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[ibm] Why Google, Ideo and IBM are Betting on AI to Make Us Better Story Tellers

Whaaat?

To tell a story that someone will remember, it helps to understand his or her needs. The art of storytelling requires creativity, critical-thinking skills, self-awareness, and empathy.”All those traits are fundamentally human, but as artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more commonplace, even experts whose jobs depend on them possessing those traits foresee it playing a bigger role in what they do.

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Using AI to Read a Crowd

The AI-driven marketing platform Influential uses IBM’s Watson to connect brands with audiences. It finds social media influencers who can help spread a brand’s message to target demographics in a way that feels authentic and, well, human. The tool uses Watson’s services to look at the content written by an influencer, analyzing that text, and scoring it across 52 personality traits then matches influencers whose personalities, social media posts, and followers best reflect a brand’s marketing objectives.

Visual Scanning

Somatic is a digital marketing company that uses AI to scan photos and generate short text descriptions of what it sees. The tool can write about visual data in different styles or genres, even mimicking the prose styles of celebrities as long as there’s enough written content out there to be trained on.

Google’s AI research is geared toward “helping AI start to understand things about everyday human life,” and to start to push machines beyond just generating “literal content, like you get in image captioning,” and toward anticipating how those descriptions will make people feel.

My 2 cents:

The article raises the crucial question: “Will humanistic AI beat humans at their own game?”

If by game we mean predict trends based off of pure data, devoid of lingering biases and industry misconceptions, then the power of Al machine learning is set to beat our current capabilities as marketers and story tellers.

Yet predictive algorithms using historical data is hardly new, so much so that data interpretation is essentially a given in the AI v human game. The reason powerful tools like Watson are only making their debut now is that there has always been an ‘x’ factor that rendered machine learning results that fall a bit off center. This factor has been identified as many things (intuition, expertise…) but essentially it boils down to contextualizing.

The day Al will out perform human story telling will depend on developments and investments that further tunes there formidable and trainable tools to go beyond diagnostics and interpretation and move into outreach, context comprehension and organic responsiveness.

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[google] Is Google the New McKinsey?

Whaaat?

For many MBA students, Google is now a top recruiting choice. It’s generally not the highest paying choice or the choice with the most professional certainty – and traditionally getting an MBA is in part about creating a kind of professional certainty for yourself. So: why Google?

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The MBA that prefers Google cares about his or her skill set, and wants to be where the action is: digital disruption. Digital disruption is probably the single most exciting thing happening in business and that’s where these MBA’s want to be. Their ability to contribute hands-on in an interdisciplinary team (designers, developers, growth hackers, data scientists, etc.) is most important. That doesn’t mean they need to be an expert in each of those disciplines – it means understanding the disciplines well enough to be a good collaborator, and being able to use the tools of design thinking to solve hard problems.

In practice, of course, the students end up at all sorts of tech companies (and even McKinsey!). They’re successfully applying the skills above as product managers, marketing managers, and founders. It looks like the MBA of tomorrow is really going to enjoy working in the kind of interdisciplinary agile teams that are disrupting and improving the industries where they operate.

My 2 cents:

It’s all about solving real world, mission-critical problems… and building a re-applicable tool kit. What this means for tech however is a potential disruption of the cultural practices and values that have historically spelled success. The free thinking culture, hands-on approach and feeling of being part of the cutting edge of the market’s evolution is attracting a new wave of non-techs to the tech mother ship itself. Google and Mckinsey’s similarities go beyond their status as most desirable by the MBA class: they’re statement companies, elbow deep in shaping how companies and industries behave, and, most importantly, quick to place those new recruits into the field.

The industry stands to gain a serious influx of freshly minted, framework savvy MBAs and with them, a holistic approach to the evolution of multiple industries and how tech giants like Google can contribute to and gain from less obvious macroeconomic trends and an uncanny ability to make sense of and apply that BIG Data. The MBA stands to gain insight and experience in dealing with the fundamental language and operators behind the our generation’s technological revolution: code and coders to severely oversimplify.

