Virtual digital assistants in the workplace: Still nascent, but developing — from cisco.com by Pat Brans
As workers get overwhelmed with daily tasks, they want virtual digital assistants in the workplace that can alleviate some of the burden.

Excerpts:

As life gets busier, knowledge workers are struggling with information overload.

They’re looking for a way out, and that way, experts say, will eventually involve virtual digital assistants (VDAs). Increasingly, workers need to complete myriad tasks, often seemingly simultaneously. And as the pace of business continues to drive ever faster, hands-free, intelligent technology that can speed administrative tasks holds obvious appeal.

So far, scenarios in which digital assistants in the workplace enhance productivity fall into three categories: scheduling, project management, and improved interfaces to enterprise applications. “Using digital assistants to perform scheduling has clear benefits,” Beccue said.

“Scheduling meetings and managing calendars takes a long time—many early adopters are able to quantify the savings they get when the scheduling is performed by a VDA. Likewise, when VDAs are used to track project status through daily standup meetings, project managers can easily measure the time saved.”

 

Perhaps the most important change we’ll see in future generations of VDA technology for workforce productivity will be the advent of general-purpose VDAs that help users with all tasks. These VDAs will be multi-channel (providing interfaces through mobile apps, messaging, telephone, and so on) and they will be bi-modal (enlisting text and voice).

 

 

 

 

Google already knows what you did next summer — from bloomberg.com by Nikki Ekstein
The company’s new travel tools put the focus on artificial intelligence, helping to best predict what you’re going to love—no matter where you go.

Excerpt:

But it’s not a hotel or travel agency that’s cracking the golden acorn. It’s Google. The tech titan is leveraging its immense artificial intelligence and machine-learning capabilities to boost its travel offerings, which currently cover everything from flight and hotel search to activity recommendations, destination guides, and mapping services

The proof is in the pudding. Over the past few months, Google has quietly launched an array of travel-focused features and updates that highlight just how intuitive its AI technology has become. Put them all together and you’ll have enough reason to believe your next travel agent might just be a Google-powered bot.

 

New Virtual 3D Microscope Lab Program Offered for Online Students by Oregon State University — from virtuallyinspired.org
OSU solves degree completion issue for online biology students

Excerpt:

“We had to create an alternative that gives students the foundational experience of being in a lab where they can maneuver a microscope’s settings and adjust the images just as they would in a face-to-face environment,” said Shannon Riggs, the Ecampus director of course development and training.

Multimedia developers mounted a camera on top of an actual microscope and took pictures of what was on the slides. Using 3D modeling software, the photos were interweaved to create 3D animation. Using game development software enabled students to adjust lighting, zoom and manipulate the images, just like in a traditional laboratory. The images were programmed to create a virtual simulation.

The final product is “an interactive web application that utilizes a custom 3D microscope and incorporates animation and real-life slide photos,” according to Victor Yee, an Ecampus assistant director of course development and training.

 

Also see:

  • YouTube to Invest $20 Million in Educational Content — from campustechnology.com by Dian Schaffhauser
    Excerpt:
    YouTube, a Google company, has announced plans to invest $20 million in YouTube Learning, an initiative hinted at during the summer. The goal: “to support education-focused creators and expert organizations that create and curate high-quality learning content on the video site.” Funding will be spent on supporting video creators who want to produce education series and wooing other education video providers to the site.

 

 

Reflections on “Are ‘smart’ classrooms the future?” [Johnston]

Are ‘smart’ classrooms the future? — from campustechnology.com by Julie Johnston
Indiana University explores that question by bringing together tech partners and university leaders to share ideas on how to design classrooms that make better use of faculty and student time.

Excerpt:

To achieve these goals, we are investigating smart solutions that will:

  • Untether instructors from the room’s podium, allowing them control from anywhere in the room;
  • Streamline the start of class, including biometric login to the room’s technology, behind-the-scenes routing of course content to room displays, control of lights and automatic attendance taking;
  • Offer whiteboards that can be captured, routed to different displays in the room and saved for future viewing and editing;
  • Provide small-group collaboration displays and the ability to easily route content to and from these displays; and
  • Deliver these features through a simple, user-friendly and reliable room/technology interface.

