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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.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

US, China Looking for an AI Stack

From O'Reilly.

The artificial intelligence computing stack
A look at why the U.S. and China are investing heavily in this new computing stack.  By Reza Zadeh

Reza Zadeh will be keynoting and speaking at the AI Conference in Beijing, April 10-13, 2018. Hurry—best price ends January 26.  ... 

A gigantic shift in computing is about to dawn upon us, one that is as significant as only two other moments in computing history. First came the “desktop era” of computing, powered by central processing units (CPUs), followed by the “mobile era” of computing, powered by more power-efficient mobile processors. Now, there is a new computing stack that is moving all of software with it, fueled by artificial intelligence (AI) and chips specifically designed to accommodate its grueling computations.

In the past decade, the computational demands of AI put a strain on CPUs, unable to shake off physical limits in clock speed and heat dissipation. Luckily, the computations that AI requires only need linear algebra operations, the same linear algebra you learned about in high school mathematics. It turns out the best hardware for AI speaks linear algebra natively, and graphics processing units (GPUs) are pretty good at that, so we used GPUs to make great strides in AI. .... " 

Alexa Enabled AR Glasses

I think there is a higher likelihood that something connected to a known and trusted assistant, like Alexa or Google Home will succeed.     But security and privacy, both to the user and the people around people using such glasses, will still be a big issue.  Our own experiments showed there could be real value in narrow domains.

Will consumers wear Alexa-enabled AR glasses?

by Matthew Stern  in RetailWire with Expert Commentary. 

Augmented reality (AR) glasses may finally offer the functionality needed to convince people to wear them — by letting users leverage Amazon.com’s Alexa voice-activated technology.

This year’s CES show will feature the debut of a pair of Alexa-ready AR glasses by Vuzix Corp., according to the Chicago Tribune. Vuzix will initially retail the glasses for $1,000 when releasing them in the second quarter of 2018 (with the eventual goal of cutting that price point in half by 2019). Wearers will be able to speak to Alexa and ask the digital assistant to display images, like maps, on the glasses’ AR readout. The device has been confirmed by Amazon to be the first smart glasses outfitted with Alexa.  .... 

But there remains a belief in some tech circles that a wearable will likely be the device that moves us away from our smartphones and toward interacting with technology in a more intuitive way. For instance, at last year’s IRCE conference, Imran Asani, principal manager of innovation at Walmart Labs, forecasted AR becoming ubiquitous in the next five years, delivered by smart glasses or a similar device.   ....  " 

See also in VRFocus.

Cortana as Windows Assistant

Nice idea, looking forward to a demonstration.  So far have not seen much of value from the Cortana assistant.

Cortana as an assistant for Windows

Microsoft Windows might get easier to navigate with new Cortana Follow Me ... Follow the bouncing blue orb
by Thuy Ong @ThuyOng

IBM Institute for Business Value

Stating to follow the writing of:

IBM Institute for Business Value
Discover emerging trends, business innovations and success patterns

Access our latest thought leadership through the IBV app ...


Evaluate business process performance using open standards for benchmarking

Our benchmarking data is built around a common, cross-industry Process Classification 

Framework, which means that business performance can be objectively evaluated. ... "

Monday, January 08, 2018

More on Alexa Pitching Brands

Further discussion.   Amazon will also have to consider how this will position themselves against, at this time, Google Home, and then other emerging competitors.   If the assistant is seen as more of a advertising channel, it may become less of a first choice for the smart home.   Note the statement that  ... currently Alexa's suggestions are algorithmic and not paid.

Amazon may put Alexa to work pitching brands
by Tom Ryan in Retailwire  with further expert discussion at the link.

According to CNBC, Amazon is in discussions with some major CPG vendors about presenting ads via Echo devices. The ads promise to work similar to Google search with brands paying to be mentioned higher than other suggestions.

The ads may be offered as suggestions when users ask for information from Alexa. CNBC wrote, “Someone asking the Echo for help cleaning up a spill might be nudged to use a specific brand.” An ad may also be presented as the first suggestion for a brand when shopping for a certain item. Complementary add-on suggestions could also be sponsored. Currently, Alexa’s suggestions are algorithmic and not paid.

