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Friday, February 29, 2008

L'Oreal Sponsors Greenies in Second Life

L'Oreal has become a sponsor of the Greenies alien land in Second Life, much more here. I don't see the useful connection, except that they are giving away virtual L'Oreal product, but worth examining.

The Limits of Quantum Computing

In the March Sciam, an article "The Limits of Quantum Computing", a very good overview of the idea of quantum computing and it's limitations. Though the Sciam article is not onine, there is a draft by Scott Aaronson available. Introduction to the complexity of problems realm and how it relates to real-world problems. Though this is important stuff, it is technical and only people with a strong topical interest in math should venture in. The Wpedia also covers the topic well. The published Sciam article does it's best to dumb down the topic with pictures. Where exactly has the Scientific American gone? Read it since the 60s, and now it has abandoned anything other than pop-sci masquerading as depth.

Aaronson is an MIT Prof well known for publishing in this area. Notable is his complexity zoo site. And his blog. The article is also interestingly described and commented on in Slashdot.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Beyond AI

Just brought to my attention: Beyond AI: Creating the Conscience of the Machine, by J. Storrs Hall. AI topics are always of interest. According to the overview, a strong view of ethics issues.

Hitachi's RFID Powder

Could developments like Hitachi's RFID powder be used to make product counterfeiting much more difficult? It's a big issue in consumer goods. At what cost?

Kurzweil Predicts Exponential Change

These kinds of predicted advances have implications beyond game-playing. Games are very analogous to simulations, which can be used to do new kinds of predictive analytics. Games are also interactive, which also predicts new ways to integrate simulations with live people. Of course it is not just about hardware, its above divining software that will efficiently solve the problem.
" ... As microprocessors are progressively able to perform more calculations for less money, we can expect to see the price-to-performance ratio of computers improve a billionfold over the next 25 years, predicted Ray Kurzeil during his keynote speech at the Game Developers Conference. Kurzweil says that modern electronics are so powerful that the other fields that rely on them will be subject to advancements at the same rate as the chips that power them, and that software will ultimately become the limiting factor. "You can't ignore the exponential projections," Kurzweil says. "If you're programming a game or any type of information-based technology two or three years from now, the world's going to be completely different." Kurzweil says that previously unrelated fields will essentially become information technology fields due to the growth in the power of computer devices. For example, he says artificial red blood cells could eventually duplicate the work of the real thing, only 1,000 more efficiently. "Biology is very capable and intricate and clever," Kurzweil says, "but it's also very suboptimal, compared to what we ultimately can build with information technology and nanotechnology." ... "

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wozniak Again

Here is a new interview in Knowledge@Wharton with Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple. Previously I reviewed his quirky autobiographical book: iWoz. Wozniak was the technical brains of Apple while and after he worked at HP. Steve Jobs became the visionary marketing partner. Since then Wozniak has sponsored a number of interesting but until now unsuccessful start-ups.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bloggers and Influence

Joseph Carrabis, who I have briefly mentioned here, writes about Bloggers, Influence and Your Brand. He has some interesting takes on the nature of blogger types and how they influence.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Viewing Talent Needs as a Supply Chain

An interesting view of talent needs, from Knowledge@Wharton, look at them as a supply chain:
" ... This is a fundamentally different paradigm in terms of thinking about talent," according to Cappelli, the author of a book coming out in April titled, Talent on Demand: Managing Talent in an Age of Uncertainty. His theory, he suggests, addresses a major complaint about the field of human resources -- that it is "touchy-feely, squishy stuff with little applicability to business problems. HR practices have typically been about meeting individuals' needs, figuring out what psychological profile they fit and what should be done to help them grow and advance. But if you're an employer who is worried about issues like the finances of the company, you would like HR to think about personnel from the perspective of money and costs, and what happens if you don't have the right people in place to do the necessary jobs." .... "

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Is the Tipping Point Toast?

Good Fast Company article on the 'Tipping Point' controversy that I had missed. We spoke to Watts at a Sante Fe Institute meeting some years ago and he expressed skepticism about direct application of his methods to corporate marketing.

