Tag Archives: amazon

I have a cold – Weeknote #50 – 21st February 2020

It’s half-term, which means I try and get out of the house as much as possible, as it can be a bit unfair to everyone else if I am working from home. However the weather and the fact I had a cold most of the week meant that in the end I worked form home. AS well as having a cold, I also took some leave as it was half-term.

AT the end of last week, Michelle Donelan named universities minister and the science part of the post was split off.

There have been quite a few universities ministers now over the last couple of years. Something the sector could probably do with is some consistency in this post. The news was not met with much enthusiasm from the university sector. Universities fear loss of policy focus as ministerial roles split.

Diana Beech, head of government affairs at the University of Warwick, and a former adviser to Mr Skidmore, warned that a stand-alone science minister might not be so “aware of the interdependency of science and HE” and might be less alert to the “importance of cross-subsidies in teaching and research”. This could have “profound implications on the way policy is made”, she said.

I quite enjoyed watching BBC’s Panorama on the rise of Amazon.

In a quarter of a century, Amazon has propelled Jeff Bezos from online bookseller to tech titan. He’s the richest man on the planet, and the company he founded is one of the most powerful. Panorama investigates Amazon’s rise to corporate superpower and asks whether there is a dark side to our love affair with the company. Former high-level insiders describe Amazon’s huge, obsessive data-gathering operation, which enables the company to use what it knows about us to shape not only the future of retail but the workplace and technology too. On both sides of the Atlantic, politicians and regulators are beginning to question Amazon’s power and to explore ways to rein it in. But some of Amazon’s most senior executives say the company is a force for good, inventing new ways to serve customers and maintain their trust.

Yes in places it was quite sensational, well it was a piece for television. I thought that trying to talk about the data and metrics side of Amazon was a different story (though related) to the use of voice assistants in the Amazon Alexa device. Certainly voice will be the future of interaction with technology, but I thought they should have kept the focus on the data they collect about us and others. My own thoughts were on how far behind the education sector is in their use of data to support teaching, learning and assessment in comparison to Amazon. Then I look at the recommendations I get on Amazon and maybe I am not so sure.

Continue reading I have a cold – Weeknote #50 – 21st February 2020

All together now – Weeknote #31 – 11th October 2019

Birmingham
Birmingham

A busy week with travels to Bristol, Reading and Birmingham this week.

Monday I was in Bristol for a meeting with the Office for Students, one of the funders of Jisc. Following that I was back in the main office for further meetings.

There was an interesting long read on the Guardian website.

‘The way universities are run is making us ill’: inside the student mental health crisis

A surge in anxiety and stress is sweeping UK campuses. What is troubling students, and is it the universities’ job to fix it?

We know that there is a student mental health crisis and the reasons for this aren’t necessarily clear. We know there has been increase in the demand for mental health services at universities. The article notes that there has been research into the causes of this, but lays the blame for the crisis on the way in which universities are managed and run, leading to students not being in control of what they do and saddled with debt.

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay
Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay

Continue reading All together now – Weeknote #31 – 11th October 2019

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.