Algorithms Get a Human Hand in Steering Web



Trading stocks, targeting ads, steering political campaigns, arranging dates, besting people on “Jeopardy” and even choosing bra sizes: computer algorithms are doing all this work and more.

But increasingly, behind the curtain there is a decidedly retro helper — a human being.

Although algorithms are growing ever more powerful, fast and precise, the computers themselves are literal-minded, and context and nuance often elude them. Capable as these machines are, they are not always up to deciphering the ambiguity of human language and the mystery of reasoning. Yet these days they are being asked to be more humanlike in what they figure out.

“For all their brilliance, computers can be thick as a brick,” said Tom M. Mitchell, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University.

And so, while programming experts still write the step-by-step instructions of computer code, additional people are needed to make more subtle contributions as the work the computers do has become more involved. People evaluate, edit or correct an algorithm’s work. Or they assemble online databases of knowledge and check and verify them — creating, essentially, a crib sheet the computer can call on for a quick answer. Humans can interpret and tweak information in ways that are understandable to both computers and other humans.

Question-answering technologies like Apple’s Siri and I.B.M.’s Watson rely particularly on the emerging machine-man collaboration. Algorithms alone are not enough.

Twitter uses a far-flung army of contract workers, whom it calls judges, to interpret the meaning and context of search terms that suddenly spike in frequency on the service.

For example, when Mitt Romney talked of cutting government money for public broadcasting in a presidential debate last fall and mentioned Big Bird, messages with that phrase surged. Human judges recognized instantly that “Big Bird,” in that context and at that moment, was mainly a political comment, not a reference to “Sesame Street,” and that politics-related messages should pop up when someone searched for “Big Bird.” People can understand such references more accurately and quickly than software can, and their judgments are fed immediately into Twitter’s search algorithm.

“Humans are core to this system,” two Twitter engineers wrote in a blog post in January.

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via The New York Times – 


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Augmented Reality: A Game Changer

Augmented Reality offers both entertainment and real-life experience, and is certainly grabbing attention for augmenting revenue

Augmented Reality (AR) has allowed users to interact virtually with their surroundings by bringing a wealth of collected data to the users’ fingertips.

Defining Augmented Reality

AR is a term used to describe a live view of a physical, real-world environment that is augmented by computer-generated sensory input, such as sound or graphics. A typical AR environment has digital information transposed onto a real-world view. While the technology has been around for years, in aircraft cockpits for instance, smartphones are helping to drive usage, as these high-end mobile devices put the necessary hardware-accelerometers, cameras, compasses, and GPS right in people’s pockets.

 Blurring the Dichotomy

The experts are pulling graphics out of your television screen or computer display and integrating them into real-world environments, as they continue to blur the line between what’s real and what’s computer-generated by enhancing what we see, hear, feel, and smell.

In the recently held Mobile World Congress, Qualcomm showed how users can aim their phone at an ad from Norwegian boot maker Viking, and see different models superimposed over the ad. For its 2011 winter catalogue, Moosejaw, an outerwear retailer, utilized the AR technology to give viewers an ‘X-ray vision’ while looking through the catalogue.

These days the technology is making its presence felt right from toys to magazines, even Heinz Ketchup bottles offer recipes to anyone with a smartphone.

Qualcomm is working with ‘Sesame Street’ on an interactive playset that allows figurines of Bert and Ernie to come to life when captured by a smartphone. A museum in San Diego is using AR to show how magnetism works.

A new report from Juniper Research indicates that AR technology will generate $2 mn in 2012, but will jump to as much as $714 mn annually by 2014. AR mobile marketing revenue will largely be driven by subscription based services, advertising, and AR based app downloads.

Volkswagon utilized AR to target a consumer segment that valued high-performance capabilities. The German auto manufacturer placed AR-interfaced billboards around Toronto and Vancouver, allowing anyone with an iPhone or iPad tablet to view virtual Beetles and their performance and stunts.

The stunts were reminiscent of X Games performances, and the public locations gave the ads a sense of excitement. As one of the most exciting AR mobile marketing efforts to date, the campaign’s launch video generated over 100,000 views in just a few weeks, creating a lot of buzz for the company.

In celebration of the holiday season, and to create generate renewed interest in Starbucks, the coffee shop chain used AR to make images on decorated cups come to life. A free mobile app download, available on both Android and Apple mobile devices, allows consumers to view five different animated shows on five different cups. This promotion was unveiled in Starbucks shops across the country, and it created a lot of excitement in the tech world.

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via Voice & Data

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A Game-Changer for Television? Sesame Street Will Be First Interactive Show

Sesame Street

Image via Wikipedia

The technology itself shows a stunning sophistication in breaking the fourth wall of the viewing experience

Microsoft has paired with the classic children’s show, Sesame Street, to create what they called the first “two-way” television experience.

The Kinect technology that was on display at Microsoft’s opening presentation on Monday night, introducing the first truly interactive television show, can be a game-changer for the content industry.

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