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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Drone Swarms Flying without GPS

Brought up in a recent challenge for Drone Swarms and Drones indoors.

This Autonomous Quadrotor Swarm Doesn't Need GPS    By Evan Ackerman in IEEE Spectrum

UPenn's autonomous quadrotor swarm doesn't need GPS or external localization to fly indoors or outdoors. .... "

CES: More Assistants in the Car

CES: Amazon's Alexa Making More Inroads Into Vehicles
David Kiley , Contributor.   Providing insights and news about the global auto business.

For all the talk about Google and Apple getting into the auto business, it is tech giant Amazon that is making headway getting into the car business as more car companies integrate the online retailer’s Alexa voice-activated personal assistant into their in-car connected services.

The latest automaker to join forces with Amazon is Toyota, which will start adding Alexa connectivity to some of its vehicles starting this year. Alexa will enable drivers and passengers to get directions, control in-car infotainment services and perform all the other ask-and-answer functions Alexa delivers in the home application. ... "

Maersk, IBM Launch Blockchain

Good to think about the value proposition here,  how it is beyond a simple ledger database approach.  The stated value is to have controlled data sharing among those shippers and other parties that sign up for the service.  Back to the idea of verified transparency which should lead to better data and thus analytics.  No mention of Smart Contracts, but seems to be a logical next step.

Maersk, IBM to launch blockchain-based platform for global trade  By Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen in Reuters

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - The world’s largest container shipping firm A.P. Moller-Maersk is teaming up with IBM to create an industry-wide trading platform it says can speed up trade and save billions of dollars. ... " 

In Home Delivery Expands

There seemed to be quite a bit of push back about giving retailers the ability to open your home door and drop a package inside.  Some horror stories emerged.  But the idea seems to be continuing to grow. With more details and Expert discussion:

Smart home partnership opens doors to more in-home delivery  by Matthee Stern in Retailwire

" ... August Homes, a smart home locks startup, which partnered with Walmart on its initial in-home delivery initiative, is now working to enable the service for customers of delivery startup Deliv, according to CNBC. Deliv’s retail accounts include Macy’s, Plated, Kohl’s, Best Buy and Walgreens. As with the Walmart service, a Deliv employee who is making a smart home delivery will be given a unique code that gives them one-time access to the residence. August Homes is planning relationships with other delivery services as well. .....  " 

Alibaba Claims to Beat Humans in Reading Test

More examples of advanced AI in China.

Alibaba's AI Outguns Humans in Reading Test    By Robert Fenner in Bloomberg

Alibaba has developed an artificial intelligence model that scored better than humans in a Stanford University reading and comprehension test.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. put its deep neural network model through its paces last week, asking the AI to provide exact answers to more than 100,000 questions comprising a quiz that’s considered one of the world’s most authoritative machine-reading gauges. The model developed by Alibaba’s Institute of Data Science of Technologies scored 82.44, edging past the 82.304 that rival humans achieved.

Alibaba said it’s the first time a machine has out-done a real person in such a contest. .... " 

Neural Network Zoo Updated

Kirk Bourne writes that the useful  'Neural Network Zoo' now contains links to the original papers for each network type AND a poster version of the full infographic.

In the Asimov Institute, post by Fjodor Van Veen

" .... With new neural network architectures popping up every now and then, it’s hard to keep track of them all. Knowing all the abbreviations being thrown around (DCIGN, BiLSTM, DCGAN, anyone?) can be a bit overwhelming at first.

So I decided to compose a cheat sheet containing many of those architectures. Most of these are neural networks, some are completely different beasts. Though all of these architectures are presented as novel and unique, when I drew the node structures… their underlying relations started to make more sense.  ... " 

Imposter Syndrome and the Turing Test

How a Famous Robot Test Can Help You Beat Impostor Syndrome  by Kelton Reid in Copyblogger

Points to a 2012 Atlantic article on using the Turing Test to discern (or fool) people, or even ourselves into determining who we are.   Fascinating piece,  especially with regard to how an intelligent dialog is considered part of the test process.  Which is different than just asking a question and determining if people can answer it correctly.  Its not just what you know, but how you can adjust that knowledge to contextual needs.    Also harder for AI to reproduce.