“If sponsored brands become the first names that Alexa lists on a long list of results, it’s likely more people will just accept the top result, even if it’s an ad, because that’s preferable to listening to the voice assistant drone on,” wrote Shannon Liao for The Verge.  .... " 

When Computers Disappear

What Life Will Be Like When the Computers Disappear

USA Today    By Edward C. Baig

The expected transition to an ambient computing era driven by advances in artificial intelligence (AI), speech recognition, natural language processing, machine learning, and cloud computing should make computers all but invisible in the future. Experts envision innovations making certain devices operable without requiring manual intervention. They think such functions will be facilitated by invisible sensors that feed users' movements and routines into cloud-computing servers where AI systems interpret and refine the instructions they provide to smart devices. Examples of such advancements include efforts by Facebook to let people "hear" with their skin, while futurist Ray Kurzweil expects by the 2030s there will be health-regulating "devices that are as powerful as your cellphones today that are the size of blood cells." Experts say it is critical that developers address the technology's privacy and security issues, while also solving the requirement for always-on devices, which is impeding the rollout of mobile ambient computing.  .... " 

Cortana Voicebots in China

In Voicebot.

Xiaomi has launched a new Microsoft Cortana powered smart speaker called Yeelight Voice Assistant. 

The Yeelight product line is known in China for smart home products and includes smart lighting that integrates Cortana for voice control. Yeelight Voice Assistant looks identical to an Echo Dot and will start shipping in China in late January. This is not Xiomi’s first smart speaker. The company launched the Xiaomi Mi AI smart speaker in July. That product was priced at just 299 Yuan or about US$45 but did not list Cortana integration.

The price for the Yeelight Voice Assistant is listed as 199 Yuan or just over US$30 at today’s exchange rate. That puts the pricing at about the level that Amazon Echo Dots and Google Home Mini’s were selling during the holiday season, but 40% less than their list price. More important for Xiaomi today is that it is much less than the US$99 cost of the Alibaba Tmall Genie and the US$256 Raven H from Baidu. There is a model of the LingLong DingDong from JD.com that is listed at 199 Yuan so Yeelight will not have the low end of the market entirely to itself. What all of this shows us is that the Chinese smart speaker market has quickly become even more dynamic and competitive than the U.S. market. .... "

Aipoly for Autonomous Market Shopping

This will be shown at this week's CES conference in Las Vegas:

Fully Autonomous  Markets

200,000 new small businesses are born every day around the world. We help bring their products on shelves near you using AI, turning any space into a fully working market ... 

No queues, no checkout.

Autonomous Store Platform   Give a brain to your business

Unprecedented Instantaneous DataMarket owners and suppliers can view the movement of  products in real time, gaining instant notifications on stock-outs, sales, and rich analytics obtainable nowhere else.... 

Aipoly's AI can track items on shelves at intervals of a few milliseconds, making suggestions for ideal layouts, allowing fast A/B testing, producing heat maps, and a lot more .... 

No cards, no cash, no checkoutThe Autonomous Store Platform allows you to pick up items, walk away, and charges you upon exit. Download the Aipoly app to set up an account, and you will gain checkoutless access to all Autonomous Markets worldwide. You will get a detailed receipt as soon as you exit the market's door or perimeter.  ....  " 

See Also, the AI Vision App  (More as I get to test it)  Implements shelf recognition and selection.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

Think with Google says Smart Speakers Changing Technology

In the latest Think with Google,  Google provides stats about "Smart Speaker"  (advisory) systems, and provides interesting data about their use by consumers.   Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot are mentioned and  but not separately distinguished.  And as a result they say "People's relationship to technology is shifting - fast".   Remarkable read that praises the change.

You’ll want to listen to this

If you’ve spent any time online or watching TV in the last couple of months, you’ve undoubtedly seen ads for voice-activated speakers. Spots for the Google Home Mini and Amazon Echo Dot were in particularly heavy rotation as holiday marketing heated up. And if the holiday season is any indication, more people than ever will be looking to voice-activated speakers for assistance in 2018. Google wanted to get a better understanding of what's happening in this space, so we talked to people who own voice-activated speakers. People’s relationship with technology is shifting—fast. Below is a taste of what we’re finding. We’re going to dive deeper into the numbers this week, but for now you can see much more of the data here.   .... " 

From Google's Think with Google.   Read the results of their stats at link above.

Extreme Event Forecasting at Uber

Spent quite some time in the enterprise considering extreme events.  Interesting to see Uber's way to address this. With some technical details.   In DSC, posted by Amelia Matteson:

Extreme Event Forecasting at Uber - with Recurrent Neural Networks    This article is by Nikolay Laptev, Slawek Smyl, and Santhosh Shanmugam.