Wal-Mart Learns from Mobile

Evan Schuman writes about Wal-Mart's learnings in mobile advertising.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Goat Commerce on a Cell Phone

Recently seen . A novel example of how mobile commerce is being used effectively in the third world. In particular the payment aspect of this example. Via Khurram Hamid. Will we eventually have cell phones replace cards, which have now been around commonly since the 70s. ? Will there be an intermediate phase with touchless cards? Evan Schuman discusess a bit of the psychology of the phenomenon. I am more optimistic that the transition will be made soon.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Chandler Lost

Mitch Kapor's Chandler project here. The plug has finally been pulled. It may be released in open source form. Scott Rosenberg's 2007 book: Dreaming in Code, was in part about Chandler's development. Looked at this fairly closely as a possible generalized personal information management system, but it's delay led to other approaches. The book is a good read for the those interested in the mix of sociology and coding.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Scanning Images of Familiar Objects

A broad step forward in understanding how patterns of the brain change during thought:
Carnegie Mellon Study Identifies Where Thoughts Of Familiar Objects Occur Inside the Human Brain
A team of Carnegie Mellon University computer scientists and cognitive neuroscientists, combining methods of machine learning and brain imaging, have found a way to identify where people's thoughts and perceptions of familiar objects originate in the brain by identifying the patterns of brain activity associated with the objects. An article in the Jan. 2 issue of PLoS One discusses this new method ... A dozen study participants enveloped in an MRI scanner were shown line drawings of 10 different objects - five tools and five dwellings -one at a time and asked to think about their properties. Just and Mitchell's method was able to accurately determine which of the 10 drawings a participant was viewing based on their characteristic whole-brain neural activation patterns. To make the task more challenging for themselves, the researchers excluded information in the brain's visual cortex, where raw visual information is available, and focused more on the "thinking" parts of the brain .. "

OR Drives Success at Procter & Gamble

Was just sent this BNet article about how Operations Research (OR) is used at P&G. Very good overview. When I joined P&G in 1977 this is what I did for the first 15 years or so.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Launching Old Spice Pro Strength

Below, an item I was sent on the launch of Old Spice Pro-Strength. You may have seen part of the launch on the SuperBowl. See their new site, which links you to a number of media examples. A press release. Check it out. I see that some of the videos are already on Youtube. I must not be the target of this.

"Let's Get Clinical: Launching Old Spice Pro-Strength
Old Spice is launching Pro-Strength Antiperspirant behind an innovative Media plan that heavily leverages Branded Entertainment and Interactive Media.

Old Spice has partnered with Will Ferrell and Newline Cinema's to co-market Old Spice Pro-Strength and the Semi-Pro. Old Spice has seen strong results in the past with movie tie-ins including the 2006 release of Talladega Nights. Old Spice also has a strong history of leadership within emerging digital channels including iMedia, Broadband, and Gaming. With the Pro-Strength campaign, Old Spice is scaling these efforts to new heights behind one of P&G's largest online media spends...."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Attention Markets in the Classroom

You have seen it increasingly of late. People in a meeting with laptops open, typing away. Well, are they fully participating in the meeting or not? Old-school, I try to be polite and lower my screen to at least half-mast. This has become a big issue in higher ed. In fact at the U of Pa I talked to a person involved with Wharton's new room designs who said initially their classrooms were designed specifically to not include wireless capability, to prevent distraction, but he admitted they were reconsidering the approach. Here is a rather heavy-handed response, called Synchroneyes, in a higher ed blog. Is attention at work or school just a market?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Human Level AI by 2029

In the BBC: Machines will achieve human-level artificial intelligence by 2029, a leading US inventor has predicted. At the right, artists impression of how nanomachines will roam the body curing disease. The most optimistic pundit on this topic, Ray Kurzweil, is interviewed in 2005.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Small Business Labs

Steve King is a longtime correspondent from IFTF and Thingmagic. He gave an excellent talk at our recent Ecommerce workshop. Some time ago he sent me an address of his Small Biz Labs blog: Tracking the Future of Small Business. I did not follow it closely then, but in re-examination its really a general personal blog, with applications to technology of interest to all size companies.

