The next iteration of Photoshop – you’ll never be able to believe a video again!

This video shows the freaky results of research underway at the University of Washington: how easy it is to make it look like people said something they never did at all.

Automated post from Decahedralist Inc. –
December 11, 2015 at 05:34PM

Summoning the Digital Genie

I’ve always wanted to be able to freely summon the internet by voice, and have it respond (in natural language no less) as I go about my daily tasks. Honestly, what would be easier than to just speak up from wherever you are? Which is why I was really interested to hear about Amazon’s new Echo.

For those of you not familiar, it’s a a hybrid speaker with voice recognition to answer certain questions and do certain tasks. It’s an inexpensive speaker and answer genie that responds to you throughout your home. “Echo – read me a recipe for pumpkin pie!” “Echo – add milk to my shopping list!” Things like that. Things that make life easier – no messy hands or actual moving involved.  Here’s the video that explains what it can do and how it works.

It’s no coincidence, though, that it’s AMAZON’s new product (a shopping retailer). The truth it that it’s an amazing way to learn about your needs, wants, and preferences – all of which can be tied back to recommending products.

Is this necessarily bad? I’m not sure. Ideally of course this just enhances your life: instead of being barraged with irrelevant things, you’re targeted with much more personalized suggestions. Many find this creepy though; that’s up to the user to decide. Forbes magazine did a nice roundup of all the type of information Echo *could* eventually glean from responding to your requests and surroundings here.

What’s less obvious is the impact of “always on” listening, as Sean and I have wrangled over in the last few days. The potential for future misuse is indeed, huge. Although Echo isn’t reporting on your conversations (pinging the internet), as it currently is only listening for the “wake” word, Amazon has been very noncommittal in their privacy statement about future use of the data gathered. and indeed – whether future versions of Echo won’t be recording *everything* that’s being said as a default.

But always on listening – whether it’s Echo or another future version (and there will be others) – is going to happen, and eventually become so “normal” (as cell phones have) that most people will dive in head first, without always stopping to think of the implications. After all, it’s so *intuitive* and easy to use, and makes life so much easier, why wouldn’t you? It does have some serious “Big Brother” potential though.

We scream about privacy, yet hand it over so easily when enticed by a bright shiny new toy. To whom are we selling our souls? Digital genie, or digital Pandora’s Box?

I have no answers. My guess is that privacy concerns will disappear as the “always on” generation swims like fish in the water they’ve always lived in, and dinosaurs (like me) die out.

Defining innovation

Flare Pan
The jet inspired Flare Pan design

I was stunned when, after posting this article on Facebook the other days, I got pushback that it wasn’t really an “innovation” because it was too simple:

The design came about this way. Professor Tom Povey – who actually works as an engineer researching the design of high-efficiency cooling systems for next-generation jet-engines (he’s a real rocket scientist!) – was waiting for a pan of water to boil. As he waited, he mused on how much energy was being wasted by heat loss from inefficient pan design. Using his training and background, he developed the “Flare Pan” which basically increases the amount of contact surface with cooking heat, speeding up how fast things cook and using less energy in the process.

I think that’s really cool. Think about it: the shape of pans basically hasn’t changed in a millenia. Millions of people have used pans and while the Chinese *did* helpfully come up with a useful aphorism to explain the process (a watched pot never boils) very few have actually done anything to improve on it.

His design is so simple, so elegant…and indeed – obvious! And it solves a real challenge, provides a real benefit.

But isn’t that what innovation is all about? It doesn’t have to be radically different to be truly revolutionary. So I respectfully disagree with the naysayers: this is the *essence* of innovation.

What do you think?


Connecting the dots: Evaluating new business opportunities

I’m heavily back into the New York City startup scene and – phew, it’s a hopping one. Recession schmecession.

Had the pleasure of recently attended a party mixing VCs and startups (many already operating, some not) and I honestly have more fun listening to the startup’s business pitches and evaluating (sometimes in my head, sometimes freely giving my two cents’ worth!) the market potential than just about anything; the neurons start firing, the dots connecting (a la my previous post…..).

There’s a big party going on my head, just hearing all the ideas and “seeing” opportunities way beyond what they think their business is about.

The companies are all tech-based, and seem to pick one super small sliver of the tech universe and just madly scramble with 150% effort to get it running; I noticed this in Silicon Valley too, many startups just madly chase making the initial idea a reality…what they often miss, though, is the business savvy to see the larger strategic opportunities – which is a shame.

So many good ideas just don’t see market success because they are too focused on one idea without seeing the bigger picture – opportunities, partnerships, even threats; my head is all a-buzz.

It’s fun for me because I get to combine my love of tech and trend spotting with my MBA roots (which I get to use all too infrequently lately *sigh*). What I wouldn’t give to work with either a VC or consulting firm to help evaluate businesses – or help established companies develop plans to identify opportunities from emerging tech in our increasingly complex world! McKinsey, are you listening?!

Connecting dots: Understanding the strategic process

I regularly get asked, “how do you come up your blog entry subjects?” – and my standard answer is, I notice things, then connect the dots.

And then I saw a wonderfully quirky little movie tonight, a documentary about a man (Bill Cunningham) who has spent decades spotting and documenting trends in fashion on the streets of NY. I love this quote:

…see, I don’t decide anything – I let the streets speak to me…In order for the streets to speak to you, you’ve got to stay out there and see what it is…You just don’t manufacture in your head that skirts at the knee are the thing, and you go out and photograph skirts at the knee…You’ve gotta stay on the street and let the street tell you what it is.

It struck me how well he described what goes on in my own head/gut, when thinking about what’s happening in – and then forecasting – the tech world.  He notices one person doing something, then sees it again later, and then watches for it, and voila! – he’s spotted a trend. He doesn’t judge, he just notices. And constantly scans, then connects the moving dots.

Which describes it perfectly.

I see an article. I see someone repost it. Then, I see another person refer to the concept in the article. Twice is usually enough to guarantee a potential meme.

Of course I’ve got a databank of personal theories and experiences to refer to – unconsciously matching up the two – just like Bill Cunningham, who sees a shape that reminds his of a prior shape, then recognizes the influence and voila! – has uncovered a current or theme that’s being resurrected. I can only imagine how large his personal databank is at 80+; he has indeed probably seen it all.

Once a current (trend) emerges on the edges of my conscious periphery, insights or explanations come from extrapolating the inevitable trajectory using a handful of variables (human psychology, business trends, personal professional experience, macro economics, and a dose of “common sense”). Plus a wee bit of magic pixie dust…which probably explains using Sea Monkeys when thinking about augmented reality.

As many of you know, I’m currently in the job market and would love to work in strategic development at a company that’s at the forefront of developing the next generation of technology, or even better – be involved with envisioning what that future will look like, then work with companies to help them understand how they can play in it, and start working on developing the products and services that’s right for them now so they can stay/become market leaders in the future.

I’m open to any suggestions about who I should be talking to, so dear readers – if you have any ideas, let me know!