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Tinder AI: Would You Let A Robot Plan Your Dates?

Tinder AI? Really? How do you feel about letting an AI help design your dates for you? Business Development Manager, Jon Wood, takes a look.


Tinder AI- Would You Let A Robot Plan Your Dates | TDMB Tech

Tinder AI: Would You Let A Robot Plan Your Dates?

This week, I came across an interesting story looking into the world of AI and dating.

AI is quite a big and complex space I know. However, this article is all about how our sons and daughters might date in the near future.

I must also point out that I have never used Tinder, mainly because I am incredibly good looking :).

Despite my not being on it, Tinder is a blossoming dating app. It’s known primarily for – how shall I put it? – casual relationships and quick flings.

I have a few mates that use Tinder and they claim it’s all harmless fun, I have to agree as, in this digital world we are living in, it is getting harder to meet people, especially as we get so wrapped up in our smartphones!

Tinder has impacted so many lives. You probably know a couple who are now in a serious relationship, or – indeed – married, after meeting on Tinder. But, no less importantly, millions are hooking up for casual relationships and one night stands. That’s nothing new, by the way. People have been doing it in bars and clubs for decades… Tinder is just a less noisy, more digital and efficient way of doing so.

Tinder AI Is The Dating App’s Next Step

Anyway, Tinder is growing up and it’s now thinking of branching into AI.  Sounds scary, doesn’t it? It means that Tinder, by far the most popular dating app worldwide, is also now a serious technology company tackling one of life’s most important matters…  Artificial intelligence.

I love this quote from Sean Rad, the Chairman of Tinder:

“I think this might sound crazy… In five years time, Tinder might be so good, you might be like ‘Hey Siri, what’s happening tonight?’

“And Tinder might pop up and say ‘There’s someone down the street you might be attracted to. She’s also attracted to you. She’s free tomorrow night. We know you both like the same band, and it’s playing – would you like us to buy you tickets?’… and you have a match.”

It sounds like a cool concept, but a lot comes down to privacy.

Tinder AI & Privacy

The idea of AI doing the hard work for you is pretty cool. For instance, being able to find out someone’s relationship status without having to ask would be a very useful tool. On the other hand, that might make you deeply uncomfortable, and I don’t blame you. But this technology is moving at an unprecedented rate. It will be up to technology companies – not just Tinder – to roll out such ideas in way that doesn’t encroach on privacy, or indeed, common decency and manners. The key word here is, as always, consent.

The key word here is, as always, consent.

Tinder’s future lives and breathes on its ability to remain the most popular app for getting people together and into relationships.

But there’s plenty of market to go around. Tinder now has a far more global focus, with approximately 600 million smartphone-toting single people ready to find The One, or at least, ‘the One Right Now’.


Jon Wood | TDMB | Business Development ManagerJon Wood is Business Development Manager at TDMB Tech. A passionate tech geek, he loves talking to anyone and everyone working in the world of technology. He’s also a massive advocate for getting tech companies the exposure they need to build their presence within the booming technology industry.

Aside from his love of tech, Jon is also a long time Spice Girls fan (he was a member of their fan club throughout the nineties). If you would like to get in touch with him, either about Technology or The Spice Girls, you can drop him a line on Twitter, LinkedIn, or email him directly.

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A Brief Insight into FinTech in Africa

Our social media guy David Dhannoo this week is back on his travels. This time he is off to explore FinTech in Africa, investigating the latest from the financial technology revolution on this fascinating continent.

A Brief Insight Into FinTech in Africa | TDMB Tech

 

A Brief Insight Into FinTech In Africa

As promised in a blog post from last year, I have decided to look at what’s going on in Africa and how the FinTech scene is developing. The reason behind choosing Africa is that as much as 80% of the continent is unbanked, which has led for an array of opportunities for FinTech firms to seize market share.

So Why Is FinTech in Africa Taking Off?

Firstly, 90% of retail payments are made using cash. Compare that with Europe and the difference is staggering, more than 50% of the payments are electronic in a majority of European countries.

The sheer lack of electronic transaction infrastructure has meant that FinTech in Africa has created an opportunity to provide financial services/products to millions of people who haven’t had access to a bank account.

The FinTech services will differ compared to those that operate in Europe and will help drive innovation in Africa. Most importantly, however, they will create sustainable economic growth from all parts of the continent.

In addition, mobile will play a huge role in the African FinTech scene. Africa is one continent in particular that, to some extent, has skipped a generation of payment methods and gone straight to mobile payments. So why is this the case? As mentioned previously, the percentage of people who do not have a bank account is very high. It is, therefore, imperative for African FinTech companies to create products that receive payments from a simple swipe.

African FinTech giant M-Pesa, who originate from Kenya, have done this and their product has helped those send and receive money in remote areas where the nearest bank is quite some distance away.

The Difficulties

A huge downside for Africa is that a lot established FinTech companies that hail from Europe, for example, tend to ignore African countries because the amount of innovation required is huge. It’s a lot harder to create a FinTech presence in Africa, where infrastructure is non-existent, versus a European country where FinTech companies can use their existing providers and simply build a user-friendly interface with ease.
It’s worth noting that a significant barrier for many African FinTech startups has been funding. Nonetheless, it is a barrier that can be overcome with persistence and intelligent relations with institutions in other continents.

Mauritius

However, I would say that is starting to change. Last month, Mauritius held a conference on financial technology in partnership with the British High Commission in a bid to learn and replicate the UK’s successes in the sector.

The British High Commissioner to Mauritius, Jonathan Drew, mentioned in a recent article that the UK can teach important lessons to Mauritius on how to exploit FinTech for the growth of its financial industry.

The main aim at the conference was to look into the development of Mauritius as a major FinTech hub for Sub-Saharan Africa.

