Google Now, Cortana, and Siri. Those are the three “main” players that we use when it comes to a virtual assistant on our phones. Microsoft has made a play to bring Cortana to all Windows devices, but what’s more interesting to me is what’s coming next from the creators of Siri: a platform-ambivalent, smarter version of Siri. Viv is different than our current assistants because “she” writes her own programs to answer the queries you ask and take action on them. Viv is, as the article notes, scary smart.
Speaking of Cortana, earlier this year Microsoft offered $55 billion to acquire Salesforce, only to be turned down. Now, however, it appears that Microsoft is becoming Salesforce’s hottest competitor. Oh, and Microsoft’s new work sharing app is not only entering an invitation-only phase of using GigJam, but according to Business Insider, might be crazy enough to work.
If you hadn’t heard, there’s been a bit of cost cutting at Silicon Valley startups. Dropbox is the latest to cut a number of perks, all aimed at bringing them closer to profitability as a weaker Venture Capital funding environment and a stalled tech-IPO market have forced startups of all sizes to cut back or lose early investor confidence. Perhaps that explains the down turn in ping pong table sales. While you’re pondering that, take a moment to read about why Pinterest is a sleeping giant. Or read about how this Silicon Valley billionaire wants to give us all robot bodies.
There’s a good article this week from Forbes on the five signs you are working for a truly great manager – it’s a good, quick read and a great one for us to invert and do some self-reflecting on when looking at how we are managing our people. Remember, our people not only need to know how they are being measured, but also how their work is relevant and how they fit into the bigger picture.
All the way back in 2010 Niciola Marzari set his smart phone to the task of calculating the electronic structure of silicon in real time. The task took 40 seconds, a task that used to take many hours on a supercomputer to carry out quantum-mechanical calculations. Now, just six years later, artificial intelligence is being used to create the next “wonder material,” with researchers believing that machine-learning techniques can revolutionize how materials science is done.
We’ve been discussing machine vision and computer learning quite a bit of late, and with good reason. MIT this week looks at the flaws in machine vision, in that new evidence has emerged that the neural networks used by machines to recognize objects and faces may be flawed. Along with that is an interview with Gary Marcus on whether Big Data is taking us closer to the deeper questions in AI, another on learning about deep learning, and last one on how as Moore’s Law is running out of room, its successor is being desperately sought.
A bit of a story in the last week was Uber and Lyft’s campaign to change how ridesharing works in Austin. Both companies worked together and spent around $8 million in support of Proposition 1, just to see it fail. Both companies have pulled out of the city since, and it’ll be interesting to see if and when they come back. What was the issue at hand? Finger-print based background checks on their drivers and placards on driver vehicles noting they “worked” for the companies. Mind you, Uber pretty much has monopoly status at this point in spite of Lyft’s best efforts.
The top 2016 Cybersecurity Reports are out from a number of companies – take a moment to read more about those trends here.
Ever heard of Palantir Technologies? I’d not be surprised if you, like me, hadn’t. Palantir supposedly has proprietary software that allows for its customers to mine for data about consumers that results in much more lucrative results. It has certainly been lucrative for Palantir, with some customers paying more than $1 million per month for the data. Of all the odd sources, Buzzfeed did a deep look into who and what Palantir is, how it started, and where it is headed.
There’s been a slew of stories this week about how Facebook has been manipulating the news, so much so that the U.S. Senate wants Mark Zuckerberg to testify on the matter. Now, I think we all need to recall that Facebook is a social media platform, the “social network.” It has never purported to be a news organization or a news source. That said, it’s interesting to think about how much we now rely on it for our daily news, for keeping up on what’s happening across the world. Now, Facebook denies censoring the news, but more interesting is how we’ve shifted to using alternative media.
Plans to visit one of the Disney properties this summer? Redef has a great, deep look at how Disney as a Service is bringing the company closer to Walt’s vision than ever.
Alphabet was briefly valued more than Apple the other day and looks to be on its way to be the most valuable company in the world. I’d say that’s due to Alphabet’s desire to make big bets on future technology without knowing the return. Astro Teller is the head of X (formerly Google X), Alphabet’s “moonshot factory,” and in his TED talk he explores the importance of celebrating failure and why the team’s at X feel comfortable working on “impossible” projects.