At Uber, event forecasting enables us to future-proof our services based on anticipated user demand. The goal is to accurately predict where, when, and how many ride requests Uber will receive at any given time.

Extreme events—peak travel times such as holidays, concerts, inclement weather, and sporting events—only heighten the importance of forecasting for operations planning. Calculating demand time series forecasting during extreme events is a critical component of anomaly detection, optimal resource allocation, and budgeting.

Although extreme event forecasting is a crucial piece of Uber operations, data sparsity makes accurate prediction challenging. Consider New Year’s Eve (NYE), one of the busiest dates for Uber. We only have a handful of NYEs to work with, and each instance might have a different cohort of users. In addition to historical data, extreme event prediction also depends on numerous external factors, including weather, population growth, and marketing changes such as driver incentives.

A combination of classical time series models, such as those found in the standard R forecast package, and machine learning methods are often used to forecast special events. These approaches, however, are neither flexible nor scalable enough for Uber.

In this article, we introduce an Uber forecasting model that combines historical data and external factors to more precisely predict extreme events, highlighting its new architecture and how it compares to our previous model. .... " 

Advances in Sensory Substitution

Been reading about this for many years,  are real advances here?   Article looks at the history, technology and likely advances.

Feeling Sounds, Hearing Sights   By Gregory Mone 

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61 No. 1, Pages 15-17

 In a 2016 video, Saqib Shaikh, a Microsoft Research software engineer, walks out of London's Clapham Station Underground stop, turns, and crosses a street, then stops suddenly when he hears an unexpected noise. Shaikh, who lost his sight when he was seven years old and walks with the aid of the standard white cane, reaches up and swipes the earpiece of his glasses.

The video then shifts to the view from his eyewear, a pair of smart glasses that capture high-quality still images and videos. That simple swipe instructed the glasses, an experimental prototype designed by a company called Pivothead, to snap a still photo. Microsoft software analyzed the picture, then translated the findings into auditory feedback. Through the smart glasses, which include a small speaker, Shaikh hears the results from an automated voice: "I think it's a man jumping in the air doing a trick on a skateboard."

The Pivothead smart glasses and Microsoft AI technology belong to a broader class of what have become known as sensory substitution technologies, apps and devices that collect visual, auditory, and in some cases haptic stimuli, and feed the information to the user through another sensory channel. While the utility of these devices has long been debated in the vision- and hearing-impaired communities, recent advances suggest that sensory substitution technologies are finally starting to deliver on their promise.  .... "

Personal Assistants Cloning Yourself

Digital Twins taken beyond the basic idea.  In some ways this is much harder than building an assistant.   We sought something like it when we replaced green coffee managers with expert systems in the 90s.   But must it be an avatar?

Why you’ll fire Siri and do the job yourself
In the world of A.I., the best virtual assistant might turn out to be your virtual self.   By Mike Elgan,   Contributing Columnist, Computerworld |
Why you’ll fire Siri and do the job yourself
In the world of A.I., the best virtual assistant might turn out to be your virtual self.

Have you ever wished you could clone yourself? Imagine how much you could accomplish.

The future of A.I. will make something kind of like that possible. By scanning your face and voice and observing how you talk and what you know, future A.I. could build a virtual assistant that’s a virtual you.    Sounds like science fiction. But one company is already working on it. .... 

A company based in Pasadena, Calif., called ObEN built a 3D A.I. avatar technology that produced what it calls a “personal A.I.,” or PAI. .... " 

ObEN Blog with proposed examples of use.

Confusion Mapping for Worst Case

Intriguing piece.

Robots Are Wrong Too—Confusion Mapping for the Worst Case
Here be dragons
By Chris Butler,  Strategy and product at Philosophie NYC    https://philosophie.is/

When was the last time a calculator didn’t do what you wanted it to? When was the last time that a person did? Algorithms like machine learning are in between these two from a deterministic standpoint.

Today we are building machines that are more complex than we can understand and we need to deal with them differently than we would previous technologies. It is no longer about specifying what we want something to do and then debugging it.

