Why You Should Care That Facebook’s Getting Really Good at Facial Recognition

by Geoff Colvin

Thousands Gather For Mass Poker Tournament

It speaks volumes about your own tech strategy.

If you’re a CEO or manager in the U.S. right now, you know that technology is the big, secular factor holding the most danger and opportunity for your business. You’ve got really smart people in your company working hard on how technology can make you more competitive, help you avoid disruption, and maybe even let you disrupt other businesses.

But you should remember that even the smartest technology experts are consistently getting one thing wrong: the speed with which technology is advancing. Let’s take a look at the news of the past few days:

—Software developed at Carnegie Mellon University last week annihilated a group of the world’s best poker players in a No-Limit Texas Hold ’Em tournament. This is highly significant. Twenty years ago, IBM software beat world chess champion Garry Kasparov by modeling millions of scenarios per second. But that approach wouldn’t work against Go, a game too complex for modeling all possible scenarios; so Google combined neural networks and machine learning to beat world champion Lee Sedol last year. That shocked artificial intelligence experts. Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, wrote in Scientific American, “Such an event was prognosticated to be at least a decade away.”

Continue reading

Advertisements

The Five Trends Shaping the Future of Cities

by Jack Uldrich

citypic

The science fiction writer William Gibson once wrote: “The future is here. It just isn’t evenly distributed.” It’s a powerful insight because it implies that savvy business people, farsighted political leaders and even average citizens can discern the future if only they heed today’s emerging trends. Five current trends, in particular, appear poised to transform the cities of tomorrow.

In February, Amazon introduced “Echo,” a new artificially intelligent platform that allows users to access the Internet using nothing other their voice. That same month Facebook unveiled its new “Chatbot” platform which similarly uses artificial intelligence. The developments are noteworthy because soon schools, businesses and city hall will be able to create artificially intelligent agents that can serve students, customers, and citizens in a variety of accessible, affordable and innovative ways.

Continue reading

Microsoft Can Now Talk Better Than Humans And Other Small Business Tech News This Week

by Gene Marks

Here are five things in technology that happened this past week and how they affect your business. Did you miss them?

1 – Microsoft says its speech recognition is now as good as humans.

Based on a study it did, the software giant put its speech recognition technology up against professional transcriptionists. The result? Humans made more mistakes than the software. (Source: VentureBeat)

Why this is important for your business:

According to the VentureBeat article, Microsoft has called this a milestone in human parity and believes that it will have “broad implications for consumer and business products that can be significantly augmented by speech recognition.” I don’t doubt that.

2 – Facebook announces new features to help small businesses sell more products and services.

The social media leader has released updates so that restaurants can receive orders and service providers can accept appointments directly on their Facebook pages and have them land on Microsoft’s new Bookings app that will soon be included with Office 365. It’s also enhanced its ability to make buying recommendations when users ask a question. (Source: Recode and Microsoft Office Blogs).
Why this is important for your business:

All these enhancements are free and are designed to not only make it easier for your Facebook customers to do business with you, but to receive new business through recommendations, too.

3 – You will soon be able to receive customer texts directly from a Google ad.

Google says that advertisers will soon be able to allow recipients of their ads to send texts with questions directly to the advertiser. (Source: VentureBeat)

Why this is important for your business:

When customers see your ad now and they have a question, they have to go searching for ways to contact you – with many losing interest in the process. Allowing them to quickly text their questions right from the ad will solve that problem and hopefully keep customers buying. Continue reading

Why Augmented Reality Is Much Bigger Than Pokémon Go

by Daniel Burrus

3D City Buildings On Smartphone And Man Hand

The increasing use of virtual reality (VR) is a Hard Trend that will continue to grow, and with the release of several high-profile VR systems, 2016 was supposed to be the year that VR finally went mainstream. However, users around the world queuing up to immerse themselves in a virtual world have yet to materialize. The less fancied augmented reality (AR) consists of using your smartphone camera or smart glasses to overlay virtual elements to the physical world. AR is not immersive and was dismissed by many as just another tool for tech enthusiasts only. For those of you who read my 2016 annual list of 25 Hard Trends shaping the future, augmented reality was listed, and the revolution has now started.

The problem is that widespread adoption of any technology is crucial to its growth. Early adopters typically only represent 10 percent to 15 percent of potential customers. Launching new hardware is good, but having engaging and viral software that brings it to life is even better.

