Posts Taged technology

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Missing the old-school vibe? You can still spice up your life with it

Missing the old-school vibe? You can still spice up your life with it

A big hello this week from the Canvy Team! Do you have a Canvy contact that chose a black-and-white pic for his account? If you have, then think of him/her for the old-school vibe, and if you haven’t, just imagine it.

This guided our weekly net surfing session – amidst the great digital disruption, there are businesses that thrive in their own way, keeping their services behind the times. Or, if you like, outside the mainstream times, as we know them.

 

Retro companies – cool by default

While many products and offers fade into a mass of resemblance, due to competing for similar USPs, this is definitely not true in what the following selection of brands is concerned. Courtesy of Oddee.com, we browsed through a list of a list of “companies that time forgot”.

How about playing a cassette tape? With what, you may ask. Considering that the National Audio Company (NAC) from Springfield, MO annually produces and sells around… a few million items (10 million in 2014, to be more precise), there are people who definitely still possess the necessary gadgets to play cassettes. You may check the NAC website here, because yeah, they also have a digital presence. Did you think they only advertised via flyers and megaphone!?

Another company sells “pre-assembled DeLoreans starting at $57,500”. If intrigued, their online history is available for all those interested. The company has over five locations all over the US.

Now, if you feel nostalgic, all you have to do is move to the Boston area and have your fresh milk delivered at home by the vintage brand Thatcher Farm, or even become one of their employees. This company, much like the previous two, features a simple website, with all the essential data crammed in a few simple static pages.

What makes these companies cool is that they are indeed one of a kind, and they either survive comfortably or even thrive.

 

From companies to clients – some out-of-timely products

Again, we are not considering products that are ahead of their time, but those who are out of time. Of course, they were branded “hipster-tech”, due to the fact these products are also pointless. However, they are endearing and make you think “wow”. They risk of making you want to own one exemplary, too. Therefore – case closed. These are viable products, and the companies that manufacture & sell them probably do not risk much competition, either.

What are some of these products? The laser keyboard – OK, OK, that is a bit progressive. (But we also have the wooden keyboard in another online selection, so you can back off). A device that “turns your iPhone 6 into an old-school 4K shooter”, and a pocket-size coffee brewer top off this rather short list.

Jumping right into the other selection we found, what do you think of a contemporaneous instant photo printer? The guys from Fujifilm estimated they will have enough appreciative customers for its production to be worth it. How about a levitating speaker? Now, this is progressive. If you think it’s scary at some point, just smack it with your bamboo keyboard and you are all set – back into the present!

 

The right products & the right strategy for the right customers

What the above companies did, voluntarily or by chance (sorry to all the strategists out there, but the “by chance” eventuality is one we must take into account), is finding their niche. There are an increasing number of people who simply don’t enjoy the mainstream clichés. (Don’t be too optimistic now, it probably is considerably lower than the number of people who enjoy them, but hey – it’s enough to provide the customer base for these businesses.)

The secret is to find this “right place” on the market – and add passion into serving your customers. Tech can be fun, and beautiful, and cherish nostalgia at the same time.

Amazon Echo, Alexa, emergency calling, incident, technology, smart devices, ML, Canvy Team

Why is the Amazon Echo incident important – a few takeaways from the Canvy Team

Update: According to Buzzfeed, the entire story is highly questionable, due to the fact that Amazon “said on Monday that its devices are not capable of calling 911”. Nevertheless, our point about smart devices potentially being responsible for people’s safety in the future is not invalid, even if the entire incident proves to be “embellished”.

***

What did the news report this week (on this subject)?

Who you gonna call? – Well, not the ghostbusters, since there was no ghost involved in the entire conundrum. And more to the point, the latest incident pointed out that the calling in emergency situations could go from a “who” to a “what”. The Amazon Echo (Alexa, in fact) system mistook a reply shouted during a domestic incident for an instruction – and called the sheriffs. This led to the de-escalation of the incident and generated quite a buzz in the online media – can smart devices safeguard humans?

