AI, Chatting With Lightbulbs and iPad Miracles

Philips Hue Signe light strip floor lamp

We tend to focus on the irritating, silly problems of new technology because, well, it amuses us. But the other side of the coin is that problems get resolved, and what we’re left with is a wholesale cultural change. And when that happens, no amount of lingering cynicism will prevent things from becoming as they never were before.

Philips Hue Signe light strip floor lamp

As an example of that, I’ll point to this CNET article. “AI means your children will talk to your lightbulbs, Amazon says.” Don’t laugh. This has import.

[Swami Sivasubramanian], the vice president of Amazon’s machine learning efforts has a 3-year-old daughter. With Amazon’s Echo smart speakers, powered by Amazon’s Alexa voice control technology, she turns on the lights and listens to ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ being sung …

‘Now she doesn’t even look for switches,’ Sivasubramanian said. ‘When we go to a hotel, she actually says, ”Mommy, Alexa isn’t listening to me.”

Now you may dismiss this story as an edge case because of Mr. Sivasubramanian’s motivations, expertise and position an Amazon. But history has shown that technology starts off like this but eventually goes mainstream.

This link reminds me of a story, years ago, about a tech journalist. He had very young daughter who was well familiar with her iPad but not with paper magazines. One Sunday morning, his daughter was trying to pinch-zoom a photo in a magazine and cried out: “Daddy, it’s broken.”

Today we take iPads for granted. But it’s really a miracle of tech evolution that we’ve seen mature in just over a decade. Expect the same from AI.

More Debris

• A lot of fuss has been made about Google’s Call Screen for the Pixel smartphones. Apparently, Apple has been thinking about all this, but in a slightly different context. “Apple wants your iPhone to warn you of spoofed calls.” So far, the tech is only in the patent stage, but it does illustrate the difference in thinking between Google and Apple.

Telemarketing is a big business in the U.S., even though consumers hate it. And so an effort by Google to outright kill an established business, overnight, will probably run aground. But a phone scam, that often invokes call number spoofing, is illegal. And that problem can be tackled by the technology in the Apple patent that Cult of Mac describes.

• There have been lots of reviews of Apple’s new iPhone XS and XS Max. But my perennial favorite comes from Anandtech. This site really digs into the hardware and showcases an awesome comparison chart with specs seldom seen elsewhere. See:

Here, NN refers to a Neural Network standard of performance. These are terrific articles. Make a pot of tea. A big one.

• Dan Moren at Macworld thinks Google has developed some hardware that introduces features we would welcome in Apple products. “3 features Apple should borrow from Google’s latest hardware.” For example,

Google’s Pixel 3 … eschews a second rear-facing camera. But it does include a second front-facing camera for the purpose of taking wide-angle selfies. This is, admittedly, a brilliant choice.

And who, if it isn’t Apple, is more into selfies?

Apple Watch Series 4
The new intelligent guardian. Image credit: Apple.

• Finally, we at The Mac Observer have been monitoring our new Apple Watches (Series 4) to determine if we can get all-day, all-night battery life. That would allow sleep monitoring. Ben Lovejoy at 9to5Mac has also been testing and has this report. “Apple Watch Diary: Battery-life is now good enough for sleep-tracking plus all-day wear.

My own very preliminary testing indicates about 1 percent battery drop per hour. But the battery is new, and I haven’t had a chance to put the watch through a variety of power hungry tasks. I will continue to track my AWS4 battery performance.

Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout event or article of the week followed by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holiday weeks.

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W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

John: Interesting reads. Shockingly, let me begin with a comment on the CNET article regarding AI. And yes, I recall that same article you cite about the fellow whose child tried to pinch and zoom a magazine photo. Technology has always enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with culture; the two interacting in a (generally) positive feedback loop in which culture inspires technology which then influences culture which in turn inspires and influences yet newer technologies, or at least incremental technological transformation. We have also witnessed negative feedback loops, although these have occurred generally when the technological products have had perceived deleterious… Read more »