What’s the future of interaction?

 

The proliferation of connected devices, especially the Internet of Things, was spurred by access to cheap parts. Anyone can now affordably slap a chip, accelerometer, gyroscope, and 3D-printed shell together to build something smart. But they still face one major challenge: how to give users control of their brand-new thing. Some manufacturers opt for a smartphone app; others build a touchscreen control panel right into their gadget. The touchscreen is easy, affordable, and involves no user learning curve. But still, the touchscreen presents its own problems.

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What’s the future of interaction?

 

The proliferation of connected devices, especially the Internet of Things, was spurred by access to cheap parts. Anyone can now affordably slap a chip, accelerometer, gyroscope, and 3D-printed shell together to build something smart. But they still face one major challenge: how to give users control of their brand-new thing. Some manufacturers opt for a smartphone app; others build a touchscreen control panel right into their gadget. The touchscreen is easy, affordable, and involves no user learning curve. But still, the touchscreen presents its own problems.

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Swedish supermarkets replace sticky labels with laser marking

 

The humble fruit sticker may seem an unlikely cause for environmental concern but removing it from produce could create huge savings in plastic, energy and CO2 emissions. In response to consumer demand for less packaging, Dutch fruit and veg supplier Nature & More and Swedish supermarket ICA have joined forces to run a trial to replace sticky labels on organic avocados and sweet potatoes with a laser mark. M&S are also using it on coconuts in the UK. Dubbed “natural branding”, the technique uses a strong light to remove pigment from the skin of produce. The mark is invisible once skin is removed and doesn’t affect shelf life or eating quality.

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How statistics lost their power – and why we should fear what comes next

 

Rather than diffusing controversy and polarisation, it seems as if statistics are actually stoking them. Antipathy to statistics has become one of the hallmarks of the populist right, with statisticians and economists chief among the various “experts” that were ostensibly rejected by voters in 2016. Not only are statistics viewed by many as untrustworthy, there appears to be something almost insulting or arrogant about them. Reducing social and economic issues to numerical aggregates and averages seems to violate some people’s sense of political decency. Nowhere is this more vividly manifest than with immigration. The thinktank British Future has studied how best to win arguments in favour of immigration and multiculturalism. One of its main findings is that people often respond warmly to qualitative evidence, such as the stories of individual migrants and photographs of diverse communities. But statistics – especially regarding alleged benefits of migration to Britain’s economy – elicit quite the opposite reaction. People assume that the numbers are manipulated and dislike the elitism of resorting to quantitative evidence. Presented with official estimates of how many immigrants are in the country illegally, a common response is to scoff. Far from increasing support for immigration, British Future found, pointing to its positive effect on GDP can actually make people more hostile to it. GDP itself has come to seem like a Trojan horse for an elitist liberal agenda. Sensing this, politicians have now largely abandoned discussing immigration in economic terms.

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Mossberg: Lousy ads are ruining the online experience

 

Last Saturday, as the New England Patriots were sloppily beating the Houston Texans 34–16 in a playoff game, I wanted to look at the highlight video of a play using the NFL app on my iPad. To watch that 14-second clip, I had to suffer through a 30-second ad for something so irrelevant to me that I can’t even recall what it was. The length and content of that video ad Saturday was, in my view, way out of proportion to the length and value of the clip itself. And that’s just one small example of why the advertising-supported model online is broken, and is threatening the whole online content experience with it.

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A ‘listening’ hairbrush and emotional cars: the futuristic trends of CES 2017

 

There are already countless electronic devices that connect and report data to smartphones – activity trackers being the most obvious example – but what is particularly interesting about this year’s CES is the way companies are looking to exploit this idea for financial gain. It felt as though some product developers at the conference had simply wandered around their houses deciding on impulse to implant Wi-Fi into objects. Take the Onvi Prophix toothbrush. It has a camera that streams live video to a smartphone app, enabling the user to see inside their mouth as they are brushing.

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Anti-surveillance clothing aims to hide wearers from facial recognition

 

The Hyperface project involves printing patterns on to clothing or textiles, which then appear to have eyes, mouths and other features that a computer can interpret as a face. This is not the first time Harvey has tried to confuse facial recognition software. During a previous project, CV Dazzle, he attempted to create an aesthetic of makeup and hairstyling that would cause machines to be unable to detect a face.

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From customisation to DIY handbags – how customers became designers

 

Maks Fus Mickiewicz, senior journalist at trend analyst the Future Laboratory, believes this shift to consumer power is only going to get more pronounced. “Fashion brands are realising that to stay ahead of the game they need to move away from imposing their aesthetic on others,” he says. “That’s not how the world works anymore. There’s a new dialogue with consumers.” Mickiewicz says it’s the tech industry that should be studied for next steps. “Technology companies develop software but there’s an openness to it being updated and changed,” he says. “It’s about fashion companies letting go of the idea of the creative genius at the top.” The most fun you’ll ever make? That’s a slogan that could go beyond teddy bears.

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The future of shopping: drones, digital mannequins and leaving without paying

 

The American DIY chain Lowe’s is testing LoweBot, a customer service robot that speaks several languages, helps shoppers find items and provides information on products. First trialled as OSHbot two years ago, it is currently being tested in 11 Lowe’s stores. US electricals retailer Best Buy has Chloe, a robot that is a glorified grabber arm for CDs and DVDs, while Aldebaran Robotics, part of the Japanese telecoms firm Softbank, has created Pepper, a humanoid robot which has been deployed in some Nescafé stores in Japan. Some US shopping centres are even adopting robotic security guards – a cross between a CCTV camera and a Dalek that can detect people who may be loitering in the wrong place and read car number plates in car parks. But it’s not all been straightforward: a robot guarding a shopping centre in California recently ran over a toddler after its navigational scanning systems failed to detect the small boy.

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Michael Gove’s anti-Turner prize tweets are childishly prejudiced

 

do we think that Gove, transported back to the early years of the 19th century, would have been one of those enlightened people who championed JMW Turner, or would he, do we think, have been somewhat more likely to have been bewildered by the controversial painter’s strikingly novel looseness of form and “crude blotches”, to quote fellow artist Benjamin West?

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