Delivery Robot coming to a doorstep near you

Us humans are an impatient bunch, we want things to be quicker, more efficient and slot in around our busy lives. If you order something online we want it delivered yesterday, unless it’s food then we want it immediately and hot, not lukewarm, not stone cold but scald the roof of your mouth piping hot.

The latest on the streets is the delivery robot, this isn’t exactly new but is being trialled by large company’s. Don’t be alarmed if a robot turns up on your doorstep delivering your online shopping or takeaway. How else will companies be able to keep up with the demands of their consumers without costing them extra money in man power?

Just Eat teamed up with Starship Technologies to trial these robots in London using them in place of takeaway delivery drivers. These little bots can travel at 4 mph for 10 miles, uses GPS and cameras to get around so in theory they won’t get lost or need to ask for directions.

More recently, also working with Starship Technologies was Tesco who trialled this very robot which can hold up to 3 shopping bags and will still work in 20cm of snow. Considering how our public transport grinds to a halt at the hint of a snowflake that is impressive.

Don’t worry about potential thief’s.. ‘Earlier tests found people who tried to break in by jumping on it ended up with it trapped on their leg’, that’s one way to stop a chancer. Customers can access their shopping by typing in a pin and voila access to your shopping.

Future of delivery jobs

This can be a cause for concern for some delivery driver if these mini bundles of circuitry takes off. There will be companies who will find monetary value in using robots for small deliveries, they can only carry up 10 kg or three shopping bags and cheaper to employ.

‘…is cheaper than the average human delivery, costing £1 to transport within a 3 mile radius, compared with the £3 to £6 it costs for a human courier’

There is also the lack of human contact. We do like to complain especially if we can get ventingsomething out of it, that won’t happen with a delivery bot. These robots will remove that human element of being able to complain to the delivery driver when your delivery is late, items are missing or your food is cold! Where is the satisfaction in that?
Off to customer service you go to vent, until to you discover the person on the other end of the phone has been replaced with a chatbot!

Lets look at the pros and cons before we decide to vilify the deliver bot ;

Pros

  •  They are efficient, the aim of Start Technologies is to have about 100 robots that would need one person to step in and take over if they needed to
  • Can make short distance deliveries
  • They are secure
  • Won’t get stuck in traffic

Cons

  •  No more friendly delivery driver until you yell at them then they are no longer your friend
  • Loss of jobs
  • What happens if they break down on route, malfunction or get lost?

 

So, what do think, fancy a relative of R2D2 turning up on your doorstep?

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Is Artificial Intelligence something to be afraid of?

I wrote this post Artificial Intelligence in a human world not too long ago, talking about my own concerns about AI despite all the good that AI is reportedly already doing and hoping to achieve in the future.

 Have I changed my mind and now have both feet in the AI camp?

In short no.
It’s not because I fear technology at the moment I don’t feel comfortable with the thought of putting my complete trust and giving control over to a machine That is just my viewpoint but I also don’t think there is any need to be scaring the public into thinking that in a few years time their jobs could be taken over by a robot. Or that it’s already difficult enough for graduates to find suitable employment but now they could find themselves also competing against a machine. Of course not, but news reports can’t help themselves with a bit of scaremongering keeps readers on their toes.

AI doesn’t have to be this big scary monster that is coming to take over the world, it is about us adapting to a different way of life, isn’t moving forward about evolving and trying to improve the way we currently live?

When talking about AI I liked how this article from Venturebeat.com; 3 types of artificial intelligence, but only 2 are valid  broke down AI into three categories with simple explanations.

Transformative AI; The kind of AI that will “take over the world” — or at least have the most dramatic effect on how people live and work. Think driverless cars
DIY (Do It Yourself) AI; is any artificial intelligence platform whose end goal is to make you, the user, more informed so that you can then do the remaining work yourself.
Faux AI; They look and act like AI agents, but they are not really using machine learning. They are pretenders.

From my own perspective AI is still in its developing, there is a lot of testing, trial and error going on. Yes there are driverless cars in development but we won’t been seeing them as the norm for a while, then we have police robots despite the name they don’t have the same function as a police officer.

