February 20, 2019
I kicked off the New Year by writing about Artificial Intelligence (AI). To read this blog CLICK HERE. Now I’d like to dig deeper into this subject by taking a look at “Alexa” – a name I really like because I have a cute five-year-old relative with that name. Here are the pertinent points about Alexa as described by Amazon.
The technology company has a feature called ALEXA HUNCHES that according to them “aims to replicate human curiosity and insight using artificial intelligence.” Or, said in me-to-you English, Alexa can now guess what you might be thinking of – or what you’ve forgotten. “We’ve reached a point with deep neural networks and machine learning that we can actually program intuition,” says Daniel Rausch, the VP in charge of Alexa’s smart home features.
Once it is activated, Alexa Hunches will observe its owners’ interactions with connected smart home devices such as locks and lights. For example: When Alexa believes it has detected a regular pattern, such as turning off the TV before going to bed, it will remind you if you have forgotten to do so and offer to fix the problem. Hello? This is a problem?
“The next step for Alexa,” says Toni Reid, the Amazon VP in charge of the Alexa experience “is to make the AI assistant feel more human. Our ‘hunches’ both lengthen and deepen customer interaction. Alexa is getting better at sustaining longer conversations. It can also respond to whispered commands by whispering itself. It will also have a ‘Guard Mode’ to warn owners if it hears something suspicious while they are away from home – such as the sound of breaking glass or a smoke alarm.”
Are you still with me? We’re getting there – here’s the downside with today’s smart home systems: they’re actually pretty dumb. Many require technical expertise to set up and program and are prone to glitches. Amazon wants to make Alexa a user-friendly gateway to simplify and secure the process. Okay, at this point I think we need to inject a little humor into this write-up.
Five-year-old Alexa is much cuter than “Alexa” and its devices
A REAL LIFE EXAMPLE of Google’s Home assistant as reported by Nathan Brooker in the 9/30/18 issue of The Financial Times. It’s early morning and he says, “Hey Google, play Radio Four.” The small, pebble-shaped thing remains silent so he repeats, “Google, play Radio F.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know how to help you with that,” it says. “But it does,” Brooker reports. “It replays Radio Four six days a week. ‘It’s a morning routine,’ I shout at the Google Home assistant and then I shout even louder at the Today program. It won’t budge. It just looks at me with its four cold, white dots.” “I don’t know how to help you with that,” it says smugly.
Then Cool Girlfriend walks into the kitchen and says, “Google, play Radio Four” as she steals a piece of toast off Brooker’s plate and walks out. Google replies, “Sure. Playing BBC Radio Four.” He calls this incident “tech hostility” -- I call it “tech humor.”
FIRST UPDATE: On 12/27/18 the New York Post reported that ALEXA TOOK XMAS OFF. Thousands of folks across Europe couldn’t play holiday songs or turn on their living room lights. The voice-controlled AI personal assistant crashed in Britain around 10 am. Word on the street is this: the outage happened when Amazon servers were over-burdened by all the newly gifted devices being registered. Alexa had a HISSY FIT!
SECOND UPDATE: On 1/11/19 the New York Post reported that CES (now the official name of the Consumer Electronics Show) held in Las Vegas every January has a few surprises, namely: “ALEXA, GOOGLE, MAKE ME DINNER” OR “HEY, GOOGLE RINSE ME OFF” – what’s next?
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October 22, 2020
I just read an article that sounded – to me at least – like “a canary in a coal mine” or an early warning of danger. This piece, written by Joe Pompeo, appeared in the May 2020 issue of Vanity Fair magazine with the title “The British Tabloid Invasion” and a subtitle that read, “How the Daily Mail is conquering American gossip.”
The paparazzi horde, La Dolce Vita, 1960 – photo courtesy of Vanity Fair
October 14, 2020
Apparently the good old U.S. is a nation of “not great” sleepers. Really? And I thought I was the only one! According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention it was revealed that one out of three Americans are chronically sleep-deprived. Yikes!
October 06, 2020
I think we’re all taken by the incredible mystique of the famous French fashion house, Hermès that has been with us for two centuries and is still owned and operated by the same family. From its beginnings in fine equestrian leather goods, they are – in the tumultuous year 2020 – best known for their handbags and many other items.
My image of Hermès has always been rarified products at equally rarified prices so imagine my surprise when I recently received a very stylish publication of theirs in the mail.