Welcome to our very first instalment of the ‘Week in Context’ as a proper newsletter. Of course, you can still read your weekly context-news update here on the website. However, we figured mail delivery was something long overdue. If you’d like to get the highlights of what is moving and shaking in our industry delivered to your mailbox once a week, sign up here.
This Week in Context
Your Weekly Update on All Things Context, April 11 2014
Last week, we’ve not only put live a revamped arguslabs.com, we’ve also attended the Music Hack Days in Paris. The result of 24 hours of no sleep and much code? Moodji, an emotionally-aware automated playlist. Check out Mooji & other projects from the event on our blog.
Maybe you want to join us next time, as our colleague? We’re actively looking for and hiring more bright minds.
We’d also like to thank all of you for retweeting, +1’ing and resharing our call for support to get on stage at the Next Web Conference. Public vote win: check!
Now, for the news…
Internet of Everything
One of the technical limitations that’s still plaguing the wearables and smart phone industries, is that it is rather difficult – and particularly expensive – to pack lots of power in a tiny battery. I have some great news for all of you who care about smartphone juice and ubiquitous sensing:
Start-up Ineda Systems claims to have the answer, James Temple writes in Startup Promises a Wearables Processor With 30 Days of Battery Life. The microprocessor Dhanush, developed especially for wearables, would consume 10 times less power than the currently used processors.
Additionally, wouldn’t it be much more consumer-friendly, if all our devices were to charge faster? StoreDot, an Israeli start-up, has developed a new battery, based on biological semiconductors, and charging combo that can fully fuel a Galaxy S4 in 30 seconds. Add to this record charging time that StoreDot’s battery is less likely to die on you after a year of heavy smartphone usage than a li-ion equivalent, and for people suffering from nomophobia, it almost sounds like a miracle.
Twitter acquired Cover, the app company behind the contextually aware lockscreen for Android – also named Cover. Engadget reports few financial details were disclosed, in stead communications focus on the team’s potential to make the mobile Twitter experience “more useful and more contextual” as that social service continues to scale up.
Microsoft announced Cortana, a virtual assistant ready to take on Siri and Google now. Cortana, which just like Siri has a personality of her own, understands voice commands, and just like Google Now, she actively tries to learn about the subjects, placed and people that are important to its user. The virtual assistant can act on commands such as ‘Wake me up at 7am tomorrow,’ and developers can write their own Microsoft apps controlled by Cortana.
Neat! But despite such awesome features as people reminders, I’m not likely to trust Cortana to set my alarm or perform other critical actions, until she’s at least at Service Pack 2.
Daily Geek Show covers some hot safety technology developed in cooperation with Peugeot Citroën. The system allows for a car to analyse the emotions of its driver in real-time, so it could intelligently react to how we feel. Emotion detection is done using footage from an infrared camera and real-time facial expression analysis. At the moment the researchers have a 85% success rate at detecting anger and disgust, and work on the project continues.
What ‘s the use case? For example, if a car detects you’re stressed, it could take ‘countermeasures’; turn on some soothing music, or make the lights less intense. If it notices you’re tired, it could play some more energetic music, or make the indoor lighting more bright. Especially when our vehicles become semi-autonomous, it will be even more important that they are aware of the emotional state of their drivers.
Personal Data Privacy
There’s a fine line between useful personalisation and outright creepy personalisation. It reminded Maria Andersen of the ‘uncanny valley’ in human robotics. She plotted the same kind of curves on two axes: Access to Data as the horizontal axis, and Perceived Helpfulness on the vertical axis. For technology to get vast access to data, and make it past the invasive valley, it would have to be perceived as very high on the perceived helpfulness scale. According to Andersen, Google Glass is very much stuck in the ‘invasive valley’.
The European Parliament has made some progress towards the data law reforms. Last week’s plenary vote means the position of the Parliament on the proposed regulation is now set in stone and will not change even if the composition of the Parliament changes following the European elections in May.
Opinion & Vision
Larry Page talks about the future of Google, in his TED talk ‘Where is Google Going Next.’ His far-off vision includes aerial bikeways, internet balloons, and artificial intelligence, but also some great thoughts on privacy: “Show people what data is being collected, for example search and location history. Give people choice and awareness of what’s going on. But don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. We are only at the beginning of what’s possible.” Amen.
On Forbes, Haydn Shaughnessy has a thorough look at the ever-growing importance of data for the ad industry, the problems with advertisements on mobile, the consequences of the upcoming European data legislation, and Facebook & Google’s diversification: Google and Facebook Hedge Against The Data Backlash.
“Any reader of cyberpunk knows to be cautious when mega-corporations start investing heavily in virtual reality. Yet for others, the prospect of a Facebook-controlled Metaverse is arguably less insidious than Google’s more subliminal tampering with the way we perceive the world. Facebook wants to put you in a video game, but you can always jack out. Google wants to put you in a Philip K. Dick novel, and make you uncertain about when you jacked in in the first place,” John Brownlee writes in Facebook, Google, and Sony are getting ready to fight a cyberpunk war.
Whilst Facebook wants to make from life a big augmented social game, Google is concentrating on making sure that the real world is always seen through the lens of its services. Luckily for us, another great speculative fiction author, William Gibson in Distrust That Particular Flavour, points out correctly that science fiction is always more of a critique on current society, than a prediction of a future one. The metaverse, even a corporation-owned version, does not scare me; we’ve been living in a partly digital world for a while now. However, I will draw the line at Rat Things.
Papers, Research & Patents
- SocioPhone: Everyday Face-to-Face Interaction Monitoring Platform Using Multi-Phone Sensor Fusion (pdf)
SocioPhone is an interaction-aware application, that monitors in-progress conversations and can identify meta-linguistic contexts of conversation; turn-takings, prosodic features, a dominant participant, and pace.
Also, I guess patents aren’t checked for traffic safety implications? “Virtually displaying the external source advertisement on the windshield,” sounds like a bad idea to me. (From Mechanism for facilitating context-aware broadcast and virtual visualization of advertisements, published April 3, 2014 – Google Patents)
The Next Web Europe, Amsterdam – April 24-25
2,500+ attendees will travel to Amsterdam to discuss the latest web trends, learn about best business practices and meet the world’s influencers of technology & innovation, and the Argus Labs delegation.
We’re growing & actively hiring. We’re looking for all sorts of different profiles, but most definitely for:
- Senior Data Scientist with as mission to identify unique human profiles out of sequenced data samples, and translate them into valuable digital personas.
- Senior iOS Engineer to build robust sensing technology on the IOS platform.
If you think of someone who fits one of these profiles, please let them know and tell them we’re a great bunch to have as colleagues! 😉
Enjoy your weekend!