- “Poetic” Statistical Machine Translation: Rhyme and Meter (PDF) — Google Research paper on how to machine translate text into poetry. This is the best paper I’ve read in a long time: clever premise, straightforward implementation, and magnificent results. There’s a very workable translation of Oscar Wilde’s “Ballad of Reading Gaol” into a different meter, which you’ll know isn’t easy if you’ve ever tried your hand at poetry more complex than “there once was a young man called Enis”. (via Poetic Machine Translation on the Google Research blog)
- Android Most Popular Operating System in US Among Recent Smartphone Buyers (Nielsen blog) — the graphs say it all. Note how the growth in Android handset numbers doesn’t come at the expense of Blackberry or iPhone users? Android users aren’t switchers, they’re new smartphone owners. (via Hacker News)
- Government Data to be Machine Readable (Guardian) — UK government to require all responses to Freedom of Information Act requests to be machine readable.
- jQuery Fundamentals — CC-SA-licensed book on jQuery programming. (via darren on Twitter)
Rosie the Robot may feel more comfortable talking to Siri than to you
Recently, Glenn Martin wrote an article describing how robotics in moving out of the factory and into the house. And while Glenn restricted himself mainly to the type of robots that pop into your head when someone says the word (either the anthropomorphic variety or the industrial flavor), the reality is that there are a lot of robots already in the hands of consumers, although it might take a moment to recognize them as such.
I’m speaking of drones, and especially quadcopters, which are proliferating at an enormous rate, and are being used to do everything from documenting a cool skateboard move to creating a breathtaking overflight of a horrific disaster site.
Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.
As the end of December approaches, it’s time to take a look at the year that was. In a lot of ways, 2013 was a status quo year for mobile, with nothing earthshaking to report, just a steady progression of what already is getting more, um, is-y?
We started the year with Apple on top in the tablet space, Android on top in the handset space, and that’s how we ended the year. Microsoft appears to have abandoned the handset space after a decade of attempts to take market-share, and made their move on the tablet space instead with the Surface. In spite of expensive choreographer board room commercials, the Surface didn’t make a huge dent in Apple’s iPad dominance. But Microsoft did better than Blackberry, whose frantic flailing in the market has come to represent nothing so much as a fish out of water.
Here's a couple of Big Questions that may take generations to answer
I spend a lot of time on this blog focused on the very short term issues regarding mobile. Is Apple better than Android. Will Blackberry survive? What’s the best strategy in Candy Crush? But sometimes you need to pull up to 30,000 feet and look at some of the bigger questions, such as:
What are the real long-term health effects of cell-phones? Wearable mobile technology has only been around for a few decades, and in true widespread use for less than 10. Are there health risks to having an RF transmitter that close to your head for long periods of time? More importantly, are there effects on offspring to carrying a two watt transmitter in close proximity to your reproductive organs for 18 hours a day? This is even more significant for women, where the effect would be cumulative from birth, since eggs are carried for a woman’s entire lifetime. Short term studies have shown mixed results, but lifetime exposure hazards are hard to gauge when the technology itself is so new. We really didn’t understand the cost to society of lead in our gasoline until half-a-century after its introduction. A decade of data on cell phones is unlikely to hold all the answers to the scope of the potential problems.
Android software development at a crossroads
Apps have to get bigger and more ambitious. A key question for the developer community is how do you create big, integrated, multi-functional, configurable apps for the mobile enterprise? Curiously, Facebook is providing some answers by not using HTML5 and not attempting to make a cross-platform app. Go native, go big, and go deep.
Facebook Home is a harbinger of serious mobile apps
Facebook Home has earned positive reviews—in many cases from reviewers who had tired of Facebook and the intrusiveness of Facebook’s privacy policies and practices. Facebook Home is an example of a new kind of Android software development. It spans a variety of functions as a suite of cooperating software. It uses Android’s intent filters, high-level interprocess communication (IPC), shared databases (
ContentProvider components) and remote APIs to bond together a software product that replaces many of the standard parts of Android—as they are meant to be replaced.
Facebook Home isn’t some kind of rogue hack, nor is it a “fork” of AOSP, as Kindle Fire is. Facebook Home is a tour de force of correct Android application architecture. It takes over your phone, interface by interface, always playing by the rules, and it does so for justifiable reasons: for putting Facebook’s functionality everywhere you want to perform communications and social media functions.
