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Saturday, January 19, 2019

ISSIP Newsletter, January 2019

At the link is lots of detailed information, past presentation details and future schedule, challenges,  research details, etc. Join us.

International Society of Service Innovation Professionals
ISSIP Monthly Newsletter  |  Issue 40 | January 2019
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Hello ISSIPers!

Happy 2019 and we hope the year has started well for you. Our year has started off with a digital bang and we have a tremendous amount of news for you.  As this is the beginning of the year, we have also included many new events and initiatives for your consideration. But first, our Letter from the Editor reflects on strategy - at the heart of all business and endeavors.

For quite a while now, global business leaders have been talking about rediscovering the importance of product and service quality for business success in a highly competitive world. However, as we said several times in our newsletter, behind the products, services, process, etc. are strategies. So, bearing this in mind, during the Christmas holiday, we have been wondering what strategic trends we should be watching during 2019.   ....   "

AI Changing Music Industry

Better ways to re-use, enhance, even creatively construct to goals.   Sounds like a method we could use on data assets to improve their value.

How AI Is Changing the Music Industry
ABC News   by Katharine Gammon

Artificial intelligence (AI) is working its way into audio mastering through services like LANDR, which has enabled more than 2 million musicians to master 10 million songs since its launch in 2014. Traditionally, audio mastering requires a room with specialized acoustics, which enable a person to hear flaws in the music, remove glitches and crackles, and add loudness to make the sound fuller. However, experts say some aspects of mastering, like equalizing the loudness levels of different songs on a CD or matching the spectral content in bass and high frequencies, are easy to automate. Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Roger Dannenberg said computers could soon make an impact in music composition, but he sees a weakness in AI with regard to production, a more creative process in which the music is manipulated after it is recorded and decisions are made about mixing and arrangement. Dannenberg said, "A computer can write a pop tune, but you can't perform it and make an arrangement unless you get human performers and producers." ...

Communications Between People and Smart Buildings

Every interaction between people and machines is a conversation.   And we are starting to be able to sculpt that conversation in ways that it can be most efficient and useful.   Experiments underway are numerous and broad. 

Improving Communications Between People and Smart Buildings    USC News  in ACM
By Gary Polakovic

University of Southern California researchers determined dialogue between people and smart building systems can improve with a virtual avatar representing building management, with social banter key to improving those communications. The researchers exposed several hundred participants to an office setting in virtual reality, followed by an actual office environment for a smaller cohort; participants interacted with a virtual human agent programmed to make pro-environmental requests, to see whether they cooperated. People responded better when the agent was acting on behalf of the building manager, rather than when it personified the building. Having the requests as part of a social dialogue, like small talk, instead of as a monologue, also improved cooperation. The researchers said, "Including a social dialogue may have helped to overcome the difference between person as by making the building persona more relatable." ... 

Hotel Loses Love for Robots

Followed this early on,   but missed on a potential for an early visit.   They seem to now be working on what makes more practical sense.   Was set up in 2015 near Tokyo Disneyland.

Robot Hotel Loses Love for Robots    The Wall Street Journal

By Alastair Gale; Takashi Mochizuki; David Pierce

A hotel in Japan hyped as the world's first robot-staffed hotel has eliminated more than half of its robots due to mounting complaints. The Henn na, or "Strange," Hotel, whose goal was to address labor shortages with robots, as well as appeal to foreign tourists with its unique concept, experienced frequent robot malfunctions that increased overtime for human staff. Adding to guests' frustration was the robots' inability to keep pace with popular digital assistants like Alexa or Siri, as well as their limited interaction and informational capabilities. In response, newer Strange Hotel branches are only deploying robots that have proven useful, in addition to solutions like solar energy and facial-recognition systems for guestroom keys. Hideo Sawada, president of the travel company that owns the hotel, said, “When you actually use robots you realize there are places where they aren’t needed—or just annoy people.” .... '

Friday, January 18, 2019

Towards Democratizing Data Science

Nice thought, though I wonder how the use/presentation of the results can spin the outcome.  Note the use of Bayesian methods, which we also used extensively to provide more explainable results.   Use of the Jupyter notebook is good for understanding.    Also related to some of our own work modeling data valuation.   Looking deeper

Democratizing Data Science 
MIT News   by Rob Matheson

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers have developed a tool for nonstatisticians that automatically generates models for analyzing raw data. The tool takes in datasets and generates sophisticated statistical models normally used by experts to analyze, interpret, and predict underlying patterns in data. The tool currently resides on Jupyter Notebook, an open source Web framework that allows users to run programs interactively in browsers; users can write just a few lines of code to uncover insights into a range of topics. The system uses Bayesian modeling, a statistical method that continuously updates the probability of a variable as more information about the variable becomes available. The tool uses a modified version of "program synthesis," a technique that automatically creates computer programs given data and a language to work within. Said MIT’s Feras Saad, “People have a lot of datasets that are sitting around, and our goal is to build systems that let people automatically get models they can use to ask questions about that data.”

Rolling Driverless Convenience Stores

Look forward to seeing something like this. 

Stop & Shop to Test Driverless Mobile Markets  in ThePacker

Stop & Shop customers in the Boston area will be able to shop directly from driverless delivery vehicles in a test set to launch this spring. Shoppers will use an app to request the vehicle and choose their fresh produce, meal kits and other items when it arrives, and the technology records the purchase and sends a receipt.  ... " 

Kroger CEO Makes Predictions for Retail's Future

Kroger wants to closely follow the technical future of retail.

Kroger CEO makes predictions for retail's future  in Foodnavigator

The retail of the future will look different from today, combining physical and digital shopping in practical ways that make the most sense for consumers, Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen said during a keynote at Retail's Big Show. "It's going to continually change, which to me makes it super fun," he said.  .... '

Microsoft on How AI can Transform Business

Click through to interact.   Always thinking about how businesses can usefully interact with assistance in doing their work.   AI can be a part, but also things like data visualization, dashboards, Data mining, simpler analytics and more.

How AI Transforms Business – A New Microsoft Series

Microsoft is privileged to work with leading-edge customers and partners who are taking the power of the cloud and artificial intelligence and applying it to their businesses in novel ways. Our new series, How AI Transforms Business, features insights from selective such customers and partners. Join us in these conversations and see how your company and customers may be able to benefit from these solutions and insights.

All Episodes

1. How Can Autonomous Drones Help the Energy and Utilities Industry?
Headquartered in Norway, eSmart Systems develops digital intelligence for the energy industry and for smart communities. When it comes to next-generation grid management systems or efficiently running operations for the connected cities of the future, they are at forefront of digital transformation. In a conversation with Joseph Sirosh, CTO of AI in Microsoft’s Worldwide Commercial Business, Davide Roverso, Chief Analytics Officer at eSmart Systems, talks about interesting new AI-enabled scenarios in world of energy, utilities and physical infrastructure. ....'

Chainlink for Smart Contracts

New developments in Smart Contracts.  Addressing some of the difficult issues with the concept of a smart contract.    Good discussion at the link:

Blockchain Smart Contacts Finally Good for Something in the Real World    In MIT Technology Review   By Mike Orcutt

Startup Chainlink has partnered with Cornell University's Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts to find a reliable way for smart contracts—blockchain-stored computer programs—to connect with real-world events. The concept involves combining smart contracts with real-time "oracle" data feeds so blockchain-based services can interact with events with significantly higher levels of trust. Chainlink's Sergey Nazarov said current oracle services hinder blockchain use because they are centralized and prone to tampering, barring smart contracts' access to real-world data. To overcome this, Chainlink and Cornell developed Town Crier, a "high-trust bridge" between the Ethereum blockchain and HTTPS-enabled online data sources; Town Crier's centerpiece is a program running within an isolated piece of hardware, or secure enclave, that is shielded from attacks while maintaining computation confidentiality. Chainlink's software coordinates decentralized oracle networks harnessing multiple sources of data for smart-contract-based services so that they have no dependence on a single source. ... "  

VR in the Operating Room

Good case for VR.  Complex, real time, lots of sensor data,  collaboration and interaction is key.  We worked on operation room simulation to make them more efficient.