That being said, the tech industry might have to brace itself against an injection of framework driven, midnight oil burning invaders.

Full article

[google] Google experiments with a way to pay without taking out your phone

Whaaat?

Google is rolling out a pilot program today that introduces a new way to pay cashiers — and it involves leaving your phone in your pocket.

It’s called Hands Free, and it’s a way to basically connect your phone with a point of sales system using the sensors on your phone. The end result is that a point of sale device is already aware of your phone’s presence, and when you want to pay for something, you can do so through Hands Free.

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Users basically walk up to a cashier, which can detect that the phone is in the area and gives the point of sale system the ability to charge the user’s card that’s tied to Hands Free. The user tells the cashier that they will “pay with Google,” and give their initials to the cashier, who then inputs that and the transaction is closed. Cashiers also have a way to detect what the person looks like and whether it’s the same person in the photo tied to a Google profile.

The goal here is to reduce friction in the payments process. That was the main attempt of tools like Android and Apple Pay: being able to pay for products with just your phone and not having to take out your wallet and pay with a credit card. This is all beneficial to companies like Google and Apple, because it helps bring payments closer to the phone, and increases the chance that they’ll pay for things with Apple or Google with a credit card saved on that phone. And if it’s easier to pay for things on a phone, it’s easier to pay for apps and services like Google Play and the App Store.

But if this tool sounds familiar, it should: Square took a crack at creating a payments product that enabled users to pay cashiers without taking out their phone. That worked with some geofencing technology, while Google’s works a bit different, Bhat said, but the principle is more or less the same — opening and closing a tab without taking your phone out of your pocket. The goal was to make paying for things more of an experience as much as a convenience, but that application didn’t really catch on from Square. In this case, Google can throw its weight behind the tool and it can get preloaded within Android devices, but the challenge is still there for even Google.

The challenge for Google with this tool will be two-fold: getting point of sales services on board, and getting users to adopt it. The former tends to follow the latter, but Google has a suite of APIs that point of sale makers can tap into. The question will be whether the product has hit a big enough scale to justify having point of sale makers integrate this service into their devices — working not only with smaller point-of-sale services like Clover but larger ones like Ingenico.

My 2 cents:

The e-payment game is all about delivering the most effortless solution. Currently, Samsung Pay is the theoretical leader in that it requires no additional investment on the salesperson side; on the other hand, you need a Samsung device. Google’s solution crosses both the convenience barrier (eliminating the need for NFC compatibility) and the platform barrier (technically speaking, you could keep your iPhone and use Google’s software power). The challenges are the same: getting POS and users on board, but the wallet and credit card days are numbered at this rate.

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[google] Google and Microsoft Back Apple On Encryption Battle with FBI

Whaaat?

You guessed it, tech giants rally around Apple to keep privacy and security sacred and valuable.

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The heads of Google and Microsoft have stood behind Apple in criticizing a court order to assist the FBI in breaking into an iPhone used by one of the killers in the San Bernardino shooting.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai:

“Forcing companies to enable hacking could compromise users’ privacy,” Pichai said. “We know that law enforcement and intelligence agencies face significant challenges in protecting the public against crime and terrorism. We build secure products to keep your information safe and we give law enforcement access to data based on valid legal orders. But that’s wholly different than requiring companies to enable hacking of customer devices and data. Could be a troubling precedent.”

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella:

“Technology companies should not be required to build in backdoors to the technologies that keep their users’ information secure. RGS companies remain committed to providing law enforcement with the help it needs while protecting the security of their customers and their customers’ information.”

My 2 cents:

We knew this could be a rallying cry for the data vigilantes of the tech world and Google and Microsoft did not disappoint. In concluding the “Open Letter” mini series, we now effectively know that the privacy dispute will certainly feature the entire tech community.

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[google] Why Did Google Invest $1 Billion in SpaceX?

Whaaat?