Friday, February 15, 2008

GS1 on Mobile Commerce

I have pointed to earlier drafts of this report, it is now available in final form:Mobile Commerce: challenges and opportunities. GS1 is an important global standards body for all variants of wireless capabilities including RFID and cell communications. P&G is on GS1's global board. Contributed to several drafts. Joe Horwood of GS1writes that the paper will be continually updated. If you have any interest in mobile commerce, it's worth reading.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Future of Small Business

Steve King writes, and passes along a link to an interesting article I am now reading:
We just released the 3rd edition of the Future of Small Business report. It is called The New Artisan Economy. This was a joint effort by IFTF, Intuit and Emergent Research (my firm). The report and related materials are at: www.intuit.com/futureofsmallbusiness. The report applies relevant IFTF forecasts and analysis to the small business sector. Because of this, those familar with IFTF and their forecasts will recognize much of the work. It also includes data and insights gleened from Intuit's extensive market research on the small business sector.

Thanks to co-author Anthony Townsend and contributors Alex Pang and David Pescovitz -whose work on the future of manufacturing we proudly plagiarized.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Beating Heart Haptics

Yury Gitman writes via Future Commons:
I thought you'd be interested in hearing about a project I just updated. Back in 2005 I posted here about a high-tech product/art piece I was hand-making and selling. It was/is called My Beating Heart. In short, it's a heart-shaped pillow with a haptic (physical) heartbeat. The thing that makes it novel and unique is that there's a custom made micro inside that I've programmed to algorithmically model the human heart in a deep meditative state. As people hug the heart, their own hearts begin to sync with My Beating Heart's rhythm and it helps them relax and nap ... My Beating Heart ... more about the design and technology.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Braun Designs Inspired Apple

From Gizmodo and The Guardian. I saw a Braun design symposium a few years ago, and read of Braun's design competitions, very impressive.
" ... Apple has been inspired by design from Braun and Braun's design principles established back in the late 1950s and 1960s. The iPhone is Apple’s latest example to reveal similarities with a Braun product -- the calculator graphics of the iPhone mirrors the design of Braun’s calculators almost identically.

This is a great example of how Braun has been at the forefront of innovation since the middle of the last century. Braun has implemented a holistic innovation concept where superior design plays a fundamental role in building the brand and creating a culture of brand excellence. The Braun principle of "less but better design" is reflected in Apple designer, Jonathan Ive’s passion for "simplicity" and "honest design." ... '

Monday, February 11, 2008

Brain Scanning the SuperBowl

Short Ad Age video on brain-scanning Superbowl Ads. Can be downloaded as a podcast. You may need to register, and after a short while they cease being free. This has now been done for at least three years. Details on the work done by Sands Research.

The results do not match well with other ad popularity polls, for example the much praised Tide to Go commercial got low brain activity, though no one knows exactly what this means. Attention perhaps, but will it lead to remembering or buying the item when shopping? The video also gets some terminology wrong, calling it neuroeconomics, which is related to but not the same as neuromarketing. These techniques have started to receive mainstream interest, from Nielsen for example. I am convinced that there will be substantial results from these and related methods.

Update: For something new, see twitter ratings of the ads.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

War Games and AI

I just watched the 1983 film War Games. I closely follow the history of computing, and this is a fun watch to see how much things have changed since 25 years ago. This was one of the first films that positioned AI and security in a generally plausible way. In the realm of that day it was difficult for the average person to search for knowledge to perform a task. At that time the Internet did exist, I had used it as part of the Darpanet. The Web did not, and a high school student would have had a very hard time getting the knowledge they needed.

So what has happened? Now it is possible to search very broadly and very quickly. Defense systems are on separate networks and likely much more secure. Likely. Some of the suggestions of the interaction of real world and simulated systems are impressive for the time, though the security gaps are not credible.

Shortly after I first saw the film I was part of a corporate AI team that sought to implement some of the Artificial intelligence implied by the film. Large scale strategic gaming directed and optimized by computing systems. Taking simple games like checkers and chess and scaling them up to real interactions that include choice making, simulations and fallible people. The promise was a big one. Systems that could run large portions of corporations in a 'lights off' mode. Making product fast, cheaper, better.

