Stuff I found interesting in CW33

Topics Alexa for X Last week I wrote about how we might be heading into an “X with Alexa” trend (X being any product you can think of) which reminded me of the “Tinder or Uber for everything” trend. With the Klove Knob, a stove knob with Alexa built-in, and Vobot, a smart clock Alexa built-in, I came across two new devices this week. Still unsure why it should make sense to add Alexa to each imaginable (consumer) product. Niche development for autonomous cars We won’t have autonomous cars overnight. This is not only due to technological but also compatibility issues (people are not familiar with the technology, they do not trust it, they prefer driving because it equals enjoyment and fun…; see Compatibility here). However, compatibility can and will increase through several steps, which, again won’t only be of technical nature (such as the progression across the autonomous driving levels) but also through use cases in niches. One niche application is public transport. For example, the city of Berlin and two other partners are going to operate autonomous buses in 2018. That public use of autonomous driving technology will familiarize citizens the concept of autonomous driving. Furthermore, autonomous cars are more

Digital hangouts

With apps like Houseparty, Oculus Rooms in virtual reality, or the increasing use of second screens we can observe what Business Insider names “digital hangouts”. Digital hangouts are about digital live togetherness. Virtual living rooms in Oculus Rooms and Houseparty (from left to right; Sources: Oculus Rooms, Houseparty) One of the reasons why people like these “digital hangouts” is because it is an entirely natural behavior rooted in our preference for instant feedback to ideas or questions. Just consider study groups or people bouncing off ideas with co-workers. I can imagine that the almost instant access to the internet on Google Home or Amazon Alexa will further enforce this tendency. Eventually, we will want even more instant access to the web and people than we have today. Hearables can provide us with both. Through direct access to voice-assistants (with AirPods, for example, you only have to double-tap one side to activate Siri) we will get instant access to the internet. Sony Anytime Talk is one example for instant access to people. As far as I know, Sony’s Anytime Talk, is the first chat app developed exclusively for a headphone. It allows you to create voice-based group chats with Xperia Ear

How consumers’ perception of autonomous cars will influence their adoption

There are two sides when it comes to customers and the emergence of a new technology. On the one hand, we have consumer adoption and on the other hand consumer acceptance. Adoption is the process of consumers using a technology. Acceptance is the process of non-consumers tolerating the existence of a technology. I have covered acceptance in a separate post; here I am going to look at adoption (also referred to as diffusion). Concretely I will look at the adoption of fully autonomous cars. This Level 5 autonomy implies that autonomous cars will be introduced in a big bang approach skipping all semi-autonomous levels [18] and putting Level 5 cars directly onto our streets. There are two reasons why I consider this bang approach impossible. Firstly, direct introduction would be impossible because autonomous cars are not an isolated product but part of a bigger system. This so called socio-technical system requires a myriad of other things to happen before we can use Level 5 cars en masse on our streets. The only alternative is the incremental introduction of autonomous cars in niches. The second reason why a big bang introduction is impossible is that consumers simply won’t accept such a

Ubiquitous Learning — a primer

Ubiquitous learning is defined as an all day learning environment supported by technology (such as wearables). It is enriched with interaction (with the material as well as other people), can be accessed anywhere anytime, is personalized to the user and its environment and is a mixture of “real reality” and virtual reality. Personalized requires more elaboration in this context; it refers to the learner’s goals of learning, her interests, and preferences, capabilities, learning progress, level of expertise, the used technology and the setting in which learning takes place [1]. Whereas ubiquitous learning can apply to organizations and individuals, I will focus on individuals here. Furthermore, it makes sense to differentiate between willing and unwilling learning as well as active and passive initiation of learning (although there is no such thing as passive learning, I will refer to it as active/passive learning for the sake of brevity). Willing and unwilling learning refers to situations where the learner does or does not want to learn something, respectively. Active and passive initiation of learning distinguishes between how people seek out improvement. Actively means that they start learning something on their own, passively means that somebody or something nudges them to start learning. Thus,

An Alexa-enabled salt shaker and automated kitchens, home voice assistants and food tracking

An Alexa-enabled salt shaker called “SMALT” is currently looking for funding on indiegogo. Although I am unsure how much sense an Alexa-enabled salt shaker makes, there are a few things I like to consider.   As a general note, I think people are confusing “Alexa” (or any other smart speaker) with devices. To me, smart homes speakers such as Alexa, are the first step towards a voice-controlled home. Therefore, I think that adding Alexa to other products makes sense only in the short term because I expect voice to become an infrastructure in our homes as essential as electricity or water. Besides that: Is SMALT pointing us in the direction of an automated kitchen? Sure, automating salt is not a gigantic field for automation, but it might be one of many products that will help us automate cooking. Nevertheless, one must consider whether automating salt intake (or whatever other small manual task) will be necessary in the future at all (it is like building a robot for washing the dishes instead of a dish washer). Are we heading into an “X with Alexa” trend (X being any product you can think of)? This reminds me of the time where we