Activities included collaborative brainstorming focusing on these questions:

  • What else can we do to create the classroom of the future?
  • What current technology exists to solve these problems?
  • What could be developed that doesn’t yet exist?
  • What’s next?

 

 

 

From DSC:
Though many peoples’ — including faculty members’ — eyes gloss over when we start talking about learning spaces and smart classrooms, it’s still an important topic. Personally, I’d rather be learning in an engaging, exciting learning environment that’s outfitted with a variety of tools (physically as well as digitally and virtually-based) that make sense for that community of learners. Also, faculty members have very limited time to get across campus and into the classroom and get things setup…the more things that can be automated in those setup situations the better!

I’ve long posted items re: machine-to-machine communications, voice recognition/voice-enabled interfaces, artificial intelligence, bots, algorithms, a variety of vendors and their products including Amazon’s Alexa / Apple’s Siri / Microsoft’s Cortana / and Google’s Home or Google Assistant, learning spaces, and smart classrooms, as I do think those things are components of our future learning ecosystems.

 

 

 

logo.

Global installed base of smart speakers to surpass 200 million in 2020, says GlobalData

The global installed base for smart speakers will hit 100 million early next year, before surpassing the 200 million mark at some point in 2020, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

The company’s latest report: ‘Smart Speakers – Thematic Research’ states that nearly every leading technology company is either already producing a smart speaker or developing one, with Facebook the latest to enter the fray (launching its Portal device this month). The appetite for smart speakers is also not limited by geography, with China in particular emerging as a major marketplace.

Ed Thomas, Principal Analyst for Technology Thematic Research at GlobalData, comments: “It is only four years since Amazon unveiled the Echo, the first wireless speaker to incorporate a voice-activated virtual assistant. Initial reactions were muted but the device, and the Alexa virtual assistant it contained, quickly became a phenomenon, with the level of demand catching even Amazon by surprise.”

Smart speakers give companies like Amazon, Google, Apple, and Alibaba access to a vast amount of highly valuable user data. They also allow users to get comfortable interacting with artificial intelligence (AI) tools in general, and virtual assistants in particular, increasing the likelihood that they will use them in other situations, and they lock customers into a broader ecosystem, making it more likely that they will buy complementary products or access other services, such as online stores.

Thomas continues: “Smart speakers, particularly lower-priced models, are gateway devices, in that they give consumers the opportunity to interact with a virtual assistant like Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant, in a “safe” environment. For tech companies serious about competing in the virtual assistant sector, a smart speaker is becoming a necessity, hence the recent entry of Apple and Facebook into the market and the expected arrival of Samsung and Microsoft over the next year or so.”

In terms of the competitive landscape for smart speakers, Amazon was the pioneer and is still a dominant force, although its first-mover advantage has been eroded over the last year or so. Its closest challenger is Google, but neither company is present in the fastest-growing geographic market, China. Alibaba is the leading player there, with Xiaomi also performing well.

Thomas concludes: “With big names like Samsung and Microsoft expected to launch smart speakers in the next year or so, the competitive landscape will continue to fluctuate. It is likely that we will see two distinct markets emerge: the cheap, impulse-buy end of the spectrum, used by vendors to boost their ecosystems; and the more expensive, luxury end, where greater focus is placed on sound quality and aesthetics. This is the area of the market at which Apple has aimed the HomePod and early indications are that this is where Samsung’s Galaxy Home will also look to make an impact.”

Information based on GlobalData’s report: Smart Speakers – Thematic Research

 

 

 

 

An open letter to Microsoft and Google’s Partnership on AI — from wired.com by Gerd Leonhard
In a world where machines may have an IQ of 50,000, what will happen to the values and ethics that underpin privacy and free will?

