Category Archives: Reviews

Hey Siri, Ready for an Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple? Guess Who’s Suing.

The AI personal assistant with the “most usage” spanning  connectivity across all smart devices, will be the anchor upon which users will gravitate to control their ‘automated’ lives.  An Amazon commercial just aired which depicted  a dad with his daughter, and the daughter was crying about her boyfriend who happened to be in the front yard yelling for her.  The dad says to Amazon’s Alexa, sprinklers on, and yes, the boyfriend got soaked.

What is so special about top spot for the AI Personal Assistant? Controlling the ‘funnel’ upon which all information is accessed, and actions are taken means the intelligent ability to:

  • Serve up content / information, which could then be mixed in with advertisements, or ‘intelligent suggestions’ based on historical data, i.e. machine learning.
  • Proactive, suggestive actions  may lead to sales of goods and services. e.g. AI Personal Assistant flags potential ‘buys’ from eBay based on user profiles.

Three main sources of AI Personal Assistant value add:

  • A portal to the “outside” world; E.g. If I need information, I wouldn’t “surf the web” I would ask Cortana to go “Research” XYZ;   in the Business Intelligence / data warehousing space, a business analyst may need to run a few queries in order to get the information they wanted.  In the same token, Microsoft Cortana may come back to you several times to ask “for your guidance”
  • An abstraction layer between the user and their apps;  The user need not ‘lift a finger’ to any app outside the Personal Assistant with noted exceptions like playing a game for you.
  • User Profiles derived from the first two points; I.e. data collection on everything from spending habits, or other day to day  rituals.

Proactive and chatty assistants may win the “Assistant of Choice” on all platforms.  Being proactive means collecting data more often then when it’s just you asking questions ADHOC.  Proactive AI Personal Assistants that are Geo Aware may may make “timely appropriate interruptions”(notifications) that may be based on time and location.  E.g. “Don’t forget milk” says Siri,  as your passing the grocery store.  Around the time I leave work Google maps tells me if I have traffic and my ETA.

It’s possible for the [non-native] AI Personal Assistant to become the ‘abstract’ layer on top of ANY mobile OS (iOS, Android), and is the funnel by which all actions / requests are triggered.

Microsoft Corona has an iOS app and widget, which is wrapped around the OS.  Tighter integration may be possible but not allowed by the iOS, the iPhone, and the Apple Co. Note: Google’s Allo does not provide an iOS widget at the time of this writing.

Antitrust violation by mobile smartphone maker Apple:  iOS must allow for the ‘substitution’ of a competitive AI Personal Assistant to be triggered in the same manner as the native Siri,  “press and hold home button” capability that launches the default packaged iOS assistant Siri.
Reminiscent of the Microsoft IE Browser / OS antitrust violations in the past.

Holding the iPhone Home button brings up Siri. There should be an OS setting to swap out which Assistant is to be used with the mobile OS as the default.  Today, the iPhone / iPad iOS only supports “Siri” under the Settings menu.

ANY AI Personal assistant should be allowed to replace the default OS Personal assistant from Amazon’s Alexa, Microsoft’s Cortana to any startup company with expertise and resources needed to build, and deploy a Personal Assistant solution.  Has Apple has taken steps to tightly couple Siri with it’s iOS?

AI Personal Assistant ‘Wish” list:

  • Interactive, Voice Menu Driven Dialog; The AI Personal Assistant should know what installed [mobile] apps exist, as well as their actionable, hierarchical taxonomy of feature / functions.   The Assistant should, for example, ask which application the user wants to use, and if not known by the user, the assistant should verbally / visually list the apps.  After the user selects the app, the Assistant should then provide a list of function choices for that application; e.g. “Press 1 for “Play Song”
    • The interactive voice menu should also provide a level of abstraction when available, e.g. User need not select the app, and just say “Create Reminder”.  There may be several applications on the Smartphone that do the same thing, such as Note Taking and Reminders.  In the OS Settings, under the soon to be NEW menu ‘ AI Personal Assistant’, a list of installed system applications compatible with this “AI Personal Assistant” service layer should be listed, and should be grouped by sets of categories defined by the Mobile OS.
  • Capability to interact with IoT using user defined workflows.  Hardware and software may exist in the Cloud.
  • Ever tighter integration with native as well as 3rd party apps, e.g. Google Allo and Google Keep.

Apple could already be making the changes as a natural course of their product evolution.  Even if the ‘big boys’ don’t want to stir up a hornet’s nest, all you need is VC and a few good programmers to pick a fight with Apple.

AI Assistant Summarizing Email Threads and Complex Documents

“Give me the 50k foot level on that topic.”
“Just give us the cliff notes.”
“Please give me the bird’s eye view.”

AI Email Thread Abstraction and Summarization

A daunting, and highly public email has landed in your lap..top to respond.  The email thread goes between over a dozen people all across the globe.  All of the people on the TO list, and some on the CC list, have expressed their points about … something.  There are junior technical and very senior business staff on the email.  I’ll need to understand the email thread content from the perspective of each person that replied to the thread.  That may involve sifting through each of the emails on the thread.  Even though the people on the emails are English fluent, their response styles may be different based on culture, or seniority of staff (e.g. abstractly written).  Also, the technical folks might want to keep the conversation of the email granular and succinct.
Let’s throw a bit of [AI] automation at this problem.
Another step in our AI personal assistant evolution, email thread aggregation and summarization utilizing cognitive APIs | tools such as what IBM Watson has implemented with their Language APIs.  Based on the documentation provided by their APIs, the above challenges can be resolved for the reader.   A suggestion to an IBM partner for the Watson Cognitive cloud, build an ’email plugin’ if the email product exposes their solution to customization.
A plugin built on top of an email application, flexible enough to allow customization, may be a candidate for Email Thread aggregation and summarization.  Email clients may include IBM Notes, Gmail, (Apple) Mail, Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo! Mail, and OpenText FirstClass.
Add this capability to the job description of AI assistants, such as Cortana, Echo, Siri, and Google Now.   In fact, this plug-in may not need the connectivity and usage of an AI assistant, just the email plug-in interacting with a suite of cognitive cloud API calls.

