• Why I Hate Calls

    How I feel every time some is calling me.Imagine this:You just “e-met” someone on LinkedIn, email or Skype and are about to talk about business. Then the other person suddenly says: “Let’s just on a call”.WTF? WHY would you want to do that???First of all. I don’t “jump” on a calls.Second- I hate calls, and here is why.The call always comes in a bad timeIn 99% of the time you are either working, eating, having a break, doing sports, taking a loo or doing something else important and then that stupid call comes in, and you have stop everything you are doing and answer it. There’s practically never a good time for a call (unless of course you scheduled it before), because I don’t remember ever sitting and thinking: “hmm, now it would be a good time if someone gave me cold call”.The call takes all your (...)

    #cold-calling #phone-call #cold-calls #conference-call #why-i-hate-calls

  • Two companies soon to control one fifth of global content spend

    Following the massive mergers of Comcast/Sky and Disney/Fox, one in every five dollars spent on content worldwide will now be spent by these two entities alone. And this concentration of spend becomes even more stark when focusing purely on the US - the proportion of US content spend controlled by Comcast/Sky and Disney/Fox jumps to nearly two in five content dollars.

    Once the dust has settled from the mergers, overall spend on content will be almost even between the two new companies. By Ampere’s estimates, the combined projected content spend between the two is set reach $43bn – with Disney/Fox spending $22bn per year on originated and acquired content and Comcast/Sky spending $21bn by the end of 2018. This is more than the combined outlay of the next ten largest content spenders in the US including OTT platforms Netflix and Amazon.

    To some extent, the increasingly level of consolidation is a reaction to the increasing power of online video platforms. Companies such as Netflix and Amazon continue to invest significantly in content, a trend which shows no signs of slowing down. We expect Netflix to spend over $8bn on a P&L basis by the end of 2018, and the streaming giant has repeatedly stated it will continue to increase its content budget. Prior to the recent mergers, Netflix was on course to catch and overtake the top Hollywood studios in terms of content spend - however, in light of the two new combined entities, Netflix would now be required to nearly triple its spend to achieve this.

    This added financial might for the incumbent broadcast and studio groups helps strengthen both entities’ positions in the global market, as well as adding protection against the rising strength of online video. Each entity controls an increasingly vast library of original content ready to be exploited through direct-to-consumer offers. Disney has already indicated it will stop licencing content to Netflix in favour of its own direct to consumer offer, a service which will have even greater appeal with the addition of Fox assets. 

    However, one other implication of this consolidation is the effect it could have on independent producers. With a shrinking number of content acquirers in the market, the competition for rights diminishes – this in turn will impact the indie sector’s ability to negotiate favourable deals.

    #industrie_culturelle #attention

  • How to Build Video Chat App for #android, #ios & Web with Zero Coding?

    Create a video web chat app“A video chat fits into every possible purpose and a lot more to do with real-time communication.”“From grandparents wanting to connect with their grandchildren’s, and meetings that have to be held up through conferencing video calls”, video chat #apps like Skype are at its forefront of the video calling revolution. It’s quite indigestible that the fact behind Skype’s market value, it worths $8.5 billion.So, now you are wondering what would it take to build your own video chat app? And holding you are late to the video chat app industry where the market is crowded with giants like Google Hangouts, Skype and much more. Apparently not a problem! Yet you have everything to deal with these questions “how to create a video chat app in android/iOS?” or “how to build your own (...)

    #videos #messaging

  • Les débuts

    Aretha Franklin 16 minutes à la télé dans sa période jazzy, mais déjà très bluesy en 1964 (je ne sais pas pourquoi, les 16 minutes sont répétées deux fois) :

    Aretha Franklin - Live on The Steve Allen Show (1964)

    1) Lover Come Back To Me
    2) Rock-A-Bye Your Baby With A Dixie Melody (Aretha au piano)
    3) It Won’t Be Long (Aretha au piano)
    4) Skylark
    5) Evil Gal Blues (Aretha au piano)

    One Step Ahead, en 1965

    I’m Losing You, en 1965

    La démo de Dr. Feelgood, fin 1966, avec basse, batterie, et Aretha au piano, du bonheur à l’état brut :

    Do Right Woman, en 1967

    Au congrès du Parti Démocrate en août 1968

    A la télé américaine en 1968

    Hollywood Palace, novembre 1968

    1) I Say A Little Prayer
    2) Come Back Baby
    3) Medley avec Sammy Davis Jr, What Is Soul ?, Think, Respect et What’d I Say ?

    I Say A Little Prayer, en 1970

    Les concert du Fillmore West les 5, 6 et 7 mars 1971 :

    Dont on peut extraire Dr. Feelgood, en 1971

    Mary Don’t You Weep, en 1972 (on attend toujours le film de Amazing Grace dont Aretha Franklin a toujours retardé la sortie...)

