Angry Robot

Screen Plus Speakers Equals… Wait a Minnit

Amazon announced their long-rumoured Echo with a screen today and frankly I think this thing is a dog, but what do I know.

So this is basically… a smart TV for your kitchen? Is there any other room in the prototypical house for which this would be an appropriate arrangement of screens and speakers? In a living room a TV would probably be better, on a desk a computer would be better, and in a bedroom basically any one of tablet/laptop/TV would be better. My problem is I haven’t tried a normal Echo, and I gather it’s distinguished by an unusually effective voice service, so maybe if I got hooked on Alexa I’d want one of these.

There are plenty of rumours now of Apple getting into this game, and Phil Schiller spoke up saying he thought screenless smart speakers weren’t that useful. But I don’t think that means Apple is bringing out a smart speaker with a screen. I think it means they’ll bring out a smart speaker that will send stuff to your Apple devices that have screens, which is pretty much all of them. Apple needs to bring Siri up to the level of Alexa, integrate more smart home stuff with HomeKit, and make Siri something that is essentially ubiquitous in your home (could be the speaker, but the Watch gets you 90% there), and it could dominate this category right quick. Easier said than done, I guess.

Amazon Prime members now get exclusive live concerts

The TV business is changing incredibly rapidly at this point.

The great British Brexit robbery: how our democracy was hijacked

Big data meets military psyops meets the far right.
Crazy, alarming story.

With 40 New Original Shows, YouTube Targets TV’s Breadbasket

Snapchat lines up media companies to produce original shows for Snap TV

OCR in OneNote

Here’s a note about notes. It turns out that there is some serious OCR (optical character recognition) in OneNote. I knew text in images and PDFs would show up in searches, which is handy but not mind-blowing as it’s been in Evernote for like 10 years. But what I didn’t know is:

  1. You can copy the text ‘out of’ an image and paste it as regular text, or simply convert it. I have been wanting this… For like 10 years.
  2. OneNote will OCR hand-written notes. I mean if your hardwiring has fallen into disrepair for lack of use like mine, it will be rocky, but OneNote will give it the college try.

Yup, it’s how I made this note. I wrote it last night with the Apple Pencil on an iPad Pro. I converted it and had to do some editing, and there’s the downside. Of course it’s not 100% or even 80% accurate (again, I mostly blame my handwriting). But also you can’t actually convert to text on the iPad. I’m using the Windows client right now which is the most full-featured, perhaps unsurprisingly. Checking…

No, you can’t do it on the Mac app either. That’s a shame. OCR is working in the background, indexing images so they show up in search results, but there is no feature in the interface that will convert to text.

Anyway, when this feature makes its way into the iOS client, this will be a wonderful option for note-taking. I definitely prefer handwriting for meetings, brainstorming, and some other uses – it’s great just to get away from a keyboard for a bit. It’s certainly one of those things that tablets are good at and feel a lot more delightful than typing. But the ability to turn that scrawl into usable text is to me, kind of a killer app.

A question few are asking is whether the tools of mass surveillance and social control we spent the last decade building could have had anything to do with the debacle of the 2017 election, or whether destroying local journalism and making national journalism so dependent on [the tech industry’s] platforms was, in retrospect, a good idea.

Lyrebird

Copy anyone’s voice based on a one-minute sample.
No, this tech won’t lead to huge problems at all!

Is It Time to Break Up Google?

Are tech giants like Google and Facebook monopolies?

So how do we feel about flying cars?

They’re happening, for rich people.

All these years after the Jetsons went off the air, we’re right on the verge of having access to robots that drive and fly us around while we sit and play Scrabble on our phones.

Even if somebody can give you a reasonable-sounding explanation [for his or her actions], it probably is incomplete, and the same could very well be true for AI. It might just be part of the nature of intelligence that only part of it is exposed to rational explanation. Some of it is just instinctual, or subconscious, or inscrutable.

The iPad These Days

So the iPad has issues. After exploding out of the gate in 2010, with sales growth greater even than the iPhone, sales have decreased over the past few years, as Horace Dediu discusses in iPad Optics:

The iPad is considered to be failing, with a presumption of an end of life in the near future. The evidence of this failure the year-on-year decline in units sold… The iPad decline is paired with a steady increase in the Mac. The iPad exhibits a four year decrease in overall volumes. This has, as they say, bad optics.

