Posts tagged “artificial intelligence”

Stories behind the themes: Biological

Welcome to the fourth installment of an unfolding bibliography of secondary research that fueled our generation of themes for the Omni project. This time around we are focusing on the blurring biological boundaries between technology and our everyday lives (and bodies). We have seen a number of articles and other tidbits that hint at how far technology has advanced towards human behavior, brain function, and biomechanics. We also see quite a bit that suggests how far humans are leaning towards (and on) technology as inspiration, mediation, medication, and meme.

Is It Time To Welcome Our New Computer Overlords? [TheAtlantic.com] – The human codes of nuance and meaning in language are not yet cracked – they cannot yet be simulated.

Elsewhere, Ferrucci has been more circumspect about Watson’s level of “understanding.” In an interview with IBM’s own magazine ForwardView, he said, “For a computer, there is no connection from words to human experience and human cognition. The words are just symbols to the computer. How does it know what they really mean?” In other words, for all of the impressive NLP programming that has gone into Watson, the computer is unable to penetrate the semantics of language, or comprehend how meanings of words are shot through with allusions to human culture and the experience of daily life.

How much is a life worth in pixels? [SocialMediaCollective] – An effort to quantify the value of a human life (or in this case death) as measured by screen space allocated to reporting it on the webpages of various news sites. Not the most rigorous metric, but certainly a clever approach to valuing human presence in the virtual world.

Frustrated by this, I decided to get a more objective assessment of the coverage by counting the number of pixels different news websites were assigning to the story of the massacre. I know web designers put a lot of work into every single pixel on the screen, especially of high-traffic websites. Visitor’s attention is scarce and every pixel counts. So I took screenshots of¬† the front pages of some of the major news websites and calculated the amount of screen real state assigned to the story of the massacre.

The Cyborg in Us All [NYT.com] – Tracing the steps we are taking towards a totally hands-free interaction with technology where brains will send messages directly to devices. One less interaction to sit between man and machine.

Now it was my turn. Mukerjee removed the headset and moistened the tips of its electrodes with contact-lens fluid, then arranged the EEG device on top of my hair. The electrodes poked into my scalp like wet fingers. I held the iPhone in front of me and beamed a blast of willpower at it. “Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs,” I shouted inside my mind. The phone picked George Bush.

PUMPED UP KICKS|DUBSTEP [YouTube] – Here we see technology influencing body – this guy dances like what you are watching is a video effect; in the way that the audio IS an audio effect – loops, run backwards, etc. very digital. But the video is real – this is his way of moving his body, but the aesthetic is entirely defined by something created elsewhere as technology. Yes, we had The Robot in the 70s, but this is different – that was a human dancing like a machine, this is a human dancing like an effect – something that doesn’t exist except as the manipulation of data.

You are a robot [TheTechnium] РKK deconstructs dancing like a robot and highlights the myriad ways the human body can be molded to perform like a techno-being.  

Everywhere we look in pop culture today, some of the coolest expressions are created by humans imitating machines. Exhibit A would be the surging popularity of popping, tutting, and dub step dancing. You’ve seen these dancers on YouTube: the best of them look exactly like robots dancing, with the mechanical stutter of today’s crude robots trying to move like humans. Except the imitators robotically dance better than any robot could — so far.

A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design [worrydream.com] – Bret Victor has his finger (pun certainly intended) on the pulse of our future interactions with technology. The rant focuses on our bodies, namely our hands and fingers, and their place of privilege between humans and technology (I feel a Michelangelo Sistine Chapel reference coming on). If, as they say, all things are created twice (first in the mind and then in reality) then Victor has me wondering if technology has already infiltrated our minds and influenced the pursuit of Pictures Under Glass as opposed to, say, envisioning an experience rich with tactility and manual manipulation.

There’s a reason that our fingertips have some of the densest areas of nerve endings on the body. This is how we experience the world close-up. This is how our tools talk to us. The sense of touch is essential to everything that humans have called “work” for millions of years.

Biomimicry’s Greatest Hits [FastCompany.com] – We continue to see blurring of the boundaries between humans and technology in this presentation which offers examples of how nature has inspired and informed some memorable technological advances.