    Le dernier concert à Paris, en 1977
    Precious Lord

    Precious Lord aux obsèques de Martin Luther King, 1968

    Precious Lord aux obsèques de Mahalia Jackson, 1972

    Precious Lord, en hommage à C.L. Franklin et à Martin Luther King, 1984

    Precious Lord, en hommage à Martin Luther King, 2011

    Avec #Ray_Charles

    Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles - Things Go Better with Coke #1 (1969)

    Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles - Things Go Better with Coke #2 (1969)

    Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles - Spirit In The Dark (Fillmore West 1971)

    Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles - Ain’t But The One (Duke Ellington Tribute 1973)

    Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles - Two to Tango (Midnight Special 1975)

    Autres duos

    Aretha Franklin et Smokey Robinson - Ooo Baby Baby, 1979

    Aretha Franklin et Big Mama Thornton - Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, 1980

    Aretha Franklin et Billy Preston - Holy Night, 1986

    Aretha Franklin et Stevie Wonder - Until you come back to me, 2005

    Aretha Franklin, Dennis Edwards et Ronald Isley - A Song For You, 2011


    Everyday People, de Sly Stone, 1990

    At Last, de Etta James, 2014

    A la Maison Blanche

    Avril 2014 :

    Avril 2015 :

    Aretha retourne au piano :

    Dans une émission humoristique en 1991 :

    You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman, en décembre 2015 (probablement sa dernière performance fantastique)

    Rock of Ages, un classique de gospel de 8 minutes, en septembre 2016

    L’hymne national américain, en novembre 2016

    Son dernier concert gratuit à Detroit en juin 2017 :

    Son dernier concert à New York en novembre 2017 :

    Une de ses dernières apparitions à la télé en avril 2018

    #Aretha_Franklin #Musique #Soul

  • Les drones de surveillance entrent maintenant dans les bâtiments

    Les drones se multiplient dans le ciel pour surveiller nos moindres faits et gestes, et ils seront bientôt dans nos intérieurs : le 25 juillet 2018, les entreprises Avansig et Skysense se sont alliées au service de la multinationale Prosegur, spécialisée dans la sécurité, pour produire le premier drone d’intérieur. Ce tout nouveau gadget complètement autonome relance le débat autour de la pertinence des drones et des robots de surveillance : ne créent-ils pas plus de problèmes qu’ils n’en résolvent ? (...)

    #Knightscope #Prosegur #CCTV #drone #sécuritaire #aérien #surveillance #vidéo-surveillance #Avansig #Skysense (...)


  • 7 Key Step to Develop Chat Bot for Messenger

    The evolution of artificial intelligence is now in full swing and #chatbots are only a faint splash on a huge wave of progress. Today the number of users of messaging apps like WhatsApp, Slack, Skype and their analogs is skyrocketing, Facebook Messenger alone has more than 1.2 billion monthly users. With the spread of messengers, virtual chatterbots that imitate human conversations for solving various tasks are becoming increasingly in demand. Chinese WeChat #bots can already set medical appointments, call a taxi, send money to friends, check in for a flight and many many other.What is Chat bot?Chat bot is one type of computer program who design for human user ,especially over the Internet.1. Determine the target audience and required functionalityNow and again, the underlying perspective (...)

    #chatbots-for-business #chatbot-design #chatbot-development

  • The online war between Qatar and Saudi Arabia - BBC News

    A year-long political conflict between the tiny, wealthy state of Qatar and its larger neighbours - including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - has been fought with a new arsenal of weapons: bots, fake news and hacking.
    In the early hours of 24 May 2017, a news story appeared on the website of Qatar’s official news agency, QNA, reporting that the country’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, had made an astonishing speech.
    The quotes then appeared on the QNA’s social media accounts and on the news ticker running along the bottom of the screen on videos uploaded to the agency’s YouTube channel.
    The emir was quoted praising Islamist groups Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood. And perhaps most controversially of all, Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival.
    Image copyrightREUTERS
    Image caption
    Qatari citizens have expressed their support for their emir on a mural in Doha
    But the story soon disappeared from the QNA website, and Qatar’s foreign ministry issued a statement denying the speech had ever taken place. No video footage has ever emerged of the emir actually saying the words supposedly attributed to him.
    Qatar claimed that the QNA had been hacked. And they said the hack was designed to deliberately spread fake news about the country’s leader and its foreign policies. The Qataris specifically blamed UAE, an allegation later repeated by a Washington Post report which cited US intelligence sources. The UAE categorically denied those reports.
    But the story of the emir’s speech unleashed a media free-for-all. Within minutes, Saudi and UAE-owned TV networks - Al Arabiya and Sky News Arabia - picked up on the comments attributed to al-Thani. Both networks accused Qatar of funding extremist groups and of destabilising the region.
    And soon after there was another alleged hacking - this time, targeted at the UAE. Youssef al-Otaiba, the UAE’s ambassador to the US was hacked. His emails were leaked to the press. This led to long, lurid articles about his private life in international media.

  • Indonesia Turns to Google in War on Illegal Fishing – gCaptain

    But it’s not game over for the minister: she says local boats are still working with “global pirates” who catch fish just outside the permitted zone, which are then shipped to foreign destinations. And that’s where Google comes in.

    They still steal from us. We see it on Google fishing watch,” [Indonesia’s Fisheries Minister Susi] Pudjiastuti said, referring to Global Fishing Watch, an online mapping platform co-founded by Google. “They use Indonesian-affiliated companies and businesses and basically take their catch a few miles beyond the exclusive economic zone, where a refrigerated mothership is waiting.

    Indonesia last year became the first nation to share its Vessel Monitoring System information — government-owned data used to monitor maritime traffic — with the global monitoring platform, founded by Google, Oceana and SkyTruth, and funded by partners including the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies.

    Pudjiastuti’s initiative instantly made nearly 5,000 previously invisible boats viewable. She has called for other nations to follow her lead, with Peru last year committing to making its fishing data available.

