these are great days

Technology for Learning

I am very excited about the Microsoft Immersive Reader and many other tools that are becoming available for children – and adults alike – with a learning disability.

People with dyslexia find the mechanics of reading and writing hard, but can and wish to be able to handle content advanced content. I believe that technology has the answer, by making the processes of encoding and decoding language and symbols easier, it can offer access to all the content in the world to anybody with a different learning style.


reMarkable paper tablet featured as Harvard Business School case study

This is the kind tablet I would go for. I designed a prototype for something similar in a previous life, a few years ago…
I am so happy to finally see a similar idea take shape!

Source: reMarkable paper tablet featured as Harvard Business School case study

Augmented Reality Kissing through your cellphone

Researchers from the Imagineering Lab at City University London have created a device that mimics a real kiss using pressure sensors and actuators, to allow users to send each other kisses over the phone.  According to their web site, “Kissenger can sense your kiss and transmit realistic kissing sensations to your partner in real time. You can also feel the force on your lips when your partner kisses you back. ”
The device’s unfortunate name is, indeed, Kissenger, a portmanteau of kiss and messenger. Maybe the creators are too young to understand that for some of us “Kissenger” and the name of the ex Secretary of State are too close for comfort.
Name aside, I am curious to see if it catches on.

Source: Kissenger

Pokémon GO Frappuccino®

Pokémon Go’s just announced a partnership with Starbucks, which is going to host new gyms and PokéStops at 7,800 Starbucks stores in the U.S. To celebrate the event, Starbucks has created a new drink, the Pokémon Go Frappuccino. I am not making this up.

This is not the first deal of this kind: earlier this week Niantic and Sprint announced their plan to turn 10,500 Sprint stores in the US into PokéStops and Gyms, while earlier this year Niantic revealed a partnership with MacDonald in Japan.

Brilliant way to find locations for Pokémons that don’t infringe in people’s privacy, and at the same time monetize the game.
Having said that, I am not sure that we have seen the end of Pokémon Go related lawsuits yet.

Regarding the frappuccino, I am not sure that I am ready to try it.

Source: Pokémon GO

Tattletale Tattoo

ZDNet reports that researchers founded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) have developed a small monitoring device that, applied to skin, will monitor alcohol consumption.
This device, which both NIBIB and ZDNet describe with the unfortunate name of wearable tattoo, does look like a tattoo, but it is a removable biosensor patch that releases a chemical that stimulates perspiration on the skin below the patch and then analyses changes in the electrical current flowing through the generated sweat and sends this information to the user’s cell phone. These changes indicate changes in alcohol levels and can help users monitor their alcohol intake.

It seems like a wonderful non-invasive system to help reduce alcohol induced accidents and health problems.

Of course, like with any personal device, the makers will need to address all sort of privacy concerns. Information about alcohol consumption can be a very useful as part of health monitoring but it is yet another piece of personal information that will immediately become discoverable and not just by hackers.

Assuming that everything that we collect through our phone will continue to be stored on the cloud, it will be easy to combine information about our physical activity, heart rates, blood pressure, stress levels, alcohol consumption etc. into comprehensive graphs that could be shared with medical professionals.  It is also easy to imagine how this information can end up as evidence in both criminal and civil procedures. Food for thought.








Band is no more

ZDnet reports that Microsoft has dropped its fitness tracker. They have stopped sales of Band 2 and are not planning to release version 3.


Not a huge surprise or disappointment, given the fact that for a band to be useful it needs to be fully integrated with all your other devices and cloud presence. With Windows Phone gone there would be no reason to use Band, which was not the most comfortable of wearables anyway.

The Internet of Things Meets the Four Stages of Attorney E-Grief

Wonderful and comprehensive post (as usual) by Craig Ball.

I truly enjoyed his talk on the same subject at PREX16 in Portland, OR two weeks ago!

Ball in your Court

IoTI lecture about 50-70 times a year, all over the globe.  Of late, my presentations start with an exploration of the Internet of Things (IoT), focused first on my own IoT-enabled life and then addressed to the proliferation of IoT data streams in all our lives.  Apart from mobile phones–the apex predators of IoT–discovery from the Internet of Things remains more theoretical than real in civil litigation; and instances of IoT evidence in criminal prosecutions are still rare.  That will change dramatically as lawyers come to appreciate that the disparate, detailed data streams generated by a host of mundane and intimate sensors tell a compelling human story.

