This just came out in the news today, which I saw through the Mashable feed. Google’s AI Assistant is really learning how to interact using natural language in a big way. The future, if it’s not now, is coming very soon!
If this is truly working, and I’m guessing it’ll be available to the public soon enough, it’s going to be kicking the back end of Siri and Alexa and Cortana. I’ve used Siri for a while now, and it’s not perfect, but it’s okay–it’s gotten better over the years. Alexa has been a bit of a disappointment to me–Siri can usually do better. With mixed results from those two, I haven’t really ventured into trying Cortana, but I’m willing to bet that it’s still not as developed as the Google Assistant.
How does this affect technical communicators? Big time. From what I can tell, this is about the chatbots and machine language learning that’s been talked about recently. But at the same time, it affects how we communicate through rhetoric or voice. Sometimes we take actual speaking for granted, and it’s when we try to describe something that one sees clearly that it becomes difficult. Or, sometimes we can write it out well, but can’t explain well in voice. This means that plain and very clear language is going to be helpful going forward as we develop the content for these AI assistants that will be developing.
Soon enough, we’ll be talking to HAL or to our starship’s computer with ease.
What do you think about this development? It’s exciting to me–enough to make me want to purchase a Google Assistant! It definitely raises the bar for Apple, Microsoft, and Amazon, for sure. Let some healthy competition begin! (And more tech comm jobs associated with it!) Include your thoughts below.
As disappointed as I was that I’d have to return my Google Glass because it really wasn’t in the budget, I knew there was a 30-day trial to use Glass, so my husband suggested that perhaps I should give the trial a whirl, and if I still liked it, I could purchase it again later when the price goes down. I wasn’t keen on the idea because I was afraid that if I liked the product enough, I’d be reluctant to return it. Despite his encouragement to try Glass first, my husband didn’t help the cause, as he’d constantly be emailing me negative articles about Glass.
Nonetheless, I decided that I’d forge ahead and give Glass a try. I didn’t even last one morning.
Upon receipt of my Google Glass, the Glass didn’t have enough charge to even set up my account on the device out of the box, so I had to charge it overnight. Even with an overnight charge, it was only at 88%. Something’s not right with that. You’d think that with such a small device that a) there would be just enough charge in it to set it up, at least, and b) that charging it overnight would put it at 100%. So, not a good start, but by the next morning, 88% was enough power to be able to set the device up.
Now, I hate to compare apples to oranges, but I couldn’t help but make mental notes of how much the experience was nothing like dealing with an Apple mobile device. Yes, I know that Glass is not a smartphone, but it does connect to one’s smartphone, after all. I’ve done the set-up of my son’s Android smartphone (and I will admit, I’m no Android expert) and set-up 4 iPhones and 2 iPads over the years, so I think I have a good idea of what a good out-of-the box experience should be. I’m also fairly adept at figuring out new technology, and have been the “tech person” in my family for decades, even before digital technology was mainstream. Add to those credentials that I am a technical communicator, so figuring out how to set a digital wearable device should be par for the course.
When I used an iPhone for the first time, I could figure out everything instantly. Apple walks you through set-up directly on the device, and nothing extra has to be done on another device paired up to it. Google Glass had some directions in the viewing screen (for lack of a better term), but it took me a while to set the device up so that it could connect to my phone and read the QR code that the app had to read to connect and activate the account. I had also read the Google Glass online help files on my laptop as I was doing this. It’s not a good sign, to me, if I have to read the website simultaneously while setting the device up. Even then, the directions weren’t that great. It assumed that everything would go smoothly, so set-up would be a snap. However, mine was not, and I couldn’t find any answers to problems I had.
Eventually, I did figure out how to get Glass set-up. I was connected to my Google account, and ready to go. It was early in the morning, and I decided to try it out, let me son see how it worked, and my husband was curious to see how it worked, too, even if he was the naysayer against it. Because I didn’t want to accumulate too much personal content on the device, I tried to be careful about not taking video or photos, as I needed to learn how to download apps and manuever the device first. My son liked what he saw, and I had him do the instruction, “OK, Glass, Google Minecraft,” and it did. He liked it. But, being that he is a rambunctious 12 year old boy, I didn’t want him wearing this expensive device for long. It was then my husband’s turn.