Medical

Regardless of how far technology advances there will always be a human in the background or working alongside the technology in question. A California based company have created a health scanning machine that uses AI to detect any ailments a person may have. This device will work alongside doctors who can then discuss your health using the visual scan, it will contain your medical history. This isn’t a way for doctors to get out of reading their patients notes but an easier way for them to keep track of their patients medical health.

The exoskeleton suit or wearable robot giving hope back to paralysed people enabling some to walk.

This suit can also help elderly people predicting when they are going to fall, no it doesn’t have a crystal ball. Quote below from Silvestro Micera, the lead author of the research by École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne explaining the suit.

“This device is able to understand whether there is a change in locomotion behaviour – in particular at the onset of falling,”

Think about the positive effect smart technology can have in people’s lives, it can give some people back their independence.

Customer Service

Chatbots you phone customer service or IT support and you’ll speak to a chatbot first and if they can’t help us will then be passed onto a person, this type of service is already in place with some companies. The idea is to save time making people more efficient at their job and focusing on the important aspects of it.

Chatbots a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.

Autism

I’ve mentioned in my previous AI post about the robot Zeno, this type of advancement is close to my heart having a brother who was only diagnosed with Asperger’s at 21. Anything that will help those with autism is something I will always advocate. From my own experience and knowledge of it, depending on where the person is on the spectrum things are in black and white, a logical approach is adopted much like those of machines. They are programmed with possible logical options, for humans that is like our emotions and how we interact socially, skills we learn when we are young. Skills that aren’t so easy for people with autism, my brother doesn’t always understand how sarcasm works but I can assure you he is getting better at dishing it out these days!

Law enforcement

Law enforcement is also getting in on the action with a robot police officer making an appearance at shopping centre’ in Dubai. Don’t worry if you’re young enough to remember it’s not the Robocop you’re thinking from the 80’s it doesn’t have the power to arrest, it is more a walking, talking information board.

‘People will be able to use it to report crimes, pay fines and get information by tapping a touchscreen on its chest.’

Part of me is still concerned about how dependent we could become on technology and the influence artificial intelligence could have. Just look at how the NHS Cyber attack affected health trusts including the one I work for. Everything came to a stand still, worry that patient medical information could be compromised, no functioning email for a period of time, we had to resort to going old school and picking up the phone to speak to people.  Then there was the worry of a second attack and measure taken to make sure the NHS IT network wasn’t vulnerable. So you can understand why I feel a bit sceptical about but my complete trust in technology because things can go wrong. Saying all this there is the other part of me that just from these handful of examples can see the benefits of AI. Imagine how many children could have benefitted from a robot like Zeno in the past and how a police robot with the right programming could help with the shortage of police officers on the street.

Driverless cars I am still on the fence, I haven’t even managed to move away from a manual drive car to automatic one let alone consider a driverless car. Who knows over time and once the bugs have been ironed out I may change my mind.

Artificial Intelligence in a human world

Since joining Netflix I watched a range of films and television series even sometimes binge watching a particular television series that has me hooked one of them being a series called Scorpion. It’s about a team of geniuses who have the intelligence to create a functioning computer out of your toaster and your mobile phone but lack the social skills to interact in what is considered normal society.  This series though repetitive got me thinking about all the hype surrounding artificial intelligence. Like it or not AI is steadily infiltrating the world as we know it. We already heavily rely on techinology to communicate, work and play.

AI didn’t just happen overnight and appear on our doorstep one morning, Kismet, a robot head created in the 1990’s at Massachusetts Institute of Technology  was able to recognise and imitate human emotions. Fast forward to today and we have Google working on a self-driving car and a sex bot in the making courtesy of Realbotix, something for everyone.

How does AI work? Very much like a computer that is programmed with a number of possible scenarios that could be encountered followed up with the number of possibly human reactions. From watching the series Scorpion I learnt that with a skill for coding and an ability to hack into almost anything a computer programme can be overridden and left in control of the hacker. How can an AI machine be programed with every possible outcome of a situation, humans adapt we learn from experiences and evolve so how can we expect an AI robot to behave in the same way? MIT may have solution with a robot that works off the brain signals from a human; ‘The robot/human interaction with EEG signals allows for direct and fast communication—communication that could remove barriers for operating a robot.’

