Speaking of Pepper, he has a really interesting job. At the Smithsonian American Art Museum, a modified Pepper, which was developed by SoftBank Robotics, reads emotions from people's faces and displays corresponding images. But the robot can do far more. His light sensors detect colors, which are sequenced into data and then connected to a series of synthesizers, which create a kind of "ambient music" – essentially translating image to sound, a bit like the synesthesia of French poets Baudelaire, Verlaine, and Rimbaud (Rimbaud's sonnet "Vowels" describes "green U": "cycles, divine vibrations of greening seas, peace of pastures sprinkled with animals"). For the visually impaired, Pepper turns art into music. (Fast Company)
Bees are in trouble. If you're allergic to bee stings (or just nervous about them), you might think that's good news, but it's not. Bees do vital work: they pollinate flowers, plants for livestock feed, and food crops. And of course they make honey. But with climate change and its attendant problems, bees are severely at risk. A scientist at Harvard University is now tagging bees with QR codes and tracking them with robotic cameras, the better to see how they bee-have (sorry), particularly under the influence of certain common insecticides, so measures can be taken to help bees do their job. Sweet! (Wired)
What to think when Amazon's Alexa wishes you "Sweet dreams"? How intelligent is artificial intelligence, and what kind of relationship should we have with these digital assistants? Apparently in three years, they will be as numerous as human beings, multiplying faster than mobile phones. The devices define connectivity: Alexa works with over 20,000 different devices. Parents use them to entertain children – in part to reduce the kids' exposure to screens. What makes these devices unique is that we interact with them not through keyboards or touch screens but through conversation – the way we interact with, well, other human beings. But devices listen better than spouses, and with access to search engines, they know just about anything knowable. So once we start connecting with them, where are the borders between man and machine? A thought-provoking article from The Atlantic.
Every now and again, we find travel videos that are truly mesmerizing. This is one: Joshua Cowan's 3.5 minutes among the tribes of Indonesia. The landscapes of sea, waterfalls, mountains, rice paddies, and volcanoes – and the human faces and narration – show sides of Indonesia that are truly another world. "I know that my country will be beautiful," says the narrator. And it is. (Vimeo)
As the saying goes, all roads lead to Rome, and in fact, it's still surprisingly true. Two designers and a digital cartographer designed an algorithm to look at a 26 million square kilometer (10 million square mile) map of Europe to design a beautiful map that looks like river tributaries or the veins in a gossamer leaf. And, even better, you can click on it and zoom in closer and closer. All in all, there are almost 500,000 ways to get there. (Open Culture)
National Geographic is famous for its photography, of course. They have a photographic community called "Your Shot" whose members have submitted some astonishing photos of life underwater – places that most of us will never visit. Take a look on a big screen to see images from Austria, Hawaii, South Africa (a school of sardines), Spain (a very grumpy green turtle), Florida (a peacock bass and its thousands of tiny offspring), Indonesia (an orange and white false anemonefish), Tonga (humpback whales), and more. You'll want to sign up for a SCUBA course!
Many employee surveys reveal only the tip of the iceberg. But asking the right questions can help managers learn a lot more. Asking what people are afraid of, whether there are areas outside their current role where they could contribute, who's done great but unnoticed work - and six more questions - can all give important, unexpected insights. Learn more about Know your Company from SignalvNoise.
Being profitable is not the only goal companies pursue, but it is arguably the most important. Yet this HBR article argues that Internet companies should put off being profitable "for as long as they can." Why? Because unlike traditional economics, which dictate that scarcity determines value, the Internet economy is one in which size and scale create value. Following this logic, Internet companies can actually increase their worth not by turning a profit early, but by building their features and providing more to more people. Would your stakeholders agree?
The sharing economy, a massive increase in the amount of data available, and Big Analytics are networking the world. These three factors are changing business and behavior. Regulators often try to address these changes, and business often perceives regulation as a threat. This article from Knowledge@Wharton, however, suggests that actually regulation and business can work together to mutual benefit.
Yes, you can become more creative, and there are programs that can help. But it depends on your personality type. Extraverts benefit from programs that help them generate ideas, since they benefit from stimulus. Introverts, on the other hand, need to learn to relax if they want to create. Much like the evolution of personalized medicine, we are learning that in learning and development, too, there are different strokes that work better for different folks. More in Scientific American.
Why is Internet data so important? Because it predicts behavior. If companies (and governments . . . ) know what you're clicking about, they gain real insights into who you are, what you're thinking about, and what you're likely to do. People "tell Google things they may not tell anyone else," notes Knowledge@Wharton in this very interesting, slightly disturbing review of a new book by a former Google researcher: Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us about Who We Really Are.
Lots of famous people wake up early and have super productive days. Most of us, however, are all too friendly with the snooze button. This practical article from Medium reviews four key elements of becoming an early riser (goals and mindset; evening routine; sleep quality; and morning routine), from a very behavioristic perspective. Try it, and maybe you'll be awake and ready when Tim Cook starts sending his emails at 4:30 AM!