Although perhaps a premature question, this surely falls upon a concept long-thought about in the R&D departments of many tech companies. Why premature? Due to the fact that the Amazon Echo’s intervention was accidental (nevertheless useful), and unexpected, it may be a long shot to see too much into it. A fortunate incident does not replace accurate and oriented tests, nor does it make a general rule.

What is beneath dispute, however, is the fact that this incident opened up to the wider public the idea of smart devices serving as a help in critical situations.

 

“Potentially life-saving” AI assistants

The image projected by such a sequence of words is truly appealing. Technology is appealing, in general, when placed in the context of helping humans, enhancing their abilities, helping them get through the mundane tasks quicker and better.

The downside of this image consists of, as always, the current ways we manage to fall short of this wonderful concept. Take cyber security alerts, for example. There is a notion related to having too many warnings, or warnings that are wrongfully triggered by not-so-dangerous security events – “alert fatigue”. The tool – a smart, real-time, alert generator cyber security system – when calibrated less than smart, ends up by defying its purpose. Important alerts end up by being ignored.

 

Smart devices for a safer life – but what are the requirements?

In a similar way, having smart devices safeguard people would be useful only if they are:

  • Optimally set up (with proper reaction thresholds, and the capability to integrate unexpected situations);
  • Accessible (while technology cannot break the cost barrier and remains inaccessible to a wide part of the population, no ubiquitous networks can exist, therefore the learning pool available for ML would remain limited, creating inaccurate patterns and sub-environments);
  • Endowed with the other part of the reaction chain – services specially tailored to pick up on the alerts and intervene;
  • Continually able to improve, with every new experience fed into the AI (wait – that is, in fact, the definition of Machine Learning – ML).
  • Cyber- secure: stories on how smart networks were hacked into serve as a warning, since this is the reality we live in.

Crossroads in technology

As wave breakers, the trials that transform tech concepts into prototypes and commercial versions often are a harsh reality check. We dream of AI, AGI, Machine Learning, digitizing everything – some of us even fear the day when machines will be able to design and produce other machines independently, or software would be capable of programming itself. Yet the reality represents most likely a hectic mix of concepts & limitations.

The road from theory to product, be it hardware or software, is a long, winding one. That is why devices and applications that can be trusted with human lives are extremely scarce. Making a completely autonomous, reliable prototype is extremely difficult and it takes a lot of trials.

Our app aims to be a friend to the people who employ it. Don’t take it this means developing such an app is easy – especially that we covered various elements of complexity. However, the challenges when developing a health or safety app are way higher.

What remains to be done is for us to keep looking forward, to aim for innovation, while threading carefully and detail-attentive towards each element that stands the test of reality.

 

Canvy Team, news, universal basic income, Zuckerberg

News to watch, by the Canvy Team: Mark Zuckerberg spoke out for the basic income

Perhaps you already read about this – Mark Zuckerberg voiced his support for the universal basic income, during his recent Harvard commencement address.

But what is the universal basic income? It is a form of social security and a concept rooted in historical sociology movements. According to this concept, each citizen should benefit from a regular and unconditional basic income, regardless of whether they work or not. This sum of money should cover the citizen’s basic needs, thus making sure each person is not a burden for society in the eventuality they cannot earn their living.

This leaves the question of who is supposed to provide the necessary funds, and where these money would come from. As in all social security systems, the answer consists in an algorithm combining various forms of taxation – specially aimed at enterprises.

 

Why universal basic income (UBI) – now?

As mentioned above, the universal basic income concept is in fact a social security scheme aiming at redistributing taxation money towards each citizen, in order to ensure a minimum living standard that would prevent major social disruptions due to the classical social security not being able to keep up with the modern society issues.

The moment of this idea’s revival has to do with progress and technology. There is an anticipated social impact associated to next-gen tech. Automation and robotics will take over an impressive number of jobs and occupations, and it seems like the calculations of possible outcomes are not extremely optimistic. There is no telling what will happen with those who will be out of jobs, or with those whose skills will not be needed anymore.