Moreover, Facebook Home simply can’t be done on iPhone. iOS has a specific vision of apps that is separate from system software, while Android’s frameworks are the basis of both applications and system software. Facebook Home was built with this difference in mind: It replaces key elements of the Android system user experience. It is a suite of communicating apps. The word “app” doesn’t sufficiently describe it.
Industry executives predict commerce trends, mobile shoppers are Apple users, and the genius of the barcode.
Here are a few stories that caught my attention in the commerce space this week.
Predicting the 2013 commerce space
As 2012 wraps up, industry executives are looking ahead to what 2013 might bring. In a report at eCommerceBytes, executives at e-commerce and Internet service company Rakuten pulled together five trends to watch in 2013, including increased use of video on e-commerce sites; a market shift toward specialized retailers, both brick-and-mortar and online; and the advent of curated commerce, or “shopping for a lifestyle” as opposed to shopping for individual items.
Executives also highlighted mobile integrations, noting that they expect an increase in in-store integration via apps, QR codes and augmented reality. Predicted trends also included a change in the way consumers pay: “Services like PayPal and Apple’s iTunes have already begun to centralize payments on mobile, but the next step will be services such as Square that offer sellers the ability to receive card payments with their existing smartphone and a simple plug-in device,” the report says.
PayPal president David Marcus also took a look ahead. He sees cash registers going mobile, with customers able to pay from the store aisle or even the changing room, and predicts location-aware and context-relevent shopping and payments will be more disruptive than many now expect. In the payment space, he sees mobile wallets, consumer loyalty programs and coupon platforms merging into one efficient and convenient business. He also predicts NFC will die a slow death in 2013: “it’s not solving a real consumer problem,” he writes at the PayPal blog, “and it’s not providing additional value to encourage me (or anyone else, for that matter) to change my behavior.”
In related news, Square COO Keith Rabois pulled together some predictions for what consumers and retailers can expect from Square in 2013. In an interview with CNET’s Daniel Terdiman, Rabois said Starbucks’ customers haven’t seen anything yet, that they can “expect full Square Wallet functionality” in 2013 as well as new features and “major enhancements” — Rabois said Square’s partnership with Starbucks is in its “first inning.”
Rabois noted, however, that Square is just the beginning, that “anything new that’s developed in the coming months will also be rolled out for use at every single merchant that’s part of the Square Wallet program” and that additional retail partnership announcements can be expected in the coming year. Looking further ahead? “Rabois said that the company envisions Square Wallet working ‘everywhere,'” Terdiman reports, “from personal trainers to interactions between friends to contractors working people’s homes.”
Dr. Nadav Aharony used phone sensors to explore personal behaviors and community trends.
It’s clear at this point that the smartphone revolution has very little to do with the phone function in these devices. Rather, it’s the unique mix of sensors, always-on connectivity and mass consumer adoption that’s shaping business and culture.
Dr. Nadav Aharony (@nadavaha) tapped into this mix when he was working on a “social MRI” study in MIT’s Media Lab. Aharony, who recently joined us as part of our ongoing foo interview series, described his vision of the social MRI:
“If you think about it, the three things you take with you when you go out of your home are your keys, your wallet and your phone, so our phones are always with us. In aggregate, we can use the phones in many people’s pockets as a virtual imaging chamber. So, one aspect of the social MRI is this virtual imaging chamber that is collecting tens or hundreds of signals at the same time from members of the community.” [Discussed at 1:16]
Aharony’s work focused on 150 participants (about 75 families) that were given phones for 15 months. During that time, more than one million hours of “continuous sensing data” was gathered with the participants’ consent. The data was acquired and scrubbed under MIT’s ethics guidelines, and for extra measure, Aharony included his own data in the dataset.
Collecting the data was just the beginning. Parsing that information and creating experiments based on emerging signals is where the applications of a social MRI became significant.
Consumers trust old school, PayPal researches online game payments, and a look at smartphone market share.
A survey by Ogilvy & Mather shows consumers trust Visa, MasterCard & American Express the most, but PayPal beats out Google and Apple. Also, PayPal researches online game payments, and a quick look at smart phone platform market share.
Tyler Bell on how smartphones expand our influence to people and places.
As a part of an ongoing series looking at mobile disruption, Tyler Bell offers his take on how smartphones can be harnessed individually and collectively.
The era of "bring your own computer" could soon be upon us.
Cloud computing could reduce asset management costs by allowing more employees to use their own equipment in the workplace.