The idea of taking inspiration from nature may be gaining traction in many industries today, but the natural world has always been a powerful inspiration for designers and inventors. Here are some of the most important objects that take their cue from the world around us.

Siri’s rising star

Siri, the scene-stealing voice-activated command center of the new iPhone 4S, has created quite a stir, inspiring at least one love song and a Tumblr documenting her pointed witticisms. She is certainly gaining on Autocorrect in popularity and possibly in perceived utility, if not hilarity.

Conceptually, voice interface holds great appeal. In our research, when we talk to people about their gadgets, voice is frequently suggested as the imagined ideal interface. People picture immediate interactions that eliminate pesky thumb typing and don’t distract from critical tasks, such as driving. But when we think a little more deeply about the concept of voice-command with people, it’s clear that this kind of out-loud interface is not the interface for all times and places. Even the voice interactions that have been around for awhile are out of favor. People prefer texting over voice-calls for privacy and expediency, and despise talking to automated systems.

While attending a conference over this past weekend, I personally overheard a man tersely exclaim, “Not NOW, Siri!” in the middle of a presentation. This suggests that relationships being formed with Siri are progressing beyond infatuation at an accelerated pace. We’ll be keeping an eye on how Siri’s use plays out in real-life situations over time and where the real value lies, as her undeniable charms wear off.

A couple of recent articles with interesting perspectives on Siri’s limits and potential impact:

Is Siri artificially intelligent or just a robot? [macleans.ca] – How does Siri come by her pithy attitude? This article suggests that it’s much the same way that Crispin Porter + Bogusky set up the hilarious Burger King marketing campaign 10 years ago, Subservient Chicken, in which a man dressed in a chicken suit seemed to respond to even the most ludicrous typed commands via a “live” interactive webcam set up in a shady-looking apartment. This was accomplished by staging clips with pre-programmed responses to a large enough number of imagined inquiries that verisimilitude was achieved.

The key to AI is the ability to creatively solve a problem. There’s no denying that Siri’s ability to recognize and translate voice plus grammar into usable data or actions qualifies. In that sense, Siri possesses what seems to be a good level of artificial intelligence. However, with the sort of stuff showing up on the websites…a good portion of Siri’s capabilities are likely simple programmed responses. It’s doubtful that even IBM’s Watson supercomputer, which not too long ago whupped human butt on Jeopardy, could construct such creative and funny responses as, “No comment, douche bag” to questions such as “Are you menstruating?” In such regards, Siri is more of a programmed robot than a thinking entity. Somebody somewhere-or more likely, many people somewhere-have spent a good deal of time anticipating and then programming Siri with potential questions and their respective answers, humourous or otherwise.

How Siri, the Apple iPhone 4S’s ‘Virtual Personal Assistant,’ Could Transform Music [billboard.biz] – Apps are just solutions to problems; this article suggests that, if uptake is significant, Siri might potentially eliminate the need to access specifically branded apps to get stuff done. Implications go well beyond music, obviously.

If an iPhone user asks Siri what the lyrics to “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey are, many people won’t care much whether TuneWiki or any other app fulfills the request. All that matters to them is that their request gets fulfilled in a timely manner, and that they’re soon happily singing, “Just a small town girl, living in a lonely world.” Similarly, if a user is seeking concert listings for the night, which match up to the songs on their iPhone, they’re unconcerned whether Songkick, Bandsintown, or Ticketmaster produces the results as long as they get them fast and accurately. Siri fundamentally changes how iPhone users think of apps, which is the point…Shazam and Pandora aren’t just apps; they’re features. To use them, a person should only need to know that they want to identify a song or listen to a custom radio station and-like magic-the desired process should occur. Siri can be the genie who makes it happen.

Robot Redux

Given my recent post about robots, I thought it worth a mention that today is the birthday of Karel Capek, the Czech writer who first introduced the term “Robot” to the world in his 1921 play R.U.R. (Although Karel is widely credited as the inventor of the word, it was actually his brother Josef who coined the term.)

For all you fans of artificial intelligence–if you’re ever in the Boston area, be sure to check out the MIT museum’s ongoing Robots and Beyond exhibit. It’s a fascinating collection of A.I.-related artifacts, films and actual machines.

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