Strange vocal interactions with ‘you, me and all these machines’

Moscow-based artist ::vtol:: is back again with an interesting interactive exhibit entitled “you, me and all these machines.” His latest work, a collaboration with Lovozero, allows two participants to produce otherworldly vocals together.

One participant wears the device, which points a directional microphone under the control of the other participant at her mouth using a servo motor. An array of LEDs signal the vocalist in a manner agreed upon before the performance.

The head-mounted system is controlled by an Arduino Uno, and is meant to display the subtle interaction between two participating artists, as they must work together to produce the desired output.

“You, me and all these machines” is a performance for voice and electronic devices. The vocalist puts on his or her head a specially designed wearable interface tool to interact with the voice and display a visual score. Technically, the device consists of several elements: a narrowly directional microphone driven by a motor; an LED strip that shows the vocalist score; remote control with a joystick used by the second participant to control the interface.

Shifting the microphone against the mouth makes it possible to achieve interesting sound effects, and makes it easier to manipulate the vocalist’s voice. The LED line consisting of 10 diodes is a very primitive, but effective and convenient way of interacting with the vocalist, and the way of interpreting the values is predetermined before each performance. During the performance, a sound canvas is formed, thereby changing the dynamics, consisting of a set of looped fragments created within voice and interface processing elements, without using other methods to generate sounds.

Check out “you, me and all these machines” in the video below!

Arduino Blog

Avoid These Five Digital Retailing Mistakes

In a world where customers are shifting a significant portion of their purchases from off-line to mobile and online channels, the mantra for retailers is to embrace the change and capitalize on the virtues of digital commerce. But rather than haphazardly implementing various website features, retailers should adopt a data-driven view — with the goal of understanding how different types of information that consumers collect via the website affect their behavior.

We researched the effects of web technologies on a retailer’s critical performance metrics such as sales and returns. To study these effects, we needed to measure consumers’ actual web technology usage and match it with their transactions. Toward this end, we partnered with a women’s clothing retailer that has a large online presence and offers the type of web technologies that consumers typically encounter in e-commerce. Overall, we studied 7 million purchases made by approximately 1 million unique customers of this medium-size company over three years, and focused primarily on two months’ worth of data, consisting of 183,000 transactions and 52 million lines of server logs that tracked consumers’ web activities. Detailed findings from our research were published in the academic journals Management Science and Information Systems Research.

Our findings suggest that managers should encourage consumers to embrace innovative technology features like different types of web technologies, personal assistants, and apps, because such usage is generally associated with a higher level of sales. But our research also indicates that it’s critical for retailers to take steps to avoid five common digital retailing mistakes.

Mistake 1: Letting a Consumer Get Lost in a Sea of Products When consumers do generic searches on the web, a retailer should not just present a large set of products to them. Rather, the company should guide the consumer through a process to narrow the search results. This is important because a large set of potential options can confuse consumers and lead them to abandon the purchase process.

Some companies already do this. For example, Nordstrom Inc. has “Nordstrom Style Boards” enabling store salespeople (called stylists) to offer product recommendations to customers via the internet, and J. Crew’s website offers the “Very Personal Stylist,” a service that gives customers a way to connect with a personal shopper 24/7. But for many companies, significant improvements are still needed in this area. In the near future, shopping assistants driven by artificial intelligence (AI) should help deliver those improvements.

Mistake 2: Recommending Only Popular Products Amazon.com Inc.’s recommendation system (for example, “Customers Who Viewed This Item Also Viewed”) is an example of how website features can be used to steer sales. Our research found that a recommendation system can increase sales by more than 5.5%. This is because it lets consumers learn about products in unprecedented ways.

Recommendation systems enhance sales of both popular, well-known products and products that are not so well-known yet. However, our research found that their effect is more prominent for the latter group of products. Popular products typically have a higher sales volume and a lower margin because of competition, whereas less-known products are likely to command a higher margin.

Therefore, retailers should carefully choose a mix of both types of products in their recommendations. Similarly, a retailer should not just promote popular products to consumers who are using the store app. Starbucks Corp.’s Digital Flywheel — which is an AI-driven recommendation engine that goes beyond just simplifying a customer’s favorite order — is, not surprisingly, utilizing consumers’ prior transaction history and other types of digital traces left by them.