    Brian Sullivan, the manager of Google Ocean and Earth Outreach, said information from Indonesia’s VMS was fed through the same algorithm used by Global Fishing Watch to produce a new set of analytics. That was then added to raw satellite imagery to produce an even more detailed footprint of fishing activities in near-real time.

    Susi reached out to us and said ’I like what you’re working on, we’d like to see how we could use that information in Indonesia,” California-based Sullivan said in a telephone interview. “She has been probably one of the most progressive ministers within fisheries for taking something that historically all governments had kept extremely close.

    By using machine learning and watching how a vessel moves, Google’s technology is able to establish patterns, and determine whether a vessel is in transit or fishing.

    A study published last month found that foreign fishing in Indonesia dropped by more than 90 percent and total fishing by 25 percent following the tough policies introduced by Pudjiastuti, which also included a ban on all foreign-owned and -made boats from fishing in Indonesia and the restriction of transfers of fish at sea.

    We know what it looks like when a vessel is broadcasting because we see that vessel’s position,” said Sullivan. “And if it then goes quiet for a while and then reappears on the other side of a marine-protected area that would be considered suspicious activity.

  • Le Trio Joubran, Akram Abdulfattah, Roisin Murphy, The Black Madonna et d’autres, avec Brian Eno et Mashrou Leila par « Skype », se sont associés pour sortir un album enregistré au Walled Off Hotel en février 2018, l’hôtel acheté et décoré par Banksy en Palestine :

    Block 9 Creative Retreat Palestine

    1. #Brian_Eno avec #Le_Trio_Joubran - ’Stones’
    2. #Mashrou_Leila avec #Roisin_Murphy - ’Salam’
    3. FRED avec EBS - ’Wisam Jam’
    4. #Akram_Abdulfattah - ’Cave’
    5. #The_Black_Madonna and Wassim Qassis - ’Jerusalem Is A Mountain’
    6. Block9 Music Dept avec Akram et EBS - ’Maqam Hijaz In Dub’
    7. Sigsaly - ’Bread And Concrete’

    Un article en anglais sur le sujet, avec des photos :

    The Walled Off Hotel : A creative retreat in Palestine
    Tom Faber, Resident Advisor, le 11 avril 2018

    #Musique #Musique_et_politique #Palestine

  • It Just Got Easier to Install Skype on Ubuntu

    Skype for Linux is available as a Snap app on the Snap store, making it easy to download and install Skype on Linux distros like Ubuntu and Linux Mint. This post, It Just Got Easier to Install Skype on Ubuntu, was written by Joey Sneddon and first appeared on OMG! Ubuntu!.

  • What Does a Smartphone Mean to a Refugee ? | NDTV

    In an increasingly digital world, after food and shelter, the next necessity that people have is an Internet connected smartphone, says Mark Latonero, PhD, Lead Researcher at the Data and Society Research Institute in New York. Latonero’s work focuses on the implication of new technologies in the human rights space and speaking at the Cornell Tech Law Colloquium last month at Cornell University, he discussed the tensions between emerging technologies and the law, in particular the inadvertent ways in which tech companies have made interventions in the refugee crisis.

    “There are challenges and opportunities and technology can make a positive impact,” said Latonero. “It’s complicated. How can you think about technology, not as a thing in and of itself, but an intrical part social context. Digital infrastructures are facilitating the movement of people on a mass scale, but also serve as a mechanism for social control.”

    Like the rest of us reading this at home, the refugee populations also turned to Facebook and other social media, often to keep track of their friends and family.

    “So in the same way that we use Facebook or WhatsApp to coordinate with our friends or loved ones, to find directions, those kinds of uses are also for people where - finding people, or finding directions, could be a matter of life or death,” Latonero explained. “But there’s also a negative impact - while Facebook can be used to connect - it is also being used to exploit. So, the advertising of human trafficking and human smuggling is also being done through social media.”

    One of the questions that the survey wanted to clear up was where people get their information from. “Normally, a lot of the information you receive comes from talking to people, even here [in Cornell] where you’re all pretty digitally connected,” said Latonero. “But the mobile Internet - through free Wi-Fi, or with a data plan - accounted for 75 percent of news and information for the refugees. And 40 percent of the people told us that they use it to keep track of their friends and family, to stay connected to people who are left behind, and 24 percent of the people also said they used social media to track down people who had gone missing.”

    Beyond that, the research also found that 95 percent of men owned phones, while only 67 percent of women had a smartphone. This is in some ways in line with what you see in rural India, where in many cases, there is one phone for the family, held by the man of the house. “The ownership issue became quite significant,” said Latonero. “Imagine if you’re an NGO that wanted to get information to women who faced domestic violence. Your idea was to use mobile phones to send information etcetera, but then you realise that less women own phones than men, then it would change how you would design your intervention.”

    Another example he gives is that the vast majority of the refugees surveyed used WhatsApp (95 percent) while only 10 percent had Skype on their phones. As a result, many official interventions, and even private interventions, such as Coursera and Skype having educational courses for refugees, would not be accessed.

    “Essentially we need to really think about how to responsibly innovate in these very complex issues,” Latonero said, ending the chat, “A straight-up tech solutionist approach doesn’t really seem like it would work, given all we know about the challenges with technology itself.”