Before I could try to instruct him on how to manuever the device, my husband decided that he already knew how to use it based on viewing the Saturday Night Live skit from a while back. I scolded him for just trying to do things randomly, and I wanted him to give them back to me if he wasn’t going to give me a chance to explain how to use them properly–based on my limited knowledge at that point. The next thing I know, he proclaims, “OK, Glass, take a picture.” In full glory, in my rumpled NJIT pajamas, angry face, and Polish chicken hair because I had not gotten ready for the day, he had a photo of me. I was not happy about that. He then asked, “If I wanted to send this, what would I do?” At this point in the story, he and I differ on the account, but since it’s my blog, I’m telling it my way. He started to say, “Would you say, ‘OK, Glass, send an email…’?” and when he realized that he’d actually be sending an email, it opened up to THAT PHOTO. “Oops!” he claimed, and tried to back out of it. He did say, “Cancel,” a few times, but nothing happened. But somehow, the photo did get sent, and it was sent to the first person listed on my Google + list, whom I don’t know personally! How embarrassing! I had to get on my laptop later, and send a note to her in Google+ explaining the situation, that I wasn’t sending a photo of a crazy, angry bag lady on purpose, etc. By that time the Glass was confiscated, that was enough to get me on the wrong foot with the device even further.
After everyone had left for school and gone off to the office, I had a little time to myself to try to figure more about this. One of the biggest flaws I saw with this device is that it’s not intuitive. As I mentioned, the set-up was not smooth at all. I found that I couldn’t figure out for the life of me how to delete the photo or the Google search from the Glass unless I reset the device back to factory settings. That can’t be right. Additionally, I couldn’t figure out how to get to a screen to add apps. Again, that doesn’t make sense. So, I went back to the Google Glass Help online to try to figure that out. I couldn’t find any instructions on how to add apps. Additionally, I saw that there were less than two dozen apps available at all! Geez, that doesn’t seem like a lot. I know that this is a product that’s still in development, but you’d think that after a year, Google would have more apps than what I saw.
So, when I took into account how the product wasn’t intuitive, had very few apps, had no ability to delete things (I was able to delete the photo in my Google account via my laptop, but shouldn’t be), plus the exorbitant price, I succumbed to what my husband had been telling me all along. It wasn’t right for me. So, I called Google to ask for the return labels so I could send it back and get my full refund.
Believe me, I was really frustrated with this product. Although my family thought it was cool, they also felt that it wasn’t so easy to figure out how to use it seamlessly, and we’re all fairly technical–even my son. But for something that was the price of two new iPad Air devices or laptops that had much more functionality, I had one funny pair of electronic eyeglasses that didn’t do a whole lot. The experience was disappointing, and I didn’t want to pursue it further–that’s how frustrating it was in one morning. To quote my husband, “If Apple had come out with these instead of Google, it would be cheaper and it would be a completely different experience.” This is coming from a guy who’s very reluctant to use Apple products in the first place, and he even came to this conclusion. The sad thing is, he’s right. When watching that SNL skit again after this experience, my experience wasn’t too different, except the character in the skit got apps on his Glass, at least. The scary thing is, that skit was done a year ago, and nothing has changed since that time!
Despite this less than stellar experience with emerging technology, I think if the price came down significantly, the intuitiveness of the product was better–including understanding how to delete content and add apps, and there were more apps to use, then I’d definitely reconsider getting Glass again in the future. The product isn’t ready for primetime, in my opinion. Even the iPhone had more features on it when it first came out in the first year than this has. I initially got interested in Glass after seeing my friend, Marta Rauch of Oracle, using them, and seeing her presentations about the product’s many capabilities. I wouldn’t have rushed to purchase the product and have a chance to use them if I didn’t believe that there was a true potential in the product. I think Marta has more of a chance to play with them and see the potential because she uses them professionally as well as personally. Part of her job is seeing how Glass can be integrated in projects and products that she’s working on at Oracle. I don’t have any such projects or products I’m trying to develop. And as I said, I do think there is potential for a wearable smart device.