Mistake 3: Fostering Unrealistic Customer Expectations While collecting information on a product online, consumers typically gain two types of intel: factual and impression-based. Factual information relates to concrete facts, whereas impression-based information is the perception one forms by looking at a product. For example, when collecting information about a dress, details like what the fabric is made of and how the buttons are sewed offer factual information. On the other hand, the customer’s perception about the dress based on looking at a model wearing it is predominantly impression-based information.

Consumers generally have an expectation about a product before buying it, and their satisfaction with the product depends on how well that expectation matches with their post-purchase experience. Typically, factual information helps a consumer form a realistic prepurchase expectation, which, in turn, leads to a better match between this expectation and the post-purchase experience. In contrast, impression-based information may result in an unrealistic prepurchase expectation in customers’ minds that their post-purchase experience can’t usually match.

Mistake 4: Focusing on Sales Rather Than Net Sales Retail executives are often just keen on increasing sales. High product returns, however, could negate the effect of high sales — after all, returns amount to about $ 260 billion per year in the United States alone, according to the National Retail Federation. Hence, retailers should focus on net sales (that is, sales minus returns), rather than sales alone.

Consequently, it is important to carefully consider what types of information consumers are gathering when they use technologies made available by retailers. In particular, many retail websites and apps now have product-oriented technologies that are geared toward helping consumers collect information.

While impression-based information may increase sales, it increases returns as well. In fact, our study of the women’s clothing retailer found that the use of alternative photos — a technology that presents images of models wearing the product from different angles, often in an unrealistic scenic environment — primarily provides impression-based information and not only leads to more returns but also decreases net sales.

In contrast, our research found that factual information reduces returns significantly. As a result, the overall effect of adding technology facilitating factual information — such as the ability to zoom in to view a product’s features more closely — is typically positive.

Retailers need to proactively ensure that the technologies on their websites and apps are leading to desired results. For example, one way to mitigate the negative effect of alternative photos is to allow consumers to upload their own photos and videos showing the product in use. Then future potential customers can form more realistic expectations about the product by seeing how other consumers look wearing the product or how they use it. Not surprisingly, a number of major retailers now encourage their consumers to upload photos or videos. These consumer-uploaded pictures arguably balance any unrealistic expectations potential consumers may form by looking at the retailer-provided photos.

Mistake 5: Not Keeping Pace With Technology Advances AI is going to be a critical part of the next wave of technological advancements affecting e-commerce. The increasing use of digital personal assistants such as Siri or Google Now; adoption of smart home devices such as Amazon Echo; and developments like Apple opening up Siri to third-party developers will significantly influence many tasks consumers regularly do, including shopping.

As a result, retailers must ensure that their apps and websites are ready to serve consumers using AI-driven digital assistants. For example, a consumer may ask Siri to find a pair of jeans. A retailer needs to utilize its data about that consumer to present a set to Siri that fits the consumer’s needs. At a time when Siri is, in effect, a platform through which different retailers supply options to be featured in front of the consumer, only the retailers that present the best options are likely be retained, and others would be removed from the consideration set.

Considering a digital assistant’s overarching focus on gaining efficiency, increasingly through machine learning techniques, retailers face a serious threat of being thrown out of the consideration set, which could put them in a downward spiral with obviously grave consequences. After all, these digital assistants are programmed to collect data and constantly improve their services. As a result, it will become evermore important for retailers to take advantage of their data to offer consumers options that are well-targeted to their needs.


MIT Sloan Management Review

These students made their own Guitar Hero-like video game

If you’d like to create your own simulated guitar from scratch, you’ll want to check out this project by Cornell ECE students Jake Podell and Jonah Wexler. It uses four conductive strings on the neck to sense which note is selected, along with a pick wired as input to tell when the string has been plucked.

An Arduino Uno takes these inputs and feeds them to a computer via USB serial. Information is then transmitted over Bluetooth to a PIC32 microcontroller, which displays a scrolling fretboard on a TFT screen.

