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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Systems Smart Enough to Know When They’re Not Smart Enough

 

So the more Google and other answer machines become the authorities of record, the more their imperfect understanding of the world becomes accepted as fact. Designers of all data-driven systems have a responsibility to ask hard questions about proper thresholds of data confidence—and how to communicate ambiguous or tainted information. How can we make systems that are not only smart enough to know when they’re not smart enough… but smart enough to say so and signal that human judgment has to come into play?

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Are you a spaceflight company? You may want to rethink your logo

 

A quick glance at the logos of some of the most prominent spaceflight companies, including SpaceX and Orbital ATK, show just how similar their branding has become. “There are usually dominant blues, dominant blacks, all going with this rocket swoosh and a pointed star,” says Andrew Sloan, a graphic designer and specialist in brand development. That’s a problem, he says, since it makes it hard for these brands to differentiate from one another.

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How Blind People ‘See’ the iPhone With Their Fingers

 

A few years ago, backstage at a conference, I spotted a blind woman using her phone. The phone was speaking everything her finger touched on the screen, allowing her to tear through her apps. My jaw hit the floor. After years of practice, she had cranked the voice’s speed so high, I couldn’t understand a word it was saying. And here’s the kicker: She could do all of this with the screen turned off. Her phone’s battery lasted forever. Ever since that day, I’ve been like a kid at a magic show. I’ve wanted to know how it’s done. I’ve wanted an inside look at how the blind could navigate a phone that’s basically a slab of featureless glass.

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