Since the main beneficiaries of the predicted digital revolution are the enterprises, various sociological and political thinkers wonder about acceptable ways of making companies responsible.  In their opinion, businesses should contribute in maintaining the social equilibrium, even when most of their workers would be digital. The people in this scenario would compete for the limited human-targeted jobs left – a competition not anyone would win. The states are worried what would happen in the eventuality that people supporting themselves would become a mathematical impossibility.

Therefore, the fact that the universal basic income is re-discussed now is at least in part motivated by what we expect out of the digital revolution – in terms of social and occupational consequences.

 

Is this concept right or wrong?

Besides being just an idea, proclaimed by individual voices, associations and organizations, the basic income concept crossed into social policy once it became a pilot project in certain states, and it went through a public referendum not long ago.

Finland launched a two-year basic income experiment in January 2017 – here you may find an account on how the project is going, taken 4 months into it. Their take on the concept is a bit different, making the “universal” attribute inapplicable.

Another ongoing project is located in California, via the Silicon Valley – Bloomberg calls the experiment an “unconditional cash transfer” trial, and the main worries apparently are not focused on the money issue, but more on the way this basic income status would affect the human dignity and behavior.

Talking about what people want, or think they want, in Switzerland the basic income concept got rejected via referendum in 2016.

 

Did Zuckerberg manage to raise approval for the basic income idea?

While strongly promoting the idea of a basic income guarantee, Mark Zuckerberg did attract an array of pro, as well as con comments that spread ripples through the online and offline media.

The opinions are split, ranging from “distorted view of the world” belonging to a CEO, through the virulent Washington Times article qualifying the idea as being a “brainless world tax” and ending up with a rather predominant neutral depiction of the already famous Zuckerberg Harvard address.

Surely we will meet the UBI concept in the future, seeing how it comes as an answer to a future global issue, whilst it also managed to catch the attention of important tech leaders.

quantum computing Canvy Team

Dreaming of quantum smartphones? The Canvy Team checked out the timeline

This article on Inverse caught our attention. Turns out that quantum smartphones are waiting in line for the quantum computer to materialize. That is if they are ever to become a convenience of the future – a thing that some really doubted a few years back.

Spoilers, spoilers… Well, not really, because it would be only logical for any tech aficionado to assume that we are still at a distance from buying quantum smartphones, instead of the regular types we see today.

Here’s a 2012 answer on Quora that explains how miniaturizing quantum technology in order to fit it into a phone is highly unlikely. Although we have seen such arguments in the past of humanity being blown into pieces once certain breakthroughs happened, there is a lot of sense in this argumentation.

 

With the expansion of technology, distribution takes place

We have seen how AR and VR tend to distribute themselves into phone-compatible solutions (AR) and more complicated, device-compatible tech (VR) – see the Canvy Team previous article here.

In a similar manner, quantum technology would supplement existing computers, instead of supplanting them. Due to the fact that the computers of our times already do a very good job in certain areas, quantum computers are to take up other tasks. Inverse sees quantum computers dealing with big data “mass sorting and brute force possibility checking”.

There is no point in employing over-qualified technology for mundane tasks. Although we might be stretching our comparison a bit here, it is just as in human resources. Quantum computing would go into unfathomably complex tasks, as far as traditional computers are concerned.

 

No quantum smartphones doesn’t mean lack of interest in what the quantum technology is concerned

The truly passionate know that having no quantum smartphones at the horizon (not even via cloud solutions) does not mean the quantum technology will remain parallel with the mobile technology of the future.

We are already witnessing the starting effects of bringing AI into marketing and sales, and ultimately into business. AI’s potential depends on quantum computing – handling big data is necessary in order to mimic human thinking processes. Moreover, going beyond human capabilities surely needs the quantum-based power of computation.