For now AI technology behaves the way it is told to but how long before it advances to think for itself and behave accordingly? Machines are designed to think in black and white most of the time there is no grey area, a machine can learn to assess a situation, weigh up the pros and cons of various reactions but will it consider the emotional element that separates the human race from a machine? I’ve seen I Robot where one robot goes ‘rogue’ and believes it dreams for itself, those dreams had been implanted by its creator, was able to feel emotions, evolve and create an uprising of forgotten good machines against the evil one.

Worries aside AI does have its uses. Heard of the robot Zeno helping autistic children to communicate and interact with others? If you know anything about autism depending where on the spectrum the child is emotional interaction whether it is verbal (sarcasm, jokes) or physical (actions, hugging) is not easily understood. Zeno in a fun way to interact with a verbal and non-verbal child through conversation, facial expressions and actions making them feel comfortable so they don’t realise they are learning important social skills.

We’re not at the stage where we can worry about a rise of the machines but the focus on wanting to create a lifelike as possible robotic humanoid is a bit worrying. A machine maybe more efficient, can work longer hours possibly be considered safer and more effective but it’s still a machine.

Mobile phone zombie

I know the majority of the world have gone completely gaga over technology. You can control your heating from your mobile phone with Hive, there is the wearable technology such as the Apple Watch, even the possibility of doing your banking via a wearable device.

Fortunately I am not technology obsessed but the other day I shamefully noticed I was texting and walking. Walking aimlessly whilst texting when that message could easily have been sent a bit later, it wasn’t urgent, it wasn’t a matter of life or death but I still had to write and send it at that moment, I had become a mobile phone zombies!  I had to put an end to this before things got out of hand. Mobile phone obsession today, hooked onto Facebook and Tweeting what I had for breakfast tomorrow. No, I had to put a stop to this behaviour, I had to break away from the mobile phone zombie crowd.

So what is the solution? Gradually weaning myself of my phone, not checking it every few seconds to see if I had a text message or checking my apps to see if I had any new updates. It hasn’t been as bad as I thought it would be, but then again it has only been one day since I begun the weaning process. I have either left my phone in my bag or in another room so it isn’t there tempting me. It has also meant that if I don’t answer my phone or reply back to some messages straight away my family think something has happened to me, fortunately I have managed to phone within a reasonable time frame before they have phoned the police!

We’ll see how the rest of the week progresses, I’m not confident I will be able to separate myself from my mobile phone but if I can stop myself from checking my phone even few moments, walking and texting  at the same time then that will be a good start, don’t you think?

Techie toys: Apple is back with a new iPhone & the Apple Watch

I’m not a Techie I don’t fully understand all the talk about how a 1,810 mAh battery might be deemed too small for a device with a high-res, 4.7-inch display. What I do observe is that as a society we do seem to have an obsession with technology. Apple are due to release the iPhone6 , iPhone 6 Plus and the Apple Watch and the world goes nuts over it.

iPhone

At the moment I am a Samsung girl, granted the waterproof feature of the Samsung S5 and the latest iPhone would have come in handy when my S2 decided to go for a swim but for now I am content with a hand me down S3 courtesy of my sister, the S2 did not survive its dunking.

You’ve probably worked out by now I can be a bit of a klutz a reason why many moons ago Nokia phones were great for me. Durable, dropped more times than I care to remember with only one butter finger moment resulting in a cracked screen. Now my S2, thinner and like a mini computer but I doubt it could fully stand up to the boot camp for mobile phones my Nokia’s went through.

However the iPhone 6 not only is waterproof but also shatterproof. My S3 has a case and a plastic protective screen thingy (great technical term there for you) so would a sapphire screen of the iPhone be of benefit for me? Maybe if the display screens actually were made of Sapphire crytal, turns out Apple opted to use a glass display instead.