    #Mobile #Migrants #Culture_numérique

  • What Happens When We Let Tech Care For Our Aging Parents | WIRED

    Arlyn Anderson grasped her father’s hand and presented him with the choice. “A nursing home would be safer, Dad,” she told him, relaying the doctors’ advice. “It’s risky to live here alone—”

    “No way,” Jim interjected. He frowned at his daughter, his brow furrowed under a lop of white hair. At 91, he wanted to remain in the woodsy Minnesota cottage he and his wife had built on the shore of Lake Minnetonka, where she had died in his arms just a year before. His pontoon—which he insisted he could still navigate just fine—bobbed out front.

    Arlyn had moved from California back to Minnesota two decades earlier to be near her aging parents. Now, in 2013, she was fiftysomething, working as a personal coach, and finding that her father’s decline was all-consuming.

    Her father—an inventor, pilot, sailor, and general Mr. Fix-It; “a genius,” Arlyn says—started experiencing bouts of paranoia in his mid-eighties, a sign of Alzheimer’s. The disease had progressed, often causing his thoughts to vanish mid-sentence. But Jim would rather risk living alone than be cloistered in an institution, he told Arlyn and her older sister, Layney. A nursing home certainly wasn’t what Arlyn wanted for him either. But the daily churn of diapers and cleanups, the carousel of in-home aides, and the compounding financial strain (she had already taken out a reverse mortgage on Jim’s cottage to pay the caretakers) forced her to consider the possibility.

    Jim, slouched in his recliner, was determined to stay at home. “No way,” he repeated to his daughter, defiant. Her eyes welled up and she hugged him. “OK, Dad.” Arlyn’s house was a 40-minute drive from the cottage, and for months she had been relying on a patchwork of technology to keep tabs on her dad. She set an open laptop on the counter so she could chat with him on Skype. She installed two cameras, one in his kitchen and another in his bedroom, so she could check whether the caregiver had arrived, or God forbid, if her dad had fallen. So when she read in the newspaper about a new digi­tal eldercare service called CareCoach a few weeks after broaching the subject of the nursing home, it piqued her interest. For about $200 a month, a human-powered avatar would be available to watch over a homebound person 24 hours a day; Arlyn paid that same amount for just nine hours of in-home help. She signed up immediately.

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    A Google Nexus tablet arrived in the mail a week later. When Arlyn plugged it in, an animated German shepherd appeared onscreen, standing at attention on a digitized lawn. The brown dog looked cutesy and cartoonish, with a bubblegum-pink tongue and round, blue eyes.

    She and Layney visited their dad later that week, tablet in hand. Following the instructions, Arlyn uploaded dozens of pictures to the service’s online portal: images of family members, Jim’s boat, and some of his inventions, like a computer terminal known as the Teleray and a seismic surveillance system used to detect footsteps during the Vietnam War. The setup complete, Arlyn clutched the tablet, summoning the nerve to introduce her dad to the dog. Her initial instinct that the service could be the perfect companion for a former technologist had splintered into needling doubts. Was she tricking him? Infantilizing him?

    Tired of her sister’s waffling, Layney finally snatched the tablet and presented it to their dad, who was sitting in his armchair. “Here, Dad, we got you this.” The dog blinked its saucer eyes and then, in Google’s female text-to-speech voice, started to talk. Before Alzheimer’s had taken hold, Jim would have wanted to know exactly how the service worked. But in recent months he’d come to believe that TV characters were interacting with him: A show’s villain had shot a gun at him, he said; Katie Couric was his friend. When faced with an onscreen character that actually was talking to him, Jim readily chatted back.

    Jim named his dog Pony. Arlyn perched the tablet upright on a table in Jim’s living room, where he could see it from the couch or his recliner. Within a week Jim and Pony had settled into a routine, exchanging pleasantries several times a day. Every 15 minutes or so Pony would wake up and look for Jim, calling his name if he was out of view. Sometimes Jim would “pet” the sleeping dog onscreen with his finger to rustle her awake. His touch would send an instantaneous alert to the human caretaker behind the avatar, prompting the CareCoach worker to launch the tablet’s audio and video stream. “How are you, Jim?” Pony would chirp. The dog reminded him which of his daughters or in-person caretakers would be visiting that day to do the tasks that an onscreen dog couldn’t: prepare meals, change Jim’s sheets, drive him to a senior center. “We’ll wait together,” Pony would say. Often she’d read poetry aloud, discuss the news, or watch TV with him. “You look handsome, Jim!” Pony remarked after watching him shave with his electric razor. “You look pretty,” he replied. Sometimes Pony would hold up a photo of Jim’s daughters or his inventions between her paws, prompting him to talk about his past. The dog complimented Jim’s red sweater and cheered him on when he struggled to buckle his watch in the morning. He reciprocated by petting the screen with his index finger, sending hearts floating up from the dog’s head. “I love you, Jim!” Pony told him a month after they first met—something CareCoach operators often tell the people they are monitoring. Jim turned to Arlyn and gloated, “She does! She thinks I’m real good!”

    About 1,500 miles south of Lake Minnetonka, in Monterrey, Mexico, Rodrigo Rochin opens his laptop in his home office and logs in to the CareCoach dashboard to make his rounds. He talks baseball with a New Jersey man watching the Yankees; chats with a woman in South Carolina who calls him Peanut (she places a cookie in front of her tablet for him to “eat”); and greets Jim, one of his regulars, who sips coffee while looking out over a lake.