This is one story I will continue to look out for and update you all in a future post.

It’s fair to say that Africa is not on the same level as continents such as Europe when it comes to FinTech. However, Africa is definitely at a unique point in time. It’s able to grab opportunities more than any other continent because of the rapid growth of digital connections, and because of its youth (from having a younger generation compared with other parts of the world, which makes them more likely to be tech savvy).

I’ll be keeping a close eye on how things continue to develop for FinTech in Africa. It promises to be a fascinating study into how technology can surpass infrastructure limitations, which may prove hugely informative for other markets as FinTech, and other aspects of Technology, continue to grow.

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VR City – An Exclusive Interview

Virtual Reality has the potential to be one of the most influential tech innovations of recent years, such is the promise of its ability to take us to places we could never have gone before. At the heart of it all, VR City are working to embrace the power of the impossible. By doing so, they don’t only allow us to access other people’s lives, but other people’s minds, too.

VR City

There is no glamour to be found here. No gratis ice-cream nor complementary bottles of Bud. We may be in Shoreditch but nothing here makes any sycophantic attempt to align with this year’s fancies. In this office, success has been built on knowing that this year’s fancies are, indeed, passing fancies.

Such a humble space may not be quite what you expected from one of the capital’s most innovative and visionary companies, but maybe therein lies a common falsity. Worthy innovation is rarely found clad in the commonly accepted trappings of the zeitgeist. Those who believe their work to be good and intentions honest aren’t distracted by thriftlessness.

VR City are proven pioneers of Virtual Reality. Their work has been recognised and commissioned throughout the world, with clients and collaborators including The New York Times, MTV and The BBC. On a clement February afternoon, I made my way to Commercial Street to receive an education in virtual reality from CEO Ashley Cowan and Director of Commercial Partnerships, Dominic de Terville.

‘I put on a Samsung Gear headset and it instantly blew me away. I knew right away that this was something I wanted to be involved in; something with seemingly unlimited potential.’

When Ashley talks about his very first Virtual Reality experience, he does so with an intense passion; open palmed with tension in his fingers, he bounces and shuffles in his seat. So intense was the emotional transformation he experienced within the VR world, that it birthed the philosophy which would go on to influence everything he and Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Darren Emerson do at VR City.

VR City & the Emotional Transformation

For the ten years leading up to the VR epiphany, the two had been running East City Films, a production company specialising in youth music content. When the decision was made to introduce a keen focus on VR to the company, it was done so with such vigour that an entirely separate sister company was formed. They called it VR City.

It was, of course, a sound business decision, as well as an emotional awakening. ‘We were a nimble organisation, so we knew we could do it,’ says Ashley. Making the pivot wasn’t a problem and, because VR held so much potential for the work they were doing for existing East City clients, there was no lack of demand.

Creating VR films for entertainment companies is one thing, but the real secret behind the stellar reputation that VR City enjoy are those productions most loyal to their company strapline: We create emotionally transformative experiences in virtual reality.

One of those first two films that Ashley experienced was called Clouds Over Sidra, a film made in partnership with the UN about the Syrian refugee crisis. Within the film, you follow a young woman through a day in a Jordanian camp for refugees fleeing Syria.

The film was a game changer for Ashley and, to this day, informs VR City’s unique form of storytelling.

As a company, their philosophy is based around allowing people to experience that which they could never experience in real life. To be able to do this means being able to provide first-hand access to that which would have previously been invisible through ignorance.

There is one field in particular where the ability of such insight holds transformative promise.

VR and Journalism

Journalism is storytelling, and so too is VR. And because VR can transport a person to the unattainable depths of a story, it can affect the way they think about the world. On the cinema screen, Clouds Over Sidra is a moving documentary. With the addition of VR it becomes an out of body experience; it’s not the character’s life, it’s yours.

Being confronted with this concept of empathy-through-experience is an introduction to what I believe will become VR’s legacy: making the impossible possible.

‘Access; that’s what it’s all about.’ says Dominic. ‘If we can give people access to a place they would never normally see or a perspective they would never usually be offered, we’ve achieved our goals.’

So much of today’s VR is built around the idea of being able to ‘be there now’, but I don’t think this aspect of the technology is going to last. Yes, it’s cool that I can walk through New York whilst sat in Hoxton, but eventually, people will stop caring about that. Much like the craze of Google Earthing every single place you can think of, it will eventually get boring.

No, the future of VR comes through giving access to the impossible. Instead of just walking through New York, you’re being hounded by the paparazzi; they’re chasing you through the city. Everywhere you look, they’re there. You thought you envied the famous but now you’re not so sure. And why would I want to be a virtual ticket holder to a Premier League football match when I could be on the shoulder of the most famous player in the world? Seeing what he sees, doing what he does; inside his head, hearing his thoughts.

Such experiences would be wonderfully hedonistic; experiencing risks without taking them, being famous and adored, flying without wings. But I think time is better spent focusing on the ways in which VR’s conjuring of impossible experiences can contribute towards solving the world’s most damaging problems.

Indefinite

I’m being passed a Samsung Gear headset and told I’m going to watch a film. Enough talking about it, time to experience it. Over the course of 15 minutes, I am going to be given a glimpse into the power that VR truly holds and come out believing VR to be the most important technological innovation of recent times.

The film is called Indefinite. Darren, who has directed the company’s acclaimed documentaries, set about researching and producing it with his tried and tested method which is inspired by investigative, reportage podcasts such as This American Life.

‘The simple, powerful audio (of VR City productions) is directly inspired by those podcasts.’ says Ashley. ‘They also inspired Darren’s insistence on always getting the story recorded before thinking about the VR.’

It is the storytelling that matters; VR is simply the vehicle, a role in which it has proven itself extraordinary.