" ... In the words of sociologists, what they're now studying is called "interactional expertise." The easiest way to understand what interactional expertise entails is to contrast it with a more common idea, contributory expertise. Contributory experts are the typical array of professionals (physicists, chemists, lawyers, economists, musicians etc.) who develop specialized knowledge and skill through formal education and long experience. ... "  

Monday, January 15, 2018

Crucial Need for Uncertainty in Deep Learning

Below piece really rocked me.  It is very old AI school.  Even takes us to methods that were used in  Watson-Jeopardy.  Conclusions, and even sub conclusions, are rarely precise answers.  They need to contain a certainty factor (CF).   All the old AI systems embedded certainties.   Trouble is, will the methods still converge the way the new methods do?

Our own real-problem based research showed that was not always certain itself.  The need came up in recent modeling work.  Thus the Google research.  Glad to see this is being brought out, but it may slow movement in AI.   This is a huge thing,  but uncertainty must be considered.

Google and Others Are Building AI Systems That Doubt Themselves
AI will make better decisions by embracing uncertainty.   by Will Knight  in Technology Review

The most powerful approach in AI, deep learning, is gaining a new capability: a sense of uncertainty.

Researchers at Uber and Google are working on modifications to the two most popular deep-learning frameworks that will enable them to handle probability. This will provide a way for the smartest AI programs to measure their confidence in a prediction or a decision—essentially, to know when they should doubt themselves.

Deep learning, which involves feeding example data to a large and powerful neural network, has been an enormous success over the past few years, enabling machines to recognize objects in images or transcribe speech almost perfectly. But it requires lots of training data and computing power, and it can be surprisingly brittle.

Somewhat counterintuitively, this self-doubt offers one fix. The new approach could be useful in critical scenarios involving self-driving cars and other autonomous machines.  .... " 

Laundry Folding Robots

It was one of the key goals of the 60s.   Having a home robot fold your clothes and put them away after washing.   Second only to the robotic butler that would mix drinks and bring them to you with your newspaper.  Its debatable about how close we are to the latter, but had not seen any consumer examples of automatic clothes folding.  Except perhaps for this sighting in CES:

It’s the New Year and you’re getting laundry-folding robots, because the 1960s thought of everything  by Jonathan Shieber (@jshieber) in TechCrunch

The robot laundry-folding wars are heating up.

The German appliance manufacturing giant BSH is in the early stages of partnering with the U.S. and Israeli-based laundry-folding robot designer FoldiMate on product development and manufacturing in the latest volley in the battle to bring a commercially viable laundry-folding robot to market.

As technology moves inexorably closer to an episode of the Jetsons (flying cars are already on the horizon), it’s only fitting that laundry-folding robots become the next step on the path. ... "

Kroger and Boxed

Still speculation, but other possible buyers also lining up.  A response to Amazon's supply chain wins.

Kroger may acquire digital bulk retailer Boxed  In Cincinnati Enquirer

" ... Kroger is considering acquiring online wholesaler Boxed as traditional retailers look to beef up their digital capabilities, according to multiple news reports.

The New York-based startup is considering selling itself to several potential suitors. Aldi, Costco, Target are others mentioned as possible buyers, according to Forbes and Reuters, citing unnamed sources.

Supermarkets and big-box retailers are scrambling to ramp up their e-commerce and delivery abilities after digital juggernaut Amazon acquired Whole Foods last year. The deal threatened to further dilute an already saturated market by a deep-pocketed competitor who would use lower priced food to drive customer traffic. ... " 

(Update) Discussion in Retailwire.

Value of Halo Effect

Interesting top line, suggesting that established and known strategy and process is not enough.  Though I would still think its useful to document what you are doing as a means to finding improvement.  A  'Halo' is a easy to use simplification that is often not enough.  Perhaps a driver of driver of technology hype?