At Philosophie we have been building new tools and exercises like Empathy Mapping for the Machine to bring human purpose to AI and machine learning projects. The latest is what we call Confusion Mapping and it helps you better prepare for the all the possible ways non-deterministic systems could fail. .... "

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Memes, Protomemes and Popularity

Quite interesting, technical, detailed experimentation with data and unclear possible applications. How advertising and results are influenced

Popularity Spikes Hurt Future Chances for Viral Propagation of Protomemes  By Michele Coscia

Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61 No. 1, Pages 70-77

A meme is a concept introduced by Dawkins12 as an equivalent in cultural studies of a gene in biology. A meme is a cultural unit, perhaps a joke, musical tune, or behavior, that can replicate in people's minds, spreading from person to person. During the replication process, memes can mutate and compete with each other for attention, because people's consciousness has finite capacity. Meme viral spreading causes behavioral change, for the better, as when, say, the "ALS Bucket Challenge" meme caused a cascade of humanitarian donations,a and for the worse, as when researchers proved obesity7 and smoking8 are socially transmittable diseases. A better theory of meme spreading could help prevent an outbreak of bad behaviors and favor positive ones. .... " 

" ... Conclusion ..... We have tested some of the predictions of a theory that claims that meme success eschews similarity, because similar memes interfere with one another and get less attention.11 We tested the theory on Reddit and Hacker News, two popular social-bookmarking websites. Successful posts can hit each site's highly visible front page and then be copied many times over by people who want to use them to be able to get their own posts to appear on the front page. The expected popularity of these posts should thus decrease. We showed that this is the case, though on Reddit some posts might still experience subsequent popularity spikes; Hacker News appears to be resilient to this phenomenon. We explain this apparent contradiction by showing these posts (with persistent popularity spikes on Reddit) have low canonicity; that is, they are usually dissimilar from the average post containing their protomeme. We showed that canonicity has a nonlinear effect. .... " 

New Ways to Touch in AR

Its all about accurate and efficient interaction.

Touching The Future Of Augmented Reality
A collaboration between Meta, Ultrahaptics and ZeroLight demonstrates a new way for AR objects to be interacted with. ... 

 By  Rebecca Hills-Duty in VRFocus

On the Terms We Use

Good discussion on the terms we use.  With some good graphics included later in the article, click through.

Machine Learning – Can We Please Just Agree What This Means

Posted by William Vorhies  in DSC

Summary:  As a profession we do a pretty poor job of agreeing on good naming conventions for really important parts of our professional lives.  “Machine Learning” is just the most recent case in point.  It’s had a perfectly good definition for a very long time, but now the deep learning folks are trying to hijack the term.  Come on folks.  Let’s make up our minds.

As a profession we do a pretty poor job of agreeing on good naming conventions for really important parts of our professional lives.  How about ‘Big Data’?  Terrible.  It’s not about just size although if you asked most non-DS practitioners that’s what they’d say.  Or how about ‘Data Scientist’.  Nope.  Can’t really agree on that one either.

Now we come to ‘Machine Learning’.  If you asked 95 out of 100 data scientists, specifically those who are not doing deep learning they would unanimously agree that this definition hasn’t changed over at least the last 15 years:

The application of any computer-enabled algorithm that can be applied against a data set to find a pattern in the data.  This encompasses basically all types of data science algorithms, supervised, unsupervised, segmentation, classification, and regression including deep learning.... "

Wal-Mart on Personalization of Data

Quite an interesting piece.   I have worked with the earliest Wal-Mart data systems, so this is yet more serious stuff.  Historically no retailer has had more data, or used it better.  Though Amazon is now rapidly catching up, and by its nature creates more data at a personal level.

Walmart Is Investing In Shopper Data: How That Will Change The Grocery Aisle   By Bryan Pearson -  in CustomerThink

It might not be able to put a price on trust, but Walmart is preparing to pay the fare for getting personal, and it could cost the entire food industry billions in shifting sales.

The world’s largest brick-and-mortar merchant has acknowledged it is lagging in the quest to personalize through the use of shopper data. Now, perhaps because of Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, which could yield unprecedented in-store and online data models, Walmart is embarking on a “multiyear journey” to get its data in good enough shape to produce relevant personalized experiences.

“From 1 to 10 in our use of data, I would say we’re probably about a 2,” Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart, recently told attendees at its annual investor conference. “We use data to improve in-stock and replenish. We don’t use data to personalize.”   .... "

Friday, January 05, 2018

Assistant Enabled Mirrors

More on magic mirrors, with their own embedded assistants now.   So is a mirror an element of the IoT?

