Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘microsoft’ Category

Common Sense AI

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Microsoft announced that it is acquiring conversational AI and bot development software vendor XOXCO, Inc., an Austin-based firm, for an undisclosed amount.

According to a report from ZDNet, XOXCO was founded in 2008, and has been working on conversational AI since 2013.

One of its products, Howdy.ai, has been described as one of the first commercially available bots for Slack that helps schedule meetings.

Though it may be great for scheduling meetings, a new article in WIRED suggests that artificial intelligence and deep learning could stand to gain some common sense:

Deep learning is the reigning monarch of AI. In the six years since it exploded into the mainstream, it has become the dominant way to help machines sense and perceive the world around them. It powers Alexa’s speech recognition, Waymo’s self-driving cars, and Google’s on-the-fly translations. Uber is in some respects a giant optimization problem, using machine learning to figure out where riders will need cars. Baidu, the Chinese tech giant, has more than 2,000 engineers cranking away on neural net AI. For years, it seemed as though deep learning would only keep getting better, leading inexorably to a machine with the fluid, supple intelligence of a person.

But some heretics argue that deep learning is hitting a wall. They say that, on its own, it’ll never produce generalized intelligence, because truly humanlike intelligence isn’t just pattern recognition. We need to start figuring out how to imbue AI with everyday common sense, the stuff of human smarts. If we don’t, they warn, we’ll keep bumping up against the limits of deep learning, like visual-recognition systems that can be easily fooled by changing a few inputs, making a deep-learning model think a turtle is a gun. But if we succeed, they say, we’ll witness an explosion of safer, more useful devices—health care robots that navigate a cluttered home, fraud detection systems that don’t trip on false positives, medical breakthroughs powered by machines that ponder cause and effect in disease.

I look forward to having an argument with a bot…someday.

Written by turbotodd

November 14, 2018 at 11:05 am

Posted in 2018, AI, microsoft, Uncategorized

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RIP Paul Allen

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The news just came across the wire that Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen died today at the age of 65.

Allen died of complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the same cancer he overcame nine years ago but which he announced earlier this month had returned and for which he was seeking treatment. 

His family released a statement, which in part said:

While most knew Paul Allen as a technologist and philanthropist, for us he was a much-loved brother and uncle, and an exceptional friend. Paul’s family and friends were blessed to experience his wit, warmth, his generosity and deep concern. For all the demands on his schedule, there was always time for family and friends. At this time of loss and grief for us – and so many others – we are profoundly grateful for the care and concern he demonstrated every day.

Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, and after leaving the company went out to found and chair Vulcan Inc., an entity which managed his various business and philanthropic efforts. 

Allen was also the founder of the Allen Institute for Brain Science, the Institute for Artificial Intelligence, and throughout his lifetime gave away more than $2 billion to such causes that included education, wildlife and environmental conservation, the arts, and health and community services.

Written by turbotodd

October 15, 2018 at 5:22 pm

Posted in 2018, microsoft, obituary

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Bing Me An Uber

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A headline in today’s Wall Street Journal: Toyota investing $500 million in Uber in driverless-car pact.

Toyota’s investment values Uber at roughly $72 billion, slightly higher than where SoftBank Group Corp. valued the company earlier this year with its funding.

Through the deal, Uber will integrate self-driving technology into Toyota Sienna minivans for use in Uber’s ride hailing network.

And as the Journal story observes:

For ride-sharing concerns like Uber and Lyft Inc., autonomous vehicles could cut their biggest expense: paying human drivers. For auto makers such as Toyota, the potential of self-driving cars to power car-sharing services represents a major challenge to an industry dominated by individual car ownership.

The Journal also reminds us that Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is looking to take the company public next year and has been selling off unprofitable operations while “putting new focus on rentable bikes and scooters.”

Could a Lime or Bird acquisition be in the offing? 

Also on today’s AI frontiers, Search Engine Land is reporting that Bing is introducing a new “Spotlight” news feature which showcases a timeline of how a story has evolved, differing perspectives from news sources, and related social media posts on a topic.

Uh, can we see the full timeline in Spotlight for the Mueller investigation?

Yeah, there’s probably not enough AI on the planet to fully grok that timeline yet.

Lest you worry that the “Spotlight” will render human editors irrelevant, the Search Engine Land story indicates Bing explained that the perspectives and stories “are compiled using a combination of both AI and experienced human editors.”