Virtual Reality Gets Real in the Operating Room
Fortune   By Andrew Zaleski

A growing number of hospitals and medical centers are embracing virtual technology (VR), with the goal of providing better and faster training for resident doctors and surgeons. Stanford University students learn anatomy by walking around a lifelike digital hologram of a lung, and transport themselves inside a heart to see the valves and pumping blood. VR technology helps students learn faster, which is especially important in countries like China and India, where a combined 6 million new physicians will be needed by next year. VR can be used either as a fully immersive experience, in which users see only a computer-generated environment, or as a part of mixed reality, in which three-dimensional images are projected onto the physical world. The University of Washington in Seattle’s Richard Satava said VR “gives us a way to judge whether the medical student has learned what they are supposed to learn.” ...  "

NVIDIA Test Robotic Kitchen

In our kitchen lab we also thought the kitchen was a key challenge for robotics, information exchange  and assistance.

This Ikea kitchen is incubating the robots of the future

At Nvidia’s new robot lab in Seattle, UW professor Dieter Fox is betting that a run-of-the-mill Ikea kitchen is the perfect test bed for his next-gen robots.   By Katherine Schwabs in Fastcompany

This week, the computer chip company Nvidia opened a new robotics lab in Seattle. The lab has a lot of what you might expect–loads of electronics and robotic parts, work spaces, and computers everywhere–but the centerpiece is a bit unorthodox: It’s an Ikea kitchen.

That’s because University of Washington robotics professor Dieter Fox, who is on leave from the university to head up this Nvidia lab, believes that the kitchen is the perfect test-bed for the robots of the future.  .... " 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Mining and AI

Mining,  here Geo-Mining, not cryptocurrency or Data-Mining.    A complex, sensor based problem with considerable cost and potential reward, would seem to have real application of AI-style analytics.  But it seems not much has been applied to it.    Why?   Useful summery of challenges and also current companies involved.

Mining and AI.  in  The Wall Street Journal   By Alistair MacDonald; Rhiannon Hoyle

Despite expectations by the mining industry that artificial intelligence (AI) would transform operations, some experts consider that promise overhyped and unrealistic. Companies like Barrick Gold and Rio Tinto are running AI-led projects, but widescale deployment faces obstacles including little executive engagement, more appealing alternative modernization options, and longer-than-anticipated project timeframes. AI's potential benefits to mining include sensor-based data collection to predict breakdowns or improve operational efficiency, and geological data-filtering to locate likely ore deposits. Other challenges to implementing AI-driven changes to the industry include the high cost of the technology, mining's lack of appeal as a career choice for AI experts who are sorely in demand, and dissatisfaction with making only incremental gains with AI at this point. ...  " 

January IFTTT

Good new stuff on the latest IFTTT newsletter,  especially with regard to the support of voice assistants.   Always something interesting there,  and have implemented a few examples on my own.  I am a fan. Still think there is something missing regards combining both a stream of data and programmatic approach to delivering value.    And even sharing data?

What is IFTTT  (If This Then That)?   They write:    " .... A world that works for you.  IFTTT is the free way to get all your apps and devices talking to each other. Not everything on the internet plays nice, so we're on a mission to build a more connected world. .... " 

Doing AI with all of your Data

Been a while since I have read the Teradata blog, some good thoughts.    This is the challenge for many enterprises.  And their operational data today is still relational.

Using AI on All Your Data: Building AI Models with Relational Data
By Ben MacKenzie in the Teradata Blog

As I have written elsewhere, the most striking advances in AI in the last few years have been in computer vision, natural language processing, and reinforcement learning:   think of image classification, Google Translate, and AlphaGo.   What has been overlooked is that innovations in machine and deep learning is also quietly revolutionizing the analysis of tabular, or relational, data.  The less-hyped advances in the analysis of relational data will have far-reaching consequences for enterprises, since every enterprise has relational data.  Powerful new techniques for relational data will enable enterprises with the right technology partners to make better decisions faster, with all of their data, all of the time. However, there are hurdles to achieving a future state of pervasive data intelligence across all enterprise data.  In this blog, I will reflect on some of the many challenges particular to building models with relational data.

The most obvious difference is the data itself.  When you are building a computer vision or natural language model, you start with a static set of images associated with categories, or a static corpus of text paired with corresponding translations. Acquiring these data sets, especially the labeled data that is essential for training the models, can be very difficult.  However, the data acquisition challenges are fundamentally different from those involved in acquiring a relational data set.  Relational data is the lifeblood of an organization.  Like blood, it flows into and out of different parts of an organization, where it lives in diverse operational databases, typically using different data management schemes, and is subject to diverse security and privacy constraints. And yet, having a single, coherent, complete view of all the data across the organization is critical to the success of an AI effort.  Achieving such a single perspective on all enterprise data is a job for an enterprise data warehouse, whether it’s a product like Teradata Vantage, a well-designed and implemented Data Lake, or a logical data warehouse combining data warehouse and Data Lake.  A data warehouse is your unified  ... ' 

Wal-Mart to Add 200 Technologists

Further indication that high tech is steaming in retail.

Walmart to Add 2,000 to Technology Group This Year
Bloomberg  By Emma Chandra; Matthew Boyle

Walmart anticipates the hiring of 2,000 technology experts this year in an effort to bolster both its brick-and-mortar stores and its online presence. The company is looking for data scientists, software engineers, designers, and others to work in nine offices worldwide to support Walmart's efforts to expand its online business and embed in-store technology, such as robots that scrub floors and scan shelves. Walmart's new digital tools include algorithms that help store associates pick online orders faster by mapping the optimal route through the aisles. The company’s recruitment efforts will expand its competition with Amazon over the best technology talent beyond Silicon Valley, where both companies have offices, and into emerging corridors like northern Virginia.  ... " 

Comments on Emerging Tech

Good podcasts excerpts at the link, with connections to the full thing.

Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz on Emerging Technology: Blockchain, Wearables and Virtual Reality  in InfoQ

In a recent a16z Podcast, a16z Venture Capital co-founders Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz were joined in conversation with Tyler Cowen, chair of economics at George Mason University, to discuss emerging technology and trends. Their conversation focused on the future of blockchain and what breakthrough application is required, wearables and the impact on consuming content and Augment Reality (AR) vs Virtual Reality (VR) projections. ... " 

Participant, Customer Storytellling

How much of this can we hand off to the customer, and how well does that work?   Can customers plot their own journey?

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch Is an Experiment on Us
Independent (London)    By David Streitfeld

The Netflix series "Black Mirror" recently released an interactive episode in which viewers can choose the course of the program's narrative. Participants start by choosing relatively innocuous actions for the episode's protagonist to follow, which become increasingly consequential as the show plays out. An enthusiastic response to the program could encourage Netflix to produce more interactive content for public consumption, potentially transforming storytelling. The company already has developed software to help organize stories that have endless permutations, has the technical ability to present these tales on multiple platforms around the world simultaneously, and is calling for producers to submit interactive proposals in different genres. Behind the idea of interactive content is the notion that viewers will care more if they have a say in the plot.   ... " 

Advantage of Talking to Customers Directly

Related to a number of  projects we did, including having customers do tours of our retail lab store with our CEO.   Now a project is looking at how to automate parts of consumer survey interaction.

Customers Surveys Are No Substitute for Actually Talking to Customers  By Graham Kenny in the HBR

’ll never forget the questionnaire handed to me midway through a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney. It was massive. Page after page of detailed tick-the-box or circle-the-response questions – it seemed to me it would take the full 13-hour flight to complete. I started, but it was too much work and I abandoned it halfway through. I thought to myself: does management really believe they get valid and reliable data from these surveys?

For many organizations, surveys like this qualify as “talking to the customer.” They’re ubiquitous – appearing in hotel rooms, after online purchases and in hospital emergency departments. But do they really qualify as customer consultation? Or are they a symptom of an isolated management just putting on a show of interest? What can be done instead?

The obvious answer is to talk with customers directly. But executives are often put off by the idea of interviewing customers individually, believing that it involves many hours and massive expense. Instead they get together in a group and guess what the customer — or any stakeholder — wants, with only the flimsy, half-hearted responses of customer surveys to guide them. It usually results in the wrong answers and the wrong strategies. ... "

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Alexa Improves her Reading Style.