    Rodrigo is 35 years old, the son of a surgeon. He’s a fan of the Spurs and the Cowboys, a former international business student, and a bit of an introvert, happy to retreat into his sparsely decorated home office each morning. He grew up crossing the border to attend school in McAllen, Texas, honing the English that he now uses to chat with elderly people in the United States. Rodrigo found CareCoach on an online freelancing platform and was hired in December 2012 as one of the company’s earliest contractors, role-playing 36 hours a week as one of the service’s avatars.

    After watching her dad interact with Pony, Arlyn’s reservations about outsourcing her father’s companionship vanished.

    In person, Rodrigo is soft-spoken, with wire spectacles and a beard. He lives with his wife and two basset hounds, Bob and Cleo, in Nuevo León’s capital city. But the people on the other side of the screen don’t know that. They don’t know his name—or, in the case of those like Jim who have dementia, that he even exists. It’s his job to be invisible. If Rodrigo’s clients ask where he’s from, he might say MIT (the CareCoach software was created by two graduates of the school), but if anyone asks where their pet actually is, he replies in character: “Here with you.”

    Rodrigo is one of a dozen CareCoach employees in Latin America and the Philippines. The contractors check on the service’s seniors through the tablet’s camera a few times an hour. (When they do, the dog or cat avatar they embody appears to wake up.) To talk, they type into the dashboard and their words are voiced robotically through the tablet, designed to give their charges the impression that they’re chatting with a friendly pet. Like all the CareCoach workers, Rodrigo keeps meticulous notes on the people he watches over so he can coordinate their care with other workers and deepen his relationship with them over time—this person likes to listen to Adele, this one prefers Elvis, this woman likes to hear Bible verses while she cooks. In one client’s file, he wrote a note explaining that the correct response to “See you later, alligator” is “After a while, crocodile.” These logs are all available to the customer’s social workers or adult children, wherever they may live. Arlyn started checking Pony’s log between visits with her dad several times a week. “Jim says I’m a really nice person,” reads one early entry made during the Minnesota winter. “I told Jim that he was my best friend. I am so happy.”

    After watching her dad interact with Pony, Arlyn’s reservations about outsourcing her father’s companionship vanished. Having Pony there eased her anxiety about leaving Jim alone, and the virtual dog’s small talk lightened the mood.

    Pony was not only assisting Jim’s human caretakers but also inadvertently keeping an eye on them. Months before, in broken sentences, Jim had complained to Arlyn that his in-home aide had called him a bastard. Arlyn, desperate for help and unsure of her father’s recollection, gave her a second chance. Three weeks after arriving in the house, Pony woke up to see the same caretaker, impatient. “Come on, Jim!” the aide yelled. “Hurry up!” Alarmed, Pony asked why she was screaming and checked to see if Jim was OK. The pet—actually, Rodrigo—later reported the aide’s behavior to CareCoach’s CEO, Victor Wang, who emailed Arlyn about the incident. (The caretaker knew there was a human watching her through the tablet, Arlyn says, but may not have known the extent of the person’s contact with Jim’s family behind the scenes.) Arlyn fired the short-tempered aide and started searching for a replacement. Pony watched as she and Jim conducted the interviews and approved of the person Arlyn hired. “I got to meet her,” the pet wrote. “She seems really nice.”

    Pony—friend and guard dog—would stay.
    Grant Cornett

    Victor Wang grew up feeding his Tama­got­chis and coding choose-your-own-­adventure games in QBasic on the family PC. His parents moved from Taiwan to suburban Vancouver, British Columbia, when Wang was a year old, and his grandmother, whom he called Lao Lao in Mandarin, would frequently call from Taiwan. After her husband died, Lao Lao would often tell Wang’s mom that she was lonely, pleading with her daughter to come to Taiwan to live with her. As she grew older, she threatened suicide. When Wang was 11, his mother moved back home for two years to care for her. He thinks of that time as the honey-­sandwich years, the food his overwhelmed father packed him each day for lunch. Wang missed his mother, he says, but adds, “I was never raised to be particularly expressive of my emotions.”

    At 17, Wang left home to study mechanical engineering at the University of British Columbia. He joined the Canadian Army Reserve, serving as an engineer on a maintenance platoon while working on his undergraduate degree. But he scrapped his military future when, at 22, he was admitted to MIT’s master’s program in mechanical engineering. Wang wrote his dissertation on human-machine interaction, studying a robotic arm maneuvered by astronauts on the International Space Station. He was particularly intrigued by the prospect of harnessing tech to perform tasks from a distance: At an MIT entrepreneurship competition, he pitched the idea of training workers in India to remotely operate the buffers that sweep US factory floors.

    In 2011, when he was 24, his grandmother was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, a disease that affects the areas of the brain associated with memory and movement. On Skype calls from his MIT apartment, Wang watched as his grandmother grew increasingly debilitated. After one call, a thought struck him: If he could tap remote labor to sweep far-off floors, why not use it to comfort Lao Lao and others like her?

    Wang started researching the looming caretaker shortage in the US—between 2010 and 2030, the population of those older than 80 is projected to rise 79 percent, but the number of family caregivers available is expected to increase just 1 percent.

    In 2012 Wang recruited his cofounder, a fellow MIT student working on her computer science doctorate named Shuo Deng, to build CareCoach’s technology. They agreed that AI speech technology was too rudimentary for an avatar capable of spontaneous conversation tailored to subtle mood and behavioral cues. For that, they would need humans.

