The temperature has dropped and the debate on whether to turn on the heating at Gloo HQ has started. But despite the frostbite, we still managed some heated discussions on smart devices, their benefits and just exactly what is the best way to describe women in our copy.

Male or female words

What words would you expect to be used most often to describe women in literature? “Strong”, “fearless”, “fierce”? Nope. Machine Learning has analysed 3.5 million books to find the adjectives most used to describe both women and men. The result concluded that positive words used to describe women often relate to their physical appearance, with words like “beautiful” and “sexy” the most common. Whereas men are described by their characteristics, things like “brave” and “righteous”.

Stories like this always spark a discussion at Gloo HQ, and this one soon led to one of our favourite subjects: bias in artificial intelligence (AI). AI systems are being fed data like this to learn how to understand and mimic the human language. Systems are being created that can write articles, even full novels, and they’re being trained using content that already exists. If all they have to go on is biased, stereotypical content then we’re going to see more of this content created in the future. AI is only as good as the data you put inwe need to be mindful of what we’re teaching it. 

Warning: IoT may be harmful

We read a lot of stories about the Internet of Things (IoT), but the headline of this one really caught our eye: IoT devices could be asbestos of the future. It’s a bold statement, and one that we’re not sure we completely agree with. The argument in the article is simpleasbestos was once thought to be a miracle product and was widely used in construction. Only later did we learn that it causes cancer. The same could be happening with IoT devicesnot that they cause cancer, but that they’re not as great as we’re made to believe.

Yes, we’ll agree that there are certain problems with IoT devicesparticularly around securitybut is this enough to outweigh the benefits they’re bringing? Security problems can be overcome, bugs can be fixed, and the general public can learn how to protect their own devices better. Our blog is full of plenty of useful advice to help with that one. It’s unlikely that we’re going to see IoT devices being ripped out and replaced in the same way asbestos is being removed from buildings, but we should take heed of the warningnow is the time to start taking security more seriously.

Deepfakes for good?

We’ve written a lot about deepfakes and the problems they’re creating, so it’s refreshing to see a slightly different take on the story. Rather than being used to add people that don’t belong into footageporn is still the number one use of deepfakesthe technology could be used to anonymise those already in the footage.

With this technique, people’s faces will be blurred, but they won’t lose the ability to express themselves. Using AI, the key elements of the subject’s facial expressions can be mapped onto someone else; allowing them the ability to convey the same message, without having to reveal their true identity. Currently, the use of the technology is still in the experimental phase, and it’s unlikely we’ll see it being used any time soon. But it does demonstrate that for every illicit use of a new technology there’s someone trying to create something good. 

The not-so-smart kitchen

Nowadays it seems like there’s an app for everything. Amazon hasn’t been shy about its desire to integrate Alexa into every part of our lives and our homes with its recent announcement in the realm of wearables. Among other things, it announced a pair of connected glasses and a ring that allows you to ask Alexa questions on the go. But how useful are these devices? Just because something can be smart, and can be connected to our phones, doesn’t necessarily mean it should be.

One room that manufacturers haven’t quite managed to conquer is the kitchenAmazon’s Alexa connected microwave is one device that hasn’t seen the success it was hoping. So, what’s the problem? Wired argues it’s not because the devices aren’t useful, but because they cause too much friction between us and the action we’re trying to perform. And not only that, there isn’t enough information provided on how to use the device correctly. For kitchen gadgets that’s things like recipe books that teach users how to use the device efficiently, and in a way that fits into their everyday lives. Without these books, users are just chucking ingredients in and hoping for the best.

As content marketers, that got us thinking, what other devices could be improved with better content? Could Amazon’s Echo Loop be the next must have gadget if it was accompanied by a user manual with not only instructions, but stories of tried and tested use cases and activities to pursue?

Posted by Katie on 15 October 2019