Bing monitors millions of queries and news articles every day and identifies impactful stories that evolve over a period of weeks or months. We look at various user signals such as queries and browser logs, and document signals from publishers such as how many publishers cover a story, their angles, and how prominently they feature the story on their site.  For controversial topics, in the Perspectives module, we show different viewpoints from high-quality sources. For a source to be considered high quality, it must meet the Bing News PubHub Guidelines, which is a set of criteria that favors originality, readability, newsworthiness, and transparency. Top caliber news providers identify sources and authors, give attribution and demonstrate sound journalistic practices such as accurate labeling of opinion and commentary. Behind the scenes, we leverage our deep learning algorithms and web graphs of hundreds of millions of web sites in the Bing index to identify top sources for national news, per category, query, or article. Our goal is to provide broader context for impactful stories, from politics to business to major disasters, and much more.

All the news that’s fit to algo.

Written by turbotodd

August 28, 2018 at 9:21 am

Posted in 2018, AI, algorithms, microsoft, news

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Blockchain Mo’

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The cryptocurrency momentum continues in spite of a fluctuating Bitcoin, suppression in China, and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon’s recently professed skepticism about the fate of cryptocurrencies.

Dimon warned that “governments will eventually crack down on cryptocurrencies and will attempt to control it by threatening anyone who buys or sells bitcoin with imprisonment.”

Of course, we have to separate the emerging digital currencies themselves from the underlying blockchain technology that makes currencies like bitcoin work.

Just today, Fortune’s “The Ledger” blog reported that Oracle has introduced blockchain cloud services to help its clients link their existing inventory and supply chain software to a secure, distributed transaction system.

And Juniper Research recently released a report that indicated IBM is leading the way on blockchain tech, with more than 40 percent of tech execs and leaders in the blockchain sector ranking IBM at the top.

Go here to learn more and to get started with the IBM Blockchain Platform.

Written by turbotodd

October 3, 2017 at 9:48 am

Captcha Gotcha!

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Houston, we have a problem.

And I want to hear from anyone else out there who has had this problem. Because I fear it may be an increasingly prominent one in our always-connected, increasingly cloud-based cyber existence.

I was in meetings last week in NYC…you know, with actual people…and I was trying to look someone up on Twitter.

You know, on the actual Twitter web site, not a Twitter application.

Only to discover I apparently no longer knew my password.

So I set about trying to recover my password from Twitter.

But my account had been blocked, because apparently I tried to get
into it too many times.

Shame on me. Trying to get into my own Twitter account! What kind of psychopath, am I?

So then I tried to have Twitter send some info to my email and/or phone number.

Nothing ever showed on my cell phone, a number I’ve had for years.

And I assumed the account was set up so long ago, that I probably included my Hotmail email address.

So now I went to Hotmail to login.

And guess what happened?

Of course. I know no longer knew the password.

So I tried to recover the password.

And that’s when the Captchas stormed the castle.

You know, those cute little boxes where you enter characters that no mere mortal can read, much less interpret, so you can try and access what you assumed to be your account?

The person who invented those? They’re now officially on my most wanted list. Right up there near number one and closing fast.

So then I thought, perhaps my Hotmail address became a Live.com address.

So I tried that.

More captchas. No success.

I refused to throw down my sword, I was going down fighting.

Especially considering this was Microsoft!

So I tried to sign up for a new Outlook cloud account. I would simply start over, begin anew, smell the spring roses of the azure fields.

It wouldn’t likely help me in the pursuit of reclaiming my Twitter ID, which I’m pretty much has been hacked and is now manned by some pimply-faced 14 year-old Twerp somewhere in Eastern Europe.

Now I’m starting to get paranoid, thinking perhaps Microsoft has me on their hit list.

Because when I tried to submit the new Outlook account request, it was kind of like the Internet equivalent of the Windows hourglass.

And people laugh wondering why in the world I said earlier in the year I was going to break out my Underwood manual typewriter!

Written by turbotodd

February 22, 2013 at 3:24 pm

Bada Bada Bing

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How can Microsoft get more bang out of Bing?

By hiring Burson-Marsteller PR firm CEO and former Hilary Clinton campaign loyalist, Mark Penn, the well-known strategist and political pollster.

According to the Wall Street Journal “Digits” blog, Penn is being brought in to help ignite “more consumer use of Bing,” Microsoft’s search engine, which lags well behind Google in terms of search market share.