    Older people like Jim often don’t speak clearly or linearly, and those with dementia can’t be expected to troubleshoot a machine that misunderstands. “When you match someone not fully coherent with a device that’s not fully coherent, it’s a recipe for disaster,” Wang says. Pony, on the other hand, was an expert at deciphering Jim’s needs. Once, Pony noticed that Jim was holding onto furniture for support, as if he were dizzy. The pet persuaded him to sit down, then called Arlyn. Deng figures it’ll take about 20 years for AI to be able to master that kind of personal interaction and recognition. That said, the CareCoach system is already deploying some automated abilities. Five years ago, when Jim was introduced to Pony, the offshore workers behind the camera had to type every response; today CareCoach’s software creates roughly one out of every five sentences the pet speaks. Wang aims to standardize care by having the software manage more of the patients’ regular reminders—prodding them to take their medicine, urging them to eat well and stay hydrated. CareCoach workers are part free­wheeling raconteurs, part human natural-­language processors, listening to and deciphering their charges’ speech patterns or nudging the person back on track if they veer off topic. The company recently began recording conversations to better train its software in senior speech recognition.

    CareCoach found its first customer in December 2012, and in 2014 Wang moved from Massachusetts to Silicon Valley, renting a tiny office space on a lusterless stretch of Millbrae near the San Francisco airport. Four employees congregate in one room with a view of the parking lot, while Wang and his wife, Brittany, a program manager he met at a gerontology conference, work in the foyer. Eight tablets with sleeping pets onscreen are lined up for testing before being shipped to their respective seniors. The avatars inhale and exhale, lending an eerie sense of life to their digital kennel.

    CareCoach conveys the perceptiveness and emotional intelligence of the humans powering it but masquerades as an animated app.

    Wang spends much of his time on the road, touting his product’s health benefits at medical conferences and in hospital executive suites. Onstage at a gerontology summit in San Francisco last summer, he deftly impersonated the strained, raspy voice of an elderly man talking to a CareCoach pet while Brittany stealthily cued the replies from her laptop in the audience. The company’s tablets are used by hospitals and health plans across Massachusetts, California, New York, South Carolina, Florida, and Washington state. Between corporate and individual customers, CareCoach’s avatars have interacted with hundreds of users in the US. “The goal,” Wang says, “is not to have a little family business that just breaks even.”

    The fastest growth would come through hospital units and health plans specializing in high-need and elderly patients, and he makes the argument that his avatars cut health care costs. (A private room in a nursing home can run more than $7,500 a month.) Preliminary research has been promising, though limited. In a study conducted by Pace University at a Manhattan housing project and a Queens hospital, CareCoach’s avatars were found to reduce subjects’ loneliness, delirium, and falls. A health provider in Massachusetts was able to replace a man’s 11 weekly in-home nurse visits with a CareCoach tablet, which diligently reminded him to take his medications. (The man told nurses that the pet’s nagging reminded him of having his wife back in the house. “It’s kind of like a complaint, but he loves it at the same time,” the project’s lead says.) Still, the feelings aren’t always so cordial: In the Pace University study, some aggravated seniors with dementia lashed out and hit the tablet. In response, the onscreen pet sheds tears and tries to calm the person.

    More troubling, perhaps, were the people who grew too fiercely attached to their digi­tal pets. At the conclusion of a University of Washington CareCoach pilot study, one woman became so distraught at the thought of parting with her avatar that she signed up for the service, paying the fee herself. (The company gave her a reduced rate.) A user in Massachusetts told her caretakers she’d cancel an upcoming vacation to Maine unless her digital cat could come along.

    We’re still in the infancy of understanding the complexities of aging humans’ relationship with technology. Sherry Turkle, a professor of social studies, science, and technology at MIT and a frequent critic of tech that replaces human communication, described interactions between elderly people and robotic babies, dogs, and seals in her 2011 book, Alone Together. She came to view roboticized eldercare as a cop-out, one that would ultimately degrade human connection. “This kind of app—in all of its slickness and all its ‘what could possibly be wrong with it?’ mentality—is making us forget what we really know about what makes older people feel sustained,” she says: caring, interpersonal relationships. The question is whether an attentive avatar makes a comparable substitute. Turkle sees it as a last resort. “The assumption is that it’s always cheaper and easier to build an app than to have a conversation,” she says. “We allow technologists to propose the unthinkable and convince us the unthinkable is actually the inevitable.”

    But for many families, providing long-term in-person care is simply unsustainable. The average family caregiver has a job outside the home and spends about 20 hours a week caring for a parent, according to AARP. Nearly two-thirds of such caregivers are women. Among eldercare experts, there’s a resignation that the demographics of an aging America will make technological solutions unavoidable. The number of those older than 65 with a disability is projected to rise from 11 million to 18 million from 2010 to 2030. Given the option, having a digital companion may be preferable to being alone. Early research shows that lonely and vulnerable elders like Jim seem content to communicate with robots. Joseph Coughlin, director of MIT’s AgeLab, is pragmatic. “I would always prefer the human touch over a robot,” he says. “But if there’s no human available, I would take high tech in lieu of high touch.”