AI Document Abstraction and Summarization

A plug in may also be created for word processors such as Microsoft Word.   Once activated within a document, a summary page may be created and prefixed to the existing document. There are several use cases, such as a synopsis of the document.
With minimal effort from human input, marking up the content, we would still be able to derive the  contextual metadata, and leverage it to create new sentences, paragraphs of sentences.
Update:
I’ve not seen an AI Outlook integration in the list of MS Outlook Add-ins that would bring this functionality to users.

Microsoft Skype Explores Additional Revenue Opportunities

Microsoft’s Skype began rolling out an ‘upgrade’ to replace Lync yesterday.   Are there any additional revenue opportunities for Skype going beyond the Business licensing fee for Office 365?

Look no further than the artifact of a chat, the conversation.    This applies to any chat solution.   Getting beyond the ‘privacy’ issues,  the Skype app may directly feed into a blog using a blog plugin.

This plugin will allow a user to connect to a Skype account.  User defined settings would store Skype creds. in the Blog ‘Settings’ menu.

The plugin will install a new type of Blog ‘object’ called the Chat Conversation, or just Conversations.  For each Skype chat log imported, there will be a correlated [post] conversation.  Once there is a conversation posted, the Blog Admin may go into the ‘Conversation’ post, and update the post with any tags they see fit.   The imported Conversation is, by default, set to a status of Pending.  An accompanying widget will be installed, giving the blog a ‘Skype Conversation’ sidebar widget.  The widget produces a ‘Conversations’ Tag Cloud.  If a tag is selected, the UI will list any  conversations that contain the selected tag.

There may need to be a disclosure manually on the ‘Conversation’ [post].  For each post, the admin would need  to check the box that says as required by law, all participants of this conversation were notified the conversation was recorded and stored with public access.  Conversely, ‘Conversations’ may be set to password protected upon upload.

Alternatively, export the text of the conversation from Skype, import into blog post, tag, and update with Public, or Password Protected.  The drawback is the conversations are now bucketed with all the posts, and conversation tags are not separated from other posts.  A ‘Conversation’ may not only contain text, but audio, video, desktop sharing, etc.  as well.  The limits may be on the Skype client, and what can it export.  Also, this implies the Skype Conversation and all of its components (audio, video, text) may be saved either on the desktop, or the Skype ‘Cloud Data Services’.

E-Commerce Platform Maturity: Reviews, and MP3 Cloud Players

I have read a few complaints on line regarding book reviews, specifically, it seems most  E-Commerce platforms have given the user carte blanche on entering the rating products, i.e. they have the ability to rate any product, without proof the’ve read / used the product.  This approach does encourage the user to have a user friendly experience to add ratings, as users are mostly discouraged to populate any surveys, i.e. time is money, and people just rather do something else, unless they are very motivated.  Some of those motivation reasons: they are passionate about a book, for example, with great distain, or passionate about the material, typically passionate readers.  Historically, in the early days of E-Commerce platforms, ease of entry of ratings, and encouragement was the mantra to make sure users are able to guide fellow users.  We now have matured E-Commerce platforms that don’t necessarily need, en-mass ratings, i.e. sales tool to show potential buyers that people buy from their site.  An issue has arisen especially with amateur writers that have spawned up everywhere, or even with mature publishers, and social media, just like we see in negative political campaigns, mud slinging, so justified, some not, or at least may be interpretative, it gives less credibility to the politician, or book, in this case, and not necessarily for the correct reasons.

It sounds like mature E-Commerce platforms should probably start taking the high road, and give confidence and credibility to the reviews, and not just by relying on standard deviation, and outliers on the bell curve being negated.  This is also amplified with products that have fewer reviewers, i.e. budding authors trying to get their break.

One suggestion, for a book, for example, an author may provide a list of 100 questions or so regarding parts of the content of the book, and before being allowed to rate the book, the reviewer must answer three random multiple choice questions correctly.  Of course, they may have at least two or three sets of questions to press on with the review.  The author, especially the startup authors, would probably be encouraged to write the questions, and attempt to deflect invalid mud slinging, i.e. person never read the book.

The other topic I wanted to touch upon was Amazon’s MP3 Cloud Player.  I have come to rely on Amazon’s player, and my kids use it on their iPod, iPads, computers, etc.  Two small issues I have at least on the Mac Safari browser, I think it also is lacking on my Windows computer, a) I cannot sort any of the columns within any of the filters.  I am unable to select Artist, for example, in a playlist, and resort by the artist name, as one example.  I may be doing something wrong, but it seems like a basic feature.  b) my own personal ratings, like we see on iTunes do not appear as a column that I can sort upon, as well as other meta data available, seems skimpy, both to enter, as well as to sort upon.  As this product seems to have matured to the point to justify it’s existence seems only logical these two features must be on their road map.  I won’t rip the Cloud Player apart, because all fairness, Apple iTunes had a leap on these folks.  It would be cool to actually see lyrics automatically imported with purchased songs.  I haven’t checked iTunes in awhile.  At some point, Apple made a free form text field where you could copy in the lyrics, but you would need to paste in the lyrics yourself.  Yes, there are third party apps that display it, and they actually follow along on the lyrics, which is super cool, but nothing in the cloud player itself.  Oh, well, my two bits for the day.  Note:  this takes into account the premium player only offers additional storage, as implied by their sales and marketing, not features