Smart Robot is Smart

Sometimes I yell at technology when it doesn’t work. Don’t you? The cell drops a call. YouTube videos mysteriously load but won’t play. “Why don’t you work!” Consumer technology has evolved so rapidly and reliably that we expect perfection…naturally…but soon these gadgets will have the smarts to “understand” when we question them.

Natural Language Question Answering (NLQA) is on its way up Gartner’s Hype Cycle, thanks to Apple’s Siri and IBM’s Watson (see video). We’ve all Google’d a full sentence, or talked on the phone with simple menu-driven customer service. In 5-10 years, user interfaces will advance enough to understand our more complex questions and deduce an answer with confidence.

So what happens when we have gadgets that are more understanding of us? User experience and customer satisfaction increase. Beyond that? In a world of easy and accessible answers, what happens to users with inquisitive minds? A better question makes for a better answer. It’s time to focus on how to better ask questions.

People are the operating system.
David Fischer, facebook


Recently I spent hours at my local library. Beautiful building. After perusing through stacks of stories and pulling what my imagination ran with, a voice over the loudspeaker announced: “The library is closed.” Five floors of rushed worrying to the circulation desk and the clerk shook his head. All I could think was if I had found my reading online I might have had a completely different experience. IDEO has put a lot of thought into that experience and may have created a solution to the frustration some of us have with today’s library. Here is great insight into today’s reading culture and how to fuel it.

Introducing Google TV (via Google)

Google TV promises to be the place where “Web meets TV.” It wants to succeed where AppleTV did not. But what if the TV industry is just not ready to integrate? Successful user interfaces bring content into a single home screen. Neither AppleTV nor Google TV seem to have done this. Canoe Ventures is working to unify all major cable providers to form a single advertising platform, but also doesn’t seen to unify television and web video content.

What the TV industry needs is an open system for tagging and accessing video content. Google was successful with Android by making an open platform for content. Until the TV industry gets on board, Google and Apple have a great challenge integrating the web and TV in a way that consumers will use. 

Having family visit often means touring the local sites. Being in central Virginia, one of the local plantations is a popular choice. There isn’t much to them but a tour of “The Big House,” a walk along the grounds, and standing on historic soil.

I give a lot of credit to these destinations for giving their tour away online for free. (re: Chris Anderson’s Free.) They’ve recognized that seeing relics and gardens is only Cracker Jacks—that the prize is feeling a connection. Being where our founding Presidents stood, where T.A.P.S. was composed, and where civil war troops rested often gets talked about in terms of the tangible. It is the intangible that your $11 admission buys. 

Plantations have taken a great step by giving away the sights and inviting people to the “real” tour. There is a great opportunity to campaign the connection and sensation of visiting. 

Bert DuMars, VP E-Business & Interactive Marketing at Rubbermaid was interviewed about crowd-sourcing innovation. He talks about something that is becoming a trend with some of the brightest companies: using customer feedback.

It seems like a no brainer given that customer feedback has been collected for as long as I can remember. But DuMars has taught an old dog a new trick. What he has changed is how feedback is being used. At Rubbermaid DuMars launched a feedback channel to specifically gather usability information. With this method it took no time to discover communication issues and affect fast, positive, and effective change.

It is no secret that consumers love to review products and DuMars has given us a great case that proves it is a valuable conversation to have. Be on the lookout for more customer feedback campaign as a tool to bring a product to market.

Moms love this vacuum because it sucks. The product has always had really good reviews. Part of what makes this brand so successful is that they invest in innovation. The machine costs more, like an Apple Computer costs more, but the system will always be well made and super innovative.

The “Ball” allows Dyson’s newest vacuum to lower its center of gravity. That means more stability at high speed and speedy is something everyone loves chores to be. No wonder there is love for this vacuum. 

YIKES! Maybe in 10 or so years we can just have computers create innovations for us. Hello Wall-e, hope you’re not a Terminator. 

Blackberry’s new watch works in tandem with the smartphone. If owners are willing to submit to a name like Crackberry, there must be a need for their phone to have a pet screen. Truly innovative? Eh, seems like less of a life altering device and more of a tech gadgetry charm. How many “cool” gadgets are produced in the name of innovation? (See

Non-the-less, maybe it will help keep more Crackberry eyes on the road.

Nike’s Shortest Race might have isolated the true spirit of interpersonal competition. I can’t figure out if there is no athleticism or total athleticism involved.  Either way, it is hard to imagine a race like this where you are focused on a race against yourself.

Great example of an innovative campaign that allows competitive spirits to participate in Nike, a brand that many times may be perceived as something for top athletes.