Indefinite is a meditation on the UK’s indefinite detention centres for immigrants arriving in the country. While the government decide whether or not they are allowed to remain here, they are stripped, searched, handcuffed and locked up.

In the UK, the only country in the EU to have not signed the Return Directive prohibiting indefinite detention, there are many cases in which immigrants are forced to spend years locked up, only for the decision to finally be made that they can stay in the UK. All of those years in prison for no reason whatsoever. The only way I can attempt to convey the conditions that they endure is to share with you one of the facts presented during the film: according to released Home Office statistics in 2015 eleven children in UK detention centres were on suicide watch. The physical and mental suffering is unimaginable, but through Indefinite, I endure a sobering rendition of the immigrant experience.

Within this virtual world, I am a detainee. I am guided, along with my fellow prisoners, through the process of being detained. Although there is one, quite uncomfortable, if powerful moment of abstract, where I am submerged in the ocean, surrounded by what I can only describe as floating mannequins, the true legacy of VR is highlighted in a scene set far more in reality.

I am in the back of a van. I am one of three or four detainees. We are being transported, presumably, to the prison. But sitting here, my focus is not drawn towards the handcuffed men sat around me, but rather to the glimpses of life I can see through the window as we travel through the city. I’m trying to take in as much of the outside world as I can before being locked in my windowless cell; through VR I am learning how the threat of loss casts beauty over the ordinary.

I am not being forced to focus on the light through the window as I would be in a cinematic film, with the director showing me where and how to look. I have discovered the fleeting city scenes for myself having realised that I may not see the daylight for a very long time.

‘VR shouldn’t simply be compared to other visual entertainment mediums because it is less about just seeing than it is experiencing – this is what defines VR and creates an emotional legacy for the user.’ says Dominic. ‘In terms of journalism, such an experience has the potential to make someone meditate on a story; question and contemplate and perhaps even change.’

The ability to experience the experiences of others holds infinite promise for the future. With it, VR can make a huge impact on human culture and societal values. If I, for example, can board an inflatable boat with 50 other refugees and endure the crossing, the near drowning and then the ecstasy of rescue, perhaps, upon removing the headset, I will have a new to empathy for the ongoing plight of others. As Ashley puts it, ‘VR can help us to understand each other more’. Can technology do anything more important than that?

As we say our goodbyes, Ashley tells me that the rest of their day will be dedicated to planning an upcoming project with whisky makers, Laphroaig. A trip to the 200-year-old distillery in Islay may well be an unexpected privilege for the VR filmmakers, albeit one with more than a few sore heads, but it certainly demonstrates how far VR is reaching. I, meanwhile, wait to for the overground back to Peckham. The train arrives and I board the carriage with a strange new weight in my chest; it’s the price of knowing that my own privilege is alighting at the end of my journey and walking, freely, through the city.

Written by Will Darbyshire, Contect Strategist at The Digital Marketing Bureau.

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A MedTech Marvel: eSight Gives Sight to the Blind

Jonathan Wood, our Business Development Manager, explores eSight, a technology in the Healthcare sector which is allowing blind people to see clearly for the first time.

We are continually amazed by the developments in MedTech, which Jon regularly brings to our attention, being – as he is – really blown away by the sheer potential various technologies have for improving healthcare in so many ways.

A MedTech Marvel: eSight Gives Sight to the Blind | TDMB Tech

A MedTech Marvel: eSight Gives Sight to the Blind

This story starts with a lady called Yvonne Felix. She’s one the first people lucky enough to walk around wearing eSight, a device that is straight out of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Like the character Geordi La Forge in the science fiction series, Felix is legally blind. In the show, La Forge, played by LeVar Burton, wore a headset called VISOR that helped him see again. Felix is wearing its real-world equivalent. It’s incredible how science fiction so often precludes science fact, and this is a prime example.

Geordi La Forge | Star Trek | TDMB Tech | eSight

 

The eSight, as it’s called, has a camera that works with high-resolution displays and optical prisms in the headset to restore sight to those with low vision. A video image is presented to the user in a way that can overcome the cause of their vision loss. What an amazing piece of tech, you only have to think for one second the joy that this could bring to someone’s life.

Felix remembers putting the eSight headset on and seeing her husband, whom she’d been married to for eight years and had never seen before. Felix looks past her husband and sees that she’s overlooking San Francisco Bay. Her 2-month-old son, who they had just brought home from the hospital, is there, being held by her husband. “It was the most beautiful image,” Felix said. “It’s burned in my mind for the rest of my life.”

Beyond the breathtaking ability to enable blind people to see their loved ones in a way they would never have been able to do before, the eSight can help solve many challenges faced by the legally blind on a daily basis.

This headset is an example of how accessibility issues are being solved with technology. Knowing that we are finding more and more ingenious ways to help people with all sorts of medical issues is utterly heartwarming, and gives me real faith in the future of our species.

Felix lost her sight after being hit by a car when she was 7 years old. She was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a juvenile form of macular degeneration. As a result, she has a blind spot that blocks 98 percent of her visual field.

Who Can Use eSight?

Her condition is more suited to eSight than some other low vision issues. Macular degeneration and sight loss from diabetes complications are more likely to benefit rather than issues such as glaucoma, where the damage to the retina can be too great to be resolved with eSight. However, we have come this far – who’s to say we won’t have a next generation eSight that will be able to help glaucoma sufferers before long?

Regardless, anyone can give eSight a try. The CEO, Dr Brian Mech, explains that eSight has a better than 50 percent chance of working with all conditions. Mind-blowing, to be honest.

“The beautiful thing is it’s not surgical, it’s not medication, it’s not a drug. So you can just try it on,” says Mech.

The Cost of Vision

The main obstacle, as far as I see it, is price. There’s little doubt that such technology is going to be expensive, at least for now. Whilst the cost is understandable, given the sophistication of the technology, it’s hard to put a price on the gift of sight.