Stuff I found interesting in CW32

Fox will show its first six-second TV ad: Let’s call them “Snapchat-ads”. I am unsure if they might be even too short for TV ads. Admittedly, ads interrupting watching TV is annoying, but at least the ads are entertaining (at least some of them). Not sure if consumers will consider them super irritating because they are on the one side interrupting and on the other hand not providing any “advertisement value.“ “Voice banking is coming to the forefront” (according to Business Insider). USAA is adding Alexa-based balance checking and information about spending behavior. Makes sense to me; regardless of how good looking some banking apps are (I am using N26, and their web and app-UI is pretty nice), digging into my spending behavior still requires Excel. Whereas I like analyzing that stuff, I would prefer it if somebody could tell it to me. More precisely, I would prefer someone showing it to me (inquiry can still be voice-based). On the one side there are privacy concerns (somebody overhearing it) and on the other hand I can only remember some much numbers at a time. Thus, integration into Amazon Show (and similar) would be cool. Moreover, visual representation would allow mobile

Alexa effect and smart speaker’s narrow helpfulness

While analyzing comments about Google Home shortly after its release in Germany I came across the following fascinating thought from one user: “And will users become content not knowing? (when the assistant does not have the answer to a question)? The device does not recommend any sources for further research” [1] There are two themes in this comment I find worth-exploring; criticism of the smart speaker’s narrow helpfulness and what I will call Alexa effect. Alexa effect I will define the Alexa effect as the tendency towards contentedness with nescience about a topic if information about said topic cannot be obtained immediately or easily [2] In some way, we can already observe this “not knowing phenomena” in our online and offline behavior. For example, in how we google: If it isn't on the first page of Google, it doesn't exist. — Not Will Ferrell (@itsWillyFerrell) October 27, 2013 depend on our mothers: or the Google effect. This cognitive bias refers to the phenomenon that we tend to forget information that is easily obtainable through search engines. Alexa makes us childish by asking it questions that we wouldn’t have googled [3] Looking back on my Alexa-usage I can indeed remember being “ok

The most important product feature is trust

A couple of days ago I came across an app on Producthunt which, once you scan a multiple-choice question, gives you the right answer to it — most of the time. The important part is the addition most of the time. One comment there stated that users will start second-guessing the app if it gives a wrong answer only one time. Eventually, they will stop using the app, because it makes them more work because they lost trust in the app’s ability. That made me realize, that above all the most important feature of a product is the level of trust you have in it. Some are obvious such as the breaks in your car: If you cannot trust that the breaks will work, you won’t use it, regardless of how comfortable of efficient it is. In other products you would not label it trust right away, you might call it quality, speed or reliability. However, what all these traits have in common is that they rely on the level of trust that you have towards a product. Here are hree examples: Siri: You might say that for you, Siri’s most important feature is that is reliable. However, if Siri is

Google Home’s most important feature is …surveillance

…at least according to the comments on I looked at about 180 comments (on August 10th) published below a Google Home review on the German news website This lead to 262 classifications of which eight were positive, 25 neutral, 102 negative and 126 irrelevant. Positive expressions: features, but gimmick People’s attitude towards it was positve mostly because of its features. However, some do see its potential but do not believe that it will evolve beyond a gimmick. Neutral expressions: concerns about data privacy are unjustified As seen below in the negative expressions, people were highly concerned with data privacy. However, some argued that it does not matter whether we allow Google Home to collect data in our houses, as Google (& Co.) already know everything about us through other sources. These other sources are not only the “usual suspects” (GAFA, official institutions, etc.) but also more “unobvious” instances like neighbors (?). In this context (“they already know everything”) people’s hypocrite attitude was criticized; on the one side they are against Google Home but use all kinds of other related devices and services. Negative expressions Concerns: Surveillance, social isolation, government responsibility, device ecosystem Google Home as self-imposed surveillance, connected to the

The changing meaning of autonomous cars from the 1920s to 2017

Since the first “autonomous” car emerged in the 1920s, its role has changed and repeated itself in the course of history. Autonomous cars were seen as a solution to a social problem, response to a social need (“family togetherness”), their concept (autonomous driving) was embodied in other technologies (guide wires) and was an essential part of wider social changes (magic highway). However, after the initial euphoria, autonomous driving went from being a concept to technological features embodied in driving assistants, followed by an increasing technologization of the car. Although they were in general considered enablers of a better future they were depicted as killing machines and enablers of a totalitarian society. Today they have a mostly positive perception and are associated with multifold functions such as being a pale or mobile office. The autonomous car as a “fantastical object” and solution to a social problem by being a “traffic optimizer” It was in the 1920s when increased traffic fatalities (as a consequence of mass motorization) started receiving increasing societal attention. Since the human driver was considered fatality cause number one, removing the driver from the equation seemed like the best solution (infrastructure and car design as causes for fatalities entered