Although there were lots of small victories that resulted from these corporate efforts, the big win never happened. What worked best were very narrow applications of AI to corporate process. Difficult too was the attempt to build intelligence that could be readily re-applicable. Bigger wins made it necessary to link many systems, many choices and many indeterminate interactions.

You can readily construct individual rules, simulations, pattern tasks and computations. You can string them together in a program or declare them as a set of knowledge statements. But eventually this falls apart. The sum of these knowledge nuggets becomes less useful in aggregate without some combining structure. Though there is AI theory that covers this, its hard to implement in real systems.

So it's not easy to build generalized intelligence systems. It was also seen early on that it was not easy to insert people in the loop to interact with an intelligent system. More recently, linking decision makers with very complex simulations has shown promise. The AI factor is still not readily available in a generalized way. Will it happen? I think so, but there is still some some fundamental first principle work to do, perhaps another 25 years.

I would love to see examples of how other corporate attempts at the broad implementations of AI succeeded or not. And in particular, what were the key barriers to this kind of work? Part of it is a better understanding of how to integrate low level intelligence tasks.

The film, despite it's age, covers some interesting space and is worth a watch. The final resolution, though, is laughable.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Nielsen Buys into Neuromarketing

It's about using biometrics to determine the reaction of people to stimuli. The best known examples are of the 'lie detector' kind, though these stumble on various interpretations of truth. What has seen the most interest of late are brain-scans that show patterns of brain blood flow. They have been used to evaluate Superbowl commercials and compare product designs. Much skepticism still exists, and many companies are spooked by PR fallout from methods that are perceived as too invasive. Much experimentation underway:

In the Neuromarketing Blog:
" ... Has neuromarketing arrived? If not, it has reached a new plateau of credibility as the privately held Nielsen Company has invested in NeuroFocus, a firm that uses brainwave, eye-tracking and skin conductance measurements to measure consumer reactions to ads and products. Nielsen, best known for its television viewership ratings, has a diverse portfolio of businesses involved in media and marketing ... "
Press release.

Friday, February 08, 2008

3D Virtual Design for the Novice

3-D Design for the Masses
Dryad's new user interface aims to make it easier for novices to create realistic objects for virtual worlds. A very simple idea that makes it easy to construct 3D objects by selecting them and then modifying them. Its all about trees right now, but you could see where this could go. Their site.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Google Analytics Install

I continue to make some changes to this blog. Yesterday I added Google Analytics functionality. Was fairly easy. Most of the problems I encountered existed on the Blogger side. Along the way I lost some confidence in Google products. I tried to add it as a Java/HTML block, but somehow the save would not work. So I edited it into the HTML code. It seems to be recording hits to the blog now. Along the way I discovered EpikOne, a company that does consulting and training for GA, and also has a useful scanner that will check out your site to see if GA has been properly installed. Its also useful to go to the Google Analytics Blog where the latest in tools and updates can be found. I have used GA for over a year now on internal sites and it works well.

Ford Tags Tools

This week Ford has announced a new capability for truck fleets it sells to contractors. In collaboration with DeWalt tools, the tools will be tagged with an RFID tag. The truck will then be able to detect if all the tools are in place. Results is fewer lost tools. Also useful for service applications where the dispatched truck needs to have some subset of tools available for a job. Results in fewer wasted trips. Thingmagic, who also works with us, is providing the tagging solutions for this. Clever use of the technology, making systems aware of their contexts. Free cup of coffee for an internal use of this idea Here is their brochure of the solution. Via Steve King. More details on the announcement, which further details the truck as an office concept.

Virtual China

The Institute for the Future, who we have worked with since the late 70s has a blog called Virtual China.
" ... Virtual China is an exploration of virtual experiences and environments in and about China. The topic is also the primary research area for the Institute for the Future's Asia Focus Program in 2006. IFTF is an independent, nonprofit strategic research group with more than 35 years of forecasting experience based in Palo Alto, CA. ...
Just started to follow it again, a rich source of internet activities in China.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Web 2.0 Applications

Colleagues point to an excellent index of Web 2.0 applications that can replace much of the for-pay bloatware that we use every day. Free applications on the Web that do most everything you need. Having this all in one place makes it easy to see the progress here. Is it only a matter of time before we get all of our software this way?

