Archive: Science & Tech

April 27th, 2014 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Science & Tech | Comments Off

Seven IT Trends for Five Years

The small businessmanOur futurist friend and colleague Gerd Leonhard wrote last year about 7 digital trends for SwissNex San Francisco, a project of the Swiss Consulate in San Francisco (Gerd resides in Basel). It is a nice summary of several features of what I call a data flow society. His seven for the next 5 years…

1. The end of offline. Our entire lives have merged with the data flow. We can escape, but few do for long.

2. Global consumerization of IT. Really interesting trend where consumers and young employees pull IT departments along, rather than the other way round.

3. Revolution in data-input methods. We’ve been waiting for this, but do you find yourself swiping, waving, pointing at or speaking to your devices more and more? I do. Out there in the labs is a lot work on direct brain to machine interfaces.

4. Almost all business is socially-driven (especially those based on digital products). Peer to peer recommendations, ratings, endorsements and all kinds of Likeonomics essentially replace CRM; the same goes for hiring and general HR needs.
 
5. Big Data everywhere! Data levels, depth, and sheer frequency reach unimaginable pace and proportions, and anyone/anything having to do with data-mining and management is in high demand. Key issue is how to make meaning trump noise.

6. We are shifting from downloads to flows and from stuff to bits, both in terms of technology as well as user behavior and consumption habits. Information accessed and filtered and sifted when and where and how it’s needed.

7. The Internet of Things and pervasive machine-to-machine connectivity become very real.

Great stuff as always from Gerd.

And a special note: his new web video series that he is calling “The Future Show” launches on Monday, 28 April 2014. Check it out. Good luck Gerd, and hey, maybe he will interview us one day!

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April 18th, 2014 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Innovation, Science & Tech | Comments Off

The Future of Mobility – Podcast

Check out my latest chat with Dave Evans, Chief Futurist at Cisco, on the future of mobility wearable technology, and the internet of everything. Listen to the podcast here.

Nuubo shirt with cardiac monitor

Nuubo shirt with cardiac monitor

I think we are in the process of building the greatest engineering project in history. Cisco calls it the “Internet of everything,” Verizon calls it “M2M for machine-to-machine communication,” and IBM, of course, has called it a “smarter planet” for some time now. At one time the build out of the Internet and wireless networks could be seen as our greatest engineering feat, aimed at connecting over 7 billion people with each other on demand. We are almost there. But the new project is bigger because it involves building a global platform for devices to communicate with each other and thus to integrate the human, natural and built worlds. One estimate is that some 25 billion devices will be connected and communicating by 2015, 50 billion by 2020, leading to as much as $14 trillion in economic activity in the next decade. By any measure these are huge numbers.

The future of mobility is intimately tied to this engineering project – as our devices come to know where they are, and more importantly become able to communicate information to other devices and to us, the world will change quite fundamentally. We’ve become familiar with various quantified self health devices like wrist bands that count your steps and activity, or monitor your sleep patterns, and then provide feedback. Apps now enable those devices to link with others in a group you might create, so everyone can monitor the progress of others and of course make comparisons and turn fitness into more of a game.

But were we are headed, and credit Dave for this language, is from wearable devices to aware-able devices. Right now with the fitness band I use I have to set up a group, with their agreement of course, and then we can compare. In future, the band, the Nuubo running shirt with built in monitors or other devices I might wear will link to big data via the cloud and I will know, for example, how my week compares to all other men in my age range nationally or globally. The device will become more aware, in other words.

One of my favorite smart devices I came across recently is a smart helmet insert from Shockbox. Concussions are a problem in contact sports. With an insert that measures the force of blows to the head, and communicates wirelessly to a handheld device, a coach or team doctor on the sideline can track the blows being received. So when a young player staggers off the field but says “I’m fine” the data will be right there saying, no you received too hard a blow.

Shockbox sensor with iPhone

Shockbox sensor with iPhone

Here is the podcast again. Dave thinks we are going to move in stages from smart wearables to smart implantables to possibly even the choice of enhanced replacement parts for bodies. Provocative stuff. Among other things I describe an interesting traffic incident and wonder why we still rely on human brains and hand-eye coordination in split second situations. With smart infrastructure, devices, and mobility, we won’t.

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April 1st, 2014 | By Contributing Writer | Posted in Art & Society, Science & Tech | Comments Off

The Future Needs Translation

Man-vs-machine

Image source: http://isragarcia.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Man-vs-machine.jpg

In order to reach 98% of the world’s online users, businesses today must translate their content into 48 different languages. Supplying content in English limits them to about a third of the world’s consumer base, cutting them off from a $50 trillion market located mostly outside the United States.

The resulting, ever increasing demand for translation is driving a variety of changes in the translation market. Machine translation technology has reached the point where it is widely usable by the average user, but the difference between it and a professional translation is still acutely visible. Where will translation go in the next few years? Will machines take over? Here are a few predictions.

