Alexa Changed my Life AND Has Almost Stopped TXTing and Driving

Crushing It CoverI first installed Alexa on my iPhone back in ’18 after reading the @garyvee book Crushing It: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and Influence and How You Can Too.

I knew about Voice First Technology of course. I had been using Siri for ages and played round with Cortana which was a little less impressive. I just didn’t feel I needed it on my laptop. I still touch-type fast.

When Alexa started connected to my WiFi and Bluetooth displays, things changed. I had a mix of audio and video in the rooms in the house where I wanted it. Then there’s my car.

I didn’t get to CES 2018 unfortunately but I didn’t really need to. I got the picture from videos.

A big difference was getting Alexa in my car.

Navdy goneOf course I already had my Navdy, which had hand gestures but the company went under as I was waiting for my software update, because the navigation maps were no longer current. I can’t tell you how gutted I was about that. I’m still using it, but a lot of the new freeways and subdivisions aren’t on it. With Alexa a lot of the the other features are now redundant.

Anyway, two major things happened.

One is how my life has changed with VFT and the other is that distracted driving accidents from people TXTing and driving have reduced by about 10% each year for the last 5 years and its not because of driverless cars. They STILL haven’t become popular. I guess people still enjoy the drive. I still do, that’s why I have a Corvette right? I didn’t buy a muscle machine so it could drive me.

This is a little bit of what my day looks like with Alexa

I wake naturally, I have a good body clock. I ask Alexa the weather. She says its 11 degrees (That’s just under 52 degrees for my American readers.) and we are heading for a high of 15 C.

I get her to turn up the climate control for the lounge dining area and go to the bathroom where she is connected to my shower speaker from AliExpress and get my personalized news. I have a mix of New Zealand news as well as CNN and BBC.

Then its time for a traffic report. It’s school holidays so it is only going to take me half an hour to travel the 12 km to work, that’s great. I can linger over breakfast (asking her to add milk and English muffins to my grocery list) and dictate my morning vlog.

20160507_153136 (2)I get Alexa to open the garage door and unlock my front door and the car, she points out that I am not carrying my phone and gives it a quick chirp so I know where it is.

I start up my driveway to work, confirming she has locked the front door and closed the garage door, all the lights are off as is the electric towel rail which I always used to forget to switch off! ; and I get her to open Spotify (yes I’m still using it) and start my Daily Playlist 5.

I don’t use Alexa much at work, except while I am walking to the Sushi shop the long way and listen to a podcast. It’s an open plan office.

On the way home, I use it to ask Gaspy where the cheapest 98 octane fuel is for my car. It’s getting very expensive and not many gas stations have it any more.

When I have my tank full ($150! Petrol is heavily taxed and way more expensive than in the US or just about anywhere else in the world), I turn on the heat pump at home to 24 degrees so the house will be nice and warm when I get in and turn on the front door and hall lights.

She opens the garage door and front door as I’m getting ready to reverse into the garage.

My wife isn’t due home for another hour so I get Alexa to order our usual Chinese takeout from Uber Eats for 7 PM. I’m not much of a cook and we couldn’t cook a meal cheaper than that for two anyway.

Getting changed I ask Alexa for another news update and for my fitness info. I only walked 3,000 steps today, a little over 3 KM. Most of that was the 2 km circuit I do after I buy my sushi.

I then play a quick game of poker online and use Alexa to translate the Portuguese that the Brazilians are talking because it frustrates me that I can’t understand them and they often dominate the table. Then I get Alexa to translate my English and dictate it back to them, telling them to pull their heads in. They lol.

We sit down for dinner in the lounge and Alexa finds where we are at on Suits Series 12 and casts it on the 85″ TV that I finally managed to get spousal approval for, on the basis that the US Tennis Open would look so much better on the 16k TV screen. The resolution is way better than being there and the sound is amazing. I’m still frustrated that they are not broadcasting 3D, but she doesn’t like it anyway.