The pseudo-musician must strum along to the song shown—Ode to Joy in this case—hearing a strumming sound for correct notes, or an annoying beep for errors.

Similar to the classic music games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, we use a TFT to display notes that move across the screen towards a strum region, produce guitar plucks and undertones of a song, and keep track of the user’s score. The user plays notes on a wireless mock guitar built with carbon-impregnated elastic as strings and a conducting plectrum for the guitar pick. The guitar is connected to an Arduino Uno which communicates wirelessly via Bluetooth to the PIC32. The goal of this video game is to learn the basic finger movements of holding down strings and strumming at the correct time for novice guitar players. The project can easily be extended for more advanced finger movements on the strings and strum timing for those with more experience.

You can see more of the project in its write-up here and in the video below!

Arduino Blog

These 3 technologies will shape the future of healthcare

Transforming healthcare through technology is no longer the Sisyphean task it once was. Technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) are all helping to drive change, prevent illnesses, and even reshape healthcare IT.

1. Internet of Things

One executive in the mobility industry recently told me that healthcare is a ‘very careful’ market, which traditionally looks at industries such as defence and avionics and follows suit. Yet progress is being made. For the IoT, there are two benefits: assisting diagnosis and making sure treatment is working. With the latter, for example, sensors are now being piloted in intensive care units. In the former, telephone microphones are now being used to develop algorithms which can assess the early stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“AI is a little behind this, but its scope is potentially more wide-ranging. The key here is in terms of the volume of work; and the fact intelligent health assistants get smarter the more work they do. Millions of samples can be analysed in quick time and patterns gleaned from them. Take CATI as a recent example. The system, short for ‘cognitive automation of time lapse images’, can, alongside aneuploidy screening (PGS), improve embryo selection for pregnancy by preventing the misdiagnosis of mosaic embryos…”

2. Artificial Intelligence

AI is a little behind this, but its scope is potentially more wide-ranging. The key here is in terms of the volume of work; and the fact intelligent health assistants get smarter the more work they do. Millions of samples can be analysed in quick time and patterns gleaned from them. Take CATI as a recent example. The system, short for ‘cognitive automation of time lapse images’, can, alongside aneuploidy screening (PGS), improve embryo selection for pregnancy by preventing the misdiagnosis of mosaic embryos.

3. Blockchain

While these are all fascinating and potentially transformative use cases, they may not stop healthcare from being a risk-averse industry simply due to the sensitivity of the data involved. Blockchain, however, could. By using a secure, distributed ledger, the potential is there to secure patient data in an unprecedented way. There are other benefits too; as one industry executive told me, it will help organisations be more efficient with healthcare budgets, allowing a ‘greater focus on illness prevention rather than cure.’

The combination of blockchain, AI and IoT could therefore be an irresistible one. Patient data secured on the blockchain; AI-enabled assistants and automated health checks cutting time and costs; and millions of ‘things’ connecting the dots and finding better, clearer diagnoses. This is the future of healthcare – and it cannot come soon enough.

(c) istockphoto.com / Antiv3D | deepblue4you

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To find out more about the potential of IoT, blockchain and AI, attend the co-located IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo and AI Expo Global 2018 taking place in London’s Olympia on 18-19 April 2018. You can find out more and register for a free pass here. The event will host 12,000 attendees, a free exhibition of 300+ companies, 500+ speakers across 15 conference tracks. The co-located event series will also host events in Amsterdam and Silicon Valley in 2018.

IoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo & AI Expo World Series 2018
Global: 18-19 April 2018, Olympia, London
Europe: 1-2 October 2018, RAI, Amsterdam
North America: 28-29 November 2018, Santa Clara, Silicon Valley

The post These 3 technologies will shape the future of healthcare appeared first on IoT Tech Expo.

IoT Tech Expo

VR Will Transform the Way We Experience these 6 Things

vr will transform our world

Virtual reality (VR) is a new means of audiovisual communication. Its mission is to sell the idea of entry into a three-dimensional computer generated environment where the experience is so surprising that it cuts our minds to believe that this virtual world is really Reality. Its ultimate goal is to allow us to experience the senses we could never experience in our daily lives. VR will transform our world as a result of this ability to deliver experiences.

