• By Sin Mei C
  • November 6, 2014

The Echo AI nicknamed Alexa, ContextDB and the future of the smartwatch market

A look at The Amazon Echo (Alexa inside), Acquia’s ContextDB, a robo-gamer-marketeer-robot and a ‘smart’ synthesizer that turns weather into music.

This Week in Context

Your Weekly Update on All Things Context, October 31 2014


“Hollywood movies such as the Terminator and Matrix series depict violent war between AI and humans. In reality future AI would defeat humans with brains rather than brawn.” 

Bill Hibbard
Ethical Artificial Intelligence (draft)

Five Must-Reads

1. The Amazon Echo

Echo is Amazon’s answer to Siri, Cortana and Google Now, in the form of a stylish, always-on voice-controlled connected cylinder that services you music, news and the weather, but also answers knowledge questions and.. hears you from across the room when you are dictating your groceries list. Echo’s call sign? Alexa!  (Hat tip: Joren)

“Echo’s brain is in the cloud, running on Amazon Web Services so it continually learns and adds more functionality over time,” TechnoBuffalo writes. ” The more you use Echo, the more it adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences.”

We’re assuming this means it will learn to recognise everybody in the family, and will start to personalise its answers and music recommendations based on your interests and Amazon wishlist? 😉

2. Acquia goes Context

Acquia, which has Belgian hero Dries Buytaerts as Co-founder and CTO, announced their approach to the experience web: Acquia Lift ContextDB. The service will collect and consolidate customer intelligence and behaviour at massive scale across channels and existing data repositories, and allows for the automatic execution of (follow up) actions. “A visitor’s declining engagement score on the website along with knowledge of their interests and content preferences can trigger a personalised e-mail to re-engage with that customer,” the press release explains.

3. Preventing Artificial Intelligence’s Failure

Artificial Intelligence Is Doomed if We Don’t Control Our Data, by John Havens is a rather grim – some might say dramatised – read on the (lack of) control and centralisation of personal data. Headlines such as ‘the individual versus the artificial’ are a tad too doom and gloom to my taste, and the call for more transparency regarding algorithms is nothing new. And even though faulty data, immature algorithms, and eroding relationships are very pessimistic predictions, while working on the personal data economy, we should put some thought and effort into making sure Mr. Havens will never be right and AI will not fail.

4. Wearables: will smartwatches dominate, or will this be a small market? 

Granted, Business Insider has me a tad confused. They’ve surveyed consumer attitudes towards wearables and smartwatches. They’ve found both why smartwatches will dominate, and why the smartwatches market will be small. Two things to remember, one of each fact list: only 1 in 5 plans to buy a smartwatch to pair with their phone, and the Apple Watch will account for 40% of smartphone shipments in 2015. Of the respondents, 51% does not see the point of owning a smartwatch. An issue marketing and useful – or entertaining, at least – apps will have to solve?

5. Robo-gamer-marketeer-robot

Mattesons Fridge Raiders meat snacks and Saatchi London charged YouTube celebrity Ali A and his fans with educating a meat-dispensing AI robot, FHRANK. They do this by visiting the (impressively futuristic) site frhrank.com where they interact with FHRANK and add to its vocabulary what he will need to be part of the gaming community. The aim is to train FRHANK so he’s able to sit next to a gamer, monitor and register their moves as they play and comment on their performance using its best teen and gaming slang, fastcocreate writes. Hopefully, they’ll teach him about the classics – Heretic, Age of Empires, DungeonKeeper and Duck Hunt – too!

A Work of Art & Tech: Turning Weather into Music

Smooth jazz and rain sounds can be very soothing. Now imagine you could listen to the rest of the weather too! Musician Quintron has created a ‘smart’ synthesizer that turns weather into music. He describes the synthesizer, nicknamed ‘Weather Warlock’ and powered by changes in the weather as a heavy drone band. The results are streamed live at weatherfortheblind.org.

“The Weather Warlock has sensors to detect changes in sunlight, wind, rain, and temperature, which are transmitted via copper wires to the synth in Quintron’s living room. The result is a wide range of tones and harmonics based around a consonant E major chord, with special audio events occurring during sunrise and sunset.” (factmag.com)

Happy Halloween!
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