I had previously experimented with Alexa voice ability to reasonably read arbitrary English text, for possible business applications. The result was rocky.    Now she has come out with a means to better pronounce text,  emphasizing and de-emphasizing syllables reasonably well.  Much better than before, but still with an occasional blip. In some uncommon contextual cases. The whole result is a better style and voice for 'newsreading'.  Also useful to just have another voice that sounds less 'smart home' and more business.  More professional.  Can an assistant talk to you in your CEO's voice?  Not yet.  You can test it yourself, examples below (apparently for now in US only, in English) :

Alexa’s news-reading voice just got a lot more professional
Alexa now knows which words to emphasize in a sentence   By Jon Porter in theVerge

Starting today in the US, Alexa will now read out the news in a much more natural, human-like way by selectively emphasizing certain words in a sentence in the same way a real newscaster would. The new voice, which Amazon first announced last November, can be heard when you ask Alexa for your daily news briefing using the query, “Alexa, what’s the latest?”  ... " 

Ontologies vs Knowledge Graphs

Challenging thoughts, which we examined for some time in the enterprise.   Not solved there either, or what it would take to construct, use and maintain this from either direction.       Ultimately it's the most important idea we can implement well to solve real, but also changing business problems in context.

Where Ontologies End and Knowledge Graphs Begin

#ODSC - The Data Science Community

Ontologies have been present in artificial intelligence research for at least forty years, coming into their own in the ’80s on the back of a research wave that catapulted them into popularity by the mid-‘90s. However, interest in ontologies waned by the 2000s as machine learning became the hot new technology for search engines and advertising. But in the past decade, two words have pushed ontologies and semantic data back into the spotlight: knowledge graphs.

Knowledge graphs have been embraced by numerous tech giants, most notably Google, which is responsible for popularizing the term. But that new widespread attention from the research community has helped foment a significant debate among knowledge representation experts: what even is a knowledge graph?

In truth, no one is really sure — or at least there isn’t a consensus.  .... "

Ahold Giant Foods to Roll out Robots

Note the planned use for operational process.  But also being in the store and interacting to some degree with customers?

NRF: Roving robots report for work at all Giant Foods’ stores  By Tom Ryan in Retailwire

At the NRF Big Show in New York on Monday, Nick Bertram, president at Giant Foods, revealed that the supermarket chain is rolling out “Marty,” a 6’3” robotic assistant, to all 172 of its stores.

Nearly 500 robots will be deployed out across Giant Foods and Stop & Shop, also owned by Ahold Delhaize, in what Steven Platt, research director, Retail Analytics Council, who also participated in the session, ranked as the largest robotics rollout at retail in the world.

Marty will be initially used to identify hazards, such as liquid, powder and bulk food item spills, and alert associates to do clean-ups. Planogram compliance and in-stock monitoring is expected next.

At the NRF session, Mr. Bertram said a surprise in the pilot of the robot was that customers weren’t intimated, but “actually loved” the robot. Including “googly eyes” added a “little bit more fun” to the robot’s appearance. He said, “[Marty] did freak some of them out, but especially children found that having a live robot in a supermarket is exciting.”  ....  '

Whats the Dark Web?

The below definition question came up in a recent meeting,  was surprised at the considerable variance in answers.     Well it is dark,  so might we expect the answer to be unclear, but order the below to get the answer from a company that works the space to determine real risk and solutions.

10 Things About the Dark Web You Probably Didn’t Know
Get Your Copy Now

Mention the dark web and many people summon imagery of a massive, mysterious online criminal underground, where all manner of products and information are bought, sold, and traded, hidden away from the prying eyes of the public and law enforcement. But is that really what it’s like, or is that just cybersecurity marketing hype?

In this easily digestible e-book, we’ll look at the following facts about the dark web:

It’s way more than just what you can’t Google.
The dark web is made of multiple communities with distinct ideologies and motivations.
Cybercriminals are working together to develop and trade exploits.
Cryptocurrencies have transformed the underground economy.
And more!   ....   ' 

IBM, Ford and LG Link for Blockchain Cobalt Tracing

What appears to be a good example for the legitimate use of Blockchain models.   A sharable supply chain authentication/governance model.

Ford and IBM among quartet in Congo cobalt blockchain project  in Reuters, with more good detail at the link .... by Barbara Lewis

LONDON (Reuters) - Carmaker Ford (F.N), technology giant IBM (IBM.N), South Korean cathode maker LG Chem (051910.KS) and China’s Huayou Cobalt (603799.SS) have joined forces in the first blockchain project to monitor cobalt supplies from Democratic Republic of Congo.
The pilot, overseen by responsible-sourcing group RCS Global, aims to help manufacturers ensure that cobalt used in lithium-ion batteries has not been mined by children or used to fuel conflict.

Companies are under pressure from consumers and investors to prove that minerals are sourced without human rights abuses, but tracking raw materials throughout their journey is challenging.

The project announced on Wednesday has been quietly under way since December. Starting with industrially mined cobalt in Congo, it is monitoring supplies all the way to lithium-ion batteries for Ford vehicles.  .... " 

KDNuggets: Books on Language Processing

I have read KDNuggets long before deep learning was discovered.    Love it.  The most recent post was useful for a project:

KDnuggets™ News 19:n03, Jan 16: Top 10 Books on NLP and Text Analysis; End To End Guide For Machine Learning Projects

Also: Why Vegetarians Miss Fewer Flights - Five Bizarre Insights from Data; 4 Myths of Big Data and 4 Ways to Improve with Deep Data; The Role of the Data Engineer is Changing; How to solve 90% of NLP problems: a step-by-step guide ... 

This week, check out a collection of top 10 NLP and text analysis books, see a step to step guide on the process that you can follow to implement a successful data science project, find out why vegetarians miss fewer flights (???), read about the fundamental misconception that bigger data produces better machine learning results, and find out how the role of the data engineer is changing. ... " 

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Voice Assistants in the Enterprise (Updated)

Was expecting this for some time.   Could be similar to the introductions of tablets, which we issued to executives when they came out.   I quickly got questions like, what do I do with them?    But unlike then, we will likely see more of the initiative shifted to the device.    How will they be able to collaborate as well as assist us.   Are we ready and for what?

Voice Assistants Coming to the Enterprise  in Informationweek.

Virtual employee assistants and voice interfaces to enterprise applications are relatively rare in enterprises today, but Gartner is predicting big growth in the next few years.
Is your IT infrastructure ready for voice interface chatbots? It's one thing to use digital assistants like Siri or Alexa at home or in your car. But is today's open office environment really ready for this kind of technology? According to a new prediction released by Gartner this month, this technology is coming to an office near you soon.

The market research firm is predicting that 25% of digital workers will use virtual employee assistants on a daily basis by 2021. That's compared to Gartner's prediction of less than 2% in 2019 -- a pretty steep increase for just two years, but it's being driven by several different technologies.  ....  "

See also LiveTiles:      

Our intelligent intranet software empowers you to create consumer-grade experiences for your employees using responsive UI design, site-wide analytics, intelligent people directory and personal, team, HR and corporate bot assistants.   ....   "

Monday, January 14, 2019

Tweets Predict Location

More indications that simple online messages can betray location.

Your Old Tweets Give Away More Location Data Than You Think    In Wired 

An international team of researchers has developed an algorithm that uses Twitter to automatically predict a user's location within minutes.

The Location Privacy Auditor (LPAuditor) exploits the inclusion of global-positioning system (GPS) coordinates within geotagged tweets as part of each tweet's metadata, accessible via Twitter's application programming interface (API).

Sharing location data is now an opt-in policy rather than automatic, but the GPS data users shared before the update is still available through the API.

LPAuditor is designed to analyze geotagged tweets and deduce detailed information about people's most sensitive locations.   Its analysis of coordinate clusters and timestamps on tweets allowed it to infer thousands of users' whereabouts. .... " 

Best Visualization Libraries

Lots new to me here, well worth a look.

Best Visualization Libraries  from KD Nuggets.

There are plenty of library options out there to make great visualizations. We outline five of the best, complete with code examples and explanations, that will enable you to create and build interactive visualizations. text   By Lio Fleishman, Sisense.