Apple Watch

Moving onto the watch which can only be used with an iPhone. No good for me as I stopped wearing a watch a long time ago, I have childlike wrists to find one that fits without re-sizing is a pain, plus I don’t own an iPhone. This fancy little gadget can track everything from your heart rate to daily activities and exercise. There are plenty of other gadgets out there that can do the same thing, though for me the need to get more air into my lungs and sweating buckets is a sign my heart rate is up and I’m in the midst of a decent workout. This watch is however touchscreen and users can navigate apps, though it isn’t clear if the phone will also need to be close by for users to make full use of all the features available such as messaging. . I’m left handed but am a bit ambidestrous but not all lefties are yet this watch may only be suitable for the right handed population. We need more Ned Flanders of the world with a leftorium on all high streets.

Avid iPhone users will be all over these products like a rash but like with all new toys the excitement will fade, usually around the time some users will start complaining about bugs they’ve found or that the phone can’t be plugged into their car to drive them to work.

We’ve already reached the point where technology in general does too much for us, we have Siri that users can ask a question and it will come back with the answer because it’s too difficult to Google it ourselves and driverless cars are hitting the roads. At some point these products are going to have fully functioning brains that allows them to think for themselves and they are going to want equal rights.

I’m not a technophobe I am attached to my phone like the rest of the zombies, I just like to believe it is not to the extent that I may lose the ability to physically speak to people without breaking out in hives.

Mobile Phone + Water = Death of Mobile Phone

My mobile phone has met with an untimely demise. Just in case you didn’t know, mobile phones don’t like being drowned in any liquid!

You can try the rice method of taking the battery out of your phone and sticking it in a back / bowl / container of rice and leaving for a good number of hours, I will say this does work for drying out most of the phone.

Maybe I didn’t leave it covered in rice for long enough but it wasn’t enough to save the LED screen. The phone turns on, I just can’t see anything!

The cost to repair to repair the phone isn’t worth it, I’m lucky my sister had a spare phone.

Once I got over the initial mobile phone withdrawal symptoms by being forced to go cold turkey it was quite nice not being so easily contactable or relying on my phone to do things like check my blog.

Give it a try, maybe ease yourself into it and avoid your phone for a few hours at a time. Baby steps. 😉

 

 

Will your next car be driverless?

cyberscooty-cartoon-carWe have mobiles, we don’t need to leave our homes to be social or be social on the go through our mobile devices, and we don’t even have to leave our sofa to change the TV channels! Soon we won’t even have to physically drive our cars, driverless cars will eventually be coming to a road near you.

Cars already have lots of sensors to detect just about everything from the emissions on your car to your car’s temperature. Your car breaks down, these days it will have to be hooked up to computers to find out what the fault is. It almost seems natural that a driverless cars would be the next step in the evolution of computerised autonomous cars.

Some driverless cars don’t have a steering wheel or brake pedals others still contain these key pieces of equipment that are essential to driving a car manually. Crazy I hear you say? Well it is hear, Google have done it so have Honda and BMW, with tests already being approved in America states California, Nevada and Florida. Similar tests will be carried out on UK roads from January 2015.

The idea behind this innovation is to cut the number of road accidents, majority are caused by human error whereas driverless cars would maintain the correct speed limits, safe distances from other vehicles and not become distracted. This level of safety should also help lower the cost of car insurance.

Using wireless technology cars would be able to communicate with traffic lights so they know when to stop / go. I was curious to know how these cars would handle zebra crossings, other than the blinking orange lights there is no wireless technology involved, right?

  • Driver sees pedestrian wants to cross the road at a crossing
  • Driver stops car until pedestrian has crossed
  • Driver then makes the car move again.

Don’t worry, you can still safely cross the road at a zebra crossing and not worry about a driverless car failing to stop. The cars will use a radar and a camera to detect if someone is waiting to cross, I wonder how the car will cope with someone who is just loitering near a zebra crossing. We’ve all experienced it, slowing down at a zebra crossing thinking someone is waiting to cross and they don’t move because they were just ‘hanging around’.

