Voice Assistant Apps Have Much Room to Grow

May 31, 2017

Recent excitement around voice assistants is largely based on the idea that, eventually, a thriving app market will develop around them. However, reports Recode, “Alexa and Google Assistant Have a Problem: People Aren’t Sticking with Voice Apps They Try.” Though sales of Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant platforms over the holidays were encouraging, startup VoiceLabs recently issued a report that indicates most apps entice few users to give them a try. Furthermore, those who have dabbled in voice apps have apparently found little to tempt them back. See the article for some statistics or the report for more. Writer Jason Del Rey observes:

The statistics underscore the difficulty Amazon and Google are having in getting Echo and Home owners to discover and use new voice apps on their platforms. Instead, many consumers are sticking to off-the-shelf actions like streaming music, reading audiobooks and controlling lights in their homes.


Those are all good use cases for the voice platforms, but not sufficient to build an ecosystem that will keep software developers engaged and lead to new transformative revenue streams. As a result, the numbers highlight the opportunity for Amazon, Google or others like Apple to stand out by helping both consumers and developers solve these discovery and retention problems.

The founders of VoiceLab see a niche, and they are jumping right into it. Amazon and Google, thus far, supply only limited usage data to would-be app developers, so VoiceLabs is lending them their own voice analytics tool, VoiceInsights. They are counting on the app market to pick up, and are determined to help it along. So far, this tool is free; the company expects to start charging for it once Amazon and/or Google provide a way to monetize apps. When that happens, developers will already be comfortable with VoiceLabs—well played. Probably. Founded in May 2016, VoiceLabs is based in San Francisco.

We, too, are paying close attention to the rise of voice assistants and their related apps. Watch for the debut of our new information service, Beyond Alexa.

Cynthia Murrell, May 31, 2017

Deep Diving into HTML Employing Semantics

May 31, 2017

HTML, the programming language on which websites are based can employ semantics to make search easier and understanding, especially for those who use assistive technologies.

Web Dev Studios in an in-depth article titled Accessibility of Semantics: How Writing Semantic HTML Can Help Accessibility says:

Writing HTML is about more than simply “having stuff appear on the page.” Each element you use has a meaning and conveys information to your visitors, especially to those that use assistive technologies to help interpret that meaning for them.

Assistive technologies are used by people who have limited vision or other forms of impairment that prohibits them from accessing the web efficiently. If semantics is employed, according to the author of the article, impaired people too can access all features of the web like others.

The author goes on to explain things like how different tags in HTML can be used effectively to help people with visual impairments.

The Web and related technologies are evolving, and it can be termed as truly inclusive only when people with all types of handicaps are able to use it with equal ease.

Vishal Ingole, May 31, 2017

Linguistic Analytics Translate Doctor Scribbles

May 31, 2017

Healthcare is one of the industries that people imagine can be revolutionized by new technology.  Digital electronic medical records, faster, more accurate diagnostic tools, and doctors having the ability to digest piles of data in minutes are some of the newest and best advances in medicine.  Despite all of these wonderful improvements, healthcare still lags behind other fields transforming their big data into actionable, usable data.  Inside Big Data shares the article, “How NLP Can Help Healthcare ‘Catchup’” discusses how natural language processing can help the healthcare industry make more effective use of their resources.

The reason healthcare lags behind other fields is that most of their data is unstructured:

This large realm of unstructured data includes qualitative information that contributes indispensable context in many different reports in the EHR, such as outside lab results, radiology images, pathology reports, patient feedback and other clinical reports. When combined with claims data this mix of data provides the raw material for healthcare payers and health systems to perform analytics. Outside the clinical setting, patient-reported outcomes can be hugely valuable, especially for life science companies seeking to understand the long-term efficacy and safety of therapeutic products across a wide population.

Natural language processing relies on linguistic algorithms to identify key meanings in unstructured data.  When meaning is given to unstructured data, then it can be inserted into machine learning algorithms.  Bitext’s computational linguistics platform does the same with its sentimental analysis algorithm. Healthcare information is never black and white like data in other industries.  While the unstructured data is different from patient to patient, there are similarities and NLP helps the machine learning tools learn how to quantify what was once-unquantifiable.

