Tag Archives: amazon

Hey Siri, are you real?

Hey Siri, are you real?

Following on from my recent blog post about installing voice assistants on campus, I recently read an article, Giving human touch to Alexa or Siri can backfire on how trying to make voice assistants appear to be human or have human touches may not give you the results you were looking for.

A team has found that giving a human touch to chatbots like Apple Siri or Amazon Alexa may actually disappoint users.

Just giving a chatbot human name or adding human-like features to its avatar might not be enough to win over a user if the device fails to maintain a conversational back-and-forth with that person…

This reminded me of a conversation I had at an Intelligent Campus workshop where the idea of trying to make chatbots appear human was probably not a good idea, and maybe they should intentionally make their chatbot non-human.

There are potential challenges as Microsoft found out with their paper clip assistant, but was that because it was a paper clip or because it was annoying?

Clippy

In many ways Clippy was the ancestor of Siri, Cortana and other modern day assistants.

A non-human chatbot could also avoid some of the gender issues that occur when deciding if your chatbot is female or male.

This Guardian article from March discusses this contentious issue, of gender for voice assistants.

Providing assistance has long been considered a woman’s role, whether virtual or physical, fictional or real. The robots that men voice, meanwhile, tend to be in positions of power – often dangerously so. Think Hal 9000, or the Terminator: when a robot needs to be scary, it sounds like a man.

Patriarchy tells us that women serve, while men order, and technology firms seem content to play into stereotypes, rather than risk the potentially jarring results of challenging them.

The article talks about EqualAI

EqualAI, an initiative dedicated to correcting gender bias in AI, has backed the creation of Q, what it says is the first genderless voice.

So if you do have a non-human chatbot, if you want to extend it to be a voice assistant, at least soon you will be able to have a genderless voice behind it.

So what (rather than who) should be your chatbot? Well it could be an anthropomorphic animal or maybe something else that is special to your university or college.

So what would your chatbot be?

Alexa, what’s on my timetable today?

Amazon Echo
Photo by Jan Antonin Kolar on Unsplash

Though I have left the Intelligent Campus project I still have some interest in that space. One aspect is voice assistants, tools such as Siri, Google Now, Cortana and Alexa. I noticed some recent news articles in this space, such as this one: Amazon Echos to be installed in dorms.

The program will oversee the installation of third-generation Echo Dot units in all of the suites, classrooms and study rooms.

There have been many exploratory programs in this space, and it reminds me of the early days of the iPad.

There are challenges connecting devices to university networks, mainly as the consumer devices aren’t always able to be connected to a WPA2 Enterprise wireless network (such as Eduroam) but as with early days with any device, this functionality is something that is on the roadmap and can often be found as beta software.

Alexa for Business now allows organizations to connect select Echo devices managed by Alexa for Business to their corporate WPA2 Enterprise Wi-Fi network.

What we don’t know is, are these devices a fad, or are voice assistants here to stay?

Great Scott! – Back to the Future at FOTE15

There wasn’t a FOTE conference in 2015, which was a pity as it was one of my favourite annual events. I spoke at many of the conferences, most recently in 2014 when I spoke about the conflict between the light and the dark and used a Star Wars theme.

I remember reflecting on the conference on the way home that it would be a lot of fun to do a Back the Future themed talk for 2015.

Back to the Future

Alas it was never to be…

However I thought it might be a little fun to explore what might have been…

Continue reading Great Scott! – Back to the Future at FOTE15

New Sony Readers

I started writing my previous blog post on the price of Sony Readers last week, but only published it this morning.  Andy Kemp on Twitter told me that today Sony have announced their new range of ebook readers and linked to the story on Engadget.

Sony’s tweaked its entire Reader line up — the Pocket, Touch, and Daily editions — by adding improved optical touchscreens, speeding up page turns with E Ink Pearl displays and slimming down the brushed aluminum hardware. Beyond that, it’s also updated its Daily Edition with WiFi — there’s still no connectivity options for the other two.

Engdget have reviewed all three new models with the cheapest reader now $179 which here in the UK would translate to roughly £136 so the cheap models in Waterstones are still pretty good value for money as is the new Kindle from Amazon at £109.

Listening to TWiT on the way into work this morning a lot of discussion by the panel on the pricing of the Kindle and an expectation that the price would drop again. Remember when the Kindle first came out it was $399 and now is just $139. In a year or two it might be $40 and after that free when you buy four or five books from Amazon!

It is an interesting time for ebook readers.

Kindle gets sounds and vision…

Amazon have announced that certain Kindle titles will now have embedded video and audio.

However to enjoy these new “multimedia ebooks” you will need to view them on the iPhone, iPod touch or the iPad using the Kindle iOS4 App.

Amazon.com today announced a new update to Kindle for iPad and Kindle for iPhone and iPod touch, which allows readers to enjoy the benefits of embedded video and audio clips in Kindle books. The first books to take advantage of this new technology, including Rick Steves’ London by Rick Steves and Together We Cannot Fail by Terry Golway, are available in the Kindle Store at http://www.amazon.com/kindleaudiovideo.

