Sometimes I walk into a room and say, “Alexa, what’s the temperature outside?” She answers by speaking the current temperature followed by an abbreviated weather report. She’s so human-like, I have to resist the temptation to say “Thank you” when she finishes. Importantly, Alexa is not a she; it is a component of Amazon's Echo natural language processing system. Amazon has anthropomorphized Echo with a female voice and a feminine name, which makes it easy to call Alexa a “she.” Should we be polite when we speak to it, or is it OK to be abrupt or even abusive? The device won’t care. It doesn't have feelings; but how will we teach our children to differentiate between machines that sound and act like people, and other disembodied voices that actually are people?
Mobile & Wireless
Tay is a combination chatbot and AI system designed by Microsoft to "engage and entertain people where they connect with each other online through casual and playful conversation." It was specifically "targeted at 18 to 24 year olds in the U.S., the dominant users of mobile social chat services in the U.S." If the words "designed" and "targeted" are off-putting, then you're really not going to care for one of the system's recent, now infamous, tweets ... but, there is much, much more to learn from Microsoft's mistake.
With 20,000 new product announcements and 2.1 million square feet of floor space, it was hard to find the signal in the noise at CES 2016. Here are my top 10 favorite products (with one honorable mention).
Tablets were supposed to be laptop killers. To hear Apple tell it, with the introduction of its new iPad Pro, we are one step closer to a tablet-centric world. But the facts don’t support the optimism. Using Apple as a proxy for the entire tablet market, since it basically invented the category back in 2011 and still accounts for the highest percentage of sales, the market is shrinking fast.
Apple's iOS 9 (the new iPhone operating system) contains a very special feature that enables third-party app developers to develop Ad Blocking tools. These tools, which have been around for PC-based web browsers for years, are probably better described as "content blocking" because they allow you to block all kinds of noncommercial stuff (also because there is a heated debate as to whether or not ads are "content"). Pundits and students of the commercial advertising business have identified this technological achievement as the beginning of the end of days. Others cite history and say the industry will get past the problem. After all, content blocking is not new; it's just newly relevant. Right?