Neil Cybart notes:

A quick look at overall iPad sales reveals an ominous trend. Sales have declined for 12 consecutive quarters. After topping out 74M units in 1Q14, the annualized iPad sales rate has declined by 42% to 43M units.

Yeowch! Except it’s not all gloom. As Dediu notes,

the iPad is still a much loved and much used product. … Tablet ownership among US adults increased from 45% in April 2015 to 48% in April 2016 and 51% in November 2016. The rise has been steady. Although this counts tablets, the iPad had 85% share of the U.S. market for tablets priced above $200 so it’s a fair assumption that the iPad audience is growing.

Furthermore, iPads are still growing in “non-consuming” markets. iPad posted double-digit growth in both Mainland China and India, it continues to attract a very high percentage of first-time tablet buyers.

His explanation for the odd numbers is that “iPads remain in use far longer than phones, and perhaps even longer than some computers.”

Interestingly, Cybart blames iPad’s troubles on something else: its little brother.

People aren’t buying as many iPad mini devices these days. Excluding 7.9-inch iPad mini sales from overall iPad sales results in a completely different sales picture… iPad mini unit sales have declined 70% after peaking in 4Q13 and 1Q14. The product’s value proposition has been permanently reduced due to larger iPhones. Apple has clearly experienced Peak iPad Mini.

Whatever the reasons for the “bad optics” are, Apple is suddenly pushing iPad really hard, as Cybart notes. And they’re pushing it in two different directions, as indicated by the two main model lines. The Pro is more expensive than a normal iPad and has added hardware features, mainly the pencil and the keyboard. The iPad Pros are the subject of a new ad campaign, which Apple is clearly targeting at people who want a PC replacement.

Going the other direction, the regular ol’ iPad has just been refreshed. The biggest change is that they dropped the starting price to $329 US. That’s a big deal! The cheap new iPad will compete with Chromebooks in education, it will entice owners of ancient iPads, and it has at least a chance of competing against cheap Android tabs.

There’s a lot interesting about Apple’s strategy on both fronts: they think iPads are their best chance in education, and they think iPads are their best chance at switchers. It wasn’t so long ago it was to the Mac they were encouraging PC users to switch. We’ve known for some time that the iPad was Apple’s “vision for the future of personal computing”. But its latest moves indicate it’s their vision for the present.

Sony’s giant, $700 e-paper tablet is a great example of Weird Sony

U of T professor Geoffrey Hinton hailed as guru of new computing era

O.G. Neural Net Gangsta

Mastodon Is Like Twitter Without Nazis, So Why Are We Not Using It?

Because your friends aren’t there. Same problem with almost every attempt to out-twitter twitter

Rogue One’s best visual effects happened while the camera was rolling

Some really interesting techniques here

Mastodon.social is an open-source Twitter competitor

Come, warm your hands by the burning carcass of app.net. (Sorry, was that cynical? I do hope it works but I think it’s not quite ready for its Verge article)

How Uber Uses Psychological Tricks to Push Its Drivers’ Buttons

I never wanted to be an Uber driver, but now I really don’t want to be an Uber driver.

Daring Fireball: The Mac Pro Lives

Meet the Artist Using Ritual Magic to Trap Self-Driving Cars

Apple’s Next Big Thing: Augmented Reality

This does not surprise me. It can be rolled out to iPhones earlier and then the glasses would come later. The watch could also be cool for AR – if there was a camera on the buckle I guess.

Spammy Google Home spouts audio ads without warning – now throw yours in the trash • The Register

Never before have we witnessed a technology giant destroy a product with such precision-engineered idiocy. Don’t be evil? Do us a favor.

Vibrator maker ordered to pay out C$4m for tracking users’ sexual activity

The Timing, Source, and What’s Missing: WikiLeaks’ CIA Cyber Arsenal Dump Explained

Fascinating:

There are no names of either individuals or organizations mentioned in the documents. WikiLeaks claims to have made 70,875 redactions in the “Vault 7” files. This is an amazing number, which raises two related questions. First, Assange has always been against redactions, often quarrelling with news organizations that have partnered with WikiLeaks in the past over their insistence on protecting the identities of individuals. What made him change his policy? Also, by all accounts, including Assange’s, WikiLeaks has limited resources and very few employees, certainly nowhere near enough to carry out 70,875 redactions – if that figure is even accurate. All this indicates that either the source (and in this case it wouldn’t have been one former disgruntled government employee) or some other well-funded organization, probably an intelligence agency, have been working on these documents for quite some time.