I don’t think Google Glass in its current state, however, is the product for me right now. Once some of these issues are fixed, I’ll see about giving it another try. Believe me, I’m really disappointed, but at least I can get my money back, and Google is being fairly cool about me returning it. And yes, I’ve given them this feedback–twice.
Do you think I didn’t give it a chance? Do you think I was crazy to even try it in the first place? What do you think about such devices? You can put your response in the comments section below.
I, along with the iOS faithful, waited with bated breath yesterday to hear all about the new iPhone 5C and the iPhone 5S. Considering that the last time I upgraded my phone was for the 4S, I was looking forward to seeing what my upgrade options (that were not Windows or Android-based) were.
I was excited for both models, as I could see these as upgrades. Part of the big upgrade for both will be iOS7, as it is promising to be a more streamlined user experience. While we’ve known about this new upgrade to the OS for a few months, now that it’s close to its release, the excitement can really build up. There will be more accessibility to the Cloud, more multi-tasking features, easier ability to share data, and a better camera functionality, among other updates. Siri searches are even improved, as it draws more data from Wikipedia and social media now. Maps are improved. Just the OS update alone will make things better for mobile sharing of information. The iWork suite is going to be free, available on the Cloud as well. This is a big boost to creating and editing content, whether it be text, graphics, spreadsheets or video. My first reaction to this was, “Gee, I spent some good money on getting all those apps a while ago. Do I get a refund now?” I’m sure I don’t, but thinking about this from an educational perspective, this is a big boost. I did use the cloud-based iWork to work on some items while it was available via beta, and I found it to be a great solution for me to work on various documents on both my iDevices and my laptop–and my laptop is Windows-based! I could access it via my iCloud account on my browser, and then work on it later on my iPad or iPhone. It’s a great boost, and I’m sure it’ll help some classroom situations save some money.
But these new tools–because that’s what these new phones are, new tools–look awesome. The iPhone 5C and iPhone 5S do open up some new doors to not only use this new OS to the maximum, but they offer new opportunities for mobile learning.
While the iPhone 5C has all the pretty colors now available, the new structure of using a polycarbonate plastic foundation is going to make a big difference. First of all, I’m sure some people are thinking, “Oh my gosh, that thing will crack so easily because it’s plastic, even if it has that silicone case around it.” If you don’t know much about polycarbonate plastics, then you’d need to learn, because you would be wrong. Polycarbonate plastics are often used for children’s eyeglasses because of their strength and rigidity. The same plastic is used for sports goggles and sports eyewear for the same reason. (Being a mom who has a child with glasses, and I own a pair of prescription swimming goggles, I know this.) This plastic is safe enough to protect one’s eyes, even in extreme conditions, as they don’t break easily nor do they scratch easily. So if it’s safe for your kids’ eyes, it’s probably going to be safe for your phone. It’s reinforced with the steel frame that doubles as an antenna, so I think one shouldn’t have any worries if the device is properly cared for, in general.
The 5C will take advantage of all the new functionality of iOS7, which is good, but I think the biggest part of all of it will be its price point. The 16 GB model–it’s “smallest” storage model–will be US$99. For a brand new phone with this kind of functionality, that’s pretty cheap! And because of that price point, people who were buying Android and Windows phones as alternatives because of the price points of those other brands might now be able to afford an iPhone now. iPhone is known for its customer services, its ease of use, and its ability to have access to more apps than imaginable, so this accessibility will allow it to become a more dominant player in the mobile phone game. I can imagine schools being more apt to buy some of these smartphones or encouraging or subsidizing these phones around the world, because the price point is half of what the “fancy” model is worth, but it still packs a punch.