What this means is that, although at a hardware level our phones might remain pretty much the same, we will see the effects of quantum computing in an intermediate manner. Processing big data, with quantum-powered AI algorithms, should revolutionize the tech world as we know it. Even more, all that counts on technology, but leads into the business environment should see a boost that might lead to surprising breakthroughs in some cases.

Although there are risks involved – perhaps you’ve also noticed the concerns raised in the Inverse article – this version of our technological future is the most plausible. Quantum computing could support more activities and processes than we imagine, being ubiquitous in a less visible manner.

 

The Canvy Team encourages you to keep in touch with the latest trends in technology

As IT specialists, the tech world is our larger focus, while our main focus remains on what we specifically design and develop.

Staying updated with the emerging technologies is important – on a connected future, success depends on seamless integration and on being one step ahead in the right direction.

Quantum computing might feel unfamiliar for many technical people, because it involves learning some concepts from the start or relearning others. Nevertheless, since there are solid reasons to believe it will form the underneath layer in many tech fields, it comes with the right motivation for getting to know a few details about it.

Here’s a recent update on this subject. We especially enjoyed exploring the IBM Quantum Experience experiments featured on their IBM Q website.

AR augmented reality Canvy wikimedia

Augmented or Virtual Reality? The Canvy Team picks up on this trendy question

Recently, TechCrunch launched a question on what the future holds for smartphones and apps, in regards with enhanced reality. More precisely, they invited their readers to contemplate the possibility of smartphone AR stunting VR’s growth. As we are keeping an eye on smartphone-related technology here at Canvy, we also contemplate this idea, while keeping in touch with the latest related news.

 

How does smartphone AR look like and why is it appealing?

Smartphone AR presumes specially designed apps that allow users to add virtual layers to the reality around them, as reflected on the screens of their phones. Of course, explaining the Augmented Reality concept in this simplified way might seem laughable to all those already familiarized with it.

If nothing else, think of the latest craze that swept the world of its feet – Pokemon Go. Employing AR combined the mobile game with real-life places and landscapes, while sending the players into outside world quests. Even if sometimes the two realities clashed and some people faced various types of dangers, the success of this game managed to put AR back into the spotlight, at times when VR is facing slow growth. Other developers saw the opportunity to launch their Pokemon Go –inspired apps, so the AR trend gained traction.

Virtual Reality desperately needs specially tailored apps, dedicated hardware, seamless integration between them and seems more complicated to orchestrate than AR. (Mind you, “seems” is the key word here, because surely there must be AR software that takes a lot of time and hard work to deliver, just as VR programs do.) However, it is realistic to say that VR is facing (slightly) difficult times.

 

What advantages do push AR in front of VR?

Another important element is that VR, as TechCrunch mentions, is superior to what the smartphones can offer. In fact, the authors say that it will always be superior, but one never knows what the future holds in terms of phone design and capabilities, so we thought of applying here the old saying of “never say never”. So VR requires much more advanced hardware than our current smartphones hold. Therefore, advantage AR…

All things considered (besides those mentioned above, there are also others), AR is fit for smartphones.

  • It is appealing, due to the fact that it restores the user’s relationship with their surroundings;
  • It also enables local experiences, thus attracting marketers;
  • It is visually pleasing, while allowing the user to include it in his/her usual activities;

(Because it is not disruptive in the way VR is, by conditioning the entire experience through the need of complete immersion into the virtual.)

  • Both Google and Apple test (or already built AR solutions) into their products;
  • It has been around for a while and people expect it to bloom in the next-gen series of smartphones.

 

Is it a race we are witnessing or are the two technologies completing each other?

The answer to this question depends on where we stand when addressing it. As we’ve mentioned above, some consider smartphones are destined for AR. Others might design VR applications that go with enhanced mobiles, thus making the two technologies compete on the same devices’ segment.