How Does eSight Work?

The liquid lens technology inside the headset helps the camera focus incredibly fast: less than one millisecond, similar to the human eye. Combined with a feature Mech calls “bioptic tilt,” wearers also get access to their peripheral vision, which is important for tasks where you are mobile and moving.The eSight’s controller lets the wearer adjust the image to their liking.

Esight hopes that “the device will one day become the size of regular sunglasses or maybe even a pair of contact lenses… We’re not talking 20 years from now, we’re talking about maybe in the next five to 10 years.”

The company is also looking at waterproofing future versions of the headset.

Yvonne Felix: Life After Blindness

Felix is a longtime user of the device, which is currently in its third generation. She’s worn previous versions for everyday tasks like shopping, banking and going to work, but she has also put it to an even more extreme test with vigorous activities like ziplining and riding a mechanical bull. Good for her!

For now, Felix is more than happy with the freedom she’s been given with the headset, even if the design prompts questions and stares from curious onlookers. But who cares about that when you can finally see the world around you?

For more about eSight, check out this article Michele wrote for VMI Studio recently.


Jon Wood | TDMB | BD ManagerJon Wood is Business Development Manager at TDMB Tech. A passionate tech geek, he loves talking to anyone and everyone working in the world of technology. He’s also a massive advocate for getting tech companies the exposure they need to build their presence within the booming technology industry.

Aside from his love of tech, Jon is also a long time Spice Girls fan (he was a member of their fan club throughout the nineties). If you would like to get in touch with him, either about Technology or The Spice Girls, you can drop him a line on Twitter, LinkedIn, or email him directly.


 

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Blockchain Technology & The Millennial Generation

This week David Dhannoo explores the interesting relationship between blockchain technology and Millennials (aka Generation Y). Blockchain may just be the biggest new development since the Internet (a bold claim!); the full range of possibilities is staggering. Millennials’ worldview is substantially different to that of generations that have come before, so – along with their next iteration, Generation Y – it’s fair to say they’ll adapt to this new form of technology quicker.

BLOCKCHAIN & THE MILLENNIALS- A MATCH MADE IN DATA HEAVEN | TDMB Tech

 

 

Blockchain and The Millennials: A Match Made in Data Heaven

If you’ve not heard of blockchain technology before, in a nutshell, it’s a way of recording data. It is also the foundation for cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin. This innovative form of technology is made up of blocks of transactions (think of it like strands of DNA being joined together), and are added in chronological order.

In layman’s terms, a blockchain is a stored database with contracts added in. The technology might seem complicated with the mathematical equations that it runs on, but the concept is simple: just adding an agreement to the chain makes processes more transparent, and is a powerful gamechanger. The blockchain can be used in many versatile ways, and will severely curb the threat of cybercrime in many forms, as it is genuinely unhackable.

Blockchain and Event Ticketing

Millions of people use online platforms to buy tickets for gigs and football games, and most of the time, they get what they pay for. But sometimes, they are duped into buying fake tickets by some fraudulent internet criminal. Blockchain has the potential to eradicate this kind of cybercrime, as ticketing companies can create a blockchain of their own, or using a platform such as Ethereum. By doing this, the company would be responsible for validating customer transactions.

Venues that offer customers a way to check if a ticket is valid stand to gain, both in customer trust and in sales. Using a type of technology that cannot be hacked is a huge step, and one which will inevitably lead to more ticket sales for those companies who implement it.

The blockchain application issues a unique hash number for each individual transaction, and works with a huge block of complex mathematical equations behind the scenes. If you get a bit excited over the term ‘complex mathematical equations’, you can read more about blockchain maths here.

Smart Contracts for Generation Rent

Those who work in Real Estate, for example, understand the residential habits of Millennials well. Research conducted by Ernst & Young indicated that 47% of millennials work more hours and prefer the flexibility of apartment rentals. No surprises there. But what has this got to do with blockchain technology? The answer is smart contracts.

With blockchain, each rental lease would have its own unique hash, linked to a specific public key. So what happens when a renter wants to sublease? Again, smart contracts would also be applied.

A customised smart contract would contain details of the leasing date plus the costs involved. Once both parties have agreed the contract, the new renter’s bank account will be charged accordingly.

Smart contracts are detailed by ‘if’ statements (also known as ‘recipes’), which set out a particular outcome if a certain criterion is met. For example, “if the date is 01/03/2017, transfer £500 on the first of every month from x account until 01/12/2017.”

Ticketing and residential rentals are just two of the examples of blockchain use that may appeal to the Millennial generation. However, there is one more that deserves a mention.

The Millennial generation is one of the most socially-conscious generations we’ve seen so far. Many are widely concerned with political and ecological issues, distrust their governments, and want to bring power back to the people. So the idea of decentralising power from the large global energy companies and making it work for the community is something that will appeal hugely.

Blockchain and Energy

Teams of blockchain and energy experts are working on just this. Leveraging the power of blockchain in exchanges of both data and electrons, they can apply the same ‘smart contract’ idea used in residential lettings to energy provision. In short, they are seeking to create smaller, decentralised energy grids to be used within small geographical areas.

Each residence is linked to this grid, which is managed via blockchain, monitoring consumption of energy on a very accurate level, detailing exactly what is being used, and thus charging appropriately. The local aspect eliminates the excess costs of huge energy grids and the enormous amount of work taken to run them.

But that’s just the start of it. There is a strong incentive with this system for householders to start generating their own energy supply. Installing solar panels and other sustainable energy generation tools, the home can feed that energy into the blockchain for their own use.

Where an excess of power is produced by one household, they can choose to store it up within their chain, or share it with other homes on the grid.