Verdera, an Alexa-enabled mirror from Kohler, makes your whole bathroom smart  By Jenny McGrath

Some people may view their bathrooms as a fortress of solitude or sanctuary for soaking in a bubble bath, but that doesn’t mean Amazon doesn’t want to be there, only a whisper away. One of the latest products to include the company’s smart assistant, Alexa, is from Kohler, which added voice capability to its new Verdera mirror, just in time for the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show. .... " 

Smart Contracts via Hyperledger

Brought to my attention.  Good descriptions and code for experiments with the idea.  I like some of the non technical descriptions of the idea provided.  I like the 'Smart Contracts' direction because it pays attention to specific process.  Useful with clients and colleagues. 

Create and execute blockchain smart contracts  

Create and execute smart contracts within a blockchain application using Hyperledger Composer ... 

Organizations that use blockchain depend on trusted transactions to securely automate processes that were previously completed manually. In this developer journey, you’ll learn how to use the Hyperledger Composer framework to create and execute smart contracts. Those contracts will run within a blockchain application built on Hyperledger Fabric. .... 

" ... A good way to understand smart contracts is to compare the technology to a vending machine. Ordinarily, to complete a contract you’d go to an attorney, pay that attorney a fee, and wait to receive the document in question, whether a house closing agreement, a divorce decree, or any other “official” documentation. With the smart contract model, you simply drop a token into the vending machine–that is, the ledger–and your document (or candy bar) is provided to you, or deposited into your account. It’s a straightforward process requiring no additional intervention from anyone. ... "

Intro to Genetic Algorithms

We used Genetic Algorithms (GA) in the enterprise. Have not heard much about them in the press lately, so it was nice to see this presentation online.   See previous writing here about the idea and suitable applications at the tag below.   Worth understanding:

Evolve with Genetic Algorithms

Charlie Koster introduces genetic algorithms, what they are, what they are useful for, and demonstrates code that shows how to create and use them. .... " 

Retail at Toys R Us

Retail issues:

Playing For Keeps. What Toys "R" Us Needs To Do Now
 By Ashley Gorrie CEO.  via Path to Purchase Institute

About this Linkedin Group:

We teach and we enable learning about all best practices for marketing along the entire path-to-purchase, culminating at retail. Through a variety of different platforms, we seek to accumulate, interpret and share news and information relevant to advancing the art and science of shopper marketing. ... " 

Half of US Uses Digital Voice Assistants

Assistants continue to increase their penetration into the home.    People are getting used to voice interaction. New statistics about their use and abilities. In TechCo.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

On Transparent Decision Making

Am a student of the analysis of the process of decision making.

The Downside of Transparent Decision Making  In Kellogg Insight ... 

Why you’ll get a better recommendation from a committee that deliberates behind closed doors.   Based on the research of Ronen Gradwohl and Timothy Feddersen

How transparent should decision making be?

You’re an executive with a big decision to make. Perhaps there is a key C-suite position to fill, or a question about whether to enter a new market. So you turn to an advisory committee, appointing people who you believe will offer wise counsel because they collectively have more information about the issue than you do.

It would seem logical that you would want that committee to be fully transparent with you in their deliberations, right? After all, you would get more information if you knew what went on behind closed doors.

But according to a recent analysis by a pair of Kellogg School researchers, requiring transparency may actually yield less information than allowing deliberations to go on in private.  .... " 

DARPA Does Gremlin Swarms

We saw proposals in this space when we examined the use of cooperative swarming in places like warehouses,  some time ago.  Now Gremlins, small drones,  can be dropped from planes and retrieved.    Don't think the big idea here is the retrieving, its the swarming.   In Breakingdefense: 

" ... General Atomics’ secret weapon isn’t the drone. It’s the mechanical arm that catches it in mid-flight — and then hauls it into the back of a C-130 cargo plane, also in mid-flight.

General Atomics, which builds the iconic Predator, has rolled out its offering for DARPA’s Gremlins program, blandly called the Small Unmanned Air Vehicle (SUAS). The goal: Build drones — and equally critical, a launch and recovery system — that can take off from a manned aircraft, conduct a mission and come back aboard the plane.

Getting the drone back is “the DARPA-hard part,” said Chris Pehrson, General Atomics VP for Strategic Development in an interview at the Air Force Association conference here last week. GA’s solution blends sophisticated software with cartoony mechanics, as if their senior engineer were Wiley E. Coyote.   .... "  

Self Awareness

What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It)
Tasha Eurich in HBR

Self-awareness seems to have become the latest management buzzword — and for good reason. Research suggests that when we see ourselves clearly, we are more confident and more creative. We make sounder decisions, build stronger relationships, and communicate more effectively. We’re less likely to lie, cheat, and steal. We are better workers who get more promotions. And we’re more-effective leaders with more-satisfied employees and more-profitable companies. .... " 

Comparing Standard error vs R Squared

Nicely done simple stat point made in this DSC post ....