On the other hand, those investing in VR lead us to believe that, once perfected, the VR technology will be like no other. Therefore, there will be no question of any competition between AR and VR, just because we will witness VR going out of AR’s league, so to say. This remains to be seen. Until then, it seems that throwing VR into investment-related conversations still has a magic effect. Yet there are many who wonder how much until the magic wears off, if the promises that raised so much enthusiasm don’t deliver sometime soon.

The race seems shifty – depending upon elements that the large audience has little access to, if any. Elements laying within the R&D divisions of various companies, ranging from tech giants to small startups. And, of course, the Canvy Team knows all about R&D activities and putting bright ideas into practice.

Perhaps one day, the photos you assign to your Canvy contacts would become AR-enabled images. For now, we provide a visually fun canvas of contacts, bright-colored and organized by your interaction degree with each contact.

 

canvy facebook f8 conference

What do you think about Facebook’s F8 statements? The Canvy Team summarized them for you

Facebook is one of the most important social media platforms, currently engaging 1.86 billion monthly active users. As you all know, it is one of the platforms integrated by Canvy, communications-wise. With our contact manager app Canvy, you can see your contacts’ Facebook account, and you can reach them via this channel, if active and set as preferred.

Therefore Facebook-related news is a matter of tangential interest for us. Recently (aka, on 18-19 April 2017), the company held its (quasi) annual F8 conference. The future plans unveiled this year in San Jose, California, sent ripples all through the tech world. Why is that?

Mind-controlled technology

As he confessed in 2016, Mark Zuckerberg wants to build a next-generation computer platform in which “people are the foundational element.” In view of this, his company uses R&D that should lead to valid prototypes of brain-computer experiences.

A while ago, Zuckerberg referred to AR and VR as appealing extensions of traditional human interactions. Yet Facebook’s Oculus VR venture got hit in 2016-2017 by a lawsuit where the court ruled in favor of their opponent, Zenimax. The $500 million in damages Facebook has to pay dampened a bit Zuckerberg’s VR enthusiasm. Add to this the fact that at the beginning of April 2017 the company is dragged into court via yet another Oculus-related lawsuit, the immediate future of Facebook VR is not looking so good.

However, the plans for brain-computer integration are not suspended, as the F8 discussions revealed. Apparently, a team of 60 engineers lodged in the Building 8 works on a technology that should allow us to type words on a computer by using just our minds.

Technology aims to materialize SF concepts

Although we are living in times of huge scientific and technological progress, many of us tend to still feel amazed by concepts like the ones of the Facebook F8 Conference. Typing words by using just our minds, hearing via the skin (for hearing-impaired persons), creating brain interfaces – all these are unsettling in a certain way, as TechCrunch puts it.

Perfecting such technology would break the inner-outer world barrier, in what the human mind is concerned. The optional character of giving up the privacy of our thoughts already is the big question for some. The F8 news reached various mass-media publications and became viral, and there are voices talking about tech-induced telepathy as a Facebook project.

Of course, all those familiarized with science know it’s a long and winding road from concept to prototype. Yet, it is also only logical for a company as big as Facebook to either understate the magnitude of its progress, in order to (relatively) keep it under the wraps, or to overstate it, as part of trying to raise brand interest.

Whichever the case, the recent unveilings surely managed to create quite a buzz.

How close are we to this utopian future of communications?

By utopian, we mean close to SF depictions, as we also hinted above. It all points towards an image of people employing technology to a high degree, while dropping the current hardware and UI. Imagine talking on your phone, without having to get it out of your pocket or sending a message by using just your thoughts. And, apparently, thought-sharing is not language-conditioned, so this kind of communications would go beyond cultural barriers as we know them today.

The head of Facebook’s experimental technologies division is Mrs. Regina Dugan, who previously led DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) as its 19th Director. She left in 2012 for Google, where she created and lead the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group. The ATAP generated Google’s Project Tango and Project Ara.

Now with the Building 8 research team, she hopes to reach the stage of having a brain sensor prototype ready within 18 months. This prototype should be able to type 100 words per minute, as instructed by human thought. Once marking this milestone, the company aims to mass-produce and sell the resulting sensor.