Tech stuff I found interesting in CW35

One-click-knowledge-providers, the decentralization of the smartphone and coaching for X as “killer applications” for smartwatches


Despite — or especially due to — the vast availability of knowledge on the Internet, people are looking for a “source of authority” in the online world, similar to a person of authority or expert in the offline world. Wikipedia, wikiHow, and Quora are only a few examples for that. For many these sites and the first and only places they go to look for information. They are “one-click-information-providers”. The Buzzard and BadAbout go into the direction of “one-click-opinion-providers” and aggregate opinions about a certain topic. (The Buzzard curates pro and contra arguments about political topics and BadAbout criticism). In essence, they tell you what to think. Whereas I am unsure whether such niche companies like The Buzzard or BadAbout will prevail in the long-run I do think that “one-click-knowledge-providers” (information and opinion providers) will be important in the future. However, their appearance is likely to change as they get increasingly integrated into whatever platform you use as your virtual assistant (Alexa, Siri, Google…). In this development your virtual assistant will be your one and only “source of authority” telling you what to know and think and taking away your possibility to look for alternative sources.

If you type in a question into Google you can choose the sites from which you want your answer from. With, for instance, Amazon Alexa this is impossible. Alexa gives you the answer it has stored in its database. If you do not like the response (or Alexa does not know it) and the question is not of high priority to you, you won’t — I assume — bother to look elsewhere for more. Actually, with Google’s Featured snippets are already going into this gatekeeping direction. A Google-search for “what is ? emoji” will result in an answer box to that question.

Google’s Featured snippet as a “one-click-knowledge-provider”

I am convinced that hardly anyone will bother to check the source or look somewhere else for answer. Admittedly, this emoji-question is a questions where little critical thinking is required. However, over time and with increasing use of voice assistants which provide instant answers, answers to questions where more critical thinking would be required will be accepted through “one-click-knowledge-provider” because our trust in them will increase.

The decentralization of the smartphone through hardware

I have already written how the smartphone’s hardware is decentralized by distinct hardware and moves to our bodies and our environment here. However, I have mistakenly not included smartwatches. Mostly because I did not consider them useful. And this was — it seems to me — the general consensus until fitness emerged as the application for smartwatches. As I still think that smartwatches as fitness trackers will only be useful to people who are already into sports, I doubt that through fitness they will reach mainstream adoption (provided that they will in the first place). Namely, I believe that their increasing self-reliance, of which smartphone-free exercising is only one part, will be “the killer application” for smartwatches. This week showed two new products for that. Samsung and Fitbit introduced new smartwatches. Both can be used for contactless payment and swimming tracking. Samsungs version can furthermore be used a remote for PowerPoint presentations. Fitbit watch comes equipped with GPS and built-in storage for music and apps. Furthermore, it is waterproof, supports fitness tracking and sleeping tracking. Furthermore, both companies unveiled wireless headphones (Samsung only a newer version of their Gear Icon X). The combination of these devices allows you to firstly use you smartphone’s hardware less but its software more (you can do a lot of things with your voice and a watch while your phone is in the pocket) and secondly you can do a lot of things without carrying your phone with you in the first place. Examples include fitness tracking, sleeping and shopping.

Coaching for X

Another thing that Fitbit’s smartwatch has i “Dynamic Personal Coaching”- This feature provides you with on-screen training guidance and exercising coaching tailored to your progress. As a big fan of Ubiquitous Learning I am not only hoping to see more coaching-applications but am also convinved that we will see more apps in that direction (such as posture tracking that shows you that you are not walking as upright as you should). You can, of course, do the same on your smartphone, provided that you only need one hand. Furthermore, it allows for ubiquitous coaching because you can look at it whenever you want without having to take out your phone. Although taking you phone out is not that much of a hassle, it is still friction. And when it comes to changing habits — such as walking upright — everything that prevents us from changing our habit should be eliminated to make the habit change as easy as possible. Finally, I believe that “coaching for X” could be another “killer application” for smartwatches.

Are ARKit and ARCore to AR what Netscape was to the Internet? Google ARCore came out this week and ARKit has been around for quite some time now. I am curious which role they will play in the diffusion of AR. Will they make AR mainstream-ready like Netscape did with the Internet or will they just be a “fad” like iBeacon and Eddystone (Apple’s and Google’s beacon platform, respectively)?

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