Whitney Grace, May 31, 2017

HonkinNews for May 30, 2017 Now Available

May 30, 2017

This week’s HonkinNews tackles the “three peas in a pod” approach to certain online information. Some might call the approach used by China, Facebook, and Google censorship. HonkinNews understand that certain information should not be available to just anyone. Does censorship work? If the correct information is filtered, censorship is a champ. Google is into the side search business. The idea is not new, but Google’s approach is to use a euphemism for determining if an Adword leads to an actual sale from a retail outlet. Why position context analysis as something really new? Google wants to prove that online ads really work. Of course they do. Artificial intelligence has found its niche in life. Now smart software can name colors. What does one call that color your young child wants? We provide an answer. The Beyond Search team responsible for HonkinNews will be at the TechnoSecurity & Digital Forensics Conference. I know that sounds like a ton of fun. There’s nothing like the party atmosphere of more than 1,000 LE, security, and intel types. HonkinNews will be delivering three lectures/training sessions. Our next program will be on June 13, 2017, unless the Kentucky crowd becomes the guests of South Carolina. You can find the video at this link.

Stephen E Arnold, May 30, 2017

SEO Adapts to Rapidly Changing Algorithms

May 30, 2017

When we ponder the future of search, we consider factors like the rise of “smart” searching—systems that deliver what they know the user wants, instead of what the user wants—and how facial recognition search is progressing. Others look from different angles, though, like the business-oriented Inc., which shares the post, “What is the Future of Search?” Citing SEO expert Baruch Labunski, writer Drew Hendricks looks at how rapid changes to search engines’ ranking algorithms affect search-engine-optimization marketing efforts.

First, companies must realize that it is now essential that their sites play well with mobile devices; Google is making mobile indexing a priority. We learn that the rise of virtual assistants raises the stakes—voice-controlled searches only return the very first search result. (A reason, in my opinion, to use them sparingly for online searches.) The article pays the most attention, though, to addressing local search. Hendricks advises:

By combining the highly specific locational data that’s available from consumers searching on mobile, alongside Google’s already in-progress goal of customizing results by location for all users, positioning your brand to those who are physically near you will become crucial in 2017. …


Our jobs as brand managers and promoters will continue to become more complicated as time passes. The days of search engine algorithms filtering by obvious data points, or being easily manipulated, are over. The new fact of search engine optimization is appealing to your immediate markets – those around you and those who are searching directly for your product.

Listing one’s location(s) on myriad review sites and Google Places and placing the address on the company website are advised. The piece concludes by reassuring marketers that, as long as they make careful choices, they can successfully navigate the rapid changes to Google and other online search engines.

Cynthia Murrell, May 30, 2017

Wall Street Can Learn from Google

May 30, 2017

Ruth Porat, CFO, Alphabet tells Economic Club of New York that Wall Street should have an open culture like Google which has helped the company to keep profit levels high and investors happy.

CNBC in its news piece titled Ruth Porat Suggests Financial Crisis Could’ve Been Avoided If Wall Street Acted More Like Google said:

Ruth Porat, the former veteran Morgan Stanley executive who’s now chief financial officer of Alphabet, suggested Monday that the financial crisis could have been prevented — or at least made less severe — if Wall Street had operated with the same transparency as Google’s parent company.

Google has no employee stock option at present. According to Porat, this eliminates the possibility of employees rigging the financial numbers or engaging in financial engineering. For Google, its greatest threat is the pace of innovation.

The company has a weekly meet TGIF wherein executives are asked tough questions by employees on any aspect of the company. Porat feels it is this tool that has helped Alphabet maintain transparency and Wall Street has something to learn from it.

Vishal Ingole, May 30, 2017

Google: Administrivia Is Hard and Expensive

May 29, 2017

I read “Accursed of Underpaying Women, Google Says It’s Too Expensive to Get Wage Data.” The real journalism outfit The Guardian revealed:

Google argued that it was too financially burdensome and logistically challenging to compile and hand over salary records that the government has requested, sparking a strong rebuke from the US Department of Labor (DoL), which has accused the Silicon Valley firm of underpaying women.

An attorney representing the government allegedly said:

“Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water.”

It seems that Google is not into administrivia. It seems that Google wants to husband its resources. Solving death and Loon balloons need funding.

Tough luck, US Department of Labor.