Excerpt:

This open letter is my modest contribution to the unfolding of this new partnership. Data is the new oil – which now makes your companies the most powerful entities on the globe, way beyond oil companies and banks. The rise of ‘AI everywhere’ is certain to only accelerate this trend. Yet unlike the giants of the fossil-fuel era, there is little oversight on what exactly you can and will do with this new data-oil, and what rules you’ll need to follow once you have built that AI-in-the-sky. There appears to be very little public stewardship, while accepting responsibility for the consequences of your inventions is rather slow in surfacing.

 

In a world where machines may have an IQ of 50,000 and the Internet of Things may encompass 500 billion devices, what will happen with those important social contracts, values and ethics that underpin crucial issues such as privacy, anonymity and free will?

 

 

My book identifies what I call the “Megashifts”. They are changing society at warp speed, and your organisations are in the eye of the storm: digitization, mobilisation and screenification, automation, intelligisation, disintermediation, virtualisation and robotisation, to name the most prominent. Megashifts are not simply trends or paradigm shifts, they are complete game changers transforming multiple domains simultaneously.

 

 

If the question is no longer about if technology can do something, but why…who decides this?

Gerd Leonhard

 

 

From DSC:
Though this letter was written 2 years ago back in October of 2016, the messages, reflections, and questions that Gerd puts on the table are very much still relevant today.  The leaders of these powerful companies have enormous power — power to do good, or to do evil. Power to help or power to hurt. Power to be a positive force for societies throughout the globe and to help create dreams, or power to create dystopian societies while developing a future filled with nightmares. The state of the human heart is extremely key here — though many will hate me saying that. But it’s true. At the end of the day, we need to very much care about — and be extremely aware of — the characters and values of the leaders of these powerful companies. 

 

 

Also relevant/see:

Spray-on antennas will revolutionize the Internet of Things — from networkworld.com by Patrick Nelson
Researchers at Drexel University have developed a method to spray on antennas that outperform traditional metal antennas, opening the door to faster and easier IoT deployments.

 From DSC:
Again, it’s not too hard to imagine in this arena that technologies can be used for good or for ill.

 

 

The 11 coolest announcements Google made at its biggest product event of the year — from businessinsider.com by Dave Smith

Excerpt:

On Tuesday (10/9), Google invited journalists to New York City to debut its newest smartphone, the Pixel 3, among several other hardware goodies.

Google made dozens of announcements in its 75-minute event, but a handful of “wow” moments stole the show.

Here are the 11 coolest announcements Google made at its big hardware event…

 

 

 

Google’s Pixel 3 event in 6 minutes — from businessinsider.com

 

 

Google unveiled its new Home Hub but it might be ‘late to the market’ — from barrons.com by Emily Bary

Excerpt:

Alphabet ’s Google has sold millions of voice-enabled speakers, but it inched toward the future at a Tuesday launch event when it introduced the Home Hub smart screen.

Google isn’t the first company to roll out a screen-enabled home device with voice-assistant technology— Amazon.com released its Echo Show in July 2017. Meanwhile, Lenovo has gotten good reviews for its Smart Display, and Facebook introduced the Portal on Monday.

For the most part, though, consumers have stuck to voice-only devices, and it will be up to Google and its rivals to convince them that an added screen is worth paying for. They’ll also have to reassure consumers that they can trust big tech to maintain their privacy, an admittedly harder task these days after recent security issues at Google and Facebook.

 

Amazon was right to realize early on that consumers aren’t always comfortable buying items they can’t even see pictures of, and that it’s hard to remember directions you’ve heard but not seen.

 

 

Google has announced its first smart speaker with a screen — from businessinsider.com by Brandt Ranj

  • Google has announced the Google Hub, its first smart home speaker with a screen. It’s available for pre-order at Best Buy, Target, and Walmart for $149. The Hub will be released on October 22.
  • The Hub has a 7″ touchscreen and sits on a base with a built-in speaker and microphones, which you can use to play music, watch videos, get directions, and control smart home accessories with your voice.
  • Its biggest advantage is its ability to hook into Google’s first-party services, like YouTube and Google Maps, which none of its competitors can use.
  • If you’re an Android or Chromecast user, trust Google more than Amazon, or want a smaller smart home speaker with a screen, the Google Hub is now your best bet.