The halo effect, and other managerial delusions   By Phil Rosenzweig in McKinsey

Companies cannot achieve superior and lasting business performance simply by following a specific set of steps.

The quest of every high-quality corporate executive is to find the keys to superior performance. Achieving market leadership is hard enough, but staying at the top—given intense competition, rapidly changing technology, and shifting global forces—is even more difficult. At the same time, executives are under enormous pressure to deliver profitable growth and high returns for their shareholders. No wonder they constantly search for ways to achieve competitive advantage. .... "

Sunday, January 14, 2018

AI as Storytelling Assistant

Interesting proposition, but have yet to see examples of any value.   The first step should be, can we assign useful value measures to a partial or complete story?    How should that be tested?    Have been in meetings that looked at how advertisements were assembled and inserted into media,   and that would be a challenge for a story assisting system.

AI in storytelling: Machines as cocreators
By Jonathan Dunn and Geoffrey Sands from Mckinsey

" ... Imagine how this collaboration might unfold in the rich medium of video. As always, human storytellers would create a screenplay with clever plot twists and realistic dialogue. AI would enhance their work by providing insights that increase a story’s emotional pull—for instance, identifying a musical score or visual image that helps engender feelings of hope. This breakthrough technology would supercharge storytellers, helping them thrive in a world of seemingly infinite audience demand.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab recently investigated the potential for such machine–human collaboration in video storytelling. Was it possible, our team asked, that machines could identify common emotional arcs in video stories—the typical swings of fortune that have characters struggling through difficult times, triumphing over hardship, falling from grace, or declaring victory over evil? If so, could storytellers use this information to predict how audiences might respond? These questions have resonance for anyone involved in video storytelling, from amateurs posting on YouTube to studio executives. ... " 

Assistants for Your Job

Is What I call figuring out what the nature of assistance is.   Varies also in different industries.  And once it ascends to doing the job ....

AI might give you a personal assistant instead of taking your job
Karl RedenbachCofounder and CEO, LiveTiles

With the advent of artificial intelligence, assistants should no longer be a luxury confined to executives. We already have AI helpers in our personal lives, such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, but now is the time to take this to the workplace.

Despite advancements in technology that promise to help us leave the office closer to 5pm, we’ve arguably never been busier—and more in need of some assistance. While hiring a human personal assistant for every staff member would be a logistical and financial nightmare, everyone could have their own personal AI assistant. With the ability to automate time-consuming tasks and focus more on revenue-raising work, the productivity benefits could significantly change how we operate and how businesses scale.

The trick though will be how to build an assistant that works for you rather than you working for it. There’s no one-size fits-all in the workplace, and any company that claims to have built an AI to complete multiple types of tasks will ultimately be useless at all of them. Instead, there are a lot of single-purpose products built to help people get through their work days: x.ai can schedule your meetings, Lucy can help you with market research, and Restless Bandit automates the candidate-screening process and even reaches out to qualified people for vacant positions. ... " 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Capgemini: Trends in Conversational Commerce

Good overview of the space and future with statistics.

Conversational Commerce
Why Consumers Are Embracing Voice Assistants  in Their Lives


Conversational Commerce, consumer purchase of products and services via voice assistants such as Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa, and Apple’s Siri, will revolutionize how consumers and brands interact in ways not witnessed since the dawn of e-Commerce. It is so much more than a new interface or an additional channel in an omni-channel world. It promises to be a curator of services and experiences that intelligently meet needs and engage consumers emotionally—anytime, anywhere.

We are still at the very beginnings of Conversational Commerce, but the extraordinarily rapid early adoption will drive investment and innovation, consequently enabling an entirely new way for brands to build relationships of value with consumers. These relationships will seamlessly extend across consumers’ relationship lifecycle with brands—from marketing to sales and service—creating an entirely new, more instinctive way for consumers to engage with brands. .... " 

SAP and Blockchain

SAP's Blog talks its approach to specific applications of Blockchain.  Nicely described. " ... The blockchain technology, from a business perspective, can be seen as the next-gen collaborative business process improvement software. This would significantly lower the cost of trust between companies/organizations. Blockchain attempts to be the answer to the need for a trust system covering all online activity, through its immutable nature. .... " 

Smart Speakers/Assistants Reduce TV Use?