The 5S device, however, has more bells and whistles. While it does have new colors to its line-up, it’s more about how powerful the device is. It’s really a true microcomputer in the palm of your hand. The 5S is the first smartphone to have a 64-bit processor. How long ago was it that we had 64-bit desktops and laptops? That’s amazing! The CPU performance is now twice as fast as the iPhone 5, including super faster graphics. There is also a second processor in the 5S known as the M7, which is a motion co-processor. It works more accurately with the compass, accelerometer and gyroscope, so it’s going to spawn more use for health and fitness apps. Who ever thought you might use your iPhone for gym class? All this data can help assess the user’s surroundings more. Imagine using those features for a science class or history class? The 5S also has an upgraded camera called the iSight camera with a dual-LCD flash with better sensors. In combination with the iOS7 software, it will allow for more accurate photography. There is also a slow-motion video feature and a burst mode on the camera (taking 10 frames per second on the shutter). The camera alone is pretty cool!
The other big feature is the TouchID, which is a fingerprint scanner on the home button. It’s done for security purposes, but I could see this taken to a higher level, in time, for personalization for access. You know how one can use separate user names and passwords to access a shared device? The TouchID uses a fingerprint to identify a person, and multiple fingerprints can be approved and saved. What if that was used for personalized learning? So, one student would swipe his/her fingerprint, and only certain apps or information would appear. Another student would do the same, and different apps or information would appear. This could work beyond security, and again, I see this as something that could be a money saver for schools. A device could be numbered, and Bobby and Susie could share Device #8 of 10 in a classroom during different periods, and yet have access to different information. The software might not be quite there yet, but that might be the next step, and it’s a feature that could be on future iPads as well.
I think these are great innovations moving forward with both phones.
However, I did see commentary on some social media outlets by some that they were disappointed by the new phones, stating that the new phones were not “innovative” enough. RJ Jacquez was definitely very vocal on his Facebook page, stating, “Absolutely NOTHING innovative from Apple at today’s event. Disappointing! Google is now clearly in control of the Mobile Revolution!”
But I think there were two comments to his Facebook posting in response that caught my eye that I think summarizes these upgrades well. (Yes, I asked their permission first before posting.)
Stefan Gentz, who is a well-known technical communications speaker, responded to a naysayer by replying,
Hey, they just introduced the first 64 bit smartphone in the world! It has a fingerprint sensor that opens up a whole new level of online shopping convenience and security, a new global LTE chip with a whopping 13 LTE bands (which is especially great for continent hoppers) and a superb camera with an aperture of ƒ/2.2 which is even dramatically better than my professional Sony digicam (3.5), even better than most professional DSLR and it can still take 10 pics/sec. And the new motion chip M7 knows when you’re walking, running, or driving. For example, Maps switches from driving to walking turn-by-turn navigation if, say, you park and continue on foot. Not to mention the new iOS7. And this all in a 7.6 mm, 112 g sexy, high-precision case.”
Stefan followed up by stating that all these features don’t add up to nothing!
Paulo Castro, another technical communicator, followed up on Stefan’s comment with the following:
Innovation is not the only thing that matters in a new product. Sometimes you just have to take what you have and make it better, stronger, faster, more reliable, etc. Stefan (above comment) makes a good point in terms of new features.As long as nobody else comes up with something significantly better in terms of new hardware, software, or OS, then Apple may still have a good standing in this competitive market.
I, too, wish we could see an eye-opening product everytime Apple announces something, but the truth I would prefer to have an extremely efficient device at a good price, with high reliability, security, and functionality, rather than a new gizmo with stuff I don’t even need.