As a Front-End Engineer at Sisense, I need to build multiple components using data visualization libraries. Visualization libraries exist to help us understand complex ideas. There are plenty of library options to make visualizations on the web. Each of which has their own positives and negatives. Here are, in my opinion, five of the best visualization libraries out there now.

To begin with, I assume you already know what React is. If you’re unfamiliar with it, the short answer is that React is a JavaScript library to build user interfaces. If you want the long answer, you can check out a bit more here. React is supported by Facebook and is the most popular Javascript library to build UIs today.  .... " 

B-Verify in the Supply Chain

Despite all the hacking news,  there are still some key applications popping up.

How a New Technology Can Disrupt the Global Supply Chain  in K@W

An interdisciplinary team from MIT, Wharton and Boston College has created a new blockchain-based system that has the potential to disrupt the global supply chain. Called ‘b_verify,’ the system is designed to help small and medium-size enterprises — especially those in developing nations — get financing from lenders at potentially better terms while mitigating warehouse deposit fraud. The system brings greater transparency to a key part of the supply chain, which can have a big impact on global trade financing. B_verify introduces a series of blockchain technology innovations tailored to facilitate supply chain finance and operations management.

“The potential benefits are vast and global in scale,” said Gerry Tsoukalas, Wharton professor of operations, information and decisions, who was part of the team. Small and medium-size enterprises, he said, represent the backbone of many economies in the world, and they account for more than half of the jobs as well as a third of global GDP. But despite their scope and impact, these companies have a harder time getting financing than larger established firms. He said the World Bank estimates their global financing shortfall to be $2.6 trillion. ... " 

Neural Nets Organizing the World

An apparent move towards towards our own intelligence?   Our own look at neural nets early on seemed to indicate that they were just a convenience in some cases to replace statistical methods, how different it turned out.

A Neural Network Can Learn to Organize the World It Sees Into Concepts, Just Like We Do
By Technology Review 

GANs, or generative adversarial networks, are the social-media starlet of AI algorithms. They are responsible for creating the first AI painting ever sold at an art auction and for superimposing celebrity faces on bodies . .... 

From Technology Review

Can Font Influence Retention?

Quite a claim.  Would seem to be easily tested, as they mention ...

Can't Remember what you Read?  Blame the Font, not Forgetfulness.    In Wired,   by Arielle Pardes

Remember all those classics you devoured in comp-lit class? Neither do we. Research shows that we retain an embarrassingly small sliver of what we read. In an effort to help college students boost that percentage, a team made up of a designer, a psychologist, and a behavioral economist at Australia’s RMIT University recently introduced a new typeface, Sans Forgetica, that uses clever tricks to lodge information in your brain. The font-makers drew on the psychological theory of “desirable difficulty”—that is, we learn better when we actively overcome an obstruction. (It’s why flash cards create stronger neural connections in the brain and are a better method for recalling facts than passively studying notes.) Sans Forgetica is purposefully hard to decipher, forcing the reader to focus. One study found that students recalled 57 percent of what they read in Sans Forgetica, compared with 50 percent of the material in Arial, a significant difference. No word yet on the retention rate of Comic Sans.

When does Blockchain get the Simplest Value?

Thought of this myself.    When first hearing first about blockchain.  Isn't there a simpler way to do the same thing?  You know, with a suitably encrypted and protected database?  But doing what?  What are the specific goals you are trying to achieve. Each goal.  Better, faster, cheaper?   Or at all.  Without all the hashing, mining, hacking and coinage.  Yes, we want value, the best way.  Thoughtful piece:

Blockchain’s Occam problem

By Matt Higginson, Marie-Claude Nadeau, and Kausik Rajgopal   in McKinsey

Blockchain has yet to become the game-changer some expected. A key to finding the value is to apply the technology only when it is the simplest solution available.

Blockchain over recent years has been extolled as a revolution in business technology. In the nine years since its launch, companies, regulators, and financial technologists have spent countless hours exploring its potential. The resulting innovations have started to reshape business processes, particularly in accounting and transactions.

Amid intense experimentation, industries from financial services to healthcare and the arts have identified more than 100 blockchain use cases. These range from new land registries, to KYC applications and smart contracts that enable actions from product processing to share trading. The most impressive results have seen blockchains used to store information, cut out intermediaries, and enable greater coordination between companies, for example in relation to data standards.

One sign of blockchain’s perceived potential is the large investments being made. Venture-capital funding for blockchain startups reached $1 billion in 2017. IBM has invested more than $200 million in a blockchain-powered data-sharing solution for the Internet of Things, and Google has reportedly been working with blockchains since 2016. The financial industry spends around $1.7 billion annually on experimentation.

There is a clear sense that blockchain is a potential game-changer. However, there are also emerging doubts. A particular concern, given the amount of money and time spent, is that little of substance has been achieved. Of the many use cases, a large number are still at the idea stage, while others are in development but with no output. The bottom line is that despite billions of dollars of investment, and nearly as many headlines, evidence for a practical scalable use for blockchain is thin on the ground.   ...... " 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Machines Thinking are like Translation

Intriguing idea. Includes video.

A New Approach to Understanding How Machines Think
From Quanta Magazine   Link to full article. 

Been Kim and colleagues at Google Brain developed a system she calls a translator for humans that permits them to ask questions of an artificial intelligence. 

Google Brain research scientist Been Kim is developing a way to ask a machine learning system how much a specific, high-level concept went into its decision-making process.

If a doctor told that you needed surgery, you would want to know why — and you'd expect the explanation to make sense to you, even if you'd never gone to medical school. Been Kim, a research scientist at Google Brain, believes that we should expect nothing less from artificial intelligence. As a specialist in "interpretable" machine learning, she wants to build AI software that can explain itself to anyone.

Since its ascendance roughly a decade ago, the neural-network technology behind artificial intelligence has transformed everything from email to drug discovery with its increasingly powerful ability to learn from and identify patterns in data. But that power has come with an uncanny caveat: The very complexity that lets modern deep-learning networks successfully teach themselves how to drive cars and spot insurance fraud also makes their inner workings nearly impossible to make sense of, even by AI experts. If a neural network is trained to identify patients at risk for conditions like liver cancer and schizophrenia — as a system called "Deep Patient" was in 2015, at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York — there's no way to discern exactly which features in the data the network is paying attention to. That "knowledge" is smeared across many layers of artificial neurons, each with hundreds or thousands of connections.  ... "

Combining Real and Virtual Worlds

Makes lots of sense.  Essentially leads to simulation and construction of portfolios of test scenarios.

Combining Real, Virtual Worlds Improves Driverless Vehicle Testing

University of Michigan

Researchers at the University of Michigan's Mcity Test Facility are using augmented reality (AR) to create a faster, more efficient, and economical approach to testing connected and automated vehicles. The researchers found AR technology can accelerate testing of connected and automated vehicles by up to 100,000 times, depending on different testing scenarios. In addition, the method can reduce additional testing costs to almost zero. The team created an AR environment where real vehicles can interact with and react to computer-generated vehicles in real time via connected vehicle communications. The University of Michigan's Henry Liu said the new procedure "has the added benefit of allowing us to build a virtual library of computer-generated traffic scenarios that can be practiced without risk of damage or human injuries." .... ' 

Visualized Medical Record Analysis

Liked the idea, but also probably also requires a means of augmenting the visuals to emphasize key metadata, relationship to patterns detected by meta analyses, changes over time.

Visualization: U of T Researchers Develop System for Medical Records
U of T News   By Nina Haikara

Researchers at the University of Toronto (U of T) in Canada recently discussed their development of a curation-based approach for clinical text visualization. Using information from local clinics and other resources, the Doccurate visualization tool incorporated datasets of medical chart notes for each patient, with conditions cited throughout a chart visualized as steamgraphs, string-like graphs with droplets that expand upon recurrence of terms; each condition was labeled with a different color for quick recognition. U of T's Devin Singh said Doccurate stands apart from other medical visualization tools with its capability for customization. Said Singh, "It's communicated to me in a visual way, which helps link the mental models of physicians together, creating a holistic care team through visualization." U of T's Nicole Sultanum said the next step involves delivering a visual sense of narrative and progression as to how the patient has developed over time. ..