Intriguing stats embedded here.   Now will the integration of Assistants with devices with screams bring the mediums together?   Note how rapidly this has occurred, in the last two years. Soon with the opportunity to start real marketing conversations?

39 million Americans now own a smart speaker, report claims
 by Sarah Perez (@sarahintampa) in Techcrunch

One in six Americans now own a smart speaker, according to new research out this week from NPR and Edison Research – a figure that’s up 128 percent from January, 2017. Amazon’s Echo speakers are still in the lead, the report says, as 11 percent now own an Amazon Alexa device compared with 4 percent who own a Google Home product.

Today, 16 percent of Americans own a smart speaker, or around 39 million people.

The holiday shopping season also seemed to have played a role in the increased adoption of smart devices in the U.S., with 7 percent of Americans reporting they acquired at least one smart speaker between Black Friday and the end of December, and 4 percent saying they acquired their first smart speaker during the holidays. ... " 

" ... 30 percent of smart speaker owner said the device is replacing time spent with TV. They’re also listening to more audio (71% are), including news and talk radio or podcasts. ... " 

(In my case I say absolutely less TV    ... probably considerably.  It primarily makes me listen to more music and podcast content than TV.  But I also find myself often muting the TV and adding and switching to other video.   That's probably not good for TV advertising. ) 

Dolphins Tracked with Sound Classification

Note the statement of the problem of classification here:

Tracking Dolphins With Algorithms You Might Find on Facebook 
The New York Times    By Steph Yin

Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography have used a machine-learning algorithm similar to Facebook's friend recommender program to track dolphins. The program analyzed 52 million dolphin clicks and identified seven distinct groups of sound, which the researchers think correspond to different kinds of dolphins. Scripps' Kait Fraiser and colleagues first ran a detection program though years of audio recordings and extracted all segments with dolphin clicks, which their algorithm segmented into five-minute blocks, generating an average click rate and frequency shape for each time window. The algorithm then clustered five-minute chunks with similar average click rates and frequency profiles, and Frasier says it took only about four days to sort through several years of data from five sites. The unsupervised algorithm extrapolated seven discrete click clusters, one of which was consistent with the singular click profile of the Risso's dolphin species, which Frasier notes was a "good sanity check" suggesting their method might work.  .... "

Friday, January 12, 2018

Smart Displays beyond Voice?

Now emerging, the 'Smart Display', which takes voice interaction to a new place, which is why amazon is calling it voice-first on their Show and Spot assistants.  Now Google is planning to introduce this year 'smart displays' to be attached to their Google Home Assistants.    But are these tablets,  touch screens, or simpler PCs that may pop up a keyboard?   And how will you best navigate, if at all,  beyond voice?  Been noting that issue on the Amazon Show.   Voice is limiting for navigation, so Show adds touch, Can gesture or brain-wave take over?

FastCompany Discusses:
Google Hasn’t Cracked The Smart Display’s Complexity Problem
Navigation remains a challenge for the onscreen versions of Google Assistant and Alexa. But it’s tough to solve without turning a simple device into a PC. .... "

Considering Chatbots

A good, very broad look at chatbots in DSC.   Starting with the 'AI Shrink', which it turns out, many people trusted more than their real doctors.   Though to my knowledge it never replaced any psychiatrists. History, experiments and current approaches for primitive 'chat' dialog.   Working now on just such an experiment to demonstrate the possibilities.    I even chime in with a comment with a brief description of our own successful past work with chatbots.  All previously written about here.  Glad to provide more.