When examining the earnings results from both Microsoft *and* Google this afternoon, it seems that Microsoft needs all the help it can muster in this particular battle.

Microsoft posted a $492 million loss for fiscal 4Q 2012, largely due to a $6.19 billion writedown of its failed acquisition of advertising-service engine aQuantive.

Google, on the other hand, seems to continue to act second only to the Federal Reserve when it comes to printing money, bringing in $1.25 billion in revenue for the quarter, and realizing a 42% rise in paid clicks year-over-year.

However, it seems Microsoft isn’t the only one out looking for some PR help.  Penn’s firm, Burson-Marsteller just released a study of how Global Fortune 100 companies are using social media (conducted in partnership with Visible Technologies) to create more influence.

First, the top most-often mentioned companies on social media in that group: HP, Ford, Sony, AT&T, Samsung, Toyota, Honda, Walmart, BP, and Verizon.

The study examined some key social media vehicles, including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, and Pinterest.

CNET broke down the five key findings of the study:

  1. The Fortune Global 100 were mentioned a totla of 10,400,132 times online in a single month. Gone are the days that companies and brands could tally and sort through all of their media mentions each morning.
  2. Video content creation is on the rise, and there was a 39 percent jump in the percentage of companies with a branded YouTube channel in the last year (and excluding ALL skateboarding bulldogs!).
  3. Engagement is becoming second nature to companies. Seventy-nine percent of corporate accounts on Twitter attempt to engage with other users by retweeting and using @mentions.
  4. Multiple accounts on social media platforms allow companies to target audiences by geography, topic, or service.
  5. Companies are rapidly adapting to new platforms. Google Plus pages for businesses were launched last November, and by February 2012, nearly half (48%) of Fortune Global 100 companies already had a presence on the platform.

The study also highlighted that 93 percent of the Global Fortune 100 companies’ Facebook pages are updated weekly, up from 84 percent and 59 percent each of the past two years.

I’ll add my own two cents, considering IBM is a member of that Fortune Global 100.  In our own Facebook research, for example, we, too, have found video to be an increasingly impactful online resource.

We’re also seeing that the more data we share, the more interest we garner in terms of reshares (infographics are also impactful, but need to be used smartly and selectively).

That is to say, the more useful and insightful data an organization can share through its social media activities, the more they’re able to rise above the information overload fray and present prospects with “news they can use.”

No matter which famous political PR flack they hire.

Written by turbotodd

July 19, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Below The Surface

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So Microsoft went and introduced a tablet computer, huh?

I watched some of the live blogging coverage from the Milk studios in LA, where the announcement was made.

And though it seemed like an interesting product, doing Surface means I’d have to do Windows, and I’ve done everything possible to minimize my exposure to Windows, and I’m going to keep it that way.

I learned as much as possible about Mac OS X.  I’m now getting much more familiar with Linux (Ubuntu 12.04, in particular). And so I’venot been in a steady Windows environment for some time now.

And you know what?  I really don’t miss it.

This has nothing to do with the old OS/2 v. Windows grudge match.

I’ve long been over that.  It simply has to do with what environment is it that helps me get my job done day in and day out, and be productive with minimum interference from  the realities and demands of the operating system.

And the UNIX-based Mac OS X does that.

So, for the most part, does Linux (although Linux can be a little more of a challenge until you get the basic hang of it as an OS).

Windows, on the other hand, I always felt was intruding in my productivity.

There was always something going wrong in Windows for me.  There was always something crashing.  Something needing to be moved from one place to another for something else to work.  Some file to associate with some thing to get the app to open. And on and on and on.

Mac’s don’t do that.  For me, Macs just work.

As much as I liked PC guy, Mac guy definitely won the computing platform war.

And I have a feeling that will be the case with tablets as well.

First, Apple has a two year head start.  Apple has a massive application install base, one that increasingly links the Macbook line with the iPad, and an audience of several million happy iPad campers.

But, admittedly, Microsoft does  have going for them the massive Windows footprint and install base of their productivity apps stretching eons into the past.

If they can convince the market the Surface is a productivity tool, and capitalize on that massive footprint, there could be a there there.

But if they think they’ll compete on a feature match as a leisure tablet device, I think the Surface will soon sink well below it.

Written by turbotodd

June 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm

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