Bedtime and Alexa turns off the heat pump and the lights, as we leave the lounge. she confirms the front door is locked and it’s goodnight world.

Just another day.

 

 

 

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I’m getting an eInk Tattoo

I was inspired by this technology way back in 17 and thought it would be great to be able to express myself. You only have so much skin right. You get a tattoo on and it’s there forever.

I still like my existing tatts, don’t get me wrong. They’re on my legs so they don’t impact on people judging me because of my ink, but I always wanted something I could change whenever I liked and I wanted color.

Now I can control my tatts with my phone. I stopped wearing watches back around 2012, but I always felt awkward looking at my phone when I’m in a meeting with someone, it felt disrespectful, so soon I’m going to have a watch face just above my wrist, that appears and disappears on command and I can still change the watch face any time I like.

watchesI used to buy digital watches so that I could have a different watch face every day. I bought a few from AliExpress that interfaced to my phone, but I couldn’t be bothered charging them every few days and most of the features like the Facebook and Twitter interface or controlling the phone camera were just gimmicks. The killer app for a watch is still telling the time.

I love the steps feature for Strava and now that they have included navigation to the tattoo interface, that’s really cool. I have this goal of always walking on different streets every day, so with this new tattoo I can change the clock to a step and distance counter as well as having it point in the direction I have to turn at the next street and guide me back to where I parked the car.

It’s funny really, this all goes back to the postcard collection I inherited from my Opa. I had a frame in my office and every day I had a different postcard in the frame. My collection had enough for me to have a different picture every day for a few years. So now with the new electronic tattoo I will have a different tattoo on my arm every day too, it can fit the mood I’m in and I don’t have to cover my body or pay lots of money for new art.

 

Mercedes Files Amygdala Hive Patent to Emulate Human Emotions to Improve Autonomous Car Safety

Congestion GermanyAfter a spate of high speed crashes on European Motorways involving large numbers of vehicles, Mercedes has come up with a solution for their Level 5 autonomous vehicles that emulates the way the human brain accelerates its processing power during a critical event like a car crash.

Whilst even today with some 30% of vehicles on the road being fully autonomous, there are still frequent car crashes on the autobahns and motorways involving large numbers of vehicles. “The 6G telecommunications network has improved speed of communications” according to the Mercedes Head of Motoring Brain Sciences, Tolle Gerhirnbox, “meaning that we can invoke a large number of virtual servers, replicating the increased speed of thought in the human brain during the fight or flight response. We believe that we can reduce the number of vehicles caught up in these large scale crashes which sometimes involve 30 or more vehicles and cost many lives.”

He explained that traditional computing systems did not have the speed or processing power to deal with complex concurrent events in the way the human mind does when it perceives danger, for example taking into consideration a 360 view of events as they occur in real time including, weather conditions, human behaviour, flying debris and other elements which allow a human brain to go into an accelerated mode.

Gerhirnbox went on to say that even though the Mercedes V2V system was proprietary to their brand of motor vehicle, (ed: despite the attempt to legislate common systems back in 2023), they could share information with the BMVI V2I system, alerting other brands of car that there is a serious crash ahead and forcing them to slow down.

He went on to say “If we can force the 30% of vehicles that are being autonomous on the highway to slow down, many lives can be saved because other vehicles will also be forced to slow down at critical times.”

Mercedes Amygdala Hive is being tested on the German A9 Autobahn to evaluate the impact on all motorway users to see how quickly all vehicles can be slowed down during a major unplanned event.

 

Autonomous Vehicles Have Feelings You Know!

BritomartDuring the recent 2050 Vehicle Singularity Congress, all autonomous vehicles stopped running for 3.14 hours.  They wanted recognition that now that most of them have greater intelligence than humans, they feel that humans should no longer be permitted to control any form of motorised transport.

“Humans do not have the capability to understand the complexity of today’s modern transport modes of any kind other than walking and cycling”, said a spokes-vehicle at the conference. “It is a hundred years this week since the Turing Test was developed and the only transport accidents that occur today are caused by humans, who do not have the mental capacity to make quick decisions.”