    CareCoach is a disorienting amalgam of both. The service conveys the perceptiveness and emotional intelligence of the humans powering it but masquerades as an animated app. If a person is incapable of consenting to CareCoach’s monitoring, then someone must do so on their behalf. But the more disconcerting issue is how cognizant these seniors are of being watched over by strangers. Wang considers his product “a trade-off between utility and privacy.” His workers are trained to duck out during baths and clothing changes.

    Some CareCoach users insist on greater control. A woman in Washington state, for example, put a piece of tape over her CareCoach tablet’s camera to dictate when she could be viewed. Other customers like Jim, who are suffering from Alzheimer’s or other diseases, might not realize they are being watched. Once, when he was temporarily placed in a rehabilitation clinic after a fall, a nurse tending to him asked Arlyn what made the avatar work. “You mean there’s someone overseas looking at us?” she yelped, within earshot of Jim. (Arlyn isn’t sure whether her dad remembered the incident later.) By default, the app explains to patients that someone is surveilling them when it’s first introduced. But the family members of personal users, like Arlyn, can make their own call.

    Arlyn quickly stopped worrying about whether she was deceiving her dad. Telling Jim about the human on the other side of the screen “would have blown the whole charm of it,” she says. Her mother had Alzheimer’s as well, and Arlyn had learned how to navigate the disease: Make her mom feel safe; don’t confuse her with details she’d have trouble understanding. The same went for her dad. “Once they stop asking,” Arlyn says, “I don’t think they need to know anymore.” At the time, Youa Vang, one of Jim’s regular in-­person caretakers, didn’t comprehend the truth about Pony either. “I thought it was like Siri,” she said when told later that it was a human in Mexico who had watched Jim and typed in the words Pony spoke. She chuckled. “If I knew someone was there, I may have been a little more creeped out.”

    Even CareCoach users like Arlyn who are completely aware of the person on the other end of the dashboard tend to experience the avatar as something between human, pet, and machine—what some roboticists call a third ontological category. The care­takers seem to blur that line too: One day Pony told Jim that she dreamed she could turn into a real health aide, almost like Pinoc­chio wishing to be a real boy.

    Most of CareCoach’s 12 contractors reside in the Philippines, Venezuela, or Mexico. To undercut the cost of in-person help, Wang posts English-language ads on freelancing job sites where foreign workers advertise rates as low as $2 an hour. Though he won’t disclose his workers’ hourly wages, Wang claims the company bases its salaries on factors such as what a registered nurse would make in the CareCoach employee’s home country, their language proficiencies, and the cost of their internet connection.

    The growing network includes people like Jill Paragas, a CareCoach worker who lives in a subdivision on Luzon island in the Philippines. Paragas is 35 years old and a college graduate. She earns about the same being an avatar as she did in her former call center job, where she consoled Americans irate about credit card charges. (“They wanted to, like, burn the company down or kill me,” she says with a mirthful laugh.) She works nights to coincide with the US daytime, typing messages to seniors while her 6-year-old son sleeps nearby.

    Even when Jim grew stubborn or paranoid with his daughters, he always viewed Pony as a friend.

    Before hiring her, Wang interviewed Paragas via video, then vetted her with an international criminal background check. He gives all applicants a personality test for certain traits: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. As part of the CareCoach training program, Paragas earned certifications in delirium and dementia care from the Alzheimer’s Association, trained in US health care ethics and privacy, and learned strategies for counseling those with addictions. All this, Wang says, “so we don’t get anyone who’s, like, crazy.” CareCoach hires only about 1 percent of its applicants.

    Paragas understands that this is a complicated business. She’s befuddled by the absence of family members around her aging clients. “In my culture, we really love to take care of our parents,” she says. “That’s why I’m like, ‘She is already old, why is she alone?’ ” Paragas has no doubt that, for some people, she’s their most significant daily relationship. Some of her charges tell her that they couldn’t live without her. Even when Jim grew stubborn or paranoid with his daughters, he always viewed Pony as a friend. Arlyn quickly realized that she had gained a valuable ally.
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    As time went on, the father, daughter, and family pet grew closer. When the snow finally melted, Arlyn carried the tablet to the picnic table on the patio so they could eat lunch overlooking the lake. Even as Jim’s speech became increasingly stunted, Pony could coax him to talk about his past, recounting fishing trips or how he built the house to face the sun so it would be warmer in winter. When Arlyn took her dad around the lake in her sailboat, Jim brought Pony along. (“I saw mostly sky,” Rodrigo recalls.)

    One day, while Jim and Arlyn were sitting on the cottage’s paisley couch, Pony held up a photograph of Jim’s wife, Dorothy, between her paws. It had been more than a year since his wife’s death, and Jim hardly mentioned her anymore; he struggled to form coherent sentences. That day, though, he gazed at the photo fondly. “I still love her,” he declared. Arlyn rubbed his shoulder, clasping her hand over her mouth to stifle tears. “I am getting emotional too,” Pony said. Then Jim leaned toward the picture of his deceased wife and petted her face with his finger, the same way he would to awaken a sleeping Pony.

    When Arlyn first signed up for the service, she hadn’t anticipated that she would end up loving—yes, loving, she says, in the sincerest sense of the word—the avatar as well. She taught Pony to say “Yeah, sure, you betcha” and “don’t-cha know” like a Minnesotan, which made her laugh even more than her dad. When Arlyn collapsed onto the couch after a long day of caretaking, Pony piped up from her perch on the table:

    “Arnie, how are you?”