 

 

Google is shutting down Google+ for consumers following security lapse — from theverge.com by Ashley Carman

Excerpt:

Google is going to shut down the consumer version of Google+ over the next 10 months, the company writes in a blog post today. The decision follows the revelation of a previously undisclosed security flaw that exposed users’ profile data that was remedied in March 2018.

 

 

Google shutters Google+ after users’ personal data exposed — from cbsnews.com

 

 

Google+ is shutting down, and the site’s few loyal users are mourning – from cnbc.com by Jillian D’Onfro

  • Even though Google had diverted resources away from Google+, there’s a small loyal base of users devastated to see it go away.
  • One fan said the company is using its recently revealed security breach as an excuse to shutter the site.
  • Google said it will be closing Google+ in the coming months.

 

 

 

Jarvish’s smart motorcycle helmets will offer Alexa and Siri support and an AR display

 

Jarvish’s smart motorcycle helmets will offer Alexa and Siri support and an AR display — from the verge.com by Chaim Gartenberg

Excerpt:

The Jarvish X is the more basic of the two models. It offers integrated microphones and speakers for Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa support so wearers have access things like directions, weather updates, and control music through voice control. There’s also a 2K, front-facing camera built into the helmet so you can record your ride. It’s set to cost $799 when it hits Kickstarter in January.

 

 

 

NEW: The Top Tools for Learning 2018 [Jane Hart]

The Top Tools for Learning 2018 from the 12th Annual Digital Learning Tools Survey -- by Jane Hart

 

The above was from Jane’s posting 10 Trends for Digital Learning in 2018 — from modernworkplacelearning.com by Jane Hart

Excerpt:

[On 9/24/18],  I released the Top Tools for Learning 2018 , which I compiled from the results of the 12th Annual Digital Learning Tools Survey.

I have also categorised the tools into 30 different areas, and produced 3 sub-lists that provide some context to how the tools are being used:

  • Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning 2018 (PPL100): the digital tools used by individuals for their own self-improvement, learning and development – both inside and outside the workplace.
  • Top 100 Tools for Workplace Learning (WPL100): the digital tools used to design, deliver, enable and/or support learning in the workplace.
  • Top 100 Tools for Education (EDU100): the digital tools used by educators and students in schools, colleges, universities, adult education etc.

 

3 – Web courses are increasing in popularity.
Although Coursera is still the most popular web course platform, there are, in fact, now 12 web course platforms on the list. New additions this year include Udacity and Highbrow (the latter provides daily micro-lessons). It is clear that people like these platforms because they can chose what they want to study as well as how they want to study, ie. they can dip in and out if they want to and no-one is going to tell them off – which is unlike most corporate online courses which have a prescribed path through them and their use is heavily monitored.

 

 

5 – Learning at work is becoming personal and continuous.
The most significant feature of the list this year is the huge leap up the list that Degreed has made – up 86 places to 47th place – the biggest increase by any tool this year. Degreed is a lifelong learning platform and provides the opportunity for individuals to own their expertise and development through a continuous learning approach. And, interestingly, Degreed appears both on the PPL100 (at  30) and WPL100 (at 52). This suggests that some organisations are beginning to see the importance of personal, continuous learning at work. Indeed, another platform that underpins this, has also moved up the list significantly this year, too. Anders Pink is a smart curation platform available for both individuals and teams which delivers daily curated resources on specified topics. Non-traditional learning platforms are therefore coming to the forefront, as the next point further shows.

 

 

From DSC:
Perhaps some foreshadowing of the presence of a powerful, online-based, next generation learning platform…?

 

 

 

How AI could help solve some of society’s toughest problems — from technologyreview.com by Charlotte Jee
Machine learning and game theory help Carnegie Mellon assistant professor Fei Fang predict attacks and protect people.

Excerpt:

Fei Fang has saved lives. But she isn’t a lifeguard, medical doctor, or superhero. She’s an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University, specializing in artificial intelligence for societal challenges.

At MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference on Wednesday, Fang outlined recent work across academia that applies AI to protect critical national infrastructure, reduce homelessness, and even prevent suicides.

 

 

How AI can be a force for good — from science.sciencemag.org by Mariarosaria Taddeo & Luciano Floridi

Excerpts:

Invisibility and Influence
AI supports services, platforms, and devices that are ubiquitous and used on a daily basis. In 2017, the International Federation of Robotics suggested that by 2020, more than 1.7 million new AI-powered robots will be installed in factories worldwide. In the same year, the company Juniper Networks issued a report estimating that, by 2022, 55% of households worldwide will have a voice assistant, like Amazon Alexa.

As it matures and disseminates, AI blends into our lives, experiences, and environments and becomes an invisible facilitator that mediates our interactions in a convenient, barely noticeable way. While creating new opportunities, this invisible integration of AI into our environments poses further ethical issues. Some are domain-dependent. For example, trust and transparency are crucial when embedding AI solutions in homes, schools, or hospitals, whereas equality, fairness, and the protection of creativity and rights of employees are essential in the integration of AI in the workplace. But the integration of AI also poses another fundamental risk: the erosion of human self-determination due to the invisibility and influencing power of AI.

To deal with the risks posed by AI, it is imperative to identify the right set of fundamental ethical principles to inform the design, regulation, and use of AI and leverage it to benefit as well as respect individuals and societies. It is not an easy task, as ethical principles may vary depending on cultural contexts and the domain of analysis. This is a problem that the IEEE Global Initiative on Ethics of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems tackles with the aim of advancing public debate on the values and principles that should underpin ethical uses of AI.

 

 

Who’s to blame when a machine botches your surgery? — from qz.com by Robert Hart

Excerpt:

That’s all great, but even if an AI is amazing, it will still fail sometimes. When the mistake is caused by a machine or an algorithm instead of a human, who is to blame?

This is not an abstract discussion. Defining both ethical and legal responsibility in the world of medical care is vital for building patients’ trust in the profession and its standards. It’s also essential in determining how to compensate individuals who fall victim to medical errors, and ensuring high-quality care. “Liability is supposed to discourage people from doing things they shouldn’t do,” says Michael Froomkin, a law professor at the University of Miami.

 

 

Google Cloud’s new AI chief is on a task force for AI military uses and believes we could monitor ‘pretty much the whole world’ with drones — from businessinsider.in by Greg Sandoval

Excerpt:

“We could afford if we wanted to, and if we needed, to be surveilling pretty much the whole word with autonomous drones of various kinds,” Moore said. “I’m not saying we’d want to do that, but there’s not a technology gap there where I think it’s actually too difficult to do. This is now practical.”

Google’s decision to hire Moore was greeted with displeasure by at least one former Googler who objected to Project Maven.

“It’s worrisome to note after the widespread internal dissent against Maven that Google would hire Andrew Moore,” said one former Google employee. “Googlers want less alignment with the military-industrial complex, not more. This hire is like a punch in the face to the over 4,000 Googlers who signed the Cancel Maven letter.”

 

 

Organizations Are Gearing Up for More Ethical and Responsible Use of Artificial Intelligence, Finds Study — from businesswire.com
Ninety-two percent of AI leaders train their technologists in ethics; 74 percent evaluate AI outcomes weekly, says report from SAS, Accenture Applied Intelligence, Intel, and Forbes Insights

Excerpt:

AI oversight is not optional

Despite popular messages suggesting AI operates independently of human intervention, the research shows that AI leaders recognize that oversight is not optional for these technologies. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of AI leaders reported careful oversight with at least weekly review or evaluation of outcomes (less successful AI adopters: 33 percent). Additionally, 43 percent of AI leaders shared that their organization has a process for augmenting or overriding results deemed questionable during review (less successful AI adopters: 28 percent).

 

 

 

Do robots have rights? Here’s what 10 people and 1 robot have to say — from createdigital.org.au
When it comes to the future of technology, nothing is straightforward, and that includes the array of ethical issues that engineers encounter through their work with robots and AI.

 

 

 

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