With every disruptive technology, lawyers go through the Four Stages of Attorney E-Grief: Denial, Anxiety, Rulemaking and Delusion.  I considered a stage called “Prattle,” but that hit too close to home.

View original post 2,438 more words

Practical application of awesome technology

Microsoft announced yesterday at Ignite that they are extending their partnership with Lowe’s for a pilot program that allows consumers to virtually design kitchens using HoloLens.

So far Augmented Reality technology has been aimed at gaming and this is a wonderful example of practical implementation that would solve real problems!



Smart Tech – carrying and charging your cellphone all day around

It has been more than two years since I first lamented on this site the lack of pockets or accessories that would help women carry their phone easily and there is no solution in sight.

Last year Joe’s Jeans announced blue jeans equipped with a special slim phone battery and a discrete iPhone pocket on the upper right side of the waist.
The elevated location of the hidden phone pocket would allow wearers to sit without crushing their device.

Cool, right?

I would have thought that these blue jeans would fly off the shelves, but one year later there seems to be only a couple of models available for sale.

I personally would LOVE some yoga-business pants with this feature.


Unwelcome drive installation

It bothers me to think that in the last eighteen  months, innumerable hours of my life have gone into a struggle against Windows’ automatic installation of drivers. If you know how to “mess” with it, Windows offers many customization options, but not for driver installation. You just cannot stop the automatic download of a driver for a specific device. It has never been possible and it seems absurd to me that this is not a feature.

My problem is this:
I was using my laptop and I had placed a mug full of coffee next to it, when I had to walk away for some reason or another. My young son and a friend, who were not supposed to be playing in that room, bumped into the table and spilled the entire content of the mug on my laptop keyboard. The two kids grabbed a kitchen towel, hurriedly mopped the coffee from the table and went back to their game, letting probably half a mug of coffee slowly go through the computer from the keyboard, with the computer still running. When I came back, probably 30 minutes later, the keyboard was fried and one of the key was left permanently on.

The actual computer still works quite well, and I had been using it mostly as a desktop machine by attaching it to a big monitor and a USB keyboard, so I thought I could continue using it this way, I just need to uninstall the laptop keyboard so it won’t interfere.
Easy solution, right?
Well, not really! Windows keeps on re-installing the laptop driver over and over again, even after changing the settings about driver installation.

coffee on laptopI had to go into the Local Group Policy Editor and change the setting there.
Of course, this means that every time I want to install a new device or update the software, I need to edit the GPE again.
Moreover, big Windows updates override my settings and every once in a while I end up spending lots of time trying to uninstall the laptop keyboard driver and change the settings while the keyboard is constantly typing the character `.

end of rant



seattle sketchbook

Microsoft Webcast

I am watching Microsoft showcasing their new products for the 2015 xmas season and I have been quite impressed so far!

The Surface Pro 4 looks great. I really like Surface 3, and the new features and improvements on v4 look quite impressive so far. It is even thinner, the pen has more features, the keyboard is great.

And they announced another form factor, the Surface Book. I would love to take a close look to it. The screen has a 13.5″ diameter and great image definition. The typing experience promises to be excellent as well.

Here is a great article about it.


The Future of PaaS

Some analysts are not as excited about PaaS as they were when it was introduced, but PaaS is here to stay and to thrive.

Simple Cloud GraphicA few of years ago analysts predicted that by 2015 most companies would have adopted Cloud computing and, more specifically, Platform as a Service (PaaS).
Now, half way through 2015 some have been lamenting that the adoption of PaaS has not been as prominent as expected and it is not clear exactly why.

Any concerns that businesses may have about migration to the cloud have certainly not changed enough since 2010 to offset its benefits, but culture can be a major enthusiasm dampener.
Companies may fear costs and lock-in, they don’t want to give up perceived control over their systems, even if that control is never worth its associated complexity, and naturally sys admins don’t want to work themselves out of a job.

