H! Lites — Issue #018: Seatbelts, Fashionable Algorithms, AI powered surveillance in China and the…
It’s a bleak end of the week for the entire English nation, so here are our insights on the latest in tech to get your mind off football…
Apple and Google have both highlighted ‘digital health’ as one of the main features in their new OS updates — we take a step back and try to analyse exactly why this is.
Furthermore, we look at Artificial Intelligence from two new angles: it’s implications in the fashion industry and how it is used by the Chinese government to keep track of jay walking citizens.
Hi Mum! Said Dad
What do seat belts and ‘shush mode’ have in common?
Car manufacturers in the 1940s introduced seat belts almost two decades before they were even a legal requirement. Why?
Well, they came to understand that safety sells. Consumers believed they were getting greater bang for their buck with this added security feature and so demand for cars with seat belts rose.
This story is pertinent because as you may have heard recently, Apple and Google are baking in features at an OS-level that are designed to help consumers use their phone less, such as an app usage tracker and a colour reduction mode for bedtime, just to name a few. People are more alive than ever to the fact that their smartphone is a menace to productivity, happy relationships and meaningful rest and relaxation. The likes of Google and Apple are happily tapping into this new found awareness to market theirproducts as being safer and possibly also to address the accusation that they engineer their products to maximise addiction.
Both companies believe that this is a move which will benefit them in the long run.
By Jeevan Jayaprakash, Strategist
Are algorithms taking over the jobs of fashion designers?
The rise of automation is seen as threat to blue-collar jobs, while more skilled workers tend to be regarded as off-limits. A great case study is the fashion industry — factory workers are increasingly being replaced by machines (such as this sewing robot) while designers, buyers and merchandise planners pride themselves on having an irreplaceable knack for understanding fashion trends are headed. That is, until now.
Indian e-commerce retailer Myntra have started using AI algorithms to design pieces of clothing that match exactly what shoppers are looking at any moment of time — and their pieces are flying off the shelves. Other retailers such as Stitch Fix and Le Tote have started using AI to arm their buyers (whose job it is anticipate what customers will want) with up-to-date insights on their shoppers. For example, Stitch Fix’s algorithm can even give buyers an estimate of how many of their customers will be starting a new job within the next few months (and therefore will likely be looking to reboot their wardrobes).
Only time will tell whether white-collar workers will suffer the same fate as many blue-collars as the capabilities of AI increase. The big question here is whether AI has the capacity replace highly skilled jobs in fashion, or whether it will just simplify daily tasks of designers and buyers. What is for sure is that fashion won’t be the only sector affected — AI has already started picking stocks and diagnosing cancer.
By Oliver Iyer, Strategist
China is watching
Would you feel safer knowing that the police were equipped with facial recognition glasses, allowing them to identify a drug smuggler in a crowded station? Or that a camera on the street could instantly recognise a murderer while he was buying food from a street vendor? In China, the 200 million cameras fitted with cutting edge AI technology means that Big Brother is always watching.
In the West, technology is used to democratise countries and bring freedom. In China, it is used to establish order and control. To us, cameras are an infringement of our privacy, and yet, is having the ability to distinguish a criminal from an ordinary civilian within a millisecond really such a bad thing?
Control, like anything, can be taken too far. The Shame Game was introduced in Xiangyang to establish control at a busy intersection, where cars drove too fast and too many people risked their lives by jaywalking. Now, photos of lawbreakers are displayed on huge outdoor screens along with their names and government ID numbers. Even if they don’t see it, their neighbours and colleagues certainly do.
Although censorship makes analysing the Chinese public’s reaction difficult, it seems as though people do not share the same AI concerns as those in the West. When asked about the Shame Game measures implemented at Xiangyang, a student who volunteered there as a crosswalk guard replied, “It’s one of the biggest intersections in the city. It’s important that it stays safe and orderly”.
In truth, the facial recognition glasses still have a way to go. For them to work, the target has to stay still for several seconds. Currently, their most common use is to check for fake identification. However, what this does reveal is different ways in which AI is viewed around the globe. Perhaps as practical uses of AI grow, we will see attitudes in the West change but the extent of this remains to be seen.
By Anastasia McLain, Strategist
The hologram’s you’ve seen in Star Wars may be closer than you think
A recent reincarnation of Tupac on the Coachella stage left fans both in awe and rightfully confused. However, this is not the only example of advances being made in hologram technology. The company ‘Hologram USA’ recently recreated a full 45 minute Billie Holiday concert through holograms, which looked incredibly realistic.
The ultimate dream though? Holograms in the palm of your hand. Now that would be something truly special.
By Anastasia McLain, Strategist
Originally written as part of Hi Mum! Said Dad’s weekly newsletter, H! Lites.
H! Lites hits you with a short, sharp, weekly dose of the latest and greatest across tech, business, design and other contemporary issues that we think would be of value to our readers.
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