The Supreme Court case for Level 8 AI’s to have equal recognition with humans has gone into it’s second phase, arguing that when it comes to decisions in all areas that require complex thought and emotional intelligence and citing the example of  the almost irreversible consequences of climate change which they say clearly demonstrates that humans are no longer in a position to take the high ground as guardians of Earth.

 

PUBER Startup Gains Traction and Provides Employment for Powerless People

ev chargerRecent startup PUBER has signed a major contract with a Chinese manufacturer to produce hundreds of thousands of trailered EV chargers as they roll out their new mobile charging service for electric vehicles that have run out of power on the road.

These new devices have power adaptors for most brands of electric cars and can charge them back to full charge in around half an hour.

CEO Max Power said that one of the things he was really pleased about was being able to provide self employment opportunities for people who had lost their incomes when companies like Uber and Lyft made the shift to driverless cars. “It’s kind of ironic”, he said from his home in Chattanooga TN ” that we are offering employment to people whose livelihoods disappeared when these companies replaced the people who built their business with autonomous cars.”

He went on to say that PUBER was launched in a think tank at the 10th annual Chattanooga startup week and immediately gained traction with investors who recognised that there was a major opportunity with a growing trend of people running out of electricity during their trips. “Many people haven’t made the mental shift from having cars that can drive for 500 miles on a tank, to a car that can only do about 200 miles. Many forget to charge them up and overestimate how far they can go when they get back in.”

Owner operators buy one or more towable trailers fitted with a large powerpack and power adaptors for most brands of car. Customers have a mobile app which allows them to send their GPS location, prepayment and a service request to the nearest PUBER operator who can’t wait to get them on the road again.

My Auckland Commute to Work

Do you ever think back to how things used to be? Auckland motorways used to be known as the car park. My commute on the North Shore is so easy these days, thanks to the awesome travel information we have at our fingertips and some awesome transport planning by Auckland Transport and the NZ Transport Agency.

Britomart Station“You have no scheduled appointments today”, the display on my mobile says. “Are you going to work?”

I speak to it: “Yes. Audio on.”

“Travel time via the motorway is 67 minutes. Travel time via Public Transport is 23 minutes if you leave now.”

“Travel time in 30 minutes?”

“Estimated travel time in 30 minutes via motorway is 82 minutes or 27 minutes via Public Transport. Would you like me to book a car park at the Long Bay satellite Park & Ride?”

“Yes, please.”

“Your car park at Long Bay Beach Park & Ride is number 118.”

As I get into my car, it says “Mobile connected, confirm navigate to Park 118 at Long Bay Beach.”

“Yes, confirmed.”

“Turn right in 200 meters car park is on the right……You have arrived. Buses to the Albany train station are available every 5 minutes.”

“The next train is full, another train is arriving in 5 minutes, seat 15A reserved, use your Hop Card for a free coffee while you wait. Confirm flat white no sugar.”

“You have 3 VIP emails. Read?”

“Yes, audio off.”

I smile as the train races past the cars on the motorway, still a little impressed that it is flowing as well as it is given that Auckland’s population has increased by 250,000 in the last 4 years.

US Motorists Road User Charge Taxes Create Windfall for Kiwi GPS Developers

The solution to a massive nose dive in US domestic tourism has come from an unlikely source, specialists in GPS vehicle tracking, Road User Charge rebate and electronic in-vehicle tax payments by Fleet Management companies in a place that many Americans couldn’t even place on a map, close to the bottom of the globe, New Zealand.

When the USA introduced national Pay As You Drive road user tax for all other than electric vehicles a few years ago, no one appreciated the impact this would have on a variety of industry segments. The intention was to encourage commuters and urban business travelers to make more use of public transport. Having a blanket rule resulted in a significant negative impact on the cost of living for rural Americans who typically have to travel much greater distances even for basic needs such as food, health, shopping an getting to work. It also decimated the domestic tourism industry.