1. Machine translation will grow, but it will not supplant human translators

Machine translation is not capable of reaching the same accuracy or fluency as a human. Every person who speaks a language can add new words to the vocabulary, give new meaning to existing words, change the grammar, or tweak the spelling. One need only look at online chat, Twitter, political revolutions, or popular songs for example.

Computers will never be able to keep up with all these evolving changes. However, improvements in machine translation have already brought it to the point where forgiving users find it convenient and often a necessity. The approximately 250,000 translators worldwide simply cannot keep up with the ever-growing demand for translations between the world’s 6,000+ languages.

Therefore, improved machine translation engines will combine with increased demand — and increased tolerance for mediocre but instantaneous translations — to cement machine translation output in modern society.

2. Human translation will become increasingly valuable

The imperfection of everyday machine translation will increase recognition of the benefits that quality human translation offers. More people will recognize that text can be translated in multiple ways, and translation buyers will start understanding the importance of high-quality human translation in order to effectively sell their products or appeal to specific foreign buyers.

3. Translation will become increasingly integrated into a company’s workflow 

Each additional language which a company offers multiplies the amount of content in their workflow. Companies will be all but forced to integrate translation into the process of producing content for their business, so that they are able to translate, edit, review, and synchronize all localized versions of their content in an efficient manner.

This may take the form of expanded feature sets in content management systems (CMS) or additional specialized packages, but it will be increasingly apparent that treating translation and localization as an afterthought is impractical.

4. Human translators will take on broader roles

Already, translators who choose to use computer-aided techniques in their work are personalizing machine translation engines to their specific specialties and developing custom translation memory tools to suit their needs.

With the increasing demand for machine translation — particularly in situations where human translation is not practical or necessary — translators will find themselves working to improve different machine translation engines to specific tasks.

In the situations where machines cannot do the job, translators may drift away from the original concept of simply translating text and become localizers or ‘trans-creators’, in charge of translating the more abstract concepts behind a brand into a local market and creating content to suit. Similarly, translators are already doing business-critical work like checking product names to ensure they have the correct meaning across many cultures, and ensure there are no language traps which will appear on launch.

Conclusion

Online translation has already come very far since its inception. As well as the ubiquitous machine translation services, businesses can now obtain quality human translations on a near-automatic basis. Translation services with APIs allow the translation process to be integrated into existing software packages for efficient localization, and that is simply a start. Translation is becoming an ever more important aspect of business online for all kinds of businesses, and the industry is adapting quickly to this new role.

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February 27th, 2014 | By Contributing Writer | Posted in Art & Society, Business & Economy, Innovation, Media, Science & Tech | Comments Off

Google Search’s Amit Singhal – Constructing the Conversational Computer

The Galactic Public Archives are videos that feature past and present visionaries on their explorations of the future and how it could be embraced with optimism.

Introduction to Amit Singhal (at Google) from Galactic Public Archives on Vimeo.

Meet Amit Singhal. During Amit Singhal’s 13 years at Google, the company has been evolving the iconic search bar into a voice-controlled search engine that allows for a more natural, conversational search – à la Star Trek’s LCARS computer. They aren’t there yet. If you ask Google – using voice – who Bill Clinton is, and then ask who his (using the pronoun instead of his name) daughter is – Google can tell you. You can even follow that up by asking what her job is, and again, Google understands. If however, you follow up your question about Bill Clinton with, “Who was the next president?” Google is stumped. Its ability to hold context means that it can only hold a conversation as long as you stick within some narrow parameters. Clearly search has not reached Her status – as envisioned by Spike Jonze. Most people are not in danger of mistaking Google for a love interest. Still, the system’s current competence is quite a feat considering it happens to be ‘conversing’ and interfacing with millions of people at once.

Amit Singhal, however, believes that the current situation is just a stepping-stone, and that natural, ‘frictionless’ conversation with a computer is an attainable goal.

We interviewed Amit Singhal at Google HQ in 2013. He’s a personable guy with a positive outlook on the future, as well as a staunch belief that information science & search can allow humanity to be, essentially, more human.

Amit Singhal (at Google): Constructing the Conversational Computer from Galactic Public Archives on Vimeo.

During our conversation Amit said that the challenge is finding the missing “intelligent connections” that humans can make and computers can’t – the missing links between today’s search and a true conversational machine. Amit and his team are working on algorithms to allow computers to build those connections.

These videos, and others in the Galactic Public Archives are compiled from our conversations with inventors, scientists, visionaries and thinkers who have compelling visions of the future, in conjunction with 2030, an upcoming film about the future. Discover more GPA videos at Vimeo.com/GalacticPublicArchives.

*Guest Author: Ellen Boss at The Galactic Public Archives

2030

 

 

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January 16th, 2014 | By Mallory Smith | Posted in Art & Society, Science & Tech | Comments Off

The Quantified Self is Here and It’s Going Mainstream

quantified self

In case you missed it, Glen was recently interviewed by James Temple at Re/code. The result is an exciting article called Robots, Regenerative Medicine and More: Futurists Gaze Into 2014. In it, Glen mentions the coming year seeing the true mainstreaming of the ‘quantified self.’ He also talks about other things you want to know about, so be sure to read Re/code right now!

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