Posts tagged Technology

Why less is more when we chat online


In a world of hyper-busyness, stripped back interaction has become the norm – from the cultural phenomenon of emojis to the preference for texting over calling.  And through the launch of smartphone app Yo, yet another layer has been added to these minimal forms of communication. This is a social platform where users can say just one word: “Yo.” Yet with one million downloads so far, is it as stupid as critics suggest?

When people message each other, they tend to text fewer people often. “Part of the reason the volume of text messaging is so high is because a lot of exchange is just, ‘This is what I’m doing, this is what I’m feeling’,” explains cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito. “This is transmitting the message: ‘I’m here with you, I’m connected to you’.”


It’s this desire to connect on even the smallest level that is drawing people to Yo – the same thing that drives the success of emojis. They enable people to establish a “virtual co-presence,” explains Huffington Post tech editor Bianca Bosker. “Using emojis, in a sense, is like a hangout online.” There’s now even an emoji-only social network. “At the zero level, below text, there is still significant communication possible,” adds Jaan Tallinn, co-founder of Skype. And a growing number of messaging apps and services are working at this zero level.

Anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski describes this type of interaction as ‘phatic expression’. It’s communication that performs a social task rather than transmitting information. Perhaps this is the kind of interaction apps like Yo provide – a simple reminder that someone is thinking of them.


Read more like this at Canvas8.com



Are robots getting smarter or are humans dumbing down?


With the news that a chatbot named Eugene Goostman has been able to convince a number of people that it’s a real person, researchers are calling this achievement ”one of the most exciting moments in the field of artificial intelligence.” In reality it’s not that big of a deal, but it does tell us something about those judging Eugene.

Some have suggested Eugene’s success could be put down to British politeness. Apparently, the judges, who were all based in London, were told that Eugene was a 13-year-old boy from Ukraine, and that English was his second language. Considering the test was only five minutes long, it’s hardly unsurprising that only a few were so bold as to call the boy a robot.

A more robust explanation – perhaps they just weren’t paying attention. Eugene is not a piece of super-smart technology. In reality, it’s just a piece of software cleverly designed to fool humans – ”making use of psychological smoke and mirrors”  – just long enough to pass the test, according to software engineer David Auerbach. Rather than displaying intelligence, the software launches a series of “ploys” that skirt over its limitations, almost like a magician performing a sleight of hand. It’s simple misdirection – and all that it reveals, says Gary Marcus, a professor of cognitive science at NYU, is “the ease with which we can fool others.”

So why were those judges so easily fooled? While they may have wanted to be done with the blasted Turing test, which has haunted AI researchers for six decades, the likelihood really is that they just weren’t paying close attention. As Nicholas Carr in The Shallows explains, the human capacity to focus has been replaced by a culture of scanning and skimming in a constant state of distractedness, rather than mindfulness, where our communication is terse, short and functional. In a world where text messages are the dominant means of human-to-human interaction, it’s unsurprising that we can be easily be tricked into thinking a robot is a person.

Read more content like this at Canvas8.com

The graph above, from The Economist, shows the rates of adoption, in the US, of various key technological innovations of the past hundred or so years. As we can see, it took the humble telephone over fifty years to achieve 50% penetration into American households, TV about twenty five, and the smartphone, astonishingly, only about eight. The data clearly speaks to the ever increasing pace of modern life, but also to the sense that things that might once have been considered luxuries are now, in many circles, necessities.

The graph above, from The Economist, shows the rates of adoption, in the US, of various key technological innovations of the past hundred or so years. As we can see, it took the humble telephone over fifty years to achieve 50% penetration into American households, TV about twenty five, and the smartphone, astonishingly, only about eight. The data clearly speaks to the ever increasing pace of modern life, but also to the sense that things that might once have been considered luxuries are now, in many circles, necessities.

Canvas8 event - Mobile Money round-up

Last night Canvas8 hosted ‘Mobile Money’ with David Birch of Consult Hyperion and Anil Malhotra of Bango. For those of you who weren’t able to attend, or those who’d like a quick refresher, we’ve provided a recap of the event’s key points.

Background:
Mobile transactions are an increasingly important part of the retail landscape. Ebay predicts that there will be $8bn made in mobile sales in 2012, and Ofcom predicts that mobile retail will be worth $29bn to the British economy by 2021.

As well as the banks and mobile service providers, there are a range of external players innovating in this space, including Square, PayPal and Simplytap. Barclays’ Pingit registered 400,000 users within the first eight weeks of its launch.

Speaker recap:
There has been a movement away from cash to cards and, increasingly, smartphones. This offers innovation opportunities for businesses big and small.

There are more mobile phone subscriptions in the world than toothbrushes.

Smartphones are more than just cashless wallets – they are transaction devices which enable payment processes.

When it comes to mobile usage and mobile payments, the world can be segmented into four main groups: the US and Canada, Korea and Japan, developed markets and emerging markets. Korea and Japan are trailblazers in both fields, with one in six Japanese people using their mobiles to pay for services. In Japan, one in eight people use mobile phones to pay in McDonald’s; in the UK mobile payments in McDonald’s are “rarer than a forged £50 note”.

Mobile transactions provide opportunities for innovation; in Kenya, for example, they have enabled banks to offer short-term insurance policies. M-Pesa accounts for between one quarter and one third of Kenya’s GDP.

Mobile has the potential to be a global payment system; Starbuck’s Cards, for example, are accepted internationally.

Mobile payments offer brands more than swift financial transactions – they can help build brand loyalty as phones combine customer promotions with payments.

In the future, smartphones could house many wallets in one device - ‘the operator wallet’, ‘the bank wallet’, ‘the platform wallet’, ‘the retailer wallet’ and ‘the cloud wallet’.

David and Anil both highlighted how important mobile payments are likely to become over the next few years, driven by technological advancements from companies like Bango, the rising cost of cash and the ubiquity of global mobile phone usage.

Their presentations can be found here and here on Canvas8’s slideshare.