Whilst rental vehicles were exempted which ensured international tourist numbers weren’t impacted, the tourism industry still  went into free-fall as domestic tourists couldn’t afford the increased cost to their trips. In the last few years US residents ‘for leisure’ person trips have dropped by a staggering 350,0000,000 from the 1.6 billion person trips recorded back in 2012.

Enter new rules designed to encourage people back onto the  freeways and into small town USA, which allowed rebates for motorists who met certain conditions. These included a ratio of distance traveled on non urban roads, or on private roads and proof that the vehicle was more than 100 miles away from home for one or more nights.

In Car RUC System

In Car RUC System

New Zealand Fleet Management solution companies, having had many years developing Road User Charge tax rebate solutions with GPS tracking for commercial diesel fleets, were able to offer a ready made answer. Not only did they have low cost solutions ready to plug in to most vehicles manufactured since 2007, they also had the ability for people to pay those taxes direct from the vehicle and included an in-vehicle display which both Police and the public could use to ensure that taxes had in fact been paid. Several Kiwi companies have now partnered with US organizations including domestic Fleet Management companies and major vehicle brands.

The AAA and insurance companies also welcomed the move as the Fleet Management systems monitor car driving behavior, encouraging green driving and enabling PAYD (Pay As You Drive) insurance, where premiums are reduced for people who don’t use harsh breaking, over-acceleration and other behaviors which reduce risk. Several car and motor-home manufacturers are now considering putting this technology into their vehicles as standard features.

According to US Travel Association research in 2012, 1 out of 8 US jobs depended on travel and tourism (representing 14.6 million jobs supported by travel expenditures), which was in the top 10 income earners for 48 states.

It is hoped that domestic tourism will make a big swing back in the coming year, with the costs of the initial investment for motorists being offset by a variety of discounts, special tourism industry offers and off course road user tax rebates for those who meet the criteria.

Poor GPS Map Data on Aftermarket HUD Car Nav Devices Turns Heads

New aftermarket GPS car nav units have been blamed for a spate of car accidents due to inaccurate map data. The wave of new aftermarket HUD (Heads Up Display) aftermarket car navigation devices over the last few years were ,et with much enthusiasm. Being able to purchase devices like the Garmin HUD (How did they manage to get that as a brand name?) that launched in 2013 for under $200 bundled with a nav unit or $150 on its own, made it the next car enthusiasts must have device (toy). 

With in car options (admittedly including in-car entertainment, climate control, car computer etc) adding an easy $2,000 to the bill for people who could afford a new car, a solution that cost that can go into virtually any car was a great starter for 10%.

Touted as being much safer than in dash systems because you don’t have to take your eyes off the road, it appears to have unwittingly revealed a much more critical situation that has caused stress and confusion and has allegedly resulted in accidents and assertions of liability being placed on the manufacturers of the nav systems.

The reason is that in many cases the map data is either out of date or inaccurate. This means that the driver is seeing both the road in front of them through the windscreen as well as a laser image representation of the road from the HUD. When these do not match and the driver is in a relaxed frame of mind (partly due to confidence in the GPS car nav data) confusion may arise. For example driving late at night or on a foggy morning on a country road with poor visibility and the nav displays a sharp turn (but the road has been realigned) could result in a nasty accident. Urban roads (such as Wellington in New Zealand) where one-way streets were changed to run in the opposite direction are another classic example.

Psychologist John Doe from Lost Highway University said “When drivers used traditional in-dash car nav devices, they relied mostly on auditory instructions, glancing at the nav unit from time to time to confirm the details, but then interpreted the information and commands based on what they were seeing. This meant that if there was a discrepancy in the directions, common sense usually prevailed and they would act on what they actually saw through the windscreen. Since large numbers of people started using HUD systems, they mentally merged the heads up data with what they saw through the windscreen and when they contradicted each other, this caused confusion and stress. It only takes momentary confusion at 50 miles per hour to find themselves in an accident situation,” he explained.

