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Author: Jen Elsie MacGill

Google Home Can Now Recognize More Than One Voice

Google Home Can Now Recognize More Than One Voice

google home and amazon echo

Google Home can now recognize more than one voice.  Which means, anyone in the house can use it to activate the lights.  Not just your Dad.  But why is this important?  Because it’s something that Alexa doesn’t have.  Or at least not yet.  And the bigger reason, as I just mentioned, is that anyone can use it in the house.  But is that really a good thing?  On one hand, it opens up the possibilities for everyone in the house, but on the other hand it means anyone can do anything.  Right?

It is a bit of a double edged sword.  Let’s think about it from the perspective of being able to order things online through these “home” devices.  Having the ability to only recognize one voice means that only one person can order.  And presumably that person is an adult.  So if my twelve year old can now use this home device, can they order on my behalf?  And if the answer is yes, then there is a problem.  But if the answer is no, then we’re ok.  Meaning, there are safe guards in place that are going to stop certain people from being able to use it for these purposes.  On the other hand, can my kids use it to turn on the lights?  I’m hoping, and guessing that there is a way to identify the voice profile and include or exclude certain rights within the system.

Continuing on this idea of making purchases without your consent.  … Read the rest

MasterCard to Add Fingerprint Authentication for Purchases

MasterCard to Add Fingerprint Authentication for Purchases

credit card

The future of biometrics. has arrived!  I wrote a post about facial recognition and its use by airport security.  And another post about Alabama asking it’s citizens to submit their taxes via selfie.  Well, now MasterCard wants you to verify your identity using your fingerprint. But not just your fingerprint.  They are also wanting you to put your PIN number in as well.  Which makes some sense, as a two step authentication process.  But to me, it seems a bit much.  Doesn’t it?  In all of these scenarios, we are giving a part of ourselves to an organization.  Whether it’s a corporation like MasterCard, or the IRS.  We are giving out our personal data in ways that we never have before.

I don’t really like the idea of this.  For many reasons, but let me start with the fingerprint recognition feature on my phone.  If my finger is wet, or if I’m sweating, then my fingerprint doesn’t get recognized.  Ok, you’re probably saying make sure your hands are dry.  No problem.  But because the button is so small, and apparently my finger is huge, it’s still doesn’t always get recognized. It’s one tiny part of my actual fingerprint.  Not the entire thing. This is extremely frustrating for me and I’m just trying to get into my phone.  Imagine what could happen if you’re trying to make a purchase and it doesn’t work?

I like the idea of the two step authentication process, but what happens if it doesn’t work?  … Read the rest

Google Earth Updates Include 3D Panoramas and Virtual Tours

Google Earth Updates Include 3D Panoramas and Virtual Tours

google earth

Google Earth has introduced an update with the ability to view spaces in 3D.  But not just 3D, it also allows you to pan around the space itself.  Imagine being able to see some of the great wonders of the world without having to leave your house. Google is giving people access to experiences that they might not otherwise be able to have.  Which is incredible, isn’t it?  This is also an amazing learning tool for children.  Geography was always one of the courses that I excelled in during my high school days.  Imagine what I could have done with this kind of tool!

But let’s look at the system itself before getting into it’s pros and cons.  Google Earth is getting rid of the desktop version, and now running it as a web-only application.  Making it easier for people to use.  No longer having to download the cumbersome application onto your desktop.  But what the update actually offers is guided tours and 3D viewing.  Which lets you experience the world in real time.

An interesting additional feature that is available is the ability to look at some places as seen through Planet Earth.  Including commentary from David Attenborough himself. This honestly blows my mind. I’m a huge fan of the Planet Earth series so this is right up my alley. But will this feature bring more users to the platform? I’d like to think so. Or at least maybe people like myself.… Read the rest

Big Brother is Watching: Trump Fast Tracks Facial Recognition at Some Airports

Big Brother is Watching: Trump Fast Tracks Facial Recognition at Some Airports

facial recognition

Big brother is watching, and has been for a while.  Well, kind of.  Since late last year, the United States Customs and Border Patrol has been performing facial recognition scans at some airports.  Specifically of people leaving the country.  On one hand this could be seen as a good security measure.  A way to identify the “bad guys”, so everyone else can get on a plane without any issues.  But on the other hand, is this just the beginning of big brother?  (Note that I am referring to George Orwell’s 1984, and not the reality show.)