(Click through for complete graph)

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Apparent Successful attack on Ethereum

Apparent attack on Ethereum.  Note that Ethereum is often mentioned as a place for testing smart contracts.

Blockchains Hackable?   From MIT Tech Review ChainLetter

' .... To catch a blockchain hacker: Coinbase shocked the crypto world this week with an announcement that it had “detected” a so-called 51% attack on the Ethereum Classic (ETC) blockchain network. The exchange said it had “paused interactions” with the blockchain after the attack, in which over a million dollars worth of cryptocurrency was stolen. It’s the latest reminder that, contrary to widespread perception, blockchains are hackable. This story is far from over, however: a security firm has located the breadcrumbs the attackers left on the blockchain, and it may be possible to track them down.

The mathematical rules governing blockchains make it very difficult to manipulate their transaction records. But in the case of “proof-of-work” systems like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ethereum Classic, if one miner can gain control of the majority of the network’s computing power, they can defraud other users by paying them in cryptocurrency before creating a new version of the blockchain in which the payment never happens. Such a “double spend” attack is what Coinbase says happened in this case. (see “How secure is blockchain, really?”)  ... " 

See also report in The Verge.   and

Coinbase Halts Ethereum  transactions.

MyCroft as an Open Kickstarter Assistant

This has tough competition, especially since the ecosystem is the big thing.

Mycroft II Provides Voice-Assist With Data Privacy  By David Cardinal in ExtremeTech

Mycroft Mark II: the Open Answer to Amazon and Google?

 ... is built on a framework of open source efforts, and funded through a Kickstarter campaign.  ...

 .... Given all this, I read with great interest the announcement of Mycroft Mark II. Mycroft itself is a voice-controlled speaker with a small display, and provides a window into the larger Mycroft ecosystem. Mycroft is built on a framework of open source efforts, and funded through a Kickstarter campaign. It is a follow-on to the initial version. .... 

I got a chance to use one of the very first working prototype units at CES this week. It has a lot of rough edges, so I expect it will be a while before it ships, but it did pretty well even in the hostile CES Eureka Park showcase (which is really noisy and has terrible Wi-Fi).   .... '

Speech to Dialog

Been lately experimenting with the resolution of dialog with AI style analysis.  Still surprising that what can be done today is still primitive,  what are the key aspects of dialog understanding and resolution in context?   What elements of common sense adaption to implied goals?

In the Data Driven Investor:  

Making the Leap from Speech to Dialogue: The Challenge for Human to Machine Communication

Daily Wisdom
Robots are everywhere and doing virtually everything. We have even begun conversing with them in situations that are beginning to resemble interpersonal communication. Right now these spoken dialogue systems (SDS) tends to be limited to a “command-based” approach, which can be seen with a number of recently introduced commercial implementations, like Apple’s Siri for the iOS, Amazon’s Echo/Alexa, and the social robot Jibo.

The command-based approach to SDS design works reasonably well, as it predetermines much of the semantic context, communicative structure, and social variables by keeping conversational interactions within manageable boundaries. Yet, the development of more robust SDS will rely not only on advancements in engineering, but will also require better understanding and modeling of the actual mechanisms and operations of human-to-human communicative behaviors.... "

Google Pushing Marketing Digital Assistant Design

In Think With Google:   A Marketing Revolution.

Digital assistants are the next marketing revolution. Here’s how to be ready   By Matt Mierzejewski December 2018 Emerging Technology, Data & Measurement, Experience & Design

Digital assistants are fundamentally changing the way we live, and therefore, the way brands engage with consumers. Merkle’s SVP of Search Capability, Matt Mierzejewski, discusses the opportunity and what brands can do now to be ready.

The “holy grail” of marketing is being able to predict consumers’ needs. And I have no doubt that digital assistant technology will get us there. Digital assistants are already going beyond providing simple “request and response” features. From giving us makeup advice to adding magic to our kids’ bedtime stories, they’re changing the way brands engage with people.

Imagine what will be possible with additional customer signals. Think about the digital assistant that understands our daily routines and needs, to not just respond, but recommend. That’s an incredible value exchange for the user — one where the digital assistant moves beyond reactive response based on user query and into proactive recommendation based on user context. ... " 

Friday, January 11, 2019

Cracking the Brand Growth Code

Subconscious brand preference, more than a millennial obsession with direct delivery.  Gillette take note.

Podcast and Transcript from Knowledge@Wharton


Cracking the Code on Brand Growth

The battle for business growth does not take place on the internet or on store shelves. Rather, it takes place in the subconscious mind of prospective customers, whose purchasing decisions are more malleable than many brand leaders realize, write Michael Platt and Leslie Zane in this opinion piece. Zane is the founder of Triggers, a growth strategy company that has helped Fortune 500 firms with brand-building initiatives for 24 years. Platt is a professor of marketing, psychology and neuroscience at Wharton. He leads the school’s Neuroscience Initiative.

When Dollar Shave Club founder Michael Dubin launched his now famous YouTube video in 2012, no one imagined that it would cause earth-shaking tremors under razor behemoth Gillette. But it did. The tongue-in-cheek style video explaining the Club’s many virtues had a seismic effect. The day it was released, the brand’s website crashed from huge traffic. Within 48 hours, 12,000 orders were received. A few years later, Unilever bought the Club for $1 billion.

Most analyses of the Dollar Shave Club’s success conclude that it accomplished this feat because of millennials’ obsession with direct delivery, the founder’s comedic flair, or its bargain basement prices. We say it was something much deeper. In fact, Dollar Shave Club rose to prominence because it employed the formula we have discovered to be the key to changing subconscious brand preference: the expansion of a brand’s positive associations in customers’ memories to the point that it becomes an automatic, involuntary choice.

While some marketers have called this startup’s success an anomaly, we have found that the opposite is true. Every brand, whether a startup or an established household name, has untapped growth potential and the ability to become the automatic choice of more consumers.  ... " 

Predicting Results in Investigation of Crimes and Legal Cases

A risk analysis plugged into known processes that include outcome data and costs.   Might also be used for predicting outcome of legal cases in general.

U.K. Police Force Is Dropping Tricky Cases on Advice of an Algorithm 
New Scientist  By Joshua Howgego

The Kent Police Department in the U.K. is using an algorithm to help decide which crimes are solvable and should be investigated by officers. The Evidence Based Investigation Tool (EBIT) generates a probability score of a crime's solvability. Since it began using EBIT, the department investigates about half as many reported assaults and public order offenses, saving time and money. EBIT was created by University of Cambridge researcher Kent McFadzein, who trained the algorithm on thousands of assaults and public order offenses. The system identifies eight factors that affect whether a case is solvable, including whether there were witnesses, closed-circuit TV footage, or a named suspect. Said Ben Linton of the Metropolitan Police, “Police officers naturally want to investigate everything to catch offenders. But if the solvability analysis suggests there is no chance of a successful investigation, the resources might be better used on other investigations.” .. " 

Smart Carts Again

We looked at many applications of Smart Carts.   Looks like a good design.  Installation and Cost, Maintenance were the big issues.

Caper's smart shopping cart uses AI to skip checkout lines
The smart cart is now available at two stores in NYC.
By Saqib Shah, @eightiethmnt in Engadget

From cashierless Amazon Go stores to Walmart's self-driving vans for food drop-offs, tech is revolutionizing grocery shopping with an emphasis on speed and convenience. Now a lesser-known startup is entering the fray with its AI-powered shopping carts that could put an end to bothersome checkout lines at your local store.

Equipped with an interactive display and card swiper, the Caper smart shopping cart lets you scan an item's barcode as you shop and pay before you leave. It's already available in two stores in New York, claims the company, which lists Key Food Fresh, Met Fresh and Pioneer Supermarkets as its retail partners on its website. But Caper will need a bigger team-up if it wants to go the distance. .... " 

A Look at AI Powered Law Firms

Perhaps obvious, but an interesting example of how AI can enhance the business of law:

Artificial intelligence qualification helps law firm implement AI-powered business systems

International law firm Taylor Wessing wants to train staff in artificial intelligence so they can develop AI-powered business systems

By Sebastian Klovig Skelton in ComputerWeekly

International law firm Taylor Wessing is implementing artificial intelligence (AI) across the organisation and wants to ensure staff have the necessary skills to make the most of the technology.