So far, our experience with the internet was at best two-dimensional. The possibility of touch sensitive screen was the nearest we have been in interacting with the internet, and virtual reality is about to transform that concept. VR will transform the world and bring about a monumental change in the way of buying and experiencing the web, scanning; thanks to the pure power and imagination of human thought. It will drastically transform the way we live, communicate, learn and relate with others all over the globe.

With massive adoption through platforms such as, HTC Vive, Oculus, VR Play station and Cardboard, companies and customers have already begun to turn to augmented reality and virtual platforms as they come online. Projected revenues are reaching over $ 100 billion in 2020 for AR and VR platforms, these platforms will create dramatic upheaval in all industries around the world.

It is clear that our way of life and the way we behave are willing to change dramatically. And while there may be dozens of ways in which VR will transform the world, there are certain basic things that it will have the most effect on.

See Also: Facebook slashes price of Oculus Rift for second time

1. Gaming

The obvious use of virtual reality – and the most proven example is the game. Oculus already has many titles that support it, and Sony PlayStation already has many games that use it.

Is unlikely to be supported by all parties at any time, but we’ve played with Morpheus and Oculus and the VR will provide a strong, spectacular and impressive experience that brings gaming to a new level of excellence.

2. Watching Movies

Something that has contained this spacious miracle is the possibility of films that take advantage of VR capabilities.

Think of 3D movies and then think of the real, true 3D – a cinematic world which you can sight edges and angles in 3D reality and paying more attention to what you choose to watch.

Actually it is theoretical at best, but the probability is there. And it could transform the movie industry forever.

3. Tourism

Think about how compelling it can be to simply look at the world on Google Maps. Then think how shocking it would be to do the same with your eye, a kind of crazy right?

The VR will transform long trips to museums for people who cannot enter the building. Also, in another example of visiting a space, real estate agents can give buyers a peek at a property. Real estate agents could line up a playlist of properties for the buyer to experience and explore. In a similar way, a tour guide could do line-up touristic experiences as a product,

4. Medicine

It is better and safer for surgeons to train to hone their techniques in a simulated environment. But, it would be better for young surgeons to train on not just plastic models or people who have left their bodies to medical sciences.

Therefore, a fully interactive and accurate modeled sample suffers from a variety of diseases requiring surgery through a virtual reality interface could make many surgeons with better training and better performance – which is better for all of us.

Simulator Surgeon developed in 2013 was a language in games based on this condition.

Pilots already learn using flight simulators, but as surgeons they really could do something much more exciting and realistic to improve their skills. VR can be this technology.

5. Exploring Space

The ability to fly through the globe using Google maps interface would be interesting and fun.

The agency in charge of space exploration could put cameras around their equipment and sends off. Scientists then could navigate and visualize space using a virtual reality device. This would allow the exploration of space in a way that we have not seen before.

Maybe you may have heard of Valkyrie – where you take the role of a spaceship pilot – and that seems real, although we knew it was not.

6. Digital Marketing

An exciting way in which virtual reality is set to change the world is by the advancement of digital marketing. While physical marketing is limited by the laws of nature, experiences in the Virtual world are not.

For example, if you are looking to navigate to a Harvard University campus, you will be able to do so, travelling classrooms, walking among students. You may be promoting a concert and want to place visitors there in the midst of this experience in a virtual reality environment.

Companies like YouVisit explore experiential marketing for everyday businesses by offering an easy to use platform for building VR experiences.

Not only is it useful for businesses, but also for consumers. Consumers now can make decisions based on virtual experiences the same way they would with physical ones. Not only is it ideal for hotels and travel, but much more for any other experiential marketing.

See Also: What brands need to know about VR and AR [Infographic]

These 6 categories are a brief introduction into all of the ways VR will transform the experiences around everyday activities. But, even with these new experiences brought by VR, it will still require VR delivering experiences that are otherwise not even remotely possible and further exploration of experiences similar to those mentioned for it to reach its full potential.

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