Maybe we need a culture shift before companies will fully embrace PaaS.
Or maybe one could reasonably argue that the original expectations (or rather speculations) were over-enthusiastic.

Some, (like Jon Evans in Tech Crunch) were hoping that PaaS would immediately enable a write once, run anywhere (WORA) set of tools.
The ability to write code that would run universally on any platform has long been a dream goal for developers and it is easy to see why there would be much excitement about it, but this is not specific to PaaS. Indeed, one of the major subjects of discussion of the last decade has been how to create a multi-platform development kit that would allow the creation of mobile apps that can seamlessly run on Android, iOS or any other platform without changes to its code!

I am not saying that WORA will not happen, but realistically, it is going to take some time and it would be a mistake to assume that WORA is the driving element and the litmus test for the success of PaaS and of cloud computing in general.

In the meantime, in a recent white paper, Ericson argues that a new era of PaaS is required.

“A platform approach must be designed to take the best elements of PaaS for empowering developer speed, in combination with the best elements of dynamic enterprise policy control for IT operational governance.”
In other words, a tightly managed and highly controlled cloud — a hybrid cloud, that is.
They go on to state that, as developers, their IT bosses, and their businesses get comfortable with the idea of PaaS, enterprises will gradually embrace it.

I agree with this last statement and I would argue that the adoption of PaaS is actually moving at a healthy rate, (as it is for IaaS) and that its future is bright.
Cloud computing itself has evolved and has become quite commonplace and the best way to encourage new business to embrace it, is by offering them solid and secure technology with the flexibility to choose the combination of capabilities that best suits their needs.

The more successful vendors will be the ones that can offer customizable blends of IaaS, PaaS and even SaaS.

Many new players, some smaller and more nimble than Amazon or Microsoft, have entered this field and are bringing much creativity and innovation.
This is in turn attracting more and more companies to migrate to the cloud.

According to Gartner’s Hype Cycle of 2015, Cloud Computing has now reached the level of maturity that allows for progress and a productive phase, having passed a first phase of media hype and exaggerated expectations.
This does not mean that all the problems have been solved, but that the industry is mature enough to address them.

Gartner Hype Cycle 2015

Cloud technology developers have been investing billions in Cloud R&D, technology is mature, strong and solid, while at the same time companies are getting ready to migrate.

Let’s take a look at another graph from Gartner, this time the recently released Magic Quadrant for Cloud infrastructure as a service.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud


It is not a surprise to see Amazon at the top of the leaders’ quadrant, followed with a certain distance by Microsoft. It is also not a surprise to see that there are no challengers.

It is similarly not surprising to see that there is a group of visionaries with a great potential
to change market rules and provide interesting solutions. CenturyLink is leading this group, very close to Google, with both companies leaving IBM behind.

Indeed, PaaS is doing very well (and so is IaaS), just not the way we imagined it a few years ago. The landscape may be different and it is very likely to change even more, but that is the magic of innovation. It is not always predictable.


Cortana for Windows 10

I said that I really like using Cortana on my Windows 8.1 phone but now I am really looking forward to Cortana on Windows Phone 10.

Microsoft made some very exciting announcements at the the Build conference which make the future for Windows on every platform look quite good again. But also, they talked a bit about Cortana as well. It is not news, but they confirmed that it is going to be very easy for developers to integrate Cortana with their apps. So she will be able to handle in-app commands without having to open the app and display its UI.
Watch Joe Belfiore’s talk about it here.

I love it!

Cortana – Windows 8.1 phone

I am surprised by how useful I find Cortana on my Windows 8 phone.

I have had a Windows 8.1 phone for a few weeks and I think that it is the first time that I keep my phone close to me most of the time. Coming from somebody who worked on mobile devices for many, many years, during which she kept all mobile devices at a safe distance, this means a lot!

Cortana is what really makes a difference in my phone use, because she really is Cortanathe closest to a personal assistant that you could get right now.