Businesses have identified a serious AI skills gap, which 69% of enterprises have described as “moderate, major or extreme” due to the difficulty involved in finding skilled people to staff their new AI-driven business models.

According to Kevin Harris, IT director at Taylor Wessing, AI has the potential to greatly reduce the time lawyers spend reviewing documents, many of which can be hundreds of pages long and filled with technical legal jargon.

“We are using [AI] quite extensively in looking at things like lease reviews. We’ve got large document stores where there’s a myriad of quite complex legal terms and the AI is really helping us sort those legal terms out,” he said.

“What it’s doing for us is making things more efficient and making us quicker in service times, but it’s also really accurate, so we’re finding AI to be a good quality check as well.”

The law firm is using an AI platform from Rainbird, which is also providing a formal certification programme that leads to a three-stage artificial intelligence qualification, in an effort to upskill Taylor Wessing’s employees and embrace technological change in a positive way.  .... "

AI Inspires Unilever

Considerable article on the topic that takes it beyond food:

How AI helped Unilever discover 'breakfast for dessert'    by Omar Oakes in CampaignLive

The FCMG giant's global head of insight has co-written a book on AI in marketing. But what has Unilever learned and how is it keeping up with the pace of change in tech?

It is often said that the world’s most successful people are voracious readers. Titans of business such as Warren Buffet credit their success to consuming vast amounts of information in order to become the smartest person in the room.

But what if you’re a normal person in marketing who doesn’t have hours every day to read, but still wants to be ahead of the curve and create worthwhile insights for your brand? 

Stan Sthanunathan, the Unilever head of insights credited by the company as its "chief provocateur", believes artificial intelligence could hold the key for marketers to learn more deeply about culture and society in specific and targeted ways. A mechanical engineer by training, Sthanunathan left Coca-Cola after 17 years to join Unilever in 2013 to lead its global insights division from London.

Sthanunathan has co-authored a new book, AI for Marketing and Product Innovation, that presents itself as a hands-on guide for creatives and marketing professionals to learn more about AI through primers and real-life examples.  ....  " 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Will Digital Assistants Live up to Hype?

Some good questions posed.  Most interesting, will there ultimately be a single 'language' for their use?    A set of reasonable standards of what we expect of them?   Like in an automobile?   Or will they ultimately all be using conversational language with common sense assumptions,  and contextual memory, to respond for assistance.  On my Google Home today, part of my home ecosystem, I can converse in German or English, and she does reasonably, not perfectly,  in answering with either.  That's a slight step forward, she can detect language and respond in the same.  But still a long way to go.  It has to be better than memorizing commands and formats, like in a coding language.

Some question if digital assistants will ever live up to the hype  by Tom Ryan in Retailwire  with additional expert comments.

Voice-activated digital assistants are again in the spotlight at CES as manufacturers work to embed artificial intelligence technology into everything from refrigerators to slow cookers, beds and toilets. The jury is still out, however, on whether they’ll become key to connecting smart homes.

David Pierce, personal tech columnist for The Wall Street Journal, noted that many other software-related tools already connect a variety of home devices. He harped on the complicated programming involved in pairing devices, including the multiple steps required and the need to memorize specific phrases.

“I don’t want a thousand commands for a thousand devices,” Mr. Pierce wrote. “In most cases, voice-controlled assistants have hit a wall where they perform a specific set of tasks well and not much else.”

Game Theory and Human/Robot Goals

Good way to systematically think about the problem, but we never found it to be a way to solve the problem.  I like the approach outlined here:

How Game Theory Can Bring Humans, Robots Closer Together 
University of Sussex (U.K.)
By Neil Vowles

Researchers at the University of Sussex and Imperial College London in the U.K., and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, have used game theory to enable robots to assist humans in a safe and versatile manner. The researchers used adaptive control and Nash equilibrium game theory to program a robot that can understand its human user's behavior in order to better anticipate their movements and respond to them. The researchers overcame the robot’s inability to understand a human's intentions by enabling the robot to identify its human user while safely and efficiently interacting with their motion. The resulting system allows a robot to continuously learn the human user's control and adapt its own control correspondingly. Imperial College London’s Etienne Burdet said that to apply game theory to human-robot interaction, “it was necessary to understand how the robot can identify the human user’s control goals simultaneously to smoothly interacting with them."  ... " 

Creating Virtual Cities from DashCam Images

Thinking further applications of this.  Why not use other aggregated imagery, like Street View?

Nvidia’s new A.I. creates entire virtual cities by watching dash cam videos

From the Grand Theft Auto franchise to the plethora of available Spider-Man titles, plenty of video games allow you to explore a three-dimensional representation of a real (or thinly fictionalized) city. Creating these cityscapes isn’t easy, however. The task requires thousands of hours of computer modeling and careful reference studies before players have the chance to walk, drive or fly through the completed virtual world.

An impressive new tech demo from Nvidia shows that there is another way, however. Shown off at the NeurIPS artificial intelligence conference in Montreal, the tech company showcased how machine learning technology can generate a convincing virtual city simply by showing it dash cam videos. These videos were gathered from self-driving cars, during a one-week trial driving around cities. The neural network training process took around one week using Nvidia’s Tesla V100 GPUs on a DGX-1 supercomputer system. Once the A.I. had learned what it was looking at and figured out how to segment this into color-coded objects, the virtual cities were generated using the Unreal Engine 4. ... " 

First Commercial Quantum Computing

Lots of claims in this space.   With large companies, Governments indicating their development    We dabbled very early on, providing problem areas of our interest.  IBM's involvement and investment does make a claim to seriousness.   And that its 'commercial' indication means that will lead to more testing on real world problems.   The article and quotes seem to waffle some about not yet 'being there', but soon.

IBM unveils its first commercial quantum computer
Frederic Lardinois   @fredericl in TechCrunch

At CES, IBM today announced its first commercial quantum computer for use outside of the lab. The 20-qubit system combines into a single package the quantum and classical computing parts it takes to use a machine like this for research and business applications. That package, the IBM Q system, is still huge, of course, but it includes everything a company would need to get started with its quantum computing experiments, including all the machinery necessary to cool the quantum computing hardware.

While IBM describes it as the first fully integrated universal quantum computing system designed for scientific and commercial use, it’s worth stressing that a 20-qubit machine is nowhere near powerful enough for most of the commercial applications that people envision for a quantum computer with more qubits — and qubits that are useful for more than 100 microseconds. It’s no surprise then, that IBM stresses that this is a first attempt and that the systems are “designed to one day tackle problems that are currently seen as too complex and exponential in nature for classical systems to handle.” Right now, we’re not quite there yet, but the company also notes that these systems are upgradable (and easy to maintain).  ... " 

AI Conversations

I selectively read or listen to these.   Often interesting.   Since I have been involved in the history of AI, its always intriguing to hear the opinion of its continued evolution,  especially hints at another possible down turn, and pointers to ultimate general intelligence.  Byron Reese does a good job  at managing these.   Note here the reference to what is called an 'information bubble', which is described in the WP as a Filter Bubble.

Voices in AI – Episode 77: A Conversation with Nicholas Thompson
By Byron Reese Jan 10, 2019 - 7:00 AM CST

Episode 77 of Voices in AI features host Byron Reese and Nicholas Thompson discussing AI, humanity, social credit, as well as information bubbles. Nicholas Thompson is the editor in chief of WIRED magazine, contributing editor at CBS, co-founder of The Atavist and also worked at The New Yorker and authored a Cold War era biography.  ... " 

Limiting the Right to be Forgotten

Been intrigued by the EU  'right to be forgotten'  laws a means to say you can have information about you scrubbed from the web.    Increasing your privacy at least in theory.    Seems only to be relevant only to big players who manage such information, like Google.    But unclear to me that other dark parts of the web are involved.   Google gets many such requests,  but approves only some.  Now new court rulings seem to say this is only relevant to the EU.   See below to this and links to more background information.

