• By Sin Mei C
  • January 10, 2014

This Week in Context (20140110)

What better way to start off the New Year than with featuring some gems of wearable tech announced at CES 2014? Meet Withing’s Aura, the iOptik, the new Basic watch, LifeLogger and the SenseGiz STAR. Further, we have a look at Netflix’s increasingly personal classifications & recommendations by using 76,897 ‘altgenres’, feature Microsoft’s patent for context-aware emoticon sets, and listen to The Coil’s podcast on The Implantable Dream. At the looks of all this incoming news, two-thousand fourteen promises to become a highly interesting year for sure.

Wearable Tech, Internet of Things and context-awareness news from CES 2014:

  • Connected cars: Google’s teaming up with Audi, GM, Google, Honda, Hyundai and NVIDIA to form the Open Automotive Alliance (OAA), a global alliance of technology and auto industry leaders committed to bringing the Android platform to cars starting in 2014. General Motor’s Mary Chan pointed out this partnership fits perfectly into their mission to “bring vehicles into our owners digital lives and their digital lives into their vehicles.”  The initiative will likely mean a safer, car optimised Android blend. We can only assume context-awareness will be a huge part of this. As technology becomes aware of which circumstances you find yourself in, and automatically knows what your target location is, it can more easily assist you, without the need for you taking your eyes of the road, or your hands of the wheel. Cnet posted a picture overview of the dashboard systems presented at CES 2014. Audi’s Virtual Cockpit and QNX’s CAR2 are definitely my favs. (Still, if you’re looking for an alternative to Android-based, we’ve covered earlier that GM’s Cadillac, Toyota and Tesla are experimenting with Linux-based in-vehicle infotainment systems.)
  • Wearables: While I very much enjoyed my first Google Glass experience, I couldn’t help but remark ‘focus’ was a huge issue. Either you focus on the message displayed, OR you focus on the world around you, but as Glass sits only a few centimeters from your eyes, you just can’t see both at once.  iOptik says they have a solution to that. Their glasses with projector + lenses combo allows users to focus on both close and faraway objects. in conjunction with the glasses to project the media and overlays, Innovega is able to do two things when most wearables do just one. As CNET writes, iOptik can project “glance-able” displays, like Google Glass does exclusively where data is pushed to the periphery. But because of the contact lenses, it can also project a full-screen HUD.  Great news those who plan to use augmented reality and visible notifications in scenarios where it’s better that you don’t take your eyes of the task at hand. (via Roel)
  • Wearables: The Basic Watch, which always had an impressive sleep tracking record as opposed to Fitbit devices or the Jawbone it doesn’t require any user action for starting the sleep logging, has added REM sleep tracking, a functionality that will become available to its existing users. Basis partnered with the University of California, San Francisco and the Northern California Institute of Research and Education to test and validate their algorithms on accelerometer, heart rate, skin temperature, and perspiration data. The Basic apps will also provide context for the added feature, through a “personal sleep score” which will let users track the overall quality of their sleep over time. (via Roel)
  • Wearable life logger: LifeLogger is a small camera that attaches to your glasses and captures what you’re looking at, with support for 720p video at 30fps. You can either stream the video to the cloud via a Wi-Fi connection or use a USB connection to your phone. LifeLogger’s back-end software uses OCR to recognise text, voice recognition and face recognition. Add in the ability to track your position via GPS, and you have an (almost, emotion seems missing) complete record of your physical life & interactions. According to PCPro, LifeLogger believes that this is a mass market product.
  • Connected Home Appliances: Samsung unveiled its Samsung Smart Home platform, which enables users to manage all of their connect (Samsung) appliances and devices through a single application on their smartphone or Samsung Smart TV. It will provide three main services: Device Control (steering your devices and triggering device presets), Home View (use the cameras built into your Samsung connected appliance to see what’s going on at home), and Smart Customer Service (support and maintenance for your devices). Samsung Smart Home will focus initially on select Samsung Smart TVs, connected appliances, and smartphones. Eventually, Samsung plans for the service to cover areas like home energy, secure home access, and healthcare through partnerships with third-party providers in those fields. (via Roel)
  • Connected sensor devices: Withings announced its newest product, a smart sleep system named Withings Aura. The bedside device records your sleep environment (noise pollution, room temperature, and light level), and provides with light and sound programs. Its mobile app lets you visualise your sleep cycles, understand what wakes you up, and compare nights, and control your wake-up and fall asleep programmes. What I personally find most interesting, is that you don’t have to wear a tracking device anymore: Aura comes with a sensor-pad that slips under your mattress to monitor your body movements. Despite being under your mattress, the pad should also capture your breathing cycles and heart rate. If they can accurately monitor these, that’s an impressive feat. (But still, it’s no BedBudd duvet tracker. ;))
  • Another aspiring wearable tracker is the SenseGiz STAR, which was introduced at CET2014 and is running its Indiegogo campaign.  The SenseGiz team has big ambitions – not only do they want their device to track your fitness and sleep, they also want to supply emergency notifications when you fall, let you use the device to set up a safe zone that prevents your pet, kid or smartphone from ranging too far, and use the device for gesture control input.  If they can pull all this off for $120, and wrap the device into something more fashionable, I’m definitely interested.

What devices or technology caught your eye this year at CES? Let us know in the comments! We’re always willing to try something new.

Other context-related news:

  • The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal had a long look at the Netflix movie genres which power their recommendations, and discovered that Netflix possesses not several hundred genres, or even several thousand, but 76,897 unique ways to describe types of movies. With what they internally call “altgenres,” Netflix has meticulously analysed and tagged every movie and TV show imaginable. Although the reconstruction of Netflix’ vocabulary and grammar in itself is fascinating, this is also undeniable proof that personalisation works: “Members connect with these [genre] rows so well that we measure an increase in member retention by placing the most tailored rows higher on the page instead of lower,  the company revealed in a 2012 blog post. The better Netflix shows that it knows you, the likelier you are to stick around.” This extremely personalised content-based filtering, in combination with taking into account similarity in user behaviour, makes the Netflix recommendations as great as they are. Next up, context-aware Netflix recommendations?
  • Microsoft’s patent for Creation and context-aware presentation of customized emoticon item sets. Existing systems provide users with emoticons to include when composing messages. Many of these systems, however, only provide a standard set of emoticons for use in each of the applications. For example, many mobile telephones provide a standard emoticon picker for use in each of the applications. The standard set of emoticons, however, may not be compatible in every application.  Microsoft proposes (and patented) customised emoticon item sets based on context.  Neat, having the right (set of) emoticons always at the ready seems great. On the other hand, this is a piece of software computing how you _should_ feel. If I get a certain emotion/emoticon featured automatically, .. will I be more likely to take that as a cue and ‘mimic’ how the technology thinks I should behave? Might these suggestions actually be able to influence how we feel?
  • The Coil’s podcast on The Implantable Dream discusses wether there’s a chance that this dream of networked implants will morph into a nightmare of unspeakable horrors. An enlightening, frightening, and occasionally hilarious look into implantable technology. (Also listen-worthy is their podcast on What Is My Behavioral Motivation In This Scene?, about how the growing using of behavioural science in sales and marketing is causing a collective sense of uneasiness, and the affect that this is having on our collective behaviour in the digital realm.)

Image Faces of the Future?  by David Berkowitz on Flickr. CC By 2.0

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