The residents, therefore, pay less for energy overall, and can actually earn money on energy they produce at home by selling it within the local grid to homes that are producing less, for example when the household is away on holiday, the excess energy they don’t need can go to power other homes and rack up cash in the house’s own account. They can even give it away to poorer households.

So much for being overcharged by profit-driven big energy conglomerates.

Just the Beginning

There are so many examples that can be used and linked with the Millennial lifestyle. These examples are simply the tip of the iceberg.

Currently, we are still in the early phases of what can be achieved with blockchain technology. In the years ahead, we can certainly expect to see blockchain infiltrate almost every aspect of how we live. It has potential for social good, for cybersecurity, and for completely streamlining legal processes.

New to blockchain technology? I recommend reading Don and Alex Tapscott’s Blockchain Revolution to get a sound knowledge on how it all works. You can also check out how the UK blockchain industry currently looks with the TDMB Blockchain Infographic.


David Dhannoo - Social Media Specialist at The Digital Marketing BureauDavid Dhannoo is Social Media Specialist at TDMB. A massive fan of Brutalist architecture, David is very interested in the applications of technology within industry. You can contact Dave on Twitter, or drop him an email directly, to chat about today’s post, as well as his other articles and work for TDMB.

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BotsAndUs: An Exclusive Interview

With the launch of their new robot, Bo, on the horizon, we caught up with BotsAndUs for an exclusive interview.

BotsAndUs- An Exclusive Interview | TDMB Tech

BotsAndUs: An Exclusive Interview

Throughout time, robots have been imagined in a variety of guises; from 20ft tall killing machines to space-dwelling humanoid sidekicks and seductive androids.

Since the term was first introduced in 1920, the idea of ‘robots’ has gone hand in hand with that of fantasy, adventure and space travel. Even still, in this modern world, as we see more and more scrutiny of what the future could potentially holds for robots, they continue to be portrayed as sentient beings, most often with a score to settle.

Such movie making and programming operate on the not-so-subtle question of ‘what if we don’t keep control over this technology and end up losing our standing in the world to robots?’ It’s a question ripe with scope for fiction writers, but the reality is vastly different.

That’s not to say we aren’t all going to have to endure such tabloid headlines as Killer Bot Eats Baby and A Robot Took My Job, And Then It Took My Wife, but, as usual it will be false. The truth is that robots are already here, and rather than being a feature of some dystopian scene, they are being designed and implemented with the aim of solving genuine, real-world problems.

There is no doubt that robots will be part of our future, but there is still a lot of misunderstanding as to what they will actually be doing, not least the relationship that we humans will have with them.


To learn more about the potential of AI and robots, we got in touch with Andrei Danescu, CEO of BotsAndUs, one of the industry’s leading innovators, as they prepare for the release of their debut product, Bo.

botsandus

First of all, if you could share a little about BotsAndUs; how did the business come about, what do you do and who are you aiming your products and services at?

As highly energetic and innovative spirits, our passion for robotics was born from the strong desire to stay close to our families from the other side of the continent and not miss any key moments in their lives. We needed a technology that would allow us to be part of “home” from anywhere and that could co-exist with our parents and grandparents, bringing a smile to their faces in our absence. We also needed to convince them that tech is simple, tech is affordable and tech is good….This is how BotsAndUs was born!

At BotsAndUs we strongly believe in the symbiosis of humans and robots, in a world in which they co-exist towards building more meaningful and happier lives for all generations and social backgrounds.

To have a stronger impact on the overall robotics market, we consciously made the decision of being more than a robot producer. We want to inspire people and businesses to open their doors to robotics by creating beautifully designed products that are useful, accessible and loveable to humans (the Bots) and, at the same time, educate consumers about the collective and individual benefits of AI (the Us).

Bo, our first product to come to market (to be launched in Feb 2017), is a one of a kind, highly intelligent and interactive assistant for the retail, hospitality and events sectors. Super easy to use and personalise (inside and outside), Bo will revolutionise customer experience and become the best brand advocate for a variety of businesses for which face-to-face customer/guest interaction are essential for success.

botsandus

BotsAndUs CEO, Andrei Danescu

Artificial intelligence and robotics have the potential to disrupt every industry on the planet but, realistically, in which industries do you think they will find their most natural home?

We think that the biggest opportunity for AI is where big data shines and its collection is the easiest. Sectors such as Transportation, Civil Engineering and Health are the most obvious and the ones that have a significant advantage already. In addition, a proper integration of AI principles within them can instantly benefit a wide population, making the access to public and private funding, hopefully, a lot easier.

On the fun side, Gaming is an interesting area that allows for such a variety of experiments and educational programs.

Robotics needs to get out of the warehouse/factory and develop with one goal in mind – to seamlessly try to integrate into everyday life. Autonomous cars will most likely keep evolving at a huge speed now that the big players are involved and can really make them affordable, easier to understand and to use. Smart homes are another no-brainer, as consumer electronics companies that have the infrastructure to take it to the masses really embrace it.

Here at TDMB, we are really interested in the ‘next’ as well as the ‘now’. So, looking towards the next 10-15 years, where do you see robotics, AI and BotsAndUs going?

With the speed of the industry and the exponential development of the components that support it, robotics will most likely become a commodity in people’s lives in the next 15 years – robots will be more and more present in public spaces and therefore humans will get used to them and accept them in their homes as well.

This is the model we are following with BotsAndUs as well so by then we aim to have a pipeline of beautifully designed products across a variety of sectors as well as a revolutionary assistant for the home.

There is a school of thought that says collaboration is the next big thing for innovation, with more and more companies coming together to create tech they never could alone.

With this in mind, asides from BotsAndUs, what technological advancements have got you most excited/impressed? And do you see yourselves teaming up with anyone in the future?