EU courts told 'right to be forgotten' law should not apply globally
The chief advisor at Europe's highest court has sided with Google. .... "

By Rachel England, @rachel_england in Engadget

Interpreting and Securely Using Machine Learning

 Good piece here, which discusses the nature of Trust, Causality, Transferability, Informativeness,

....Yes to that, but ultimately is how you can link, and use the results as part of a current or proposed business process.   Try that first ...

Interpreting Machine Leaning Models: A Myth or Reality?

 Despite the predictive capabilities of supervised machine learning, can we trust the machines? As much as we want the models to be good, we also want them to be interpretable. Yet, the task of interpretation often remains vague.

Despite the proliferation of machine learning into our daily lives ranging from finance to justice, a majority of the users find their models difficult to understand. This lack of a commonly agreed upon definition or the ill-definition of the interpretability means that rather than being a monolithic concept, interpretability embeds various related concepts.

Interpretability is mostly used in the field of supervised learning in comparison to other fields of machine learning such as reinforcement or interactive learning. Existing research studies approach interpretability as a means to establish trust. Yet, it needs to be clarified whether trust refers to the robustness of a model’s performance or to some other properties.

Viewing interpretability simply as a low-level mechanistic understanding of models might be problematic. Despite the capability of machines of discovering causal structure in data, they still are far from being perfect for offering relevant matches for the tasks they are supposed to solve in the real life. One reason for this failure might be the oversimplification of optimization goals so that they fail to fulfill more complicates real-life goals. Another reason might be the unrepresentativeness of the training data of the related deployment ecosystem. Besides, given a model’s complexity, all of parameters, algorithms, factors of human agency need to be taken into account.

Whenever there is a gap between the goals of supervised learning and the costs of a real world deployment setting, demand for interpretability would emerge. Not every real life goal can be coded as simple functions. To give a specific example, an algorithm designed to make hiring decisions would not be able to optimize all of productivity and ethics. So, a formal model that would work within the context of a real-life environment would be a struggle. In order to overcome this struggle, here are some aspects of interpretability to be taken into account: ...  " 

Exoskeleton Enhancement Robotics

Some useful solutions, with images at the link:

GEMS (Gait Enhancing and Motivating System)  in CNet

Helping you walk

 " .... While the Samsung Bot Air looks like a cutesy version of Wall-E, the Samsung GEMS looks more like an exoskeleton.

The machine is meant to help with mobility issues, such as those caused by injuries from strokes, and Samsung has developed three models: the GEMS-H for hips, GEMS-A for ankles and GEMS-K for knees.

With the GEMS-H, the first step in the process is measuring the hip angles and posture of the person wearing the machine, based on inertial measurement unit sensors, says Youngbo Shim, a researcher at the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology in Suwon, South Korea. The robot then recognizes the gait phase (like the moment your foot touches the ground) and generates assistive torques at the hip joints.

Basically, the robot gives you a bionic pep in your step.  .... " 

Feedback and Blacker Boxes

Thoughts on the topic of complexity and understanding the operational specifics of what we have done.

The Blacker the Box  By Michael Kaminsky

There has been a lot of discussion in the data science community about the use of black-box models, and there is lots of really fascinating ongoing research into methods, algorithms, and tools to help data scientists better introspect their models. While those discussions and that research are important, in this post I discuss the macro-framework I use for evaluating how black the box can be for a prediction product.

In this post I do not get into the weeds of complexity penalization algorithms or even how to weigh the tech debt associated with additional complexity. Instead, I want to take a step back and discuss how I think about “prediction” problems at a more macro level, and how I value accuracy and complexity for different types of problems.

The thesis of this post is:

The faster the feedback on prediction accuracy, the blacker the box can be. The slower the feedback, the more your models should be explicit and formal.

In this post I talk through some examples of fast feedback problems and what makes them more amenable to black-box prediction algorithms (provided you have the proper infrastructure) as well as slower feedback problems and how one might approach predictions in those situations.

Fast Feedback

The machine learning community spends the bulk of its time working on and talking about fast feedback problems. Problems with fast feedback are defined by 1) the ability to quickly evaluate the correctness of a prediction1 and 2) the ability to play the game near infinite amounts of time2. Some examples of fast feedback problems are:

Chess: it is easy to verify which player has won or lost. Feedback takes only as long as the length of the game.
Conversion for an Ad Placement: Feedback to Google or Facebook on whether you clicked a given advertisement, and whether you subsequently converted  3 is nearly instantaneous.
Movie Recommendations: For a given list of potential movies to watch, Netflix gets near instantaneous feedback when you do or do not watch some of the content they have elevated for you. .... "

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

About Pypestream

Took another look, follows some of my own ideas about linking process models to solution methods, like RPA and Deep Learning ....

About Pypestream:

Pypestream, the market’s most advanced conversational AI solution, elevates customer experience to new levels. Built for scale, Pypestream revolutionizes its customers’ contact centers, turning digital engagements into a competitive advantage for the world’s leading enterprises. The full-stack platform includes Pypestream’s Engagement Automation, which bridges disparate systems through application programming interfaces (APIs), robotic process automation (RPA), and user authentication to deliver transactional functionality alongside natural language understanding (NLU). Users engage via Pypestream’s Conversational Interface, a 24/7 immersive gateway to a business. Encrypted B2C exchanges flow through “Pypes,”​ the only patented messaging carrier purpose-built for enterprises. Pypestream’s deployment methodology, PypePro℠, ensures digital transformation so that customers achieve “conversational ... " 

Creating Books from Wikipedia with Wiki-Book Bot

We tested a similar approach in-house, meant to combine public and internal knowledge.   There were of course gripes about both the reliability, completeness of the Wikipedia, and how well the internal sources had been maintained.  The automation did provide a means to quickly understand what we had, and needed to still get.    Good details at the top level article .... more technical at arXiv linked to below.

This algorithm browses Wikipedia to auto-generate textbooks  in Technology Review
Wikipedia is a valuable resource. But it’s not always obvious how to collate the content on any given topic into a coherent whole.     by Emerging Technology from the arXiv  January 9, 2019

Machine Learning—The Complete Guide is a weighty tome. At more than 6,000 pages, this book is a comprehensive introduction to machine learning, with up-to-date chapters on artificial neural networks, genetic algorithms, and machine vision.

 It is a Wikibook, a textbook that anyone can access or edit, made up from articles on Wikipedia, the vast online encyclopedia.

That is a strength. Crowdsourced information is constantly updated with all the latest advances and consistently edited to correct errors and ambiguities.  ... " 

" The last sentence is debateable.   Sometimes constantly edited, but less than consistent depending on participants, editors, the context. ...  - FAD

Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1812.10937 : Wikibook-Bot—Automatic Generation of a Wikipedia Book  

Echo Auto Ships to High Demand

Apparently there is considerable interest and even demand to get the Echo Auto into cars.   Even though later model cars today can already be fitted with Alexa, Google or Siri capability at low additional cost.  There seems to be real interest in the magic that Amazon can supply.  How will it differ from streaming music and extending the smart home?   Again it extends the Assistant, skill and channel ecosystem.

After over a million pre-orders, Amazon’s Echo Auto has begun to ship   By Sarah Perez  @sarahintampain TechCrunch

At Amazon’s event in September, the company announced the Echo Auto, an aftermarket product designed to bring Alexa to cars. But the device has remained in pre-order status, even as other products also unveiled at the same event — like the Fire TV Recast, AmazonBasics microwave and various Echo devices for the home — went on sale and shipped to customers. The Echo Auto, meanwhile, is still only available on an invite-only basis. But Amazon confirmed to TechCrunch that it has begun to ship the device to pre-order customers.

In fact, some Echo Auto customers received their new device in time for Christmas, according to Steve Rabuchin, VP, Alexa.

Apparently, the Echo Auto was in demand, too.

“We had over a million [pre-order] requests,” Rabuchin told us. “Now, we’re just starting to ship.”

Amazon says the device began to ship to the first set of customers in December, and pre-orders continue to be fulfilled. .... " 

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Long Term Vision for European Automotive Industry

In McKinsey.  Not too much unexpected.  Useful view.

