Lifelong virtual assistants will know your most intimate secrets

Virtual assistants will eventually play such an important role in our lives that they will be written into our wills, according to Chris Brauer, co-director of CAST at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Speaking about the newly published results of a research project between Goldsmiths and Mindshare at the Re.Work Technology Summit in London today, Brauer described how the virtual assistants (VAs) of the near future would play such a vital role in our lives from childhood to death that many will become reliant on them.

While the proto-VAs of today, such as Apple’s Siri, tie the user into one predecided range of services, these future versions will be modular, enabling users to tailor them exactly to their needs using tools developed by a wide variety of organisations.

They will be able to use a mix of tools including emotional recognition systems, natural language recognition and beacon technology to do everything from keep on top of your health to manage your finances.

The result will be a VA that knows you intimately, and which may even use algorithmic discretion to make decisions for you.

“In theory the virtual assistant becomes something that knows you better than you know yourself,” said Brauer, adding that the first VAs would appear 4-5 years from now.

siri

The report, which has been developed following an extensive ethnographic research study, found a wide range of areas in people’s lives where the aid of a virtual assistant would be welcome.

It will be able to aid with community and social activities, such as telling you a friend is nearby and arranging meetups with family or mates by liasing with their own VAs.

It will also be able to help with finances by monitoring your budget and spending or letting you know when an apparently good deal is actually a bit of a rip-off.

When you are out and about, the VA’s access to crowd knowledge will help you find the best restaurant, and environmental sensors will be used to tell you when you need more suncream or to take precautions against pollution.

One of the biggest values of VAs will be their collective intelligence.

VAs will be able to tap into collective information to, for example, find the best way to aid a sufferer of depression.

vrphone

The amount we rely on our VAs will inevitably result in some of us getting them implanted straight into our bodies, a step which will feel increasingly normal.

Brauer likened this to the way we have moved from syncing devices using cables to over wireless – in a similar way it will be largely seen as a step to improve productivity.

“We will see implants with this, no question,” he said.


Featured image courtesy of Betmari via Flickr/Creative Commons. Image two courtesy of Glogger. 


China planning to end sales of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles

Xin Guobin, China's vice minister of industry and information technology, has said the government is working with regulators to put in place a timetable to end the production and sale of cars powered by fossil fuels. It's hoped the move will accelerate the expansion of the electric car market.

Source: Bloomberg

Limited Tesla Autopilot was "partly to blame" for crash

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has found that Tesla's Autopilot system was partly to blame for a fatal accident in which a Model S collided with a lorry. The safety board concluded that Tesla allowed the driver to use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed,

Source: BBC

Chelsea Manning warns about the risks of AI

During a conversation at Noisebridge hackerspace, Chelsea Manning commented on some of the inherent risks of AI. "We’re now using huge datasets with all kinds of personal data, that we don’t even know what information we’re putting out there and what it’s getting collected for," Manning said.

Source: Ars Technica

US government bans Kaspersky software from its agencies

The Department of Homeland security has ordered government agencies to stop using software products made by Kaspersky Lab because of possible ties between Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence. The process of discontinuing Kaspersky products is expected to begin within 90 days.

Source: Ars Technica

Hyperloop One selects ten possible routes for the first hyperloop

Hyperloop One has announced that it has selected ten proposed routes for the first hyperloop. The company also announced that it would “commit meaningful business and engineering resources and work closely with each of the winning teams/routes to determine their commercial viability”.

Source: Inverse

Artificial 'skin' gives robotic hand a sense of touch

A team of researchers from the University of Houston has reported a breakthrough in stretchable electronics that can serve as an artificial skin, allowing a robotic hand to sense the difference between hot and cold, while also offering advantages for a wide range of biomedical devices.

Source: Science Daily

The plan to make every surface inside the car of the future smart

Yanfeng Automotive Interiors (YFAI) has revealed a vision for the future of cars where every surface inside the vehicle can become a smart surface.

Launched at the International Auto Show, YFAI’s activeSkin concept will turn the largely decorative surfaces inside cars, including the door trim, floor console and instrument panel, into smart interior surfaces, which YFAI says will be “fully interactive” and could be ready by 2022.

“The future generation of surfaces will be smarter than ever. Just by passing your hand over a upholstered surface of the car will appear an interactive surface or dynamic decorative ambient light. Surfaces interact with us, “says Han Hendriks , YFAI’s chief technology officer.

“This technology is impressive.”

Images courtesy of YFAI

YFAI says its customisable 3D glass surfaces could benefit drivers by replacing some of the current operating elements in traditional cars.

However, If no information is called up by the driver, integrated screens and operating surfaces would remain invisible as purely decorative glass surfaces, so drivers would not be distracted by unnecessary information popping up.

“We offer on-demand functionality, so it will only be visible when you need it. In this way we will be able to customise features on interior surfaces,” said Hendriks. “With activeSkin we can achieve a 3D effect that gives a feeling of amazing depth.”

This isn’t the first time YFAI has tried to predict what cars of the future will be like.

The company’s XiM17 concept car was designed with autonomous driving in mind and helped answer the question, “What will people do in their vehicle, if they no longer have to drive?”

YFAI’s XiM17 allows passengers to switch between a number of different modes to allow passengers a number of different ways of engaging.

For example, in family mode all four seats in the car are positioned facing each other, whereas in meeting mode the rear seats are folded away. so that the driver and passenger seats face each other. and a floor console rises to form a desk.