Project Management as a Service

Microsoft Project has been in use here for some time. I have used it for two large projects. I have just had the chance to look at project management Saas (Software as a service), two cases, Central Desktop and Basecamp. There are others, but these seem to be the most used. It's is often hard to manage large projects if you cannot precisely divide it into tasks.

I have always thought that it was more important to deliver stronger collaboration, than precisely predicted time lines. That's exactly what these packages try to do. I would guess that MS Project is more bloated with options, and thus harder to use as well. Note my experience with MS Project is now several years old. I found these other packages fairly easy to pick up. As software-as-a-service becomes more common, check these out. Does anyone know of others worth looking at? A sample Central Desktop review.


Colleague Pete Blackshaw has set up a site that collects video recipes. Cucina.com A nice idea, which tries to capture some of the cultural background behind the recipes, beyond the stale, dry recipe cards. I am a long-time amateur cook, so the idea is compelling. May do one myself.

Leonardo Science

Just completed Fritjof Capra's The Science of Leonardo: Inside the Mind of the Great Genius of the Renaissance. The last book of Capra's I had read was The Tao of Physics and somehow have missed all his books since then. Leonardo's work has seen quite a bit of interest in the last twenty years. I had last read Charles Nicholl's Da Vinci bio: Flights of Mind, which impressed me with its focused detail. ( Nicholl's newest book: The Lodger, about a very thin but interesting slice of Shakespeare's life, is on the stack).

Capra's book looks at Leonardo's life and focuses on how his work predated a number of scientific discoveries hundreds of years later. As Capra points out, only about half of Leonardo's journal pages survive, so it's sometimes impossible to make conclusions about his final results. Some of his intermediate conclusions are wrong, so did he correct them later or not? Capra suggests so, but with little clear evidence. Even so, there are lots of fascinating examples.

As a person with background and interest in physics, I was particular taken by some of his work regarding the nature and behavior of light and the propagation of wave energy, predating Newton. His experience as a painter and a practical anatomist helped him think about how light interacted with our visual system in a number of novel ways. Also notable, his life-long interest and experience with turbulence.

Leonardo did not use symbolic mathematics, and his method of geometric argument, partly described in the appendix, is worth looking at. This also led to a 'science born of experience' that is more akin to today's social sciences than the use of math in the physical sciences. Making it even more amazing that he developed what he did. Since he did not publish and most of his work ended up being disregarded and half was lost, little of it acted as a building block for scientists of the next generation.

An easy read, with only the detail required to make the point, this book makes you want to read more. Capra uses a mix of primary and secondary sources and sometimes it made me want to read the books he quotes instead of his text. Also suggest you also look at Nicholl's book. See also Capra's web site, where Oliver Sacks gives an overview of the book.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Duncan Watts Blasts Influencer Models

We met Watts some years ago at the Sante Fe Institute and tried to understand how his theories could link to marketing. From Wim Van de Velde, an interview:
"Buzz-Kill: Columbia Prof Blasts Influencer Model
NEW YORK -- Influencers. Connectors. Mavens. For years, it has been conventional wisdom that to create a buzz, you have to first target those archetypes to get your word out. The theory, outlined in Malcolm Gladwell's 2000 bestseller The Tipping Point, posits that a minority of the population, some say 15%, have an undue influence over the rest of us. Such influencers tend to have more friends than most and also have an urge to acquire social capital (i.e. exclusive information and products) before everybody else. Though Gladwell takes pains to point out that the gregarious people (connectors) need to link up with social currency hoarders (mavens), many lump the two together. Now, Duncan Watts, a Columbia University sociology professor, is charging that the whole theory of influencers is bunk and most of the time buzz is spread by networks and a "critical mass of easily influenced people each of whom adopts, say, a look or brand after being exposed to a single adopting neighbor." ... '
Wim sends along a link to the original paper this article is based on.