(Originally written on 12/04/18 as part of Hi Mum! Said Dad’s weekly newsletter, H! Lites.)

Dear Reader,

The sun has made an appearance and you’ve got a spring in your step all of a sudden. It goes without saying that there is only one other thing that can make this Friday any better. So, let’s get straight into it.

In this week’s issue, we cover Amazon’s rumoured launch of speakers for cars, why maps apps could be a problem for society, a look at Calm’s AI-inspired fairy tale and the internet’s overwhelming (misplaced?) generosity.

Make the most of the weekend!

Hi Mum! Said Dad

Image source: FactorDaily

Amazon apparently set to launch speaker for cars later this year

Amazon is currently testing Echo speakers that are specifically built for cars as it aims to make in-car infotainment systems redundant. Amazon has previously collaborated with car manufacturers to augment their existing infotainment systems but clearly feel they can bypass manufacturers and really own this aspect of the car UX. As you would expect, the speaker is set to pair with a phone.

The testing has been taking place in India and a few other markets with rumours suggesting that Amazon is aiming for a global rollout later this year.

It’s an interesting move and one wonders whether by moving first in the car market if Amazon will be able to achieve a sizeable penetration advantage just as they did in the smart speaker market (the Echo launched in 2014 vs Google Home in 2016). Even if Google were to follow Amazon and make a similar foray into the market (which should not come as surprise since copying rivals is the name of the game in tech industry), the Alexa platform already has a significant head start. Third party developers have been developing skills on it for a while and therefore from a driver’s perspective, an Alexa car speaker would simply offer more functionality (you can liken this to how the iOS app ecosystem was ahead of Android in the early days of the smartphone revolution).

By Oliver Iyer, Strategist

Image source: Compare.com

Research suggests that maps apps may be coming at a cost to society

Negative Externalities.

This is the term used by economists to refer the negative impacts imposed by one party on unrelated third parties when undertaking a particular activity. The term is typically used in the context of pollution (big corporates maximising profit at the expense of the environment) and drugs/alcohol (the humble taxpayer that foots the NHS bill racked up by individuals who consumes these items in excess). Negative externalities occur because the party in question fails to take the cost they impose on others into account because there is no mechanism in place to incentivise or enforce behaviour that is socially optimal (hello legislation!).

Interestingly, research from the University of California’s Institute of Transportation Studies suggests that what would seem to be rather innocuous map apps such as Google Maps, Apple Maps and Waze are probably imposing a negative externality on the rest of society.

Transportation planners, through the design of roads and signage, have identified the preferred way of getting from A to B. However, map apps encourage people to take the side streets and in the event of an accident, this can amplify congestion on the highway due to the congestion at highway exits, which is a result of people being told to take side streets. It turns out that a few people using route-planning apps is a more optimal outcome (as was the case in the early days) than a lot of people using route-planning apps. It follows that users using such apps don’t gain the time saving benefits they used to as everyone else is engaged in the same behaviour!

By Jeevan Jayaprakash, Strategist

Image source: Gizmodo

Humans and AI — a fruitful partnership?

Calm, the hugely popular meditation app, has created what it claims is the ‘world’s first fairy tale written by AI’ to its paying users.

There is a lot of scaremongering about how AI is going to displace human jobs. It’s fairly obvious why the media advance such sensationalist headlines. However, what gets less attention is the fact that AI and humans can, and do, work together to create novel output.

In this case, Calm worked with Botnik Studios to generate language typical of the Grimm Brothers. This was then pieced together by humans to create a coherent narrative. This technique of using AI to generate content followed by the use of humans to edit the generated content has been around for years in various forms and ironically, journalists are using this very same technique to good effect in newsrooms across the world.

Here is a short excerpt of the fairytale, which is called ‘The Princess and the Fox’:

“Once upon a time, there was a golden horse with a golden saddle and a beautiful purple flower in its hair. The horse would carry the flower to the village where the princess danced for joy at the thought of looking so beautiful and good

“It’s magnificent!’ she said to her father, the king of bread and cheese. ‘Will you give it something to eat and drink if I finally marry the prince?”

By Jeevan Jayaprakash, Strategist

Walmart’s old design (left) vs their new design Image source: Bloomberg

Walmart to redesign website to compete with Amazon’s e-commerce prowess

When it comes to website design, Amazon has focused on standardisation — make everything look as uniform as possible.

Why? Amazon want to be as functional as possible and want to prevent users from being distracted from what they are there to do — buy something as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Walmart, Amazon’s biggest competitor in the US, have just announced that they are revamping their e-commerce website, and in order to stand out, they have decided to go in the opposite direction to Amazon. Walmart are looking to give users a more personalised shopping experience by making each category look like a specialist store.

It’s an interesting strategy and a development that is certainly worth keeping an eye on.

By Oliver Iyer, Strategist

Image source: Business Insider

Funny thing of the week

Elon Musk claims he has been working around the clock to ensure Tesla production can remain on track and as a result, has had to resort to sleeping on the floor of his office.

The Internet has been outraged by this admission and has decided to crowdfund a new couch for the multi-billionaire.

If you are feeling particularly generous today, you can contribute to the crowdfunding of a new couch for Elon here.

By Rob Pisacane, Strategy and Partnerships Lead

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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