Standard Error of the Regression vs. R-squared   by Jim Frostin in DSC

The standard error of the regression (S) and R-squared are two key goodness-of-fit measures for regression analysis. While R-squared is the most well-known amongst the goodness-of-fit statistics, I think it is a bit over-hyped.

In this post, I’ll compare these two statistics. We’ll also work through a regression example to help make the comparison. I think you’ll see that the oft overlooked standard error of the regression can tell you things that the high and mighty R-squared simply can’t. At the very least, you’ll find that the standard error of the regression is a great tool to add to your statistical toolkit!  .... "

Alexa Controlling Ovens

Not unexpected, but another reach into smart home control.  Assuming this will require appliance design change rather than after market controls.  Note Samsung is mentioned, which implies it will buy into the Alexa commands, perhaps adding to its own Bixby assistant approach?   I would not put controlling an oven high on my automation list,  despite being a frequent cook, but shows the further acceptance of the idea by manufacturers as a differentiating feature.

Alexa will soon be able to control ovens and microwaves
By Jacob Kastrenakes in The Verge.

If you own a smart microwave or oven, you might soon be able to control it with Alexa. Amazon announced today that it’s adding microwave and oven control features to its smart assistant, allowing it to handle requests like “Alexa, microwave for 50 seconds on high.” Amazon says that support for other cooking appliances will be added later.  .... " 

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Humans as Neurons Strategy

Brought to my attention.  Takes me back to our early days of neural nets, and thinking about how error minimizing reinforcement worked in alliance with an architecture of neurons.  We thought of them as very restricted societies, or companies aiming at some goal.  Like making money or recognizing patterns. Some objective function linked to an outcome.  - FAD

The Human Strategy
A Conversation With Alex "Sandy" Pentland   In The Edge,   Podcast

The idea of a credit assignment function, reinforcing “neurons” that work, is the core of current AI. And if you make those little neurons that get reinforced smarter, the AI gets smarter. So, what would happen if the neurons were people? People have lots of capabilities; they know lots of things about the world; they can perceive things in a human way. What would happen if you had a network of people where you could reinforce the ones that were helping and maybe discourage the ones that weren't?

That begins to sound like a society or a company. We all live in a human social network. We're reinforced for things that seem to help everybody and discouraged from things that are not appreciated. Culture is something that comes from a sort of human AI, the function of reinforcing the good and penalizing the bad, but applied to humans and human problems. Once you realize that you can take this general framework of AI and create a human AI, the question becomes, what's the right way to do that? Is it a safe idea? Is it completely crazy?  .... "

ALEX "SANDY" PENTLAND is a professor at MIT, and director of the MIT Connection Science and Human Dynamics labs. He is a founding member of advisory boards for Google, AT&T, Nissan, and the UN Secretary General. He is the author of Social Physics, and Honest Signal. Sandy Pentland's Edge Bio page  ...... " 

Product and Experience are King

Interesting positioning.   Of course depends on the category of product that we are talking about, and what kind of experience exists today in their Moments of Truth  (MOT) ...  (Market, Choose, Use) for given demographics of demand.  I like the points being made.   Continuing to think in terms of this.

Product is No Longer King  by Robert Hetu   in the Gartner Blog

The old saying “product is king” is no longer true for retail. Experience is king, and product is a critical component of experience, but consumers increasingly determine the value provided by the associated experience. This is seen by the transition toward click and collect, home delivery, auto-replenishment, in-store entertainment and the growing use of subscription services.
Gillette has lost U.S. market share for six straight years. Its share of the men’s-razors business fell to 54% in 2016, down from 59% in 2015 and more than 70% in 2010 (http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2017/04/04/gillette-bleeding-market-share-cuts-prices-razors.html).  This was driven by low cost subscription services Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s Razors, and others.

Cost plays an important role in this shift, and quality remains a key element, but experience is a major driver and was a well known problem in the industry.  I recall having a discussion back in the 1990’s with someone from one of the major blade manufacturers.  At that time it was explained to me that men used the first 3 razors from a 4-pack in rather short order.  They however tended to use the 4th razor longer than the combined usage time from the first three.  The problem they faced was how to get men to use the 4th razor for a similar time span and then to purchase the next 4-pack, representing a huge sales opportunity.  They never solved the problem. .... " 

GE Pushes Lighting in the Smart Home

GE pushes for more involvement in the Smart Home.   Working with all the major assistants in play today. Looking forward to diving deeper into this.   See also my continually updated look at assistants.