Automobile Dashboard of the Future

An interesting view that makes you think about all the design architecture of the steering wheel and what a car would be without it.  Will the term steering wheel sound as archaic as a buggy whip in the future? Some say this is less than a decade away.  Before autonomy.  Will wheels be done away with next?   In Technology Review.

Sound Classification

Sounds are important.  Getting them right can make the difference between correct and incorrect advice.  Those of you experimenting with advisors have now seen this.

Sound Classification with TensorFlow

Having this solution along with an IoT platform allows you to build a smart solution over a very wide area.

There are many different projects and services for human speech recognition like Pocketsphinx, Google’s Speech API, and many others. Such applications and services recognize speech to text with pretty good quality, but none of them can determine different sounds captured by the microphone. What was on record: human speech, animal sounds, or music playing?

We were faced with this task and decided to investigate and build sample projects which will be able to classify different sounds using machine learning algorithms. This article describes which tools we have chosen, what challenges we have faced, how we have trained the model for TensorFlow, and how to run our open source project. Also we can supply the recognition results to the DeviceHive, IoT platform, to use them in cloud services for 3rd party application.  .... " 

AI Hype and Reality

In Knowledge@Wharton, good cautionary thoughts. 

Wharton Global Forum from this summer on Hype and Reality in AI.

The Future of Artificial Intelligence: Why the Hype Has Outrun Reality

Robots that serve dinner, self-driving cars and drone-taxis could be fun and hugely profitable. But don’t hold your breath. They are likely much further off than the hype suggests.

A panel of experts at the recent 2017 Wharton Global Forum in Hong Kong outlined their views on the future for artificial intelligence (AI), robots, drones, other tech advances and how it all might affect employment in the future. The upshot was to deflate some of the hype, while noting the threats ahead posed to certain jobs.

Their comments came in a panel session titled, “Engineering the Future of Business,” with Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett moderating and speakers Pascale Fung, a professor of electronic and computer engineering at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Vijay Kumar, dean of engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and Nicolas Aguzin, Asian-Pacific chairman and CEO for J.P.Morgan.  .... "

Business Process Modeling and Assistants

Would suggest that anyone looking at constructing serious assistants also look at understanding the underlying process that includes the assistant.    I am just now looking at IBM's offerings in this space at https://www.ibm.com/cloud/digital-process-automation   This is generically called BPM or Business Process Modeling.    Now often allied with RPA:  Robotic Process Automation.  We used other BPM systems as well.

Even if you don't go full board on using BPM, its often very useful to construct a simple flow chart or process chart to show how everything is meant to work together.    Use it to talk to owners, users or customers of the suggested assistant to get their input.   Can avoid  many problems of use, development and delivery. ...  Thoughts or experiences?

Thursday, January 11, 2018

China Tuya for IoT

China’s Tuya expands its reach further with launch of IoT platform for the U.S.   By Clayton Moore  in DigitalTrends 

Tuya, one of the world’s largest and most widespread Internet of Things (IoT) OS providers, landed in the United States with a flourish this week via its launch of a U.S. version of its Tuya Smart platform. This turnkey solution could help manufacturers transform standard products into IoT products within a matter of days.

The Tuya Smart system offers hardware access, cloud services, and app development in a synchronized end-to-end process that, at its fastest, can create controlling apps for products in minutes. The platform also boasts the ability to turn a standard product into a smart one within 24 hours, as well as enable manufacturers to launch mass production within two weeks.  ..... "

Google AI Research in 2017

Fascinating, technical, lengthy piece on Google AI related research in 2017.   More to follow.

The Google Brain Team — Looking Back on 2017 (Part 1 of 2)

Posted by Jeff Dean, Google Senior Fellow, on behalf of the entire Google Brain Team

The Google Brain team works to advance the state of the art in artificial intelligence by research and systems engineering, as one part of the overall Google AI effort. Last year we shared a summary of our work in 2016. Since then, we’ve continued to make progress on our long-term research agenda of making machines intelligent, and have collaborated with a number of teams across Google and Alphabet to use the results of our research to improve people’s lives. This first of two posts will highlight some of our work in 2017, including some of our basic research work, as well as updates on open source software, datasets, and new hardware for machine learning. In the second post we’ll dive into the research we do in specific domains where machine learning can have a large impact, such as healthcare, robotics, and some areas of basic science, as well as cover our work on creativity, fairness and inclusion and tell you a bit more about who we are.   .... " 

Dash Buttons Open to Developers

Besides just buying things, how else might they be used?