The driverless car is all very ‘I am Robot’, in the film drivers had the option to either manually drive their cars or switch to autopilot. Despite the positives I’m not sure how comfortable I would feel handing over complete control to a machine, I would be relying on a form AI to get me from A to B in one piece. These cars are essentially a computer on wheels, computers can be hacked or given viruses. If a car decided to go to the dark side can the human driver regain control of the car? Or if the car becomes too smart, stages a revolt and kidnaps its passengers until demands have been met? OK, the last part could be a little far-fetched but nothing is fool proof, especially technology. We only have to look at mobile phones, they at one point got smaller now are bigger and thinner and can be used as mini computers but do they last as long as the Nokia 8810? This phone only had a little chip in it and was used by me for a few years time, then passed onto a brother who then passed it onto the youngest sister when he had finished with it. It is unlikely some of the newer phones I have had would lasted for that same period of time. So what does that say about the predicted life span of an autonomous car?

Then we have the ‘robots are taking our jobs’ scenario. Will driverless cars replace our much loved and sometimes loathed taxi drivers who like to share little anecdotes and stories of who has been in their taxi? What about chauffeurs, who will open the doors for their passengers? It all just lacks a certain of ambiance that you can only with having a human driver. Until the time comes when you car can speak and have a conversation with its passengers.

It won’t be long before we are driving hover cars and roads will be up in the sky, imagine the disruption the roads works would be like! Until then prepare yourself for the possibility of being driven around by a computer on wheels.

Will a smartphone control your world?

Do you think that it is possible that our obsession with the smartphone might be going a bit too far? How would you feel about having a smart toilet in your bathroom that can multitask? Ok they are more bidets but once your hear how these toilets can change your bathroom habits you may just want to rush out and buy one!

You can sync you smartphone via Bluetooth with your toilet so you are able to go about your business whilst listening to some soothing music from your playlist. The American version is slightly more self-sufficient with not only having the added luxury of heated seats with adjustable heat settings but ‘The “cleansing functions” are activated when the user sits down’.

Wake up in the middle of the night, blurry eyed and can’t quite make out the toilet bowl? No problem, these toilets have a ‘“soft nightlight” around the bowl.

It won’t be long before we are all living in a smart home, you can already see what is going on in your home through your smartphone instead of having a CCTV recording system in your home. British Gas are pushing their Hive heating system which can be controlled remotely. Google are promoting their driverless cars, lets not forget the smart toilet.

We already have apps to help with diets and calorie counting, apps to help you organise your wardrobe and create outfits.

All this relying on technology to do the thinking for us surely can’t be a good thing in the long run? We all want an easier life if you can afford it.

Call me a control freak but have any of the creators of hi-tech seen The Terminator, I Robot, The Simpsons: “House of Whacks”? Is there a fail-safe switch if these inventions go rogue? Ok, if everyone thought like this then we would all still be riding around in horse and carts and washing our clothes by hand down by the river. I think I’ll stick to doing some things the old fashioned way, like driving.

Is your company using WebCasts / Webinars?

Despite businesses utilising technology and embracing social media the need to physically interact with customers is still an important part of building a healthy customer base. Being physically in the same room to attend a conference can be difficult, the next best thing would be to make use of the online video streaming platforms.

Video conferencing is a popular methods of broadcasting information to a wider range of people in one go in a cost effective fashion. Depending on what it is you are trying to achieve will determine whether you opt for creating a Webcast or a Webinar.

Difference between Webcasts and Webinars

Webcasts are pre-recorded and can be accessed at any time. As the video is pre-recorded there is no audience interaction available.

Webinars are live online broadcasts, scheduled at specific times and dates. This type of video streaming allows viewers to participate in the conference.

Benefits

Webcasts are informative and can be used to visually describe the various services your company has to offer and how potential customers could benefit from them. They can also be useful teaching tools which viewers can refer back as when they need to. For example, your company launches a new service through a webcast this service can be visually promoted and explained in detail.

Depending on the webcast platform you use you can continue to build your audience by creating your own channel to store all your webcasts.

Live streaming through the use of Webinars is an effective way to conduct meetings, training sessions, new product launches without the additional costs of travelling and hiring of venues. You can ask participants to be more involved by encouraging them to ask questions or take part in a survey whilst your webinar is progress.