It’s no surprise that Alphabet is interested in space. After all, Amazon.com, Virgin Group, Facebook, and Qualcomm, are among tech companies that have invested in the development of either rockets or satellites. Space offers another frontier for the information and communication that technology companies hold so dear — particularly Google.

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“Space-based applications like imaging satellites can help people more easily access important information, so we’re excited to support SpaceX’s growth as it develops new launch technologies,” said Don Harrison, Google’s vice president for corporate development, in a statement about the SpaceX investment, according to The New York Times.

And, notably, Harrison joined the board of SpaceX.

Based on Harrison’s statement, the origins of the company’s motivation for the investment was likely rooted in SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s announcement just before Google’s investment. Musk noted SpaceX would set out to build and deploy the world’s largest global communications systems via a network of hundreds of satellites.

“Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date,” Musk told Bloomberg last year.

And it’s worth noting that Alphabet’s SpaceX investment has likely already panned out to be a bargain. Now that SpaceX has proved it can successfully land one of its rockets after returning from space, and with the rocket company now aiming for a 70% rocket landing success rate during 2016 and planning to launch its Falcon Heavy later this year, it probably sports a much greater valuation in the private markets than it did when Google invested in it early last year.

My 2 cents:

SpaceX is a new frontier push in the literal and proverbial sense. Literally, Google has its eyes on space as the new communications frontier, proverbially, the push to space is a purpose-giving mission for Google to chase as an entity. Though satellite communication is hardly new, harnessing the ability to deploy, construct, operate and land one’s own space platform offers competitive advantage the likes of which are unparallel given current market conditions. Along with avoiding foreclosure, Google unleashes unparalleled potential and inaugurates and sets the rules of the new “privatized space” market.

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[google] Look Out, Google: Display Ads Soon Will Leapfrog Search Ads

Whaaat?

Not so long ago considered the poor stepchild to Google mighty search ads, display ads now are making a comeback more than two decades after making their debut on the Web.

Revenues from display ads, which include those not only those hated banners but, more to the point today, mobile, video, and so-called native ads, will overtake search ads this year, according to a new report from eMarketer.

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Search ads, which are mostly Google ads, edged out display ads in 2015, with $26.53 billion to display’s $26.15 billion. But this year, display ads will hit $32.2 billion to search’s $29.2 billion. And eMarketer reckons display, driven by banners (including native ads such as Facebook news feed ads and Twitter Promoted Tweets), video ads, and rich media ads, will continue to hold the lead until at least 2019, when they will reach $46.7 billion to search’s $40.6 billion.

This doesn’t actually mean Google is in imminent trouble. Search ads are still growing, even in the mobile age when people are doing relatively fewer searches (perhaps unless you count rapidly growing searches by voice). And Google also has not only a large if not as profitable business in syndicating display ads to some 2 million partner websites, it also has YouTube.

Although Facebook’s seemingly endless opportunities in display ads of many kinds means the trend could well continue, it’s no sure thing. Banners and video ads, not search ads, are the reason people are installing ad blockers left and right, on their phones and their computers. If that parallel trend continues, display ads may run into a slowdown once again.

My 2 cents:

Despite the rising trend and profitability of display ads (mainly on closed online platforms), Google is still in a safe place with its video ads potential through Youtube, but, most relevantly, display ads do suffer the blocker risks that I find very relevant. Another key point is that Facebook and Twitter ads can only take place on its platforms; if display ads do dodge blocking and reach a nativity level that users accept, Google stands to gain most in that it could incorporate display ads in the search realm while Facebook will always rely on users being on its platform.

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[google] Google vs. Uber and the race to self-driving taxis

**Currently tech-trekking with my fellow Kellogg MBA’s through Seattle, Bay Area, Silicon Valley for the following week, posts will reflect our awesome schedule!**

Monday: Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon
Tuesday: Salesforce, Twilio, Linkedin
Wednesday: Intuit, Facebook, VMware
Thursday: Google, Medallia, Adobe
Friday: Apple, Cisco, PayPal

Whaaat?