Google allegedly explained:

“This is obviously a very time-consuming and burdensome project,” said Lisa Barnett Sween, one of Google’s attorneys, claiming that the company has already worked 2,300 hours at a cost of nearly $500,000 to partially comply with the government’s demands, which she argued were broad and unconstitutional. “Our courts must act to check this abuse of power.”

Absolutely. Obvious.

Google did promote Dr. Anna Patterson, the founder of Cuil and Xift (both search engines) recently. See. Progress. How long has Dr. Patterson been laboring at the GOOG. I think it is creeping up on a decade more or less.

Google and women. A perfect match. Why can’t the lawyers representing the US Department of Labor understand this simple fact. Equality, the hallmark of a high school science club.

Administrative detail. My hunch is that it is not interesting and maybe, just maybe… Never mind.

Stephen E Arnold, May 28, 2017

Snapchat Introduces Search Feature

May 29, 2017

Photo-sharing app Snapchat is late to the search game, but it has now arrived. The Daily Mail reports, “Snapchat Introduces a ‘Universal Search’ Feature: Tool Lets You Create Groups and Find New People to Follow.” Writer Abigail Beall explains:

Snapchat’s universal search bar hopes to address an issue some users had with the photograph-sharing app – the difficulty in finding new people to follow and gaining a large following. Previously, the only way people could gain a following was by sharing their username, or Snapcode, outside of the app. The new search bar, that will always be present at the top of the app, will allow people to find users easily through searching, discovering and groups. …


The new feature also lets users create groups, to combine snaps. Previously, boxes for finding specific conversations, accounts to follow and Stories or Discover channels were all in different places.

The tool was implemented for some Android users in mid-January, with availability to all Android and iOS users to follow “soon.” Beall notes the development was predicted by some last August after Snapchat acquired Vurb, a mobile search startup founded in 2011 and based in San Francisco.

Snap Inc., Snapchat’s parent company, bills itself as a camera company that is reinventing the camera. The company has acquired nine other enterprises since its founding in 2011. Snap is now selling (through their special vending machines!)  Spectacles, sunglasses with a camera on each temple that, of course, link right in with Snapchat.

Cynthia Murrell, May 29, 2017

Alphabets Employees Feel Empowered

May 29, 2017

Discrimination at the workplace is a real issue, including Alphabet, the parent company of Google. Employees now are trying to fight this off by curating complaints and circulating it within the company using weekly newsletter.

According to an article published by Bloomberg titled At Google, an Employee-Run Email List Tracks Harassment and Bias Complaints, the author says:

Yes, at Google tracks allegations of unwelcome behavior at work in an attempt to make the company more inclusive, said the employees, who did not want to be named because they were not authorized to speak about internal company matters.

The list is allegedly managed by a group of employees who redact the personal information before circulating the content. Google though is aware of the list, the company is silent on it considering the fact that no one really knows who is running the list.

So far, the list has yielded positive results. Behavior by employees that do not adhere to company policies or are offensive towards certain sex or people of ethnicity has been handled by the company through regular channels.

Vishal Ingole, May 29, 2017

Hey, Go Loser, Want a Rematch?

May 28, 2017

I read “AlphaGo Retires from Competitive Go after Defeating World Number One 3-0.” Enough of those fun and games. Alphabet Google has got to focus on generating revenue. The loser, one disgraced Go player, will not have a chance for a rematch. The reason is that Google’s technology has reached the “summit” of winning., When one is on top and you lose, tough luck. China must have had an inkling of defeat. The match was allegedly tough to follow in the Middle Kingdom. Filters are good, of course.

What will those Googlers do now? I learned from the write up that:

“The research team behind AlphaGo will now throw their considerable energy into the next set of grand challenges, developing advanced general algorithms that could one day help scientists as they tackle some of our most complex problems, such as finding new cures for diseases, dramatically reducing energy consumption, or inventing revolutionary new materials,” Hassabis says. “If AI systems prove they are able to unearth significant new knowledge and strategies in these domains too, the breakthroughs could be truly remarkable. We can’t wait to see what comes next.”

What about the former champion? Good question. It does  not appear that Alphabet Google will be hiring him as an adviser. Well, there’s always an opportunity to sell chicken of the cave as a go to street vendor. Oh, chicken of the cave is a euphemism for bat. Cave. Go get it.

Stephen E Arnold, May 28, 2017

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