Software

There are plenty of free and paid platforms from which you can create your own video. Have a look to see which platform you would benefit from.

Webinar Platforms

GoToWebinar

Anymeeting – Free and paid options

Mikogo – Ideal for smaller businesses

Webcast Platforms

Intercall

BrightTalk

Bitcoins – Is this the future of money?

If you haven’t heard about Bitcoins then where have you been?

It seems this is a digital currency that is taking off. Originally I thought it was something you gained whilst playing games, naive I know but now I know better. I found this YouTube video helpful in trying to understand what bitcoins are, how you can get them and what you can do with them.

Like anything you need a wallet to keep your money in. It’s no different for this virtual currency for which you will need a Bitcoin Wallet to store your digital currency in, this can be downloaded from http://www.bitcoin.org onto your computer. Be careful with your digital wallet you don’t want to end up like this person who managed to throw out his computer’s hard drive which held his digital wallet containing more than $9million in bitcoin with no way of him being able to get them back. The value of a bitcoin is based on supply and demand. As the demand for bitcoins increase so does its value.

How to get hold of some bitcoins?

There is more than one way to get your hands on some bitcoins. You can ‘mine’ them yourself, join a pool, they are also becoming an accepted from of payment be some online companies.

To mine for bitcoins you will need to download software, from there you can start to virtually chip away at the ‘math problems’ till you find some bitcoins. From what I’ve read this can be time consuming and you’re not likely to gain any bitcoins any time soon. The alternative is to join a pool.  ‘In a pool, you are given smaller and easier algorithms to solve and all of your combined work will make you more likely to solve the bigger algorithm’ Basically being part of a pool you’ll be able to make more bitcoins quicker than if you were going it alone.

Another way of gaining bitcoins is to accept them as payment method for goods and services, they can be transferred from person to person with no middle person and from nearly any country. Still confused about how to gain bitcoins? So was I, fortunately this video can help clear up some confusion.

There is tons of information out there on how to start gaining your own bitcoin collection, some of it is more techie than others. if it’s something that interests you then persevere. Or find someone that can start it up for you! 😉

Future of bitcoins

At the moment bitcoins are gaining some good and some bad attention.

If not already doing so some online retailers are accepting bitcoins which in itself is opening up a whole different can of worms. As a virtual currency there are no banks involved but there is still the concern of fluctuating currency rates. One day your bitcoin can be one value only for it to drop the next day, how will this affect the purchase prices of goods? Not just the purchase price but also the return of items, will consumers get the same value back or will it be in accordance to the currency rate of that moment?

Bitcoins are being viewed as virtual currency which then leads to the issue of tax. HMRC in the UK is still deciding if bitcoins are to be seen as an investment for which they will add capital gains tax or as a form of currency to which to add VAT on purchased goods. USA IRS haven’t decided yet and China has banned the use of bitcoins as payment method.

Security

The security of bitcoins is a concern for some. This month has seen a drop in the value of bitcoins as a flaw in the software has been discovered; ‘It said an investigation had revealed it was possible for thieves to fool the transaction process so that double the correct amount of bitcoins would be sent

Bitcoin transactions are recorded onto a ledger but there is nothing in place to stop this currency being used in illegal acitivites such as the purchase of drugs.

To protect users bitcoin wallets a Biometrics startup Bionym have created the Nymi wristband which links your bitcoin wallet to your heartbeat.

Bitcoin requires two keys to make transactions. One key, which is public, allows people to receive bitcoins, while another, a private key, is required to spend bitcoins. By using the Nymi, the wristband wearer’s private keys are tied to their heartbeat so the key can be stored offline, yet still easily accessed by the owner.

I have gained a bit more understanding of what bitcoins are, how to obtain them and what I can use them for. Do I feel empowered to go forth and get some myself? No, it’s evident that the popularity of bitcoins is on the rise and you don’t necessarily have to ‘mine’ them yourself to get your hands on some. At this moment in time I don’t feel this currency is for me, I have enough trouble maintaining my own virtual money known as the credit card let alone adding bitcoins to the mix!