Amazon opens up virtual Dash Buttons to third-party developers   By Swapna Krishna, @skrishna in Engadget

It also added new companies to its Dash Replenishment program

If you're a regular Amazon shopper, you're probably aware of the virtual Dash buttons on the site's homepage. The site will auto-generate buttons that allow you to re-buy your most recently purchased items with one click. You can also create your own Dash buttons. Today, Amazon announced the Virtual Dash Button Service (VDBS), a developer kit that will allow third parties to create Dash buttons and display them inside their own devices with screens.

Amazon also announced that new companies have joined Dash Replenishment. The program measures the supply and use of consumables; when you're running out, it will automatically reorder more of whatever it is you're using. HP is now developing printers that automatically reorder ink, while 3M is working on air filters that can order their own replacements. Kenmore's new line of appliances will automatically reorder supplies, such as air filters and laundry detergent, while illy's new coffee maker (that is now available for purchase) will reorder capsules. ... "

Baidu Builds Raven H Assistant

Reported this previously regards its use of the Duer platform.     See my tags below to see more about that.

Baidu takes aim at Amazon and Google with the Raven H, its first smart speaker    By Brandon Widder in DigitalTrends.

Google is no longer the only search engine with a digital assistant under its belt. Baidu, which operates the most popular search engine in China and recently acquired smart home startup Raven, was on hand at CES to showcase the forthcoming Raven H and establish itself as yet another player in the crowded field of digital assistants.

Much like the Amazon Echo and like-minded Google Home, the Raven H is a voice-activated speaker that’s built upon an artificial intelligence platform (in this case, DuerOS). The stylish, colorful device is the result of Swedish engineering, and makes use of a detachable LED touchscreen that flips up and lets you to control all aspects of your smart home. Once connected to your home network, the tower-like device can hail a cab, turn on your lights, read the news, and play music via several high-end audio components that come courtesy of Tymphany..... " 

Implementing Chatbots

What departments should you talk to before implementing a chatbot?    In Chatbot magazine, which is new to me.   Good thoughts.  But no mention of Legal?   In our own implementations we spent most of our time with legal.  May well be wrapped up with the Marketing interaction.

Rethinking Process for AI Applications

 Ultimately this is a key point for any innovative change, how does it link to actual current or proposed business process?   And especially for scaled solutions.  Good piece, but due to the fact its in the WSJ,  you need to subscribe to get the full story.

To Scale AI, Rethink Business Processes: MIT’s Brynjolfsson   By Steven Norton in the WSJ

Chief information officers said 2018 could be the year they deploy machine learning across their companies to automate repetitive tasks and augment human workers. But getting there won’t be easy. Many firms are still figuring out what tasks to automate, and are exploring ways to organize their teams to support more machine learning. “It’s not...  

Amazon on Private Label

Amazon has dabbled in this space already.   How will it be integrated with classic CPG marketing?

Is Amazon poised to dominate private-label products?

Amazon not only offers its AmazonBasics line of private-label products, but the company also brings in sales from the nearly 45 other brands it owns. Because Amazon can pore through its customer and sales data, the retailer is likely to launch new products to compete with high-selling brands and dominate private-label sales in 2018, writes Shareen Pathak.

Amazon has long honed the business of being the middleman — getting brands to sell on its site, letting shoppers pay for and receive those items fast and efficiently.

But 2017 was the year Amazon started taking steps to create its own brands. If done at the right price point, Amazon will be in a strong position next year to prove it not only can help other retailers grow, it can be a retailer itself.