As a hardware start-up, we are extremely excited about hardware development becoming so much easier and accessible to a wider group of companies.

Raspberry Pi was a groundbreaking piece of tech that took the world by storm and made our lives so much easier. All the other boards that followed have obviously improved their initial kit, but they are still the leaders when it comes to impressive innovation.

Also, without 3D desktop printers going mainstream, we wouldn’t really have a product to talk about at all – it would all be wires and LEDs sticking out of a metal chassis.

We would love to partner with some of the big data and AI specialists and understand how our products can support in building and assessing their work.

Basically be the physical face of AI, the face that makes it easier for humans to understand how this abstract concept can actually help them in the day to day struggles and help them live a more meaningful and happier life.

As we see so much go wrong in the world around us, one of the most interesting aspects of tech is the promise it holds to solve some of our planet’s most damaging issues. Is there anything BotsAndUs are doing now or would like to do in the future, to tackle these issues?

And do you believe that private tech companies are obliged in any way to work towards mending these world issues?

We don’t think tech companies are necessarily obliged to but they will do it regardless.

The speed at which they operate is phenomenal and clearly, the public sector is severely left behind. Ideally, they will start to come together and use AI and robotics for the greater good – with less regulation and more openness to agile development and testing.

At BotsAndUs we actually started with a specific goal to tackle one of the world’s biggest challenges – supporting the independence of the elderly.

This is still top of mind for us and everything we are developing we make sure can be applied to a future product specifically built for this purpose.

_________________________________________________________________

Keep your eyes peeled in the coming weeks for a full write up on Bo, the debut product from BotsAndUs.

In the meantime, you can learn more about BotsAndUs by heading to their website and following them on Twitter. A huge thank you to Andrei for taking the time talk to us.


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Using Drones To Prevent Avalanches

We always love a story about how technology can be used for good, and particularly when it can be used to save lives. Many people lose their lives to avalanches every year, but using drones to prevent avalanches in the first place could save potentially hundreds of lives being lost in the snow. Jon Wood takes a look at this fantastic use of drone technology.

Could Ski Resorts Start Using Drones To Prevent Avalanches | TDMB Tech | Jon Wood


 

Could Ski Resorts Start Using Drones To Prevent Avalanches?

This is a cool concept. Drones get a lot of bad media coverage these days, so it’s good to see a new innovative idea come to light; one which could potentially save lives.

An American company has come up with an innovative approach to avalanche safety. Their plan is to drop explosives from remote-controlled aerial drones. This could, in theory, reduce the risks faced by patrol teams in resorts, it says.

To prevent the build-up of snow in unstable areas, especially after heavy snowfall, explosives are routinely planted by hand or fired from artillery guns to dislodge the snowpack. I didn’t know they used artillery shells to disperse snow, must be scary if you’re nearby when they hit! These small, controlled avalanches reduce the chance of larger, more serious slides.

But planting the charges can be dangerous work. Patrollers sometimes have to venture out onto snow-laden slopes that could give way at any moment. But thanks to today’s brave men and women, it really sounds like drone technology could be the solution. They say that, on average, one patroller is killed every year in the United States alone. I haven’t checked European numbers, but I imagine they’re similar.

The founders quickly realised the potential of drone technology for avoiding avalanches in the first place. By dropping explosives from the air via remote control, the company hopes to remove the need for patrollers to put themselves in harm’s way. This kind of tech could be used in so many other multitudes, mining, perhaps?

Flying drones in the mountains presents a number of challenges, including low temperatures, high winds, and thin air at altitude. Built to carry heavy loads, the prototype uses components that are specifically designed to withstand adverse conditions, and is kitted out with LED lights to improve visibility.

Could Ski Resorts Start Using Drones To Prevent Avalanches? | TDMB Tech

The founders of the company are also working on developing sensors to help patrol teams detect areas on the slopes where the snow is most unstable. This is cool! I won’t claim to understand it all, but I imagine they are looking at depth and the angle at which the slope lies.

Even so, the drones won’t be put into operation straight away. The prototypes have undergone testing in Telluride and other Colorado resorts, but stringent regulations mean they’ve had to use dummy payloads rather than live explosives. Several resort owners are said to be interested in trialling the idea, but it remains to be seen whether authorities in the United States will allow it to go ahead.

I imagine they will get the go-ahead. I mean, if we can prevent accidents and the loss of human life, then why wouldn’t we?

Drones to Prevent Avalanches: Your Thoughts

Using drones to prevent avalanches is a great idea, I’m sure you’ll agree. But what other ways could drone technology be used for saving lives? If you’ve heard some news, or have an idea, why not let us know on social media?

Get in touch via our Facebook and Google Plus pages. Alternatively, you can tweet us directly, or use the hashtag #AskTDMB to start a discussion.


Jon Wood | TDMB | Ops ManagerJon Wood is Operations Director at TDMB Tech. A passionate tech geek, he loves talking to anyone and everyone working in the world of technology. He’s also a massive advocate for getting tech companies the exposure they need to build their presence within the booming technology industry.

Aside from his love of tech, Jon is also a long time Spice Girls fan (he was a member of their fan club throughout the nineties). If you would like to get in touch with him, either about Technology or The Spice Girls, you can drop him a line on Twitter, LinkedIn, or email him directly.

 

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4 Ways AI In 2017 Will Change The World

There’s been an awful lot of hype about AI in 2017. Whilst some of that hype may be blowing things out of proportion a bit (the singularity certainly has not arrived yet!) there are certainly some predictions for AI in 2017 that we are rooting for.


4 Ways AI In 2017 Will Change The World

4 Ways AI In 2017 Will Change The World | TDMB Tech

2016 was hailed as the year of VR, and it turned out to be a bit of a damp squib compared to the rise of AR. Pokemon Go and the continuing rise of Snapchat stole the stage in the consumer arena, whilst sales of VR hardware struggled to meet their projections.