I have to agree with both gentlemen. There’s a lot going on with the upgrade of the device itself, as Stefan said. Even Lance Ulanoff of Mashable said of the 5S, “Its new look combined with this more powerful phone and some of the landmark features –- iSight camera, Touch ID –- should make the iPhone 5S feel less like an upgrade and more like a reboot.” But I think Paulo makes a great point as well, which is that in the end, I, too, would prefer to have an extremely reliable and efficient device. The 5S that I plan to buy will be the third iPhone that I’ve chosen to purchase. I could’ve easily upgraded to a Windows or Android-based phone a while ago, but I chose not to do so. I would be a rich woman if I had a dollar for every time my son or my husband had to forego using their Android phones, and we relied on my iPhone for something. I’ve never had my phone crash, and I can only think of once when I had to reset the phone and start all over again. Once in about five years, and it was probably five years ago when I was getting adjusted to it? That’s pretty good.
When it comes to mobile devices, there’s no question that I favor iDevices. The new iPhones have a lot to offer, and I can’t wait to order mine!
PS – In case anybody cares to know, I would love to have Lance Ulanoff’s job, or something a lot like it. Doing social media coverage and blogging about events like this and the tech scene would be a dream come true! 😉
In the past week, I’ve made two observations about how technology is going through an advancement surge. What I mean by that is that there are big changes happening, and it seems like it’s happening incredibly quickly–at least in my eyes.
The first occurrence was last week. My dad called us because he knew my husband and I had something he didn’t have–more computer knowledge than him. I found it a little ironic, my dad was my first computer teacher in the early 80s when Apple II first came out. My dad, being an educator, was progressive enough to know that these were going to be the wave of the future, and in some respects, he was an e-teacher–an early computer teacher. But here was my first computer teacher asking for help. He admitted that he had let his skills lag, and he was now “a dinosaur”, and didn’t have a clue what he was doing anymore. His desktop had died, but he wanted to retain a lot of information that was still on his old hard drive. My husband declared the desktop was indeed dead, and suggested that if my dad bought a new desktop, we could probably install the old hard drive as a secondary hard drive in the new computer, and that way he could still access the information.
I took my dad to the local Best Buy and Staples to do some comparison shopping. What struck us both is that there were next to no choices at either store for desktop models. Almost everything was either a laptop, a tablet, or one of those sleek all-in-one units. Considering that my dad wanted and needed one of those BIG desktops–not one of the compact ones, the choices were even more limited.
The irony was that once we brought the desktop back to my house to see if we could install the old hard drive into it, we discovered that it didn’t have a bay inside the casing to accomodate it, but it also essentially only had a motherboard, a power source, a fan, a Blu-ray disk drive, and the hard drive inside. That was it. It was a LOT of wasted space for something that was fairly powerful. The machine also came with the “blessed” Windows 8. I’ve had my hesitations about upgrading to it myself, but my dad had no choice, and the poor chap has been using only Windows XP and Windows 2000 up until now, so he was REALLY behind. Our solution to the hard drive issue was that my husband bought a contraption that you can enclose the old hard drive in a special case, and it turns it into a USB-connected external hard drive. So, that part of the problem is solved.
The Windows 8 solution is not. Dad is struggling to figure it all out, and is perplexed at how Windows 8 works in general. He’s not up to speed with the idea of using cloud-based apps for anything, or even using cloud-based storage. Since my husband and I are still using Windows 7 (and we’re safe for now), we can’t advise him on how to use it, even though we can give him some advice on apps and cloud-based apps in general. What’s frustrating for my dad is that my mother is even less computer literate than him (she’s been condeming computers for thirty years now), so she’s REALLY thrown by how to use Windows 8. I sent Dad some online resources including an e-book on how to use Windows 8, and he bought another book, so hopefully he’ll be the expert soon enough.