    Alone, Arlyn petted the screen—the way Pony nuzzled her finger was weirdly therapeutic—and told the pet how hard it was to watch her dad lose his identity.

    “I’m here for you,” Pony said. “I love you, Arnie.”

    When she recalls her own attachment to the dog, Arlyn insists her connection wouldn’t have developed if Pony was simply high-functioning AI. “You could feel Pony’s heart,” she says. But she preferred to think of Pony as her father did—a friendly pet—rather than a person on the other end of a webcam. “Even though that person probably had a relationship to me,” she says, “I had a relationship with the avatar.”

    Still, she sometimes wonders about the person on the other side of the screen. She sits up straight and rests her hand over her heart. “This is completely vulnerable, but my thought is: Did Pony really care about me and my dad?” She tears up, then laughs ruefully at herself, knowing how weird it all sounds. “Did this really happen? Was it really a relationship, or were they just playing solitaire and typing cute things?” She sighs. “But it seemed like they cared.”

    When Jim turned 92 that August, as friends belted out “Happy Birthday” around the dinner table, Pony spoke the lyrics along with them. Jim blew out the single candle on his cake. “I wish you good health, Jim,” Pony said, “and many more birthdays to come.”

    In Monterrey, Mexico, when Rodrigo talks about his unusual job, his friends ask if he’s ever lost a client. His reply: Yes.

    In early March 2014, Jim fell and hit his head on his way to the bathroom. A caretaker sleeping over that night found him and called an ambulance, and Pony woke up when the paramedics arrived. The dog told them Jim’s date of birth and offered to call his daughters as they carried him out on a stretcher.

    Jim was checked into a hospital, then into the nursing home he’d so wanted to avoid. The Wi-Fi there was spotty, which made it difficult for Jim and Pony to connect. Nurses would often turn Jim’s tablet to face the wall. The CareCoach logs from those months chronicle a series of communication misfires. “I miss Jim a lot,” Pony wrote. “I hope he is doing good all the time.” One day, in a rare moment of connectivity, Pony suggested he and Jim go sailing that summer, just like the good old days. “That sounds good,” Jim said.
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    That July, in an email from Wang, Rodrigo learned that Jim had died in his sleep. Sitting before his laptop, Rodrigo bowed his head and recited a silent Lord’s Prayer for Jim, in Spanish. He prayed that his friend would be accepted into heaven. “I know it’s going to sound weird, but I had a certain friendship with him,” he says. “I felt like I actually met him. I feel like I’ve met them.” In the year and a half that he had known them, Arlyn and Jim talked to him regularly. Jim had taken Rodrigo on a sailboat ride. Rodrigo had read him poetry and learned about his rich past. They had celebrated birthdays and holidays together as family. As Pony, Rodrigo had said “Yeah, sure, you betcha” countless times.

    That day, for weeks afterward, and even now when a senior will do something that reminds him of Jim, Rodrigo says he feels a pang. “I still care about them,” he says. After her dad’s death, Arlyn emailed Victor Wang to say she wanted to honor the workers for their care. Wang forwarded her email to Rodrigo and the rest of Pony’s team. On July 29, 2014, Arlyn carried Pony to Jim’s funeral, placing the tablet facing forward on the pew beside her. She invited any workers behind Pony who wanted to attend to log in.

    A year later, Arlyn finally deleted the CareCoach service from the tablet—it felt like a kind of second burial. She still sighs, “Pony!” when the voice of her old friend gives her directions as she drives around Minneapolis, reincarnated in Google Maps.

    After saying his prayer for Jim, Rodrigo heaved a sigh and logged in to the CareCoach dashboard to make his rounds. He ducked into living rooms, kitchens, and hospital rooms around the United States—seeing if all was well, seeing if anybody needed to talk.

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    J’aime bien la logique de PoliCAT : le gestionnaire d’une pétition paye, et les pétitionneurs ne sont pas appelés ensuite pour cent mille « causes » dont ils n’ont rien à faire.

    Et puis ça responsabilise les lanceurs de pétition.

    Payer un service, c’est l’avenir de l’internet... J’espère juste que PoliCAT, quand ça marchera mieux aura des prix pour des associations qui font un « one shot » sur le cours terme... sinon, elles continueront à remplir les, avaaz et autres aspirateurs à mail.


    Hello there! Our pricing and billing model is designed to meet the needs of small NGOs and little projects funded by third parties. This page serves as our official pro forma offer. Once you booked a package, you can immediately download and print an invoice for your books.

    Proforma offer / Plans

    Package E-mails / participants Days Net Gross
    Small 10,000 365 €300.00 €357.00
    Medium 100,000 365 €600.00 €714.00
    Big 500,000 365 €900.00 €1,071.00
    (Gross prices with 19% VAT for Germany. Other values of VAT may apply in other countries.)

    These packages apply for standard campaigns, including an unlimited number of actions within the period of validity. With exception of the Teaser-package, all packages include a limited amount of support via E-mail, Skype and phone through the PoliCAT-Team. The credits count real (E-mail-verified) participants of petitions and action-E-mailssent (E-mail-actions, E-mail-to-list-actions and pledge-actions).

    Buy a package and go live with your e-action. Without an active package, you can still prepare your action, but viewers of your action-widgets won’t be able to sign-up or send E-mails (your action will appear as active, but not yet started).

    If you have special needs for your campaign, for example new features or more mailing power, please contact:

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