Wow this was a really busy week in terms of technology announcements. Both Google and Microsoft have had big media events lately. I haven’t really been covering it because A) other sites can report the news better than I can and B) I wanted to think about the implications. This post covers the implications as I see it with special emphasis on education.
Google had their big developer conference last week but a few other things have quietly come to light about their overall strategy. Remember, Google is a software maker who also makes hardware. Apple is the opposite, therefore it is only natural that Google and Apple will do different things and have different priorities.
Google has been big into machine learning ever since their founding. They want to search index the whole world (and then show you ads about it) so they have a big focus on getting their systems to understand more than just text. Recently they have unveiled their progress in this.
- First, they have introduced conversational search. You can ask Google a question via voice, and it will remember what you last asked it. This permits you to ask a search question like “find a nearby Italian restaurant”, and if you don’t like what it gives you to say “find another one”. It knows what it last searched for so your response makes sense. This is a huge improvement in search and will find itself into phone assistants to like Siri and Google Now.
- Second, when you upload photos onto Google+, it will use machine learning to categorize them for you based on what is in the photos. For example, if you upload a photo of you on a motorcycle, you can search on Google for pics of my motorcycle and it will show them to you. There is a vast amount of information contained in photos and videos. Google is going to index it all, therefore the amount of searchable info on the net will increase by orders of magnitude.
- Third, Google Glass is starting to have Apps made for it. One of the biggest uses for it will be to use the camera and tie it to data in realtime. For example, you can be at a conference and meet someone you met from last year. The camera will do facial recognition on them and remind you all about them. This is part of the extended mind I have written about before.
Here’s a video showing conversational search.
What this adds up to is Google’s determined effort to catalog the world and put it at your fingertips. This is a multi pronged effort that is now starting to bear fruit.
All this is software but what about hardware? This week Microsoft unveiled XBox One, their new game console.
“…the intro video for the new Xbox has users saying that the new Xbox is going to “recognize my name, my voice, my movies” and know what you like.”
“The creepiest part of the Kinect demo was when the system used a combination of the RGB and IR cameras to detect my pulse rate just by looking at my face. Not only that, but the system could tell when I was smiling and/or looking away from the screen and tell which of two controllers I was holding, even as I handed one off to the demonstrator (a process the PR rep said worked by “magic”).”
Here’s a video about these new capabilities if you are interested.
Kinect is a motion tracking camera that comes with the new XBox. It is not just a camera though, it also has a range finder built into it so it can know how far away things are. It has three times the resolution than the older model with the XBox 360. This lets it do a whole lot more detection of things. Couple this with always on voice recognition and you have a high tech piece of surveillance gear in your living room aways watching you.
The important take way from this is technology is it is cheap enough and reliable enough to be put into a relatively cheap, mass produced piece of consumer electronics. If it makes it into the living room, then it can be anywhere else too. If you put all of this together, can’t your XBox take your pulse, determine if you are sick and then Google show you ads for doctors? lol I’m joking but the technology now exists to do this.
I think it’s just a matter of time before this technology starts to be applied to education. Imagine teaching a live class online and having the system tell you how excited your students are. How does it know? Because each of the students are having their pulse measured by their game systems. Faster pulse means more excitement. Imagine a student raising their hand and having a notification popup for the teacher on the other end. The video screen would then split to show the student and teacher having a video conversation. This stuff can happen now folks.