by Dan Miller in CustomerThink

These days, customer care professionals are besieged by tech-infused buzzwords and buzzphrases. The proliferation of smartphones drove demand for a “Mobile Strategy,” to which the word “Social” was quickly appended. Then it became a global challenge to assimilate “Big Data & Analytics” in order to ingest the zettabytes of data and metadata surrounding customers activities, preferences and intents.  .... 

Then came an onslaught of solutions and platforms that introduced “Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning” as a cure for common CX problems. In brief, they promised rapid recognition customer intent. Quick on their heels came integration of Deep Neural Networking and Cognitive Computing. Aside from bringing more buzzwords into the CX fray, their advent got both Contact Center and Customer Experience professionals wondering whether they needed to staff up with computational linguists and knowledge management aficionados. ... " 

" ... Spokespeople from The U.S. Army USAA, ING Bank, Domino’s, FedEx, Telefonica, Hyatt Hotels, Coca-Cola and dozens of others have shared the wisdom they gained from the experience of designing and implementing an Intelligent Assistance strategy in their organizations. The unsurprising, overall finding is that these firms proved that increased automation rates correlated with increased levels of both customer satisfaction (usually measured in Net Promotor Scores) and employee satisfaction (measured in retention rates).

The technological miracle that is underway amounts to nothing short of “redefining self-service.” It used to be synonymous with “automated handling” and “call avoidance” (for expensive agents, at least). Now it means customer control and lower effort expended, in short “serving one’s self.” .... " 

Patient Centric Hospitals of the Future

Below was an article that came up in my survey of patient-centric hospital designs, and the use of Hospital Virtual assistants.    Where might virtual assistance be best inserted?

Building Patient-Centric Hospital Of Future 
By Vidya Priya Rao in CustomerThink

" .... To adopt a patient-centric lens and a holistic service-minded approach requires a shift in thinking. The hospital management team cannot confuse restructuring this complex digital disruption with traditional methods – myopic cost slashing, digitalisation of standard operation procedures and haphazard efficiency gains through in-house process improvements. On similar lines, for the sake of value creation and eagerness for cost savings, they can’t make ‘less value’ departments or clinics, redundant activities, overhead costs, and slack resources as their popular targets. They can’t compromise with safety, supervision, security, and surveillance requirements since zero risks often come at the cost of zero conveniences.

While technology will be a significant component in providing patient care in the digital future, it is even more critical for hospitals to strengthen the human element to support  hospital-physician-patient relationship. A better understanding of the patient population, enables them to be proactive and effective at managing their health. This is where design thinking makes it entry with its human-centric problem-solving approach, allowing hospitals to empathise with patients and their families while driving a measurable return on investment.   .... "

Nudge Behavioral Economist Gets Nobel

In the BBC, this has gotten criticism because it can be seen as manipulative.  Who has decided what nudges we need?   And to what extent?  This has always reminded me of work by BJ Fogg on Persuasive techniques, but Thaler chose a better buzzword.

'Nudge' economist Richard Thaler wins Nobel Prize
US economist Richard Thaler, one of the founding fathers of behavioural economics, has won this year's Nobel Prize for Economics.

Prof Thaler, of Chicago Booth business school, co-wrote the global best seller Nudge, which looked at how people make bad or irrational choices.

Judges said he had demonstrated how "nudging" - a term he coined - may help people to exercise better self-control.   .... " 

Pew Research: Automation in Everyday Life

An extensive report based on surveys. Pointer is to an overview, and then links further to a full PDF report I am reading.  Addressing fear about the future of technology.  Nicely done so far.

Pew Research Center for Internet & Technology

Automation in Everyday Life
Americans express more worry than enthusiasm about coming developments in automation – from driverless vehicles to a world in which machines perform many jobs currently done by humans ... " 

By Aaron Smith and Monica Anderson

Robots Train Ants to be Helpers

A novel application linking robots and insects.   Not really Biomimicy, but a sort of Biosynthesis. Not sure how practical this is for a real application, but impressed by the novelty of what EPFL in Lausanne is doing.

Two small robots with ants Robotic Bugs Train Insects to Be Helpers 
Horizon Magazine      Aisling Irwin

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, working as part of the European Union-funded CyBioSys project, are developing mobile robots that are learning to work with insects to help serve humans. "The idea is to be able to solve [a] problem with a better solution than they [the robots and insects] can produce individually," says EPFL's Bertrand Collignon. The robots, which "live" with a colony of ants, spot signs that food has been discovered with a camera mounted inside the nest. The camera alerts the robots when it detects an increasing number of ants leaving, which is a sign that food has been found. After the ants have led the robots to the food, the robots carry it home much faster than ants could by themselves. Collignon says this can be described as a "cyber-biological system," which improves both on the natural order and on what robots could achieve on their own. .... "