Though Together We Cannot Fail is not actually available to buy for customers from the UK!

Probably not obvious to most, these titles with embedded audio and video, though can be read on the Kindle device, will not play the audio and video.

This does beg the question, does Amazon believe that the future of Kindle titles is on the iOS4 platform, on the iPad and the iPhone? Or will we see a more enhanced Kindle in the future that can play the embedded audio and video in these new titles?

Amazon have recently reduced the price of the Kindle, this may be an indication of either of those two points of view.

We will have to wait and see.

“Sony plots death of Amazon Kindle”

I enjoyed this article from the The Register on e-Book Readers.

Sony – a company that has struggled to establish itself as a dominant player in the world of ebook readers – is anxious to remind you that the ebook market is still in its infancy and that the Amazon Kindle is far from winning the battle. In fact, Steve Haber, president of Sony’s digital reading business division, thinks Jeff Bezos and co. have made some critical mistakes.

The e-Book Reader market is interesting to watch, as in education once a consumer product reaches a certain level of market penetration, we then start to see how we can use it to enhance and enrich teaching and learning.

Sony launches challenge to the Kindle

sonyebookreader0309

I do like the concept of e-Books and have a Sony e-Book Reader. I also would really like to have an Amazon Kindle, but alas they’re only available in the US.

The BBC News reports on the launch of a new Sony e-Book Reader.

Sony has launched a wireless e-reader which allows users to download electronic books on the go.

Analysts said Sony’s Reader Daily Edition is a direct challenge to Amazon’s best-selling Kindle device.

The $399 (£250) touch-screen device is able to store up to 1,000 novels and can download books over a high-speed mobile network.

It also has an application that can be used to “borrow” books from local libraries for 21 days.

In a recent presentation I gave, I talked about e-Books and how I felt that the Sony e-Book Reader was a first generation device, from which new and better devices would emerge.

By adding connectivity (like the Kindle) Sony has made the e-Book more useful and allows immediate satisfaction, it’s similar to the way that Apple’s iPhone allows you to download music immediately.

Think of the impact of this on the learner, they can be in college, at home, in a coffee shop and they can immediately download to their e-Book reader their assignments, readings, handouts as and when they want or need them.

Regardless of new media, interactivity, in education we still do rely on the printed word, books, journals, handouts. By making them available on an electronic device with a long battery life, it makes it much easier for learners to access information as and when they need it.

I am however slightly disappointed and concerned when I read:

The device will be available in the US from December.

Will we ever get a connected e-Book device in the UK?

Kindle coming to the UK

According to a report on the Mobile Today website, Amazon’s e-Book reader, the Kindle is coming to the UK.

Amazon is close to finalising a launch date for its ‘Kindle’ electronic book reader in the UK and is in advanced negotiations with a mobile operator for an MVNO, Mobile  understands.

The online retail giant has made a major play for ebooks to protect the business against the likes of Apple and Google disrupting the traditional book market.

Amazon is understood to have outsourced all aspects of manufacturing for the Kindle in the UK to Qualcomm, including securing ‘connectivity’ with
a mobile operator in the UK.

I have mentioned before that I have used Sony’s e-Book Reader and that I would have preferred the Kindle. Well soon it looks like I might be able to make that choice.

New Amazon Kindle

Amazon have released a new Kindle. It has many new features and is smaller and thinner.

Slim: Just over 1/3 of an inch, as thin as most magazines

Lightweight: At 10.2 ounces, lighter than a typical paperback

Wireless: 3G wireless lets you download books right from your Kindle, anytime, anywhere; no monthly fees, service plans, or hunting for Wi-Fi hotspots

Books in Under 60 Seconds: Get books delivered in less than 60 seconds; no PC required

Improved Display: Reads like real paper; now boasts 16 shades of gray for clear text and even crisper images

Longer Battery Life: 25% longer battery life; read for days without recharging

More Storage: Take your library with you; holds over 1,500 books

Faster Page Turns: 20% faster page turns

Read-to-Me: With the new Text-to-Speech feature, Kindle can read every book, blog, magazine, and newspaper out loud to you

Large Selection: Over 230,000 books plus U.S. and international newspapers, magazines, and blogs available

Low Book Prices: New York Times Best Sellers and New Releases $9.99, unless marked otherwise

One day we might get one in the UK, one day….

Interesting article in the Guardian yesterday on the lack of piracy in ebooks, thanks to AJCann for the heads-up on that one.

Sony eBook Reader

We have been looking at e-Books for a while now, but of course we currently don’t have anything except computers (and mobile devices) to read them with.

Here in the UK we are unable to get Amazon’s Kindle though that may change on the future.

I have previously mentioned Sony’s e-Book Reader before, Mobile Tech Review have a review of the new PRS-700 model.

I am in the process of ordering some for work, so will let you know how I get on when it arrives.