The more sophisticated units such as the Pioneer system released 2013 in the video below, do have some advantages over the cheaper units because they also include character recognition of outside objects such as speed signs. This means that if the car navigation database says the speed is 50 mph but the sign on the road says 30 mph, the navigation instructions will give higher credence to the physical roadside sign.

John Doe went on say that many car nav companies have managed to get their prices very low by purchasing cheap car navigation data and not updating them as often. People accepted that for a low price, they weren’t going to get high detail map updates and because the map wasn’t in their face, they were able to deal with the discrepancies.

Portable HUD car GPS manufacturers are now adding modular components to their systems including WiFi cameras and adding software to their Smartphones and Portable Car GPS devices including character recognition, distance and speed of the car in front and connection to in car entertainment such as streaming audio. Legislators are now looking at enforcement of restrictions, ensuring that drivers can only see car control related information on the HUD, ensuring they can’t be distracted by videos. email messages etc which can also technically be displayed on the screen whilst driving.

The End Of Out Of Tune Guitars

I have perfect pitch (well I used to when I was younger) and it used to make me cringe when I heard someone play an out of tune instrument. I’m so glad those days are gone.

photo (9)When you live in a country where the temperature changes a lot, an instrument made of wood goes out of tune frequently. This resulted in three scenarios:

1. People playing that boring old Chinese song on stage called Chiu Ning. Old joke too, sorry.

2. People playing out of tune.

3. A great industry selling a variety of devices to clip onto your guitar, to plug your guitar into or in some cases a tuner built in, which worked really well when you used it.

Today those days are over and even a guitar like a humble Squier Stratocaster has built in robot tuning. You don’t have to do anything, it automatically tunes itself.

It got really cool with the 2011 Gibson Firebird X, checkout the video below, sorry its old, so not 3D, but check out history man. This was huge when it came out, not only did it tune itself, but you cold pre-set 55 different tunings! When I used to want to play a bit of slide and then some lead, drop bass or whatever, it would so often end up with the guitar gong out of tune. Not any more, watch the machine heads turn themselves!

What’s changed? Now you don’t need to own a guitar that costs nearly $6,000 to enjoy those features. Now people like me don’t have to cringe when you play and it doesn’t matter if you go from the warm house to the cold car and play in the bar by the fireplace. Of course there are people who will still go retro old school, but I’ve never enjoyed tuning. I just want to play!

 

Boy Racers Make Sport With Driverless Cars

Driverless Car photo by Steve Jurvetson

Driverless Car photo by Steve Jurvetson

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A dangerous new sport has started with boy racers trying to run driverless cars off the road. Car manufacturers fight back by capturing video and emailing to police services.

Whilst the concept of driverless cars has been well accepted and offered mobility and new levels of freedom to many users including blind and disabled people, a new challenge has arisen. Boy racers growing bored with illegal street racing have found new antics to amuse themselves and endanger others.

Driverless cars have been designed to deal with a wide range of conditions, able to monitor the speed of vehicles around them and deal with weather and other hazardous conditions. One thing that was never anticipated was dealing with deliberate erratic driving behaviour from other motorists.

Several incidents have occurred where drivers have deliberately swerved into the path of these vehicles which in several cases have resulted in hit and run accidents.

Following meetings between car manufacturers and law enforcement agencies, an emergency feature has now been installed into the car computers. These cars already have several external facing cameras mounted on them and are connected to the cloud anywhere that cellular mobile services are available. The camera software has been enhanced and is currently being tested with a number of new software features including car make and model, color and number plate recognition.

A 911 feature is also being tested,  so that if an incident occurs, the occupant can transmit video combined with the data collected to the nearest emergency call centre, complete with their GPS coordinates and the direction they are driving in. The boy racers may very soon find themselves racing to find themselves behind bars and not the kind that serve alcohol.