CBP is saying that this will benefit travelers.  Presumably by not holding up the process any further.  But they also said that it’s upholding a Congressional mandate that was instituted in 1996.  So why haven’t we seen more of this until now?  Did the technology simply not exist?  Or were there other ways of obtaining this information? There are two other really interesting points to make here.  1)  The facial recognition is only going to be used on non-U.S. citizens and 2) It’s only applied when you’re leaving the country!  Does anyone else not see an issue with this?

The system is explained that if your face doesn’t match an image for someone coming into the country, then they presume you entered illegally.  But is that always the case?  There have been several times that I drove somewhere in the United States with my father, only to fly home.  … Read the rest

New Government Database Will Let You Know Where Your Tax Dollars are Going

New Government Database Will Let You Know Where Your Tax Dollars are Going

computer data

It’s a bit surprising to me, but maybe it shouldn’t be, that there aren’t more rules around openness and transparency in the U.S. Government.  Again, I probably shouldn’t be surprised, but I am.  In Canada, and specifically, Ontario there are a ton of rules around accountability and transparency.  Meaning, the Government needs to be open with its citizens about its plans.  Which includes information such as budgets, policies around accountability and transparency for elected officials and high profile decisions.  So maybe it’s just that I live in a world where this is already a reality.  But it feels like second nature at this point.  Something that many of us expect from our governments.

That being said, Steve Ballmer (formerly of Microsoft) has built a database to showcase government spending.  What’s neat about this database, is that it “is an open, searchable database that tracks where almost all of your federal, state and local tax dollars are spent”, according to Engadget.  Which leaves the Canadian model in the dust, in my opinion.  Or at least in terms of its location.  One searchable database, in my opinion is key here.  Not necessarily having to go to different website locations just to find the information you’re looking for.

Ballmer’s idea isn’t necessarily moving towards the idea of “open government” like we see in Canada, but rather, bringing a business-like approach to the public sector.  Which is an extremely conservative way of thinking.  The idea being smaller government, and more public-private partnerships.  … Read the rest

Here’s What Facebook Unveiled During Yesterday’s F8 Conference

Here’s What Facebook Unveiled During Yesterday’s F8 Conference

 

facebook f8 keynote

There was a lot of information shared at the Facebook F8 Conference yesterday.  And I mean a lot.  It felt like Zuckerberg and his friends were just dropping bombs of information.  First though, let’s talk about the Augmented Reality feature that he has brought to Facebook.  According to Zuckerberg, sharing images and videos with our friends and family has become more central than texting.  So they’ve enhanced what you can do with your camera.

First up, adding basic effects.  Which sounds similar to other platforms we have seen, but what is interesting and unique about this is that you can add effects that are relevant to your current location.  On one hand this is really cool.  But on the other hand – how important are these effects to you?  And does it really matter what your location is?  Another feature will allow you to essentially add “stickers” to your image.  But unlike any other platform, the stickers appear in 3D and can be animated if you want.  Further to that, you can take a 2D image and add 3D depth to it.  The example that Zuckerberg uses is taking an image with a couple of chairs and filling the room with skittles.  It is actually kind of neat, but is a bit Photoshop-y in my opinion.

That being said, it is much easier to achieve than if you were to use Photoshop.  Taking far less time and effort to achieve the same result.  … Read the rest

Will the Hotel Industry Have Success in Their Plan to Take Down Airbnb?

Will the Hotel Industry Have Success in Their Plan to Take Down Airbnb?

Airbnb logo

The hotel industry has had enough of Airbnb.  They accuse Airbnb of undercutting their profits by offering stays at a lower rate.  And maybe that isn’t fair, but I would argue that hotels charge far more exorbitant rates than are necessary.  The American Hotel and Lodging Association has a plan to take down Airbnb, recognizing it as a threat.  the AHLA represents over $1.1 trillion from the hotel industry.  Essentially what they are doing is lobbying the powers that be to bring down Airbnb.  And not necessarily because they’re doing anything wrong.  Or at least that’s my view on it.  Airbnb, in my opinion, is an alternative option to staying in a hotel.  In some cases, it is not always the better option.  Sometimes it is worth the money to stay in a hotel, but I think that we need these options.  But the AHLA is claiming that Airbnb is changing the housing market and driving up the price of houses.  But is it?

I would argue that there are other factors that are driving up the cost of buying a house.  And what Airbnb does is allow someone to rent out their house for a short period of time in order to make some extra cash.  But I don’t think that the two are as closely correlated as the AHLA would have you believe.  Further, why are there not more options for short term accommodations?  If you’re going somewhere for a week, sometimes renting a house is a better option when it comes to cost.  … Read the rest