The second indicator to me that things were changing technologically was the closing of our local GameStop store. Now, to be fair, I live in a very small town–one that’s small enough that I questioned why we even had a GameStop in our town to begin with. We liked that store better than the one at the local mall because we got more personalized service, and we liked the staff there. I was only surprised to see that it had disappeared almost overnight the other day when I passed by the shopping center where it was located. I’m sure the store didn’t get enough traffic to warrant it to stay open, so that wasn’t a surprise. I was just surprised that it was done without a lot of fanfare. Related to that, since the store wasn’t there, my son was itching to get a new game for his Nintendo 3DS, and we ended up looking online for choices. Granted, my son is fussy about what games he likes and doesn’t like, so choices seemed slim. But even from my own tastes, it seemed like there weren’t a lot of choices. Here was a portable gaming system that didn’t have many games, even though it’s the most current Nintendo portable gaming system on the market. That didn’t make sense to me. As I later found out, Nintendo is working more and more on putting out games that can be accessed through the 3DS’s wi-fi connection–in other words, accessed through cloud services, and saved on the device’s flash drive or on the SD card that you can install. THAT’S where all the new games were!
As I thought about my dad’s predicament in catching up to the 21st century and my son’s need for more games, it occured to me that more and more access to media of any kind is becoming dependent on mobile services and cloud services. Really–think about it. As I was finding out from my dad, he could only install or update his Microsoft Office if he subscribed to Office 365–the cloud service. Microsoft has adopted cloud services to deliver its services, as has Adobe. Subscription services are pretty much the main way–and soon the only way–one can get access to this software and applications. It’s rare that anyone gets DVDs to install software anymore–it’s downloaded off the Web now. The same thing was happening with my son. He had better access to games for his device through Nintendo’s cloud services than if he paid for a micro-disk.
These are only two of several observations I’ve made lately that we’re going through a technology surge of sorts that are making what we’ve known and loved for years are quickly becoming obsolete. Tablets, smartphones, and laptops are pretty much the standard now, pushing mobile to the forefront even more. Touch technology is becoming more prolific, even for the all-in-one desktop computers that are out there, putting it on the same level as its mobile counterparts. Even the gaming world is getting the clue, with more games downloaded to smartphones and other mobile devices rather than buying the software. Who buys DVDs or Blu-ray disks anymore when we can download movies and other videos from Netflix or iTunes?
Cloud-based and flash-memory based technology seem to be taking over! Soon enough, DVDs, CDs, and SD cards are going to obsolete like the 5 1/2 inch floppy disks, VHS tapes, tape reels or punch cards! Seriously–think about it–in a year or two (okay, maybe a little more than that), all those things might be GONE.
It’s great that technology is advancing in leaps and bounds like it is. No one is more excited about these advances than I am, in most cases. But I wish I could keep up sometimes! It makes me feel bad for my dear dad, who is getting left in the dust by these advances. I’m sure he’s not the only one.
I think my little blog just grew up a bit. I not only reached the 10,000 all-time hits mark, but even passed it. For a niche blog that’s 13.5 months old, I think that’s pretty amazing! I’m a proud TechCommGeekMom!
Thank you to every person who’s a regular reader, who just popped in once in a while, or who came only once for a visit. 10,000 all-time hits is a lot! Now, I know of blogs that have definitely had more traffic than me, mostly because they are much more hyper-focused on a particular segment of technical communications, like everything you want to know about a particular type of software, everything you want to know about a particular strategy, or else they’ve been around for a long time, so they’ve built up a following after a while. I do not begrudge these people, as they are my inspiration, and in some ways, they have contributed to this blog too through curated content now and then. TechCommGeekMom wants to be like those blogs as it grows up!
I trust that you enjoy what you read, and that you keep coming back for more. I’d like to think that the variety presented here, mixed with my own eccentric flair, brings about a lot of different perspectives of what technical communications is and what it can be. As I’ve said in the past, this blog started out very small, as a grad school project to build a community via social media, and I chose to work on building my tech comm/e-learning/m-learning community. I’m guessing that perhaps–just perhaps–I may have achieved my goal of creating a TechCommGeekMom community, and yet I hope the family will continue to grow. If you have any suggestions or ideas of things you’d like to see here, or if you’d like to contribute a guest post, please let me know!
Many thanks from the bottom of my heart for helping me reach this milestone! This blog is a labor of love, and it has opened so many doors for me, which I hope continue to open! I truly appreciate the support!