Amazon already has its AmazonBasics line of essentials like batteries and chargers. These items are largely commoditized, said Forrester analyst Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali. It’s easy for Amazon to keep growing there: By bumping those products up in search results and pricing them right — which will be easy to do since Amazon owns the data — this line is poised to keep growing. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Detecting Deception

Skeptical, like to see more.

A New AI That Detects 'Deception' May Bring an End to Lying as We Know It    Futurism   By Dom Galeon in Futurism in ACM News

Researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) have developed the Deception Analysis and Reasoning Engine (DARE), which uses artificial intelligence (AI) to autonomously detect deception in courtroom trial videos. The team trained DARE to seek out and classify human micro-expressions, such as "lips protruded" or "eyebrows frown," and analyze audio frequency for vocal patterns that signal whether a person is lying or not. DARE then was tested with a training set of videos in which actors were told to either lie or be honest. UMD's Bharat Singh says DARE outperformed the average person in detecting lies, and notes "a remarkable observation was that the visual AI system was significantly better than common people at predicting deception." Singh estimates DARE scored an area under the curve (AUC) of 0.877, which rose to 0.922 when combined with human annotations of micro-expressions, while ordinary people score an AUC of 0.58. .... " 

Facebook Stops their M Assistant

Somewhat of a surprise.   I liked the fact that they had create a 'concierge' model that included some human expertise.   But indications are that too much of it was human driven and thus too expensive. As in our experiments, the concierge is

Facebook kills virtual assistant M  in the BBC.
Facebook M, a text-based personal assistant launched in beta form in August 2015, is to be killed off.

The human-enhanced version of M was made available through a chatbot on Facebook Messenger to a few thousand people in California but was expected to be rolled out to more users.

The firm confirmed that the service would not be extended, describing it as an "experiment".

One analyst said the service had failed to live up to expectations.

A spokesperson for Facebook's Messenger service told the BBC that M was to be axed, saying: "We launched this project to learn what people needed and expected of an assistant, and we learned a lot.

"We're taking these useful insights to power other AI (artificial intelligence) projects at Facebook.

"We continue to be very pleased with the performance of M suggestions in Messenger, powered by our learnings from this experiment."

Human help
M was described as a Siri-like personal assistant that could be used to carry out functions such as booking restaurants and flights and sending gifts.

It relied on human help - some suggest as much as 70% of the work. ....   "


Brought to my attention, examining.


Pypestream brings the on-demand economy to enterprises, everywhere. Enterprises using Pypestream can now digitally transform and automate their customer experience resulting in cost reduction, improved customer satisfaction and loyalty and accelerated customer acquisition.

Pypestream is implemented across 10 industry verticals such as Insurance,  Healthcare, Utilities, Telecommunications, Consumer Goods, Travel and Hospitality and government. Businesses use Pypestream for customer service, marketing and promotion and internal processes. .... " 

LG on Robotics

Long and interesting piece on LG's work in robotics.   As always most interested in how consumers interact with robotics to provide value.  Nice to see an appliance company examining aspects of trust.

People don't want to talk to LG's big friendly robots

But the company thinks artificial emotion could be the solution.

By Richard Lai, @richardlai in Engadget

Last year was when talking to a smart speaker started to become the norm, but surprisingly, LG has struggled to replicate the same success with its CLOi series commercial robots. Ahead of LG's CES show, I talked to its Head of Research for Life Robots, Jaewon Chang, who updated on the company's robot trial service in South Korea's Incheon International Airport. Since deployment in July, each of the five Guide Robots has interacted with around 2,500 people. However, only a quarter of travelers used voice interaction, with the majority preferring the touchscreen mounted vertically on the robot's chest. Likewise, just as few people let the robots guide them to their destination. Chang needs to find a way to boost those figures -- and make us learn to trust these big friendly robots.  .... "

Statistical Techniques You Should Know

Beyond the data scientist, the manager who is using analytics should know the basics of these techniques.   Data Scientists as they are now called should know the details involved with data in their own areas of application and context. Good overview.