You won’t be able to have a fully autonomous car of your own for at least a few more years, but the race to develop the best technology is already tearing up the asphalt. Google is reportedly interested in spinning off its self-driving unit as its own self-driving company under the umbrella of Alphabet. And that means it will need to generate revenue, which could mean ride-hailing. And ride-hailing, of course, means Uber.

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Can Google successfully challenge Uber, or is Travis Kalanick’s company simply too large and too entrenched to unseat? Does Google even want to beat Uber? Or is it simply looking for a way to make self-driving cars generate cash? And with neither committing to actually manufacturing their own vehicles, which carmakers will each be partnering with to bring its technology to the road?

According to Bloomberg Business, Google plans to start small by deploying its multi-sized autonomous fleet in confined areas like college campuses, military bases, and corporate office parks. This is smart, because it would likely help Google get additional miles under its belt before rolling out its self-driving cars onto city streets.

Those streets fall squarely in Uber’s turf — hard-won turf.

But while Uber is dominating the ride-hailing business, Google has the advantage in autonomous car research. It has been developing the technology since 2009 and has the advantage, Uber recognizes that, which may explain why the company is so aggressively pursuing Google’s engineers and executives. High-definition maps are key to a successful self-driving car project; Uber is building up its mapping division in parallel to its self-driving unit.

Experts believe ride-hailing to be the most obvious application of fully autonomous vehicles. And surveys suggest that consumers are excited about the technology, but also concerned about safety, security, and, of course, how much it will cost them. Licensing and regulation are also serious hurdles, and Uber — its wall decorated with the scalps of politicians who dared to oppose it — has an advantage over Google in that regard.

The question, then, may be whether Alphabet needs to get into the ride-hailing business itself — a daunting task, even without the specter of Uber — or whether it makes money in the long term through partnerships and the licensing of its technology.

My 2 cents:

With neither company being perfectly suited for car manufacturing in the long term, the likelihood of outsourcing this component increases which would mean that the self-driving car hailing battle is less about hardware and more about software and litigation. Uber as an irreplacable convenience and Google’s lack of litigation expertise thus far will both be put to the test as the self-driving car hits the streets for good.

Full article

[google] Why the ‘Moonshot Project’ that Google Just Launched Could Be Such a Big Deal

Whaaat?

Earlier this week, Google announced a new experiment that lets Android users “stream” a select handful of apps through mobile search without downloading them.
The growing dominance of mobile means that the best content to fulfill your query might be inside an app. That’s why Google has spent the last two years convincing app makers to “index” their content to allow it to be searchable by its algorithms in a process called “deep linking.”

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Now that Google will show app-only content in search, you’ll be more likely to get better results since it can talk to both the apps and the websites. And with streaming, you won’t be limited to the “mobile-friendly” version of a service’s website, which could lack features. Instead, you’ll get the full experience as if you were really using their app, without the commitment or smartphone space required to download.
Google hopes that showing app-only content in search results and letting users view the info in their mobile browser without downloading the app will help its search engine remain users’ main gateway to online content in the era of smartphones.

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[google] Google’s New AI System Could Be ‘Machine Learning’ Breakthrough

Whaaat?

Whether you’re trying to translate something into a different language, turn your spoken words into text or sift through thousands of saved photos for that one special snapshot, Google has built a “smarter” artificial intelligence system to help.

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Google’s new “TensorFlow” system is the backbone of many of the company’s core functions, ranging from “Smart Reply,” which suggests up to three responses to emails, to speech recognition functions in the Google app.

“TensorFlow is the first serious implementation of a ‘framework for deep learning,’ a concept in artificial intelligence that means computers can learn more abstract concepts that humans traditionally perform better than computers do. For example, a human can recognize an image of the Taj Mahal without thinking much about it; but computers have a lot of trouble with that kind of task — asking a computer to identify the Taj Mahal would require it to go through an entire library of images and hope it gets a match.
TensorFlow simplifies a lot of that research, Courville said, and allows researchers to build their machine learning systems more easily. “With TensorFlow, it’s a set of tools, or a library, that allows you to construct these things and run them in an efficient way.”

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