Tag: Alphabet

We need to talk about the smart home

Tuesday, 5 April, 2016 0 Comments

The “smart home” is a bit like the “paperless office.” Lots of promise, but the prospect remains untidy. The smart home landscape is cluttered with multiple standards and inelegant solutions, but some big names are determined to bring order to the household hub: Alphabet is making its bid with Nest and Samsung has acquired SmartThings.

For smaller smart home players like Wink, the encroachment of Apple and Alphabet is ominous. Wink launched in 2014 with a strategy tethering several competing standards, but the future turned grim when its parent, Quirky, the ambitious incubator, went broke last year. Flex came to the rescue, however, and Wink now claims to have 1.3 million devices on its network. Given all this turmoil, it’s not surprising Wink has a sense of humour as this clip, with its nod to fears of a robotic future, shows.


AlphaGo was yesterday, Boston Dynamics is today

Friday, 18 March, 2016 0 Comments

How fickle these times are. How quickly glory fades and how rapidly doubt steps into its shoes. For example: Google was being deluged with praise last week after AlphaGo won the DeepMind Challenge against the champion Lee Sedol. Suddenly, the scary concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) was, well, less scary and Google got lots of love. How short our attention span is, however.

Yesterday, Bloomberg rattled the rosy future with the headline, “Google Puts Boston Dynamics Up for Sale in Robotics Retreat.” The talk on the street was of the inability of Boston Dynamics to produce marketable robots anytime soon. Hence the reported “For Sale” sign. But there’s another aspect to the story, one which relates to the scary AI scenario. Boston Dynamics posted a humanoid robotics video on YouTube last month that made many people uneasy and the mother company, Alphabet, sensing another Google Glass moment, perhaps, began to count the negative publicity cost. Bloomberg quoted from e-mails published on an internal online forum that were visible to all Google employees:

“There’s excitement from the tech press, but we’re also starting to see some negative threads about it being terrifying, ready to take humans’ jobs,” wrote Courtney Hohne, a director of communications at Google and the spokeswoman for Google X. Hohne asked her colleagues to “distance X from this video,” and wrote, “we don’t want to trigger a whole separate media cycle about where BD really is at Google.”

After the match between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol, the scoreline read: Machines, 4, Humanity, 1. With Google’s retreat from robots, some would says it’s now Machines, 4, Humanity, 2. But that will probably change next week. This is a fast-paced game and the job-eating robots are advancing, despite the headlines.


Alphabet: abc.xyz

Tuesday, 11 August, 2015 0 Comments

“We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search!” Larry Page, CEO of Alphabet, the new Google “Operating Structure”.

The domain name abc.xyz is clever as it indicates that Alphabet will cover everything from A to Z. And the alphabet offers endless food for Alphabet wordplay as Jean-Marie G. Le Clézio illustrates in Mondo et autres histoires. Snippet:

“At the same time, he spoke to Mondo about everything there was in the letters, about everything you could see in them when you looked and when you listened. He spoke about A, which is like a big fly with its wings pulled back; about B, which is funny, with its two tummies; or C and D, which are like the moon, a crescent moon or a half-full moon; and then there was O, which was the full moon in the black sky. H is high, a ladder to climb up trees or to reach the roofs of houses; E and F look like a rake and a shovel; and G is like a fat man sitting in an armchair. I dances on tiptoes, with a little head popping up each time it bounces, whereas J likes to swing. K is broken like an old man, R takes big strides like a soldier, and Y stands tall, its arms up in the air, and it shouts: help! L is a tree on the river’s edge, M is a mountain, N is for names, and people waving their hands, P is asleep on one paw, and Q is sitting on its tail; S is always a snake, Z is always a bolt of lightning, T is beautiful, like the mast on a ship, U is like a vase, V and W are birds, birds in flight; and X is a cross to help you remember.”