Whilst both VR and AR continue to grow and develop, another tech player is the belle of the ball for 2017. AI is developing at an awe-inspiring, and sometimes terrifying, rate.

There is some seriously jaw-dropping stuff going on in AI right now, so we’re pretty confident that it could live up to its pre-determined 2017 status. But TDMB, you ask, what is this jaw-dropping AI stuff you’re talking about? Well, reader, let’s take a look…

AI in 2017: #1. Generative Adversarial Networks

Let’s just call them GANs (because that’s what everyone else calls them, plus it’s shorter). GANs are systems comprised of one network that generates new data by learning from a training set, and a second network that tries to work out which data is real, and which is fake. A bit like deciding whether or not to believe the articles on your Facebook news feed… except not. Between the two networks, they are able to produce very realistic synthetic data.

The applications of this tech are pretty awesome. GANs can be used to generate scenery for video games, apply design changes to CGI designs, and – you’ll like this – de-blur pixelated video or photographic footage. That will come in handy for making sense of that video you and your mates made on the late train home last Friday night.

Joking aside, however, GANs represent a way for computers to learn from unlabelled data, which may be the key to further improving their intelligence in the future.

If you fancy geeking out on GANs then this is a proper geeky GANs video:

AI in 2017: #2. Language

Trying to have an in-depth conversation with Siri or Alexa can be more frustrating than reading Donald Trump’s Twitter feed, albeit without the unhinged tyrant aspect. But imagine a time when you can chat away to your personal AI assistant and she can chat back in a way that feels natural. Undoubtedly, a better mutual understanding between woman and machine would make our AI pals a lot more useful. But the task is not an easy one.

Language is subtle, complex, and infused with strange and puzzling idiosyncrasies. Look at how we employ metaphor, for example, often without even noticing we’re doing it. So if you’re an AI, you’re going to struggle. Hey, it even takes children a good few years, and their brains are pretty sophisticated.

The development of Deep Learning has made a substantial impact on progressing advancements in how computers learn to perform complex tasks. AlphaGo, for example, famously slaughtered Lee Sedol, the world’s number one player of the world’s number one most difficult game using its Google Deep Mind neural networks.

AlphaGo, Deep Learning, AI in 2017

However, deep learning has not, as yet, made much leeway in the realm of language. China is probably the world leader in this right now (as they are on loads of aspects of tech), with Baidu’s AI lab already making fantastic progress in voice recognition and language processing. We could learn a lot from China, actually. They’ve stopped trying to copy the West, and using their own highly skilled talent to make in-roads to areas in which we are lagging behind.

When they do crack the language thing, whether in China or Silicon Valley, artificial intelligence capability will skyrocket at a pace hitherto unseen. Whilst we’re not sure this breakthrough will come to pass in 2017, we certainly hope it does, because it’ll be amazing.

AI in 2017: #3. A Resurgence for Microsoft?

Microsoft may still dominate the PC market, but it has struggled in recent years to match the glamour and corresponding sales figures of its main rival, Apple. Nonetheless, it’s not out of the race by any means.

Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, predicts great things for Microsoft in 2017:

“Microsoft surprised everyone in 2016 and I’m expecting more surprises in 2017.” 

Those 2016 surprises included the launch of its chatbot, Zo, in October, which has so far engaged over 115,000 users. The Microsoft Bot Framework has attracted over 67,000 developers so far, and claims to be working hard at natural language processing, and improving cognitive function in its bots. Microsoft’s new service, Calendar.help, also uses AI to help with diary management and meeting scheduling, whilst also introducing its Cortana Devices SDK to hardware manufacturers to increase the smartness of their smart devices.

Moorhead has also stated that he reckons a new intelligent personal assistant from Microsoft may knock the socks off Amazon Echo, whilst following its characteristic brand route of focusing on business related APIs that use AI.

AI in 2017: #4. Better AI Personal Assistants

Echo really stole the show last year, leaving even the likes of Google Home far behind. Almost everyone you speak to has one, though some – like this very sweary man – cannot use them to their full capacity yet.

Though shouting ‘Trevor!’ at your Echo and smacking it around may be at the bottom rung of understanding, a lot of anecdotes so far centre around the fact that Alexa seems to get used just for playing music, playing Simon Says, and taking a barrage of playground insults from the kids.

Amazon Echo - AI in 2017

Image via Android Central

Few of us have all the bells and whistles of the smart home enabled yet, nor can easily integrate all of Alexa’s potential ‘skills’ into our everyday lives. But we are at very early stages with the Echo right now. There are reports that Amazon plan to release a new version with a 7” touch screen, and better audio capability. Obviously, the new version will have a bigger price tag, but that’s just the way it goes, isn’t it?

And what’s more than certain is that, as time goes on, Alexa’s skill base will keep expanding. This will make her more useful to a wider range of users, and before long, we’ll be over the first hurdle to savvy mass adoption. If you listen to your grandparents’ tales of when the TV first arrived on the scene, and what a battle your granddad had making the darn thing work, you’ll see that there’s hope for the Echo yet.

Not to be outdone, of course, we anticipate that 2017 will see Google up their game in the digital assistant space, to try and compete with Amazon’s success, and we may see a new arrival from one of the other major players. We’re banking on Apple coming to the table, but when it does, it’ll probably still be the Paris Hilton of the smart assistant world: all glitzy good looks and shoddy brains.


 

AI in 2017: Your Predictions

Well, these are our predictions for AI in 2017… but what are yours? Let us know on Twitter! Use the hashtag #AskTDMB, or just drop us a tweet!

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Read All About It: Augmented Reality in Publishing

Our social media specialist David Dhannoo this week looks augmented reality in publishing, and how this form of disruptive tech has the power to change the industry, using one of his favourite magazines as a case study.

