3 things direct from the future

16th Edition

Once every 2 weeks I will deliver “3 things direct from the future”. A 2 minute read that will always give you:

  • one thing that can help,
  • one thing to be wary of, and
  • one thing to amaze.

If this sounds interesting to you then please subscribe.


1. One to help

Alexa gets smarter

Alexa gets smarter

I’m a true believer in voice-first technology. I am sure voice will become the primary way we interact with technology in our home and our car. That said, the growth in this area has stalled over the last year. I have been frustrated with the lack of conversational ability and the restriction of the basic question-answer format. This has meant the scope of these smart devices hasn’t expanded much beyond asking the weather or playing some music. Good news though – there has just been a giant leap forward with the (terribly named) “latent goals” approach.

You: “Alexa, how long does it take to boil an egg?”

Alexa: “7 minutes”

Alexa: “Would you like me to set a timer for 7 minutes?”

Using a “deep-learning-based trigger model”, and analysing your previous interactions, Alexa is now able to ask intelligent and intuitive follow up questions. Importantly, Alexa can also determine when no follow-up questions are appropriate. As with all machine learning technology, the more you use it the more accurate it will become.

This new feature, combined with Alexa Conversations (a new way for us tech-nerds to build better conversations), could see these smart speakers make the jump from novelty to usefulness.

2. One to be wary of

Zero-day mayhem

Google has discovered at least seven critical bugs that have been exploited by hackers in the last month. The Chrome browser has had five actively exploited flaws found within the last three weeks. The latest 2 Chrome issues allow a remote attacker to compromise your software.

As software creators we spend a lot of time, money and effort to ensure that the products we release are safe for users. However, bugs can still raise their ugly heads. The term “zero-day-vulnerability” most commonly refers to bugs that are unknown to the public, and to those who should be tasked with fixing them, but known by the hacking community. These are the most concerning type of vulnerabilities in software.

It’s a good idea to enable automatic updates on your software. The benefits usually outweigh the issues. If you do not have automatic updates enabled on your Chrome browser please ensure you have patched to the latest version. At the time of writing it is 87.0.4280.66.

3. One thing to amaze

Beam music to your head


This is my favourite “amaze” I have found since starting this newsletter.

Noveto’s Sound Beamer speaker will play music that only you can hear – without headphones! I was able to trial an early-version of this technology two years ago at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Texas and it was mind-blowing even then.

It looks like an ordinary speaker …

Noveto’s sound beamer speaker

…but when I turn this on, I get to hear the Pixies smashing bass-lines but the kids won’t hear a single thing. I can turn the volume up, and they still won’t hear anything! Still an ordinary speaker? Definitely not.

It tracks your location and sends the sounds, using ultrasonic waves, just outside your ears creating a high quality 3D audio experience. It’s hard to believe but I can attest to the fact that it is pretty special.

I see 2 problems this solves

  1. Headphones are really isolating
  2. I live in my house and never want to listen to One Direction again

If you’d like to be one step closer to the music, why not stream music to your brain instead?

Have a great week.

Daniel J McKinnon

PS – We are on the lookout for an amazing voice-first project to build. If you have a project using voice that will make people happier, healthier, or more productive we are interested in partnering with you. Please drop us a note on support@frontsidefuture.com

Have a great week.

Daniel J McKinnon

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