A long-term vision for the European automotive industry

Technological disruption is redefining mobility globally. How can Europe capitalize on its past successes to shape the emerging mobility ecosystem and craft an even more successful future? ... "

Telepresence for the Home with Assistant

We examined a number of telepresence solutions for office environments,  trying to allow people to casually inhabit new environments,  office or business, or industrial, without going there.   With the user given the option of what they saw, who they spoke to,  how they gathered information.   It never worked well.  The recent 'Facebook Portal' ads where the device could follow the face of a remote person also made me think of other social aspects.  Now a device that aims to insert an assistant.    Not sure that the current skills in 'assists' would be very useful, but could think of others that would be.

Robotemi is adding Alexa to its personal telepresence robot
It'll basically be a rolling Echo Show.

By Nick Summers, @nisummers  in Engadget.
Telepresence for the home

Temi (pronounced "Timmy," I think) is a personal robot with a 10-inch tablet for a head. It can play music and videos, control your smart home hardware and handle other basic assistant stuff, such as ordering takeout. In short, Temi is a friendlier telepresence robot for the home. Today, the company is announcing plans to integrate Amazon's Alexa assistant and, by extension, offer "Echo Show-like experiences" through its LCD screen. Now, Temi already offers video calls to mobile devices and other Temi robots. Echo-enabled calls, however, would increase the number of devices -- and by extension, it's usefulness -- that Temi owners can call. .... "

Fingernail Sensor to Monitor Disease Progression

New kinds of sensors, measurement and then prediction.

IBM Research Develops Fingernail Sensor to Monitor Disease Progression   in TechCrunch  By Frederic Lardinois

IBM Research has developed a small sensor that can help monitor the effectiveness of drugs used to combat the symptoms of a range of diseases, including Parkinson's disease, when applied to a person's fingernail. The sensor works with custom software to analyze how the nail warps as the user grips something. The sensor communicates with a smartwatch that runs machine learning models to detect tremors and other symptoms of Parkinson's disease. That model can detect what a wearer is doing, and is accurate enough to track when wearers write digits with their fingers. Going forward, the researchers aim to extend this prototype and the models that analyze the data to recognize other diseases well. ... " 

Amazon Go Could be $4 Billion Physical Retail

A push towards advanced checkout tech.

Report: Amazon Go could become $4 billion business
Analyst says cashierless retail concept “could be a game changer”
By Russell Redman  in Supermarket News

The sales opportunity for Amazon Go cashierless stores could top $4 billion by 2021 if reports on the high-tech retail concept’s expansion bear out, according to an RBC Capital Markets analysis.

In a research note, RBC estimated average annual sales of $1.5 million apiece for the current nine Amazon Go stores. A Bloomberg report in September said Amazon.com Inc. may open up to 3,000 Amazon Go outlets by 2021. Based on the per-store sales estimate by RBC, that would translate into a $4.5 billion business over the next several years. .... "

P&G Launching 6 Connected Products At CES

Good to see interesting moves here.

P&G Launching 6 Connected Products At CES by Chuck Martin  AI & IOT DAILY

Procter and Gamble is launching six new connected products at CES, the first time P&G is exhibiting at the annual tech confab.

The new products include Olay’s Skin Advisor platform, which uses artificial intelligence to provide personalized skincare analysis and recommendations by analyzing selfies along with a consumer questionnaire.

P&G is also introducing SK-II Future X Smart Store, using facial recognition and gesture-driven experiences for beauty retail shopping. .... "

Intent, Devices and Marketing Funnels

In Think with Google. Nothing is linear anymore.  Our devices can change our intent, based on changing context, anytime.    So how do we use this?

Intent and Marketing Funnels

How intent is redefining the marketing funnel     ... 

Forget everything you know about the marketing funnel. Today, people are no longer following a linear path from awareness to consideration to purchase. They are narrowing and broadening their consideration set in unique and unpredictable moments. People turn to their devices to get immediate answers. And every time they do, they are expressing intent and reshaping the traditional marketing funnel along the way.   ... 

Journeys as unique as each consumer

So how has the marketing funnel changed exactly? In the last six months, Google looked at thousands of users’ clickstream data as part of an opt-in panel.1 And we found that no two customer journeys are exactly alike. In fact, even within the same category, journeys take multiple shapes.2 .... " 

Amazon with Telenav for in-car Assistance

More news on how Amazon plans to place their systems n cars and connect retail channels. Broadening the idea of an assistant. 

Amazon is getting more serious about Alexa in the car with Telenav deal
Megan Rose Dickey  @meganrosedickey in TechCrunch

 "Amazon today announced a significant partnership with Telenav, a connected car and location-based services provider. As part of the collaboration, Amazon’s voice assistant, Alexa, will now be part of Telenav’s in-car navigation systems.

As it stands, Alexa lacks a lot of information that is pertinent to drivers. This collaboration should massively help to change that. The partnership is also designed to enable carmakers to bring Alexa inside more of its vehicles.

“Navigation is among the most popular use cases for in-car technology, and we’re excited to be working with Telenav to make it easier for automakers and suppliers to support voice-first navigation through Alexa,” Amazon Alexa Auto VP Ned Curic said in a statement. “Using the Alexa Auto SDK, Telenav is helping make Alexa a truly integrated part of the in-car navigation system, and providing customers with a more useful, consistent experience at home and on the go.”  ... '

Telenav Press Release.

More in FinancialBuzz


Monday, January 07, 2019

Offices Getting Smarter

We looked at this, not enough mentioned here about how direct assistance can be inserted.

Offices Grow 'Brains' as Companies Seek to Attract Smarter Workers 
Reuters  By Caroline Copley in Reuters

Property developers in Berlin, Germany, are tapping technology to create more sustainable offices to help employees work both efficiently and comfortably. One smart office under construction, the Cube, has a cloud-connected sensor network to measure everything from motion, temperature, and lighting to humidity and carbon dioxide levels. Such technology is called "the brain," a self-learning tool that analyzes all the data it receives and optimizes building operations. Users access the Cube with a smartphone app that knows their schedules and may suggest seating locations where a meeting is scheduled, as well as booking meeting rooms, ordering food, and navigating the office. Cube offices also feature a "hot desking" system in which workers do not have a fixed desk, but are assigned appropriate workspace for the type of work they want to perform. Smart office equipment like printers follow a predictive maintenance schedule to minimize daily nuisances such as running out of paper.   ... " 

Kroger, Microsoft Create Futuristic Stores

Making Shelves, store and consumer fulfillment smarter.

Kroger, Microsoft Create Futuristic Grocery Store. Amazon, Take Note

The supermarket chain and technology giant are using the cloud to make it faster to navigate the grocery aisles and pick up online orders.

By Matthew Boyle  and Dina Bass in Bloomberg

Kroger Co. and Microsoft Corp. are joining forces to bring the ease of online shopping to brick-and-mortar grocery stores. 

Kroger, America’s biggest supermarket chain, has remodeled two stores to test out the new features, which include “digital shelves” that can show ads and change prices on the fly along with a network of sensors that keep track of products and help speed shoppers through the aisles. Kroger could eventually roll out the cloud-based system it developed with Microsoft in all of its 2,780 supermarkets.

The alliance is the latest example of how big U.S. retailers are deploying data-rich technology to improve the often-tedious ritual of food shopping and keep pace with Amazon.com Inc., which is bent on grabbing a bigger share of the $860 billion U.S. food retail market. For Microsoft the deal helps grow its cloud business, which lags behind Amazon’s but has found willing customers like Kroger and Walmart Inc., which are loath to line the pockets of Jeff Bezos. Kroger also hopes to sell the technology to other retailers, potentially opening up a new revenue stream with fatter profit margins than selling groceries.   ... " 

Use of Weather Channel App Data

On the alleged gathering of data and how it is used.  Leads to further consideration about how such data is used now and in the future.   Must we now consider the future intent of data use?

L.A. Sues IBM's Weather Company over 'Deceptive' Weather Channel App

The Weather Channel’s app secretly sucks up users’ personal data and uses it for things like targeted marketing and hedge fund analysis, the Los Angeles city attorney has claimed in a lawsuit against The Weather Company, the IBM-owned firm that runs the app. The case was first reported Thursday in the New York Times, but City Attorney Mike Feuer will hold a press conference Friday morning. In a tweet, he said he was taking “action against one of America’s largest corporations for what we allege  ... "