• By Sin Mei C
  • May 9, 2014

Week in Context – Computing that Reads Your Mind, Predictive Hugs and a Privacy Trade-Off

A hire we’re proud of, an overview of contextual computing, Google Hugs, contextual mobile product design explained, devices that know how you really feel, and the trade-off between privacy and saving lives.

This Week in Context

Your Weekly Update on All Things Context, May 9 2014

Opinion & Vision

For ‘The Move Toward Computing That Reads Your Mind‘, New York Times journalist Molly Mood dives into the world of contextual computing, apps that predict what you want.  She covers the Nest thermostat, Google Now, Cortana, EverythingMe, Aviate, Mynd, EasilyDo, … New to me was the Aether Cone, a speaker which – like the Nest thermostat – learns about your music preferences at certain times of the day and week. The Aether Cone’s interface is refreshingly clean and simple: there’s merely ‘play’, ‘pause’, ‘recommend me something’, and ‘skip’.

What about predicting when you’ll need a hug? As FastCo writes, these spoof Google products, whilst quietly alarming, aren’t entirely inconceivable: Google Trust (Google will reimburse you should your data be compromised), Google Bee (personal drone), Google Bye (auto post-mortem memorial), and my personal fav, Google Hugs. Hugs tracks your emotions based on your behaviour (what Argus Labs is doing for real) to know when you need a hug, and recommends whom in your vicinity you should hug (we’re not doing that).

Explaining ‘context’ is not always easy (ironically, it depends on which context the context will be used it – cars, recommendations, mobile apps, archaeology, ..), yet EverythingMe co-founder Ami Ben David does a great job at explaining contextual mobile product design for TheNextWeb. His take on grouping context elements into user context, environmental context and world context is definitely a useful one for interaction design.


 “While some might see it as an invasion of privacy, I think operators of such vehicles should give up some privacy in exchange for the trust of human lives placed in their hands.”

– Dr Gregory Kovacs, Professor of Electrical Engineering on emotion-aware cars
Devices that know how we really feel, Nick Bolton for Bits

Hardware & Software News 

Apple might buy Beats for $3.2 billion, the Financial Times reports. The deal would be the computer giant’s largest acquisition ever, and would get them a more user friendly streaming service and better music recommendations than they currently have with iTunes Radio.

Whistle, a pet health device, partners with Jawbone on App integration. Data from Whistle is now available into the UP App, allowing users to see how their wellness is distinctly tied to their pet’s daily life. According to Whistle, it will also encourages users to take steps to increase the bond with their pet and enjoy a happy, active lifestyle together. (via David)

What’s in that photo? Spotter, a Shazam for objects, knows. The real-time object recognition on your phone is a neat thing, but the real strength of this technology is that now people are more and more ‘communicating by picture’, object recognition is a good way to find out what you’re audience is actually talking about.

Points on Privacy

The Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) is doing it’s annual “sweep”. Last year, the study found that 21% of websites have no privacy policy at all, and 38% of policies are in incomprehensible legalese.  In 2013, over half (54%) of the apps swept in 2013 lacked a privacy policy, and if there was one, it was only too often incomplete.

The belgian Privacy Commission will focus on transparency, purpose and proportionality principles for mobile apps. This means, which permissions an app asks for, if these are really needed, and what happens with the data gathered.


Strava’s Labs division produced a beautiful heat map showing 77,688,848 rides and 19,660,163 runs. I’d say we are rather sporty in Belgium, but population density might account for our fill? (And if you’re a city official drawing up, or trying to improve pedestrian or biking routes, do check out Strava Metro.) (via Roel)

Jobs: 1 taken, plenty remaining

This week, we also got to share the wonderful news that Vincent Jocquet will join Argus Labs as Head of Operations & Finance starting July, and we’ll be announcing a few more hires soon.

However, we’re also still looking for a wide variety of people who are great at what they do: sales, data, engineering, .. and want to share that greatness with us, in exchange for a decent salary, neat colleagues, hot coffee and plenty of Belgian chocolate. (For the New York hires, I promise I’ll look into getting the chocolate shipped.)  Find out if you’re the one we’re searching for on our Careers page.


Enjoy the weekend!



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