Assuming you already have a high-powered PC, the entry fee for Oculus Rift will set you back $599. In addition, it’s easier for video game developers to create a large-scale video game than to design and develop a more complex virtual reality game that can scale quickly. Maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised that VR has yet to hit the mass market. Alternatively, if you mentioned the words augmented reality to anyone outside of the tech industry, they would probably have had no idea what you were talking about. However, in just over a month, the game-changing Pokémon Go has been downloaded by over 100 million users.

Continue reading

The Big AHA: Three Unconventional Ways to Future-Proof Your Business Today

by Jack Uldrich

Every business leader feels it and knows it–the world is changing at an accelerating pace.Aha Business models are shifting, consumer behaviors and preferences are evolving swiftly, and emerging technologies and platforms are transforming the competitive landscape. In such an environment, it is difficult to look ahead to the next quarter, let alone the next year. Still, a business leader’s top priority is to position their company for continued future success. The question is: How?

As professional foresight consultants we’d like to offer a big “AHA” containing three unconventional ideas for how you can begin future-proofing your business today. “AHA” is an acronym that stands for Awareness, Humility and Action. You must strive to enhance your awareness of changes on the horizon; have enough humility to acknowledge that what served your business well in the past might not be sufficient tomorrow; and be willing to take action in the face of less-than-perfect information.

Awareness: See What You Can’t See

Many leaders today still rely on traditional methods to stay abreast of advances in their field, such as reading newspapers, industry websites, and attending trade conferences. This is all fine and well, but in an era of accelerating change tomorrow’s threats and opportunities are less and less likely to come at you through conventional means. This implies you must learn to see differently.

The Chinese have a wonderful saying, “The periphery is the new center.” Therefore, to see what you can’t yet see, you need to go to the periphery and expose yourself to fresh and unique ways of perceiving your industry.

Continue reading

This Is Why Lots of Talented People Choose to Never Work for a Big Company

by Gene Marks

If you work for some big companies, you actually get paid to sleep. I’m serious.

Just this week Aetna’s CEO Mark Bertolini said in an interview that his company pays his employees to sleep. “If they can prove they get 20 nights of sleep for seven hours or more in a row, we will give them $25 a night, up to $500 a year,” he said, explaining Aetna uses various ways to help workers keep track, including the use of Fitbit fitness trackers.

The Huffington Post isn’t paying people to sleep — they’re just encouraging their employees to sleep on the job. They’ve got nap rooms in their offices. They’re not alone. According to this report “other companies like Google, Zappos and Ben & Jerry’s are getting on board with the napping trend. All now have built nap rooms in their offices.”

Paid for sleeping? Napping at work? Nice! Sign me up!

In these times of low unemployment and a lack of skilled workers, big companies are coming up with all sorts of crazy perks to entice millennials through their doors. LinkedIn offers unlimited vacation. Etsy’s paid time off policy covers new parents of either gender. Spotify covers the cost of egg freezing and fertility assistance. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) helps its employees pay down their student debt. Twilio gives employees a free Kindle and a monthly allowance to purchase books. Twitter offers onsite acupuncture and “improvisation” classes. Asana’s employees get free life coaching. Zillow pays the overnight shipping costs for moms who are breast feeding. Perks, perks, perks!

Continue reading

Connected Objects Will Become Your New Problem

By Daniel Burrus

Blue-Glowing-Magic-Connections

Just as we have started to get used to the idea of ourselves always being online, it seems that many of our homes and an increasing number of objects inside them will soon be connected and have the ability to talk to each other. Although there is a growing realization of our responsibilities around our lifestyle choices and the environmental carbon footprint we leave behind, we are only just starting to think about the impact of our digital footprint and how it could affect our future selves.

The threat of terrorist attacks has led to heightened security and it seems that the dirty secrets of both the good and bad guys online could be exposed at any moment. We seldom stop to think about the internet itself and that your phone, laptop, and tablet always connected to your home Wi-Fi actually represents four connected devices when including your router.

This is just one person with a conservative number of connected devices to the internet, but a quick look on your routers settings will quickly reveal just how many devices now connect to your internet family plan, and we just expect it to work. Try to imagine the world’s four billion devices for a moment and how many are probably connected to the internet right now and how many are insecure or are broadcasting information publicly.

How many connected devices are broadcasting YOUR information publicly right now? 

Continue reading