GE doubles down on Alexa, other voice assistants in new smart home push   By Maria Deutscher   in SiliconAngle.

The past year saw Amazon.com Inc. extend the reach of Alexa to a variety of new areas ranging from home security to the enterprise. In 2018, the voice assistant will take on an even bigger role if General Electric Co. has its way.

The manufacturing giant, which has been offering Alexa-enabled devices for a while now, today announced plans to bolster the lineup with two new connected lighting products. The main highlight is a disk-shaped ceiling light (pictured) that is designed to serve as a smart home automation hub. According to GE, the fixture removes the need for customers to set up an extra device such as an Echo speaker if they wish to control their connected appliances.

The fixture works not only with Alexa but also Google Assistant and Siri. The latter integration is accompanied by support for Apple Inc.’s HomeKit framework, which makes it possible to manage smart accessories from an iPhone or iPad. .... " 

Always Look for Bias in Data Analytics

A short, somewhat simplistic, but point-making piece in KD Nuggets on biases in analytics.  Note these kinds of biases occur in all kinds of analytics:  Descriptive, Statistical, Big Data or Deep Learning.  I have seen considerable and damaging biases in enterprise analytics decisions,  so it is good to repeat this point frequently.    Biases always exist,  you need to look for them.  They are the most common reason for analytics failure. 

Confirmation and Selection biases are mentioned as first and most important, as they often are.  I consider these together.   Also, understand that these biases exist even when you are not doing analytics,  many gut-level decisions are driven with them as well.  As the old shampoo directions used to say: Rinse and Repeat ... and make sure you know the data you are working with is clean and unbiased.

Nestle Global Head of Digital Innovation

My former colleague at P&G, now at Nestle writes:

2017: From Mom's Digital Trail to a Brand Safety #Fails

A very personal review of 2017's digital highs and lows by Pete Blackshaw, NestlĂ©'s global head of digital innovation and service models.   ....  By Pete Blackshaw

More on VR Magic Mirror Idea

An old idea, but the technology has been creeping up on doing it well. We demonstrated the concept for years in innovation center venues.

In Fastcompany:     Amazon patents a mirror that lets you try on clothes, virtually. Can this be successfully be linked to their Amazon Look assistant to give useful, visual advice.    Have seen relatively little about that play recently.

Spotify Using Big Data and AI

Very intriguing to see how the data regarding muisc listening is being used to drive behavioral analysis.  Been experimenting with some of that myself.

The Amazing Ways Spotify Uses Big Data, AI And Machine Learning To Drive Business Success

Bernard Marr , in Forbes

Spotify, the largest on-demand music service in the world, has a history of pushing technological boundaries and using big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning to drive success. The digital music company with more than 100 million users has been busy this year enhancing its service and tech capabilities through several acquisitions. Industry watch dogs predict the company will launch an IPO in 2018.

Data: Powerful By-product of Streaming Music

When you have tens of millions of people listening to music every minute of the day, you have access to an extraordinary amount of intel that includes what songs get the most play time, to where listeners are tuning in from and even what device they are using to access the service. There’s no doubt Spotify is a data-driven company and it uses the data in every part of the organization to drive decisions. As the service continues to acquire data points, it’s using that information to train the algorithms and machines to listen to music and extrapolate insights that impact its business and the experience of listeners. .... " 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Alexa and Cortana not in Partnership yet

Noted this with interest last year.  I did test it later last year and got a recognition of Alexa from within Cortana,  but nothing more.  It would be interesting to see a significant partnership occur between assistant systems, knowledge, architecture and data.   In some areas, like in Linkedin,  Microsoft already has a massive architecture and database of jobs, people and companies.  Could that be a place where a real collaboration could start?   That would be a novel collaboration between people and assistant systems.

Amazon and Microsoft have yet to roll out their smart assistant partnership    By Ashley Carman  @ashleyrcarman  in TheVerge.    ..... 