Read All About It- Augmented Reality in Publishing | TDMB Tech | David Dhannoo

 


 

Read All About It: Augmented Reality in Publishing

As we all know, back in the day print media was the dominant force when it came to retrieving information. In the 21st century, the way we obtain information has drastically evolved as content creators are shifting away from print and moving more towards digital platforms.

A huge question that remains is whether print die due to the digital revolution. For now at least, it looks like it will stay, but the way we send and receive information will continually develop.

Augmented reality plays an essential part in the transition from print to digital. This due to the fact that there is a growing number of the latest smartphones and tablets, plus a tendency towards the creation of crossmedia systems, while the same content migrates across different technological platforms.

The evolving world of digital therefore makes AR a perfect tool for the publishing industry to adopt.

Augmented Reality In Publishing Comes to Print

The latest edition of Design Exchange has a human head in digital form on the front cover, which was created with 3D character software MakeHuman.

In order to see the human head change its various facial expressions, readers have to download the app (unfortunately only for iOS users).

The guy behind the AR front cover for Design Exchange, Mike Pelletier, mentioned in the magazine that idea behind the cover was to look at human emotions as a set of parameters. Like the majority of Pelletier’s work (see below) he uses a robotic style that encompasses an uncanny view of the way humans show emotions through the use of data:

Huge Applications of Augmented Reality in Publishing

From looking at the Design Exchange example, the applications of AR in publishing seem almost limitless. The technology provides added value, at both cultural and commercial levels, corresponding to a move towards new, previously unexplored, market opportunities.

Thanks to next-gen mobile devices being adopted by the masses, AR has been able to amplify its presence and help it break into the mainstream. Design Exchange’s front cover could be one day the norm, as we begin to see our favourite magazines come to life straight from the magazine rack. The future of publishing looks very exciting!

Augmented Reality in Publishing: What are your thoughts?

What are your thoughts about today’s topic? Feel free to share your thoughts via our social channels: leave us a comment via our Facebook and Google Plus pages. Alternatively, you can tweet us or David directly about today’s topic.


David Dhannoo - Social Media Specialist at The Digital Marketing BureauDavid Dhannoo is Social Media Specialist at TDMB. A massive fan of Brutalist architecture, David is very interested in the applications of technology within industry. You can contact Dave on Twitter, or drop him an email directly, to chat about today’s post, as well as his other articles and work for TDMB.

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Star Wars VR & The Oculus Lawsuit

It had to be talked about, really. Yes, it’s the biggest story of the week: You can now fight stormtroopers in VR. True story. Whilst fans are jumping up and down at the prospect, however, another piece of news has come in which might just tip the balance of the biggest story in VR news. We’re talking, of course, of that Oculus lawsuit, to which Facebook lost $500m this week. James takes a look…

Facebook Oculus Lawsuit and Star Wars VR - Stories of the Week | TDMB Tech | James Dearsley

 


 

Star Wars VR We Must Have; Need Our Patience VR Does

(oh… and that Oculus lawsuit thing)

It hasn’t been a particularly good week for Facebook. Despite posting eye-watering results that their net profit nearly doubled in the 4th quarter to over $6 billion, that Oculus lawsuit ruling is threatening to overshadow what should be a very positive news story for them.

Even the story that Star Wars fans can literally fight stormtroopers in VR is not big enough news to knock this story on the head – can you imagine! The new VR experience in LA sounds amazing… did I mention that you can fight robots too!?

It is several years ago now that I woke up to the news that Facebook had purchased Oculus. I remember laying there wondering why this may have happened, not quite sure of the reason that a VR headset firm had just been purchased by a social media site. Over time it became clearer and clearer why they did this and, hence, it became the new normal.

The Facebook Oculus Lawsuit News

This week, it was found that there were two negative consequences of that deal, which was settled in 2014. Firstly, and perhaps most damagingly, the Oculus lawsuit that had been brought on Facebook was settled, resulting in a payout of $500 million.

The crux of the Oculus lawsuit was that Palmer Luckey had a non-disclosure agreement in place with Zenimax, and found that, whilst the Oculus Rift, the headset at the centre of the claims, wasn’t an unlawful copy, Oculus had breached a contract with Zenimax and infringed some of its copyright.

Interestingly, it had also found that John Carmack, a previous employee at Zenimax, took intellectual property belonging to Zenimax when he left the firm to join Oculus as its full-time chief technology officer. Essentially, the jury heard that he made “non literal copies of code” used to develop the Oculus product; imagine a book being copied and the names of the characters being changed. He still refutes the claims.

Whichever way you look at it, this isn’t good news but perhaps more worrying is the call for patience this week by Mark Zuckerberg. While discussing the results mentioned above with investors, he admitted that the company’s VR ambitions are “a little behind from where we want to be”.

He added that the delayed shipments of the company’s Oculus Rift VR headset and touch controllers were a “disappointment” and that VR sales “won’t be profitable for quite a while.”

All this said and done, Zuckerberg had said in the trial that they were looking to invest a further $3 billion in the technology over the next decade. According to reports, they have just recruited Hugo Barra, the most prominent global executive at Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi and a former Google exec, to lead its virtual reality business.

As such, a little patience is needed, and perhaps we all just need to pop to LA and have it out with some stormtroppers while we wait to see what the real outcome of VR will be.


james-dearsleyJames Dearsley is the Founder and MD of TDMB. In addition to his work with us, he is also a renowned expert in PropTech, and was recently voted the most influential person in PropTech. An impassioned speaker and advocate of technology, particularly in the Property industry, his other interests include beekeeping, real ale, green trousers, and (currently) growing a beard.

You can contact James directly via Twitter or LinkedIn, or tweet the TDMB team directly.

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