For example:

I love listening to podcasts when I do chores, it is a little personal time when I am not “working” working.
Let’s say that I am making dinner and listening to Radio Lab, and my husband sends me a text message. Cortana gently interrupts my podcast and lets me know that I received a text from him. Without stopping my vegetables chopping, I ask her to read me his text and then to reply back. I tell her what I want to say in my text, she reads it back to me, I approve it and she sends it. Once she has done that, she goes back to my podcast exactly where it was interrupted. Notice that in the meantime I have not touched my phone once!
Now, I happen to know a few people who are serial texters, meaning that they love having long conversations by text, sending a small sentence at the time. Which means that for each sentence I would  need to interrupt my cooking, wash and dry my hands, pick up the phone, unlock it, pause my podcast, go to messages, read, reply, get back to the podcast; over and over again until dinner is burned.
Cortana does it all for me and I keep on cooking – dinner is spared and so is my temper (and my social life).
I know, it feels like one of those “has this ever happened to you?” commercials, but I am honestly delighted with this feature.


Disclaimer: In my time at Microsoft I worked on both mobile and voice recognition technology. 


LinkedIn to acquire

I have always been fond of because of the quality of their training videos. The recent announcement of LinkedIn’s intention to acquire makes a lot of sense for both companies. In a job market where people change jobs more often than previous generations, LinkedIn users will want to focus on the experience and education gaps they need to fill when they are looking at new careers they would like to pursue. Merging these two sides of the business is a great idea.

“The combination of LinkedIn and is the kind of fit that benefits everyone. LinkedIn has the members, the jobs, a unique understanding of the skills required to do those jobs. […]’s service has the premium library of skills-based courses. Together, we can bring opportunities and access to knowledge that everyone deserves. And together, we can more easily build the Economic Graph by mapping together the people, jobs, skills, and knowledge that are core components of it.”
                                                                                        Jeff Weiner – LinkedIn CEO
(read the whole post here)




Can’t wait

The video game I liked most so far has to be The Neverhood.

It was a point and click adventure game distributed by Dreamworks in 1996.
It was made with stop frame animation using literally tons of clay. It was clever and funny, even the soundtrack was brilliant.

It was originally released for PC, on Windows 95 (!!!) and unfortunately never updated to more recent operating systems.

The great news is that the makers of The Neverhood, Pencil Test Studios,  have been working on a new project, Armikrog. It is not a sequel but it has a lot in common with it and it was funded with Kick Starter and it looks very promising.



I am so ready for it!

Even Barbie is eavesdropping now?

Privacy is currently the biggest cause of unease around new technology and artificial intelligence and it is not surprising that products developed for children are starting to raise concerns around privacy as well.

Hello Barbie by Mattel is interactive, that is, it is supposed to have meaningful conversations with a child. In order to achieve this, it records what the child says and sends the information to the cloud, where Mattel can retrieve it, use it to let Barbie learn and talk back, but also to better define marketing campaigns and advertise directly to the children. The toy has been called “creepy” and renamed “eavesdropping” Barbie.

It does seem very creepy, not only for the easy to guess privacy concerns expressed by several organizations (see links to articles below) but also because childhood play is supposed to be creative and stimulate imagination. I wouldn’t want my child to play with a doll that talks back, kids have enough real interaction, they need to be able to make up imaginary ones.
For real playful conversation, I would want her/him to talk with a real person, preferably another child, who is unlikely to get any financial gain from the conversation.
Many parents spend time to review and monitor the TV show, books, video-games that they kids are exposed to, to ensure that they agree with the message their child receives, should we start monitoring dolls too?

What about hacking concerns? I truly hope that this product doesn’t sell and gets pulled off the market. In the meantime, it would be great to see some regulations over AI and privacy also for toys.

Apple watch

Critics seem not to be too excited about the Apple watch. The major questions seem to be about what it does vs costs vs look. Not surprising, it is a first generation device and there are not many apps for it yet. But also, as I have said before, wearable devices need to be either affordable or very, very beautiful for people to want to where them all the time.

I do love this picture of the apple phone, available also in green and yellow.

In the meantime I am still waiting for my Cuff device and accessories which I ordered a few months ago. Cuff’s release date had originally been set quite vaguely in Spring 2015 but I received an email announcing the official release for July. It is quite a long time to wait for a first generation device. I wonder how competitive this first generation will be.
On the other hand, their feature list is still the one that I prefer over all the others, maybe because Cuff has been designed by a woman.

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