This was also noted in Thurott:

" ....  For those that have been looking forward to this announcement, the delay is not good news and is likely disappointing. But, based on the responses from both companies, hopefully, we will hear something soon, possibly at CES next week. .... " 

Amazon Discussing Alexa Advertising

Started to examine this basic idea a year ago, but Amazon was not allowing advertising embedded in skill or other interactions based on data.   Google built such an empire by using the appeal of providing searches, here Amazon is using the value of assistant voice interactions to attract the consumer.

Amazon has big plans for Alexa ads in 2018; it's discussing options with P&G, Clorox and others

Amazon is in talks to let companies promote their products on Alexa, sources tell CNBC.

Ads will focus on sponsorship opportunities within skills or use data about a buyer's shopping history to suggest products.

By Lauren Hirsch | Michelle Castillo

Amazon is turning to Alexa and asking it to build a big digital advertising business.

The e-tailer has been in talks with several companies about letting them promote products on the best-selling Echo devices, which are powered by the Alexa voice assistant, according to several people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Consumer companies, including Procter & Gamble and Clorox, have been involved in these talks, according to the people.

Some of the early discussions have centered on whether companies would pay for higher placement if a user searches for a product such as shampoo on the device, similar to how paid searches work in Google.

The move by Amazon, which right now does very little advertising on the Echo, could mean big things for consumer companies that are fretting their influence on a voice-powered shopping experience.  ..... " 

Brought to my attention by Walter Riker.

(Updated)  And more in Engadget on this, with more detail.

Thinking Forward about Enterprise Collaboration

Have followed the question of efficieint collaboration, and finding the resources to collaborate for some time.  We even discussed it with Bill Gates during the announcements of the earliest versions of Windows.   Now with Microsoft's acquiring Linkedin, there is even more opportunity to think about an architecture of collaboration.  And AI points us to some means of improving the process and measurement of collaboration.  Some good opinion thoughts below, but does it have to be won by a vendor, or is that inevitable?

How Microsoft can win the upcoming collaboration wars
Its product lineup is confusing at best, but it could still come to dominate this emerging market.       By Preston Gralla in ComputerWorld

 It’s the perennial question: What’s the next big thing in the enterprise? Plenty of people and companies are betting that it’s collaboration tools that improve workers’ productivity by letting them easily work together, whether they’re across the hall or around the world from each other. The research firm Market and Markets, for example, estimates that the enterprise collaboration market will grow from $26.69 billion in 2016 to $49.51 billion by 2021 — a compound annual growth rate of 13.2%.  .... " 

Kroger Self Check

Perhaps one of the many pick-up blue order assembly carts, now often clogging the aisles can ring up your order?

Kroger is the next grocery chain hoping to cut checkout lines    It's expanding its self-checkout scanning tech to hundreds of stores.  By Jon Fingas, @jonfingas

t's not just tech giants like Amazon or corporate behemoths like Walmart that are hoping to reduce the need for checkout lines. Kroger is expanding its Scan, Bag, Go self-checkout technology from a handful of stores in the Cincinnati area (which have been testing it for 5 years) to 400 stores in 2018. The system is mostly similar to Walmart's approach: you scan items as you add them to your cart throughout the store, letting you breeze through the self-checkout terminal once you've paid through your goods (in this case, at the terminal itself). It's not certain which stores will receive the tech, but an announcement is expected in early 2018.

It's no secret as to why chains like Kroger are expanding upgraded self-checkout tech after being content to test it in a limited fashion for years. The desire to cut costs (and unfortunately, jobs) helps, but this is also a counter to Amazon's growing presence in the grocery world, especially now that it owns Whole Foods. If established chains don't make it easier to skip the lines, there's a real chance that Amazon will lure those customers away with promises of scrapping lines, checkouts and in some cases the need to enter the store. .... " 

Google Express Shops Free at Costco

Interesting play that gives a quasi connection to a membership.

Google Express lets you shop at Costco without a membership   in Fastcompany

Good news for wannabe bulk shoppers: You no longer need a Costco membership to stock up on a case of Cup O’ Noodles, two 48 oz bottles of Listerine, and a bag of Kirkland signature tortilla chips the size of Rhode Island. As Delish just pointed out, no more borrowing your uncle’s Costco membership to reap the benefits of bulk buying! You just need to sign up for delivery on Google Express. .... " 

Monday, January 01, 2018

Voice Assistants

Voice, cognitive and increasing value driving this.

Almost Half of America Uses Digital Voice Assistants Now
In the land of new media, audio might not be king yet